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Rounds: Rural states should stick together on farm bill

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American Farm Bureau
Rep. Dusty Johnson, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds participate in a farm bill roundtable at Dakotafest in Mitchell.

Sen. Mike Rounds wants leaders of rural states to stick together while working on farm bill legislation. He said they should emphasize how programs like crop insurance affect consumers.

“We need to be bringing in folks that actually represent consumers and to share with them just how serious it is when we talk about food safety, and we talk about food availability,” he said. “We’ve got an opportunity to share with those consumers that if they really want to have food that they can afford to buy, they’ve got to be able to help us manage that risk within the farm program.”

The farm bill is renewed every five years, and includes most federal agriculture spending, as well as funding for food stamps. At a Wednesday roundtable discussion at the Dakotafest agricultural trade show in Mitchell, South Dakota’s three members of Congress — who are all Republicans — discussed policy concerns and the political realities of the 2023 bill.

Rounds said the bill should include a provision targeting foreign meat products labeled as U.S.-produced.

The delegation also discussed the nutrition title of the bill, which funds federal food assistance programs. Sen. John Thune said those provisions incentivize lawmakers from urban districts to engage in the farm bill process.

“The only way you get the other 397 members of the House or hopefully a majority of those to vote for farm bills is because of the nutrition title,” Thune said. “A lot of it has to do with trying to find that consensus and bringing together some very diverse political priorities.”

According to Thune, debate over the 2023 bill will revolve around how to allocate limited federal dollars.

“There's a lot of pressure from different parts of the country, different regions of the country, based on what their priorities are coming into a farm bill,” Thune said. “You've got to make decisions about priorities and how to distribute and allocate funds between the various titles of the bill, the various regions of the country, and that's always going to be the political challenge that we face.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson predicted that “one side of the aisle” will try to increase spending on the nutrition title, at the cost of a smaller safety net for farmers. But he said the nutrition and agriculture production titles don’t necessarily conflict with each other.

The nutrition title includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

“Being supportive of SNAP, we don’t do that because it’s politically advantageous, like, ‘Oh that’s how we get the Title I programs done’ — we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Johnson. “Talk about this not as a partnership or a marriage that we’re forced into, but American producers are excited to do. How do we get beef and milk into the bellies of these kids?”

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.
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