HURON – Federal assistance to South Dakota producers suffering from low commodity prices, trade uncertainty and delayed field work due to flooding should be based on planted as well as unplanted acres, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Thursday.
In its 2019 Market Facilitation Program, the Agriculture Department has indicated that unplanted acres won’t be eligible.
But the end of May crop progress report shows that only 25 percent of corn and 6 percent of soybeans had been planted statewide.
“I think that is a mistake,” Rounds said of the eligibility requirement, “and we’ve suggested they reconsider that.”
In a follow-up to a letter sent by the congressional delegation to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May requesting short-term economic assistance for producers facing difficult times, Rounds said in a conference call that he is asking USDA to take the concerns of South Dakota producers into consideration as it implements the Market Facilitation Program.
“Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota really are suffering,” Rounds said.
Not only is the Trump administration at odds over trade with China, the U.S. is on the brink of a new trade war with Mexico, he said.
“This is a serious issue and we need to recognize that,” he said.
Rounds said he wants the administration to respect those individuals whose livelihoods are on the line.
Meanwhile, the senator said he and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, have reintroduced what Rounds calls a common-sense bill to allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection programs to be sold across state lines.
Twenty-seven states have inspection programs which meet or exceed federal inspection standards. But products processed at Food Safety Inspection Service-approved facilities cannot be sold across state lines.
South Dakota produces some of the best and highest quality meat in the nation, Rounds said. Limiting them from going across state borders even after undergoing inspection “makes no sense,” he said.
Instead, an arbitrary line preventing the meat from being sold in another state should be eliminated to give consumers more of a choice, he said.
“I think this is an idea whose time has come,” Rounds said.
On immigration, he said while he wishes the president was not threatening a tariff with Mexico to get that country to do more about illegal aliens flowing across the southern border he agrees with Trump that it’s a national emergency.
In the last two months more than 250,000 migrants have entered the U.S., more than the combined populations of Sioux Falls and Rapid City, he said.
“The president is frustrated,” Rounds said. “I’m sure that he’s using the only tool he thinks he has right now to fix this.”
Rounds is calling on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to resolve the issue, which he said couldn’t be coming at a worse time with the pending United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
While he said he normally doesn’t call out the other party, he said the two sides need to find a way to work together on immigration.