Guest Commentary: Thankful for farmers, ranchers on Thanksgiving

By Sen. Tim Johnson

On Thursday, families across the country will gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for this year, including a loving wife, children and grandchildren. I am also continually thankful to be able to serve South Dakotans in the U.S. Senate. Like every year, though, I am also incredibly thankful for South Dakota farmers and ranchers.

Folks across the country might not thank them on Thursday, but those of us who live in South Dakota know that without our ag producers, wonderful Thanksgiving feasts would not be possible. Even during terrible droughts like this past year, South Dakota farmers and ranchers worked hard to make sure we have an adequate food supply. We owe it to our producers to provide them support.

Unfortunately, the House has failed to pass a farm bill and there are serious consequences. Producers lack certainty and we are close to reverting back to the agriculture policies of the 1940s. This is bad for everyone in our country, but especially our farmers and ranchers. A number of important programs have already expired, and the House has only a few short weeks left to act before more programs expire.

Back in June, Republican and Democratic Senators worked together to pass a farm bill that cuts the deficit, supports millions of jobs, and makes important reforms to our farm programs.  After considering over 70 amendments, we passed a bill that includes livestock disaster assistance that would apply to losses experienced during this year's drought. Our bill will also better enable USDA to help food banks feed the hungry through some important changes to our feeding programs. The House, on the other hand, has not produced anything.

No doubt politics have been involved with the farm bill. There are many in Congress who do not believe we should provide our food producers with a safety net.  The House leadership chose not to consider a farm bill before the elections. These political games hurt our producers. The elections are over. It is time for the House of Representatives to do what is right and pass a farm bill.

As I traveled South Dakota last month, I heard repeatedly from ag producers who were disappointed that the House left them behind. Our producers also reiterated the importance of passing a long-term farm bill that maintains a strong crop insurance program and offers disaster assistance to livestock producers.  This year's drought has placed considerable strain on folks throughout the state, particularly on our ranchers, who have no permanent safety net.  That's why we included several disaster assistance programs in our bill to help them get through difficult years like this one.  Unfortunately, House inaction has left our ranchers in a tough spot.

It is my hope that this Thanksgiving folks across the country, including lawmakers, think about how their food got to the table. The food got there because of the hard work of our farmers and ranchers. It is time for the House of Representatives to stand with our producers so they can continue to feed our nation. It is time for the House of Representatives to get serious and pass a farm bill. 

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