By Denise Ross
Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have told Rep. Kristi Noem, R- S.D., that they want to pass a farm bill by year's end.
"It is definitely on the agenda to deal with by the end of the year," Noem said during a conference call with South Dakota reporters Thursday.
Congress faces another major issue with the same deadline -- the fiscal cliff -- and the farm bill could end up as part of that bigger deal, she said. The version of the bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee includes $35 billion in savings over 10 years, she said, making it an attractive item for the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Both Noem and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., say they want a traditional five-year farm bill passed. The existing farm bill expired at the end of September. However, a simple extension of the expired bill for a year or so remains on the table, they said.
Thune discussed the bill during a conference call on Wednesday.
"I continue to believe that the best way to get the certainty that our producers need is through a five-year farm bill," Noem said. "That's where my focus is."
Should Congress opt to extend the current bill, it must include livestock disaster relief for ranchers who endured this year's drought, she said.
Like many of her Republican counterparts, Noem said she is resistant to raising tax rates as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, but she stopped short of calling that a deal-breaker.
"We're willing to talk about revenues, but I don't want to do it in a manner that would hurt our economy and hurt job-creation," Noem said. "Right now, I don't believe that is the right answer.
"I certainly don't believe in raising taxes on anyone right now, especially in light of the economy and recession we're trying to dig ourselves out of," she said. "We're really hoping the president will lead on this issue."
Noem said she is arguing to extend a wind energy tax credit, saying South Dakota jobs rely on that. A manufacturer in Aberdeen has had to lay off 92 employees "due to a lack of orders," she said.
"I co-sponsored legislation that would extend the PTC (production tax credit," said Noem, adding that she has sent a letter to House leaders asking them to bring her bill to the floor for a vote. She also has sent a letter to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking him to help get the tax credit extended.
"I believe we need comprehensive tax reform, and it makes sense to include this as well," she said.
Through it all, Noem said her top priority remains following the farm bill through floor action, where others could amend it.
"It's important that those of us with an ag background are there defending a lot of the policies we find important," Noem said