Kristi Noem: ‘Food is an issue of national security’
July 15, 2011
Kristi Noem (R-SD) was welcomed to a standing ovation at a luncheon held in Sioux Falls, SD on June 29, 2011 as a part of the 2011 Governor’s Ag Development Summit, where she was the featured speaker. The theme of the event was “Agriculture – The Economic Driver,” and that was certainly the message of Noem’s speech as she talked about the priorities she is focused on while serving as a U.S. Representative in Washington, DC.
In her role, Noem serves on the Natural Resources Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee. She is also a freshman class liaison to the Republican House Leadership team. In each position, she said a big struggle has been to educate her colleagues about agriculture.
“I always stress to my peers in Congress that if cuts are to be made, agriculture shouldn’t have to take more than its fair share of the cuts,” said Noem. “Right now, as we move into farm bill discussions, we have 37 programs available that have started without any funding to back them. In light of what’s going on in appropriations committees, we will be focused on finding real-life solutions to these budgetary problems.”
As the farm bill conversation develops, Noem said it’s important to remind her fellow Congressmen and women that it’s not just about agriculture, the bill is for consumers, too.
“The important thing to remember is that the farm bill is also a food bill,” said Noem. “We must be able to feed ourselves in this country. This is an issue of national security. A lot of people don’t recognize the importance of agriculture. We need to educate others while we are forming policies. While we all have to make cuts, agriculture shouldn’t have to make these cuts disproportionately to other programs.”
Noem also has the opportunity to muscle this message on the new committees she’s a part of including the Conservation, Energy and Forestry Committee, the Department of Operations, Oversight and Credit, and the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Committee.
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One of the big issues she faces in conversations with others is the push to end agriculture subsidies in the U.S.
“Direct payments in agriculture are where we receive a lot of our criticism,” said Noem. “We receive about $15 per acre of subsidy payments on corn. Rice farmers receive about $100 per acre. That is about 70 percent of their income. We are going to have to make sure we can give producers the tools they need to continue to do their jobs. Our farm bill needs to be flexible and mobile.”
The food versus fuel debate continues in this country, and Noem says the U.S. can’t afford to backtrack on ethanol.
“We must utilize our domestic supply of energy, whether it’s coal, ethanol or oil,” stressed Noem. “These resources are reusable and readily available in our country. Ethanol has brought down fuel costs by $0.89 per gallon. We need to leave ethanol with the infrastructure it needs to compete. We need to make investments in the ethanol industry to support the pumps and the producers. We can’t afford to lose everything for ethanol. We must overcome these infrastructure hurdles.”
Another issue facing the agriculture industry is estate tax, and several producers in the audience asked Noem for comments on this topic.
“Many of you know my personal story with the estate tax and understand that this is what has gotten me involved in politics,” said Noem, who returned home to the ranch while in college after her father died unexpectedly in a farming accident. “I don’t believe we will see negotiations on the estate tax at the table right now. We don’t have a long-term solution for this issue. Congress is focused on getting our deficit under control, and we can’t address this issue until we can get the House, the Senate and the President to agree and come to a consensus.”
The economy and the growing deficit is a big priority, which Noem fears things could get worse before they get better in the U.S.
“We truly need to recognize the fact that we have the most predictable economic storm coming,” said Noem. “We are two or three years away from having a crash like in Greece or Europe if we don’t prioritize our spending. We need to do what’s best for our citizens, our national security and our future. Agriculture plays a big role in that.”