Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Rep. Johnson decries blueberry declaration, calls for more serious legislation

Johnson Ag Committee
Screenshot from House Ag committee video feed
Screenshot of Rep. Johnson during a House Ag Committee hearing on designating National Blueberry Month.

South Dakota's lone U.S. representative is urging the House Agriculture Committee to focus on bipartisan legislation — not blueberries.

Republican Dusty Johnson made the remark during a committee hearing for a resolution on designating a National Blueberry Month.

"Mr. Chairman, what are we doing here?" Johnson said.
He said the committee should focus on issues facing the country.

"We have half of this nation in D2 drought or worse," Johnson said, referring to the severe drought category of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"We have wildfires that rage across the West. We have a $50 billion threat with the name African Swine Fever, that knocks on our door step. We have mandatory price reporting, which would address serious deficiencies in our cattle marketplace. That mandatory price reporting expires in nine days."

Johnson said Democrats — who control the House — have had over two years to fix mandatory price reporting.

Johnson rattled off a number of bipartisan bills the committee could take up, including some he co-sponsors.

"But, I cannot understand why, instead of dealing with ASF, wildfires, drought or mandatory price reporting, we're trying to earn respect for the blueberry."

After the committee hearing, Johnson told SDPB's In the Moment host Lori Walsh that he lost it a little bit.

“We do need to be the adults in the room and we do need to find bipartisan solutions,” Johnson said. “Listen, African Swine Fever has an almost 100 percent mortality rate for pigs. This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. This is a just 'let's be a fully functioning government and address epidemiological threats in a scientific and common-sense way,' and we are having a hard time finding a way forward."

The blueberry resolution passed on a voice vote. Johnson said he hopes the committee will take up more serious topics going forward.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.