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Published May 21, 2012, 08:23 AM

Farmers need safety net

PIERRE, S.D. — Farming and ranching is the heart and soul of South Dakota, but as we know, being in the agriculture industry carries a huge risk because much is left up to Mother Nature. A flood, drought or other natural disaster could wipe out a year’s profits. Just last year, the heat wave we experienced killed more than 1,500 head of cattle as well as other livestock.

By: Kristi Noem, Agweek

PIERRE, S.D. — Farming and ranching is the heart and soul of South Dakota, but as we know, being in the agriculture industry carries a huge risk because much is left up to Mother Nature. A flood, drought or other natural disaster could wipe out a year’s profits. Just last year, the heat wave we experienced killed more than 1,500 head of cattle as well as other livestock.

These risks are why it’s important for the federal government to provide a safety net to ensure a steady food supply. The week of April 28, I introduced the Livestock Disaster Protection Act, legislation that would give livestock owners some certainty during the next five years that a safety net will be there for them.

This legislation, which I hope to get included in the House version of the farm bill, would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program for five years as well as provide coverage for the current fiscal year, as program coverage expired in October 2011.

I included specific language to ensure these programs were extended for the life of the farm bill. Not only will this avoid a repeat of the current situation, where eligibility for these programs expired a year before the farm bill, it also makes them a more integral fixture by ensuring they are given a budget baseline. This will give some long-term certainty to our livestock producers so they can continue to contribute to our state and nation’s robust agriculture market.

That robust market was recently threatened by new child farm labor rules the Department of Labor proposed last year. These rules would have fundamentally changed the way families in South Dakota and across the nation have been farming for generations by banning children under the age of 16 from doing many everyday farm chores. Like many in South Dakota, I started working on my family’s farm as soon as I was able; hauling hay, moving cattle and working with farm equipment. Under DOL’s proposed rules, kids couldn’t have done many commonplace chores and even could have been restricted from participating in 4-H.

There is no question that safety is a top priority, but federal bureaucrats, many of them who have never worked a day of their lives on a farm or ranch, have no business telling us they know how to keep our kids safe better than we do. I’m grateful to all the farmers, ranchers and young people in South Dakota who stood up with me and other members of Congress to fight back against these ridiculous rules. It is encouraging that the Labor Department decided to listen to the people across America and made the right decision to withdraw these rules that could have dismantled many family farming operations.

Editor’s Note: Noem is the Republican U.S. House Representative for South Dakota.

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