Early this morning, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (Farm Bill) by a bipartisan vote of 35-11. Rep. Noem voted for the legislation, which saves more than $35 billion and makes farm and nutrition programs more accountable to American taxpayers.
"This bill represents the kind of good government policy South Dakotans deserve. It is a long way from perfect, but it makes real reforms that save taxpayers billions of dollars while still protecting the farm and food safety net many South Dakotans rely on," said Rep. Noem. "I fought every step of the way to ensure the Farm Bill addressed some of the issues most important to South Dakotans. These include measures to fight the pine beetle, extend livestock disaster programs, encourage conservation and help improve communication between USDA and Tribal nations. South Dakota came out strong in this Farm Bill, and I'll keep fighting for our state as the process moves forward."
Rep. Noem championed three main provisions in the House version of the Farm Bill, all of which were included in some form in the final version approved by the Committee. They include:
Livestock Disaster Protection Act: Would extend the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) for the life of the Farm Bill as well as provide coverage for the current fiscal year, since the programs expired in 2011.
Protect our Prairies Act: Would encourage conservation of native sod and grassland, save taxpayer dollars and protect the habitat of wildlife critical to South Dakota's hunting industry.
National Forest Emergency Response Act: Would streamline processes to get boots on the ground faster for pine beetle mitigation efforts.
Rep. Noem also offered amendments that passed with bipartisan support to strengthen the bill when it came to pine beetles and improved communication between USDA and Tribal nations.
The National Forest Emergency Response Act, which Rep. Noem introduced in April with Sen. Thune, called for the federal government to grant categorical exclusions up to 10,000 acres. Categorical exclusions are the rapid-response efforts that are used to combat emergencies like the pine beetle. The language released by the Agriculture Committee included the categorical exclusion, but reduced to acreage 1,000 acres. Rep. Noem made it clear that 1,000 acres simply wouldn't cut it and offered an amendment to increase the acreage back to 10,000. She successfully convinced Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) to support the amendment, which passed with bipartisan support.
Rep. Noem also successfully inserted an amendment to permanently establish an Office of Tribal Relations within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Such a permanent entity within USDA will help improve communication between USDA and Tribal nations, as well as ensure South Dakota's Native Americans have access to USDA's programs. This amendment does not cost taxpayers any additional dollars. Instead, it requires USDA to use existing resources to establish the office.
Rep. Noem also spoke in support of an amendment offered by Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), which would require USDA to conduct a workload assessment before any FSA county office closes in the future. Rep. Noem introduced legislation in March to prevent FSA office closures if area producers had to drive more than 20 miles to reach another.