Rural Americans deserve equitable treatment

Rural Americans deserve equitable treatment
It's no secret that virtually the entire State of South Dakota has been suffering from the worst drought in a generation. While we are grateful for the recent rains across parts of the state, they certainly don't make up for months of record heat and dry conditions.

This drought has cut a large regional swath as well, affecting thousands of communities and countless farm and ranch families throughout the Great Plains and South. To me, it's the very definition of a natural disaster and it has had profound effects on families, businesses and rural economies.�

While many are feeling the hurt this year, I'm even more worried about the lingering, lasting effect this drought may have on the future of agriculture in our state.�It's hard enough for young farmers and ranchers to begin a small, independent operation.�Many young ranching families in particular have been forced to liquidate a large part of their herd to make ends meet this year – but what does that mean for next year?

Rural Americans are among the first to stand up and offer help when it is needed. Indeed, South Dakotans have strongly supported assistance for the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and other natural disasters.�Drought should be no different, and we should treat the victims of drought equitably.�

Unfortunately, those of us who are willing to stand up for rural America are facing stiff opposition from some members of Congress who either don't understand or don't appreciate what we're going through.�Farm and ranch families continue to suffer across the Great Plains from this historic drought, while House Republican leadership steadfastly refuses to schedule a debate or a vote on meaningful disaster assistance.

I've been working for months to build bipartisan support for this assistance, but with time running out on the legislative session, House Republican leadership has made clear that they are not interested in standing up for rural America.�

While a bipartisan group of Senators has been successful to a degree in advancing drought aid, House Republican leaders have not been willing to lend a hand.�I've written repeatedly to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner urging that the House debate and vote on drought assistance for our producers, but they are turning a deaf ear to the plight of rural Americans.���

Rural Americans deserve to be treated equitably when it comes to relief for a natural disaster. Unfortunately, for some elected officials, just doing the right thing isn't enough incentive, and politics is the only thing they respond to. When it comes to a drought this severe and this debilitating to families, businesses and entire economies across rural America, I'm more than willing to use any tool at my disposal to apply political pressure and force some action on this issue.�

With this year's election year rapidly approaching, I'm hopeful this pressure will spur some action.�This fall, I am confident that rural voters will step up and support those elected officials who are willing to provide real leadership for rural America.

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