Weekly Column: Thank a Farmer
August 12, 2016
On Capitol Hill where very few people were "farm kids" and even fewer actually pursued farming or ranching as a career, the personal impact of agriculture can get lost. But as I like to remind people, while not everyone farms, we all eat.
Earlier this month at the Sioux Empire Fair's annual Ag Appreciation Lunch in Sioux Falls, I had the opportunity to say thanks by serving a meal to those who feed the world. Not only do these producers grow the food our families consume, they provide the backbone to South Dakota's economy and a layer of security for our country, as we never want to become too reliant on foreign nations to feed us. It is for these reasons that I fight so hard to make sure agriculture policy provides a strong safety net for our food supply without imposing unnecessary costs and regulations on producers.
The last farm bill was the most reformed we've seen in my lifetime. Many of the programs now work more efficiently and with greater accountability to taxpayers, but we are always looking at ways to improve them. While we continue to monitor the legislation's implementation, preliminary work has already begun for the next farm bill with formal hearings likely kicking off next year.
For my part, I've been working closely with Ag Committee Chairman Conaway to ensure he's aware of how current programs are playing out in South Dakota. I'm also working with Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson and Rep. Kevin Cramer on legislation we hope to have included in the next farm bill that would help alleviate the problematic wetland determinations backlog. Producers can't make certain improvements to their land until they've been given the OK that changes won't impact protected wetlands. We need to ensure we are protecting our land and habitat, but producers shouldn't have to wait years for a decision. Our legislation makes a series of reforms – including requiring that producers get an answer within a few months of a request.
Overzealous regulators are also a challenge for producers. One of the most concerning regulations we're fighting against today is the EPA's controversial Waters of the U.S. rule. This could be one of the largest federal land grabs our generation has seen with penalties rising to more than $30,000 per violation per day. We're working through both the legislative and judicial system to reverse course and we've had some successes – especially after a Federal Appellate Court issued a temporary suspension.
Tax reform is another area that is incredibly important to our agriculture community. This Congress, I gained a position on the committee that major tax reform measures must go through. Moreover, I'm one of only 14 Members of Congress – and the only one with a deep background in agriculture – to serve on the committee's specialized tax policy panel. That's important because for the first time in a long time, there is real momentum behind this issue and we need to get it right.
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Late last year, we made the Section 179 tax deduction permanent, giving farmers and other small businesses more certainty on investments into their operations. Now, we're looking at broader efforts to help both small businesses and individuals. We're fighting to make the tax code more simple, more fair, and better at promoting healthy economic growth. I'm truly humbled to give agriculture a voice at this table.
Whether we're talking tax policy, regulatory issues, or the farm bill, I stand up every day in support of South Dakota farmers and ranchers. I'm proud to explain what the industry is – and isn't – and to keep unnecessary regulations away from operations. Most of all, I'm grateful to represent a state whose economy is still rooted in agriculture.