Thune talks conservation, broadband as part of next farm bill
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Senator John Thune visited western South Dakota Monday to talk about national issues impacting local communities. The last farm bill was signed in 2018 and Thune is looking for insight from South Dakotans about their concerns for the 2023 version.
Ranchers and farmers pummeled by drought, inflation, and inadequate access to broadband, view the farm bill as a vital part to ensure the industry remains a major economic driver. South Dakota’s agriculture industry contributed $32 billion to the state’s economy in 2021. In expanding the agriculture sector, Thune says conservation has been a focus of the farm bill since he was elected, and this year is no different.
“As we think about agriculture in the future our producers are becoming way more aware and conscious of a lot of their practices and implementing conservation practices and how that is good not only for soil health,” said Thune. “Obviously, there is a way that eventually maybe they will economically benefit from that because they can store carbon.”
Carbon farming uses carbon that would be released into the atmosphere but is instead captured and buried underground. It then helps the soil repurpose that carbon from the ground.
Another critical part of the farm bill has been providing money for producers to offset losses due to drought.
“Ranchers can access when they get into a certain category of drought, livestock forage payments, for example. Those have benefited ranchers in western South Dakota significantly in the past,” explained Thune.
With drought conditions impacting area ranchers in recent years, congress may need to set aside more money in the long term.
The farm bill also ensures rural areas have internet availability. According to Microsoft, in 33 of South Dakota’s 65 counties no more than 28% of households have high-speed access. In July the USDA announced that $401 million will be used to expand internet access across the country.
“There’s a concern among the telecom providers here in South Dakota, that the rules may preclude them in some ways, because of the business practices here and some of the requirements that the federal agencies may put on the use of those funds and so that’s something we are going to be paying a lot of attention to, because clearly there are areas in South Dakota that are unserved and underserved,” said Thune.
Discussions for the farm bill continue, and a vote is yet to be scheduled.
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