Rapid City, SD – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) brought together local agricultural leaders in Rapid City for the second in a series of farm bill listening sessions in the state to hear their priorities for the rewrite of the current Farm Bill. Johnson discussed his efforts to address consolidation in the meatpacking industry and strengthen Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) as the reauthorization process gets underway in Washington.
“The ag sector is absolutely vital to the Rapid City economy, and the upcoming farm bill needs to level the playing field between big corporations and our family farmers and ranchers. We need stronger payment limitations, a rollback of consolidation in the meatpacking industry and better Country of Origin Labeling in grocery stores,” said Johnson. “I will be taking all the feedback I heard today to Washington as this bill is drafted.”
Johnson was joined today by Kadee Hande, Central States Fair/Black Hills Stock Show; Mary Williams, Chairperson, Rapid City Chamber’s Agriculture Committee; Shane Kolb, President, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association; Wanda Blair, Vice-President, South Dakota Farm Bureau; Jeff Smeenk, President, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association; Ryon Rypkema, South Dakota Farmers Union; Karl Jensen, South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts; Tammy Basel, past National President, Women Involved in Farm Economics and Steve Clements, President, South Dakota Sheep Growers Association.
In December, Johnson and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) led a bipartisan effort asking the Obama administration to keep COOL strong. The group called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to appeal a World Trade Organization decision hurting consumers’ right to know where there food is coming from and our nation’s producers’ ability to sell their high-quality products.
Johnson highlighted the results of his farm bill surveys, which he mailed to South Dakotans across the state last year. Eighty five percent of respondents told Johnson they wanted competition rules strengthened so more meatpackers can compete in the marketplace. Only twenty two percent of respondents said they had seen Country of Original Labeling in their grocery store, indicating there is still work to be done.
“Even in a tough budget climate, we can produce a strong farm bill that puts our family farms in a better position for future growth. We just need both parties to work together,” said Johnson.
More than 1,000 people shared their input with Johnson, who will be forwarding the results to the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Johnson continues to accept farm bill surveys from across South Dakota. The document can be downloaded from the Senator’s website or submitted online at http://johnson.senate.gov.