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Published February 17, 2012, 08:02 AM

NOEM: Voice will be 'loud and clear' in Farm Bill talks

The upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization presents unique challenges given our budget deficit.

By: US Rep. Kristi Noem, Guest columnist

The upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization presents unique challenges given our budget deficit.

This isn’t the first time agriculture has been targeted in lean budget times and it probably won’t be the last, but for the sake of rural economies like South Dakota, we can’t allow agriculture to be unfairly targeted. Producers in South Dakota understand that there needs to be sacrifice, and they have already seen some cuts, but we need to make sure any additional cuts aren’t disproportionate to other areas of the federal budget.

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee I look forward to making sure the voice of South Dakota producers is heard loud and clear during the debate. And while there is growing acknowledgement that direct payments may soon be phased out, other important programs should be maintained.

The one thing I have heard consistently from farmers in South Dakota is that they need a strong risk management program.

Here are a few of my priorities in more detail:

Crop Insurance

It is my hope that the program either be left as is or strengthened, and that funding levels not be reduced. This program has been critical to the ability of producers to manage their risks in a volatile business. I will also be fighting for no changes to policies of the Risk Management Agency for the Prairie Pothole Region, which is especially important to farmers who have endured excessive flooding in recent years.

Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP)

This program is extremely important to the success of the livestock industry and should be strengthened by including it as a permanent part of the Farm Bill. Devastating droughts, floods, and heat waves like those experienced across much of the United States last year are show the need for this program and its role in the ability of ranchers to manage their risks against the threat of weather events beyond their control.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

CRP is a common sense approach to land management, conservation, rural development and the outdoor recreation industry. The cap for enrolled acres in this program should not be significantly changed and there is a need for a shorter-term CRP option of around 5 years with a lower cost cover.

Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP)

This program is one of the only programs supporting agricultural production of next-generation bioenergy crops. At a time of high fuel costs, it is important for an all of the above approach to American energy production.

Sun Grant Initiative

This initiative is a unique network of land-grant universities with regional centers scattered geographically across the United States in cooperation with federal laboratories working on biobased renewable energy feedstocks.

The reauthorization of this program is important to remaining at the forefront of innovative technological advancements in agriculture and our fuel supply.

Wetland determinations

In northeast South Dakota, I often heard from producers of the backlog of wetland determinations. After consecutive years of excessive flooding, delays place a burden of producers waiting approval before they can take necessary measures to manage water on their land.

Some producers have waited up to three years before a determination can be made due to backlog and often limited resources at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), despite their best efforts. If language was included to allow approved private contractors to conduct wetland determinations, it could support jobs, relieve years of backlog, and provide the producer with a timely alternative when needed.

These are just a few of the important programs that I will be tracking as the Farm Bill debate continues. South Dakota producers are second to none when it comes to providing for our food security as a nation. I look forward to continuing to work with the South Dakota ag community to ensure we have an adequate safety net and strategic investments for farmers and ranchers not only in our state but across the country.