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Farm Bill Passage Appears Close

January 21, 2014, 6:02 PM by Don Jorgensen

Farm Bill Passage Appears Close

The effects of the October blizzard that devastated so many ranchers in western South Dakota are still being felt.  That's why they're urging Congress to pass a long-term, comprehensive farm bill as quickly as possible.

The October blizzard killed thousands of head of livestock. 

Many of these families have been sitting in limbo waiting for months now for livestock disaster assistance.  But without a farm bill, their fears stretch far beyond the devastating event.

"Without these things going forward, we are going to lose some excellent, excellent producers," South Dakota Stockgrowers Association board member Bob Mack said.

U. S. Senator Tim Johnson and other ag leaders met with reporters Tuesday to announce that a farm bill is close.

"It's absolutely critical that Congress complete action on a long term and comprehensive farm bill as quickly as possible," Johnson said.

But they're opposed to any changes to the country of origin labeling program, also known as COOL. 

"People want to know where their food comes from; it's absolutely essential to them," Mack said.

They see COOL as an essential program.

"It's like this.  If a person goes out there to buy a Cadillac, they want a Cadillac; they don't want a Chevy with Cadillac name plates on it," Mack said.

But driving that message home to everyone in Congress will take some convincing.

"This issue is not only good for producers, it's good for consumers.  It's good for worldwide consumers as well," President of the South Dakota Farmer's Union Doug Sombke said.

Johnson says a farm bill could be voted on in the House and Senate as early as next week.

Republican Sen. John Thune says negotiators are close to reaching agreement on the major sticking points, including livestock payments, dairy policy and the labeling law.

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem says she believes it's possible to protect consumers and maintain a strong trade relationship with neighboring countries.

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