South Dakota Lawmakers Press Farm Bill, Help for Ranchers

December 30, 2013 06:59 AM
 
Capitol Senate

Source: Associated Press

Negotiating and implementing Congress' multibillion-dollar farm bill so that it helps South Dakota, including ranchers who suffered heavy losses during October's blizzard, will be the first order of business in 2014, the state's congressional members say.

The House and Senate has each approved a version of the five-year, roughly $500 billion bill, but there are major differences between the two regarding crop subsidies and how much to cut food stamp programs. A new farm bill also would restore emergency protections for livestock producers, a key element for the state.

Lawmakers hope to work out a compromise by early next year, which would mark the first a farm bill has been approved since a 2008 deal. That deal expired in 2012 but was extended until September 2013.

"The immediate priority for 2014 is to get it passed," Republican Sen. John Thune said. "But part of passing it, and with any major bill, is implementing it. We want to make sure it works, the commodity title, the safety net reforms and everything we're fighting to get in it."

The emergency protections for livestock producers would potentially bring relief to South Dakota ranchers who lost between 15,000 and 30,000 cattle when an early-season blizzard swept through part of the state in October.

"Disaster assistance will help a lot," Thune said. "There's been a lot of suffering in the state."

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