U.S. Senator Tim Johnson is continuing his push for a new, long-term farm bill. Johnson is a cosponsor of recently introduced legislation that is nearly identical to the bipartisan farm bill the Senate passed last year. The bill, which supports millions of jobs and reduces the deficit, did not become law last Congress because the House of Representatives refused to consider a farm bill.
"It is unfortunate that House inaction forced us to pass an extension, but hopefully our work will inspire the House to finally consider a farm bill," said Johnson. "This legislation is the product of extensive discussion between stakeholders and a bipartisan coalition of Senators. It is past time to provide certainty to our ag producers, who work tirelessly to ensure that we have an adequate food supply in our country."
Last June, the Senate overwhelming passed a strong, bipartisan farm bill. The bill would reduce the federal deficit by more than $23 billion over ten years and support many jobs for South Dakota's ag industry, the state's biggest economic driver. It also reforms the system to strengthen crop insurance and eliminate direct payments.
Before the Senate farm bill passed, Johnson traveled around South Dakota to get input from producers and also set up a farm bill survey, which hundreds of South Dakotans completed. Johnson used this input to help craft legislation that will work for South Dakota producers.
The Johnson-cosponsored bill includes several provisions Johnson pushed for during last summer's farm bill debate, including:
-- Strong Payment Limits -- The bill includes the Grassley/Johnson $250,000 total cap -- Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Johnson offered an amendment to cap marketing loan gains at $75,000 (doubled if a spouse is involved in the operation). The amendment passed 75-24. The bill now includes a $250,000 cap, as has been included in legislation that Grassley and Johnson have long advocated.
-- Mandatory Rural Development Funding -- Johnson cosponsored an amendment offered by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to provide mandatory funding for a variety of USDA programs: including the Value-Added Producer Grant Program; the water and wastewater backlog; the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program; and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
-- Pine Beetle Funding -- The Senate bill provides for the designation of treatment areas on national forests experiencing declining forest health from insect of disease infestation, including the mountain pine beetle. Treatments on designated areas could be carried out with expedited processes in accordance with the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. Johnson and Senator John Thune (R-SD) cosponsored an amendment to increase authorized funding for such treatments.
-- Rural Housing Fix --Johnson cosponsored an amendment to extend eligibility for USDA's Rural Housing Service programs for existing communities until completion of the next census.
-- Maintains a Strong Crop Insurance Program
-- Eliminates Direct Payments
-- Closes Loopholes -- The bill includes language to ensure that actual farmers receive payments.