I recently attended the 2011 South Dakota Governor's Agriculture Development Summit, where I heard U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) speak on agricultural issues. The theme of the event was “Agriculture - The Economic Driver,” and that was certainly the message of her speech as she talked about the priorities she is focused on in Washington, D.C. Noem currently serves on several committees including - Natural Resources, Education and Workforce, Conservation, Energy and Forestry, the Department of Operations, Oversight and Credit, and the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Committee. In each position, she says a big struggle has been to educate her colleagues about agriculture.
"I always stress to my peers in Congress that if cuts are to be made, agriculture shouldn’t have to take more than its fair share of the cuts. Right now, as we move into farm bill discussions, we have 37 programs available that have started without any funding to back them. In light of what’s going on in appropriations committees, we will be focused on finding real-life solutions to these budgetary problems," says Noem.
As the farm bill conversation develops, Noem says it’s important to remind her fellow Congressmen and women that it’s not just about agriculture, the bill is for consumers, too.
"The important thing to remember is that the farm bill is also a food bill. We must be able to feed ourselves in this country. This is an issue of national security. A lot of people don’t recognize the importance of agriculture. We need to educate others while we are forming policies. While we all have to make cuts, agriculture shouldn’t have to make these cuts disproportionately to other programs," she says.
Whether it's in conversations about food vs. fuel or the growing deficit and the struggling economy, Noem fears things could get worse before they get better in the U.S.
"We truly need to recognize the fact that we have the most predictable economic storm coming. We are two or three years away from having a crash like in Greece or Europe if we don’t prioritize our spending. We need to do what’s best for our citizens, our national security and our future. Agriculture plays a big role in that," she adds.
What's your take on the food vs. fuel debate? Do you see the farm bill as a food bill, as well? What is the solution to the growing national deficit? Where do you see the economy headed in 2012? What's the future of food production in the U.S. and how will you continue to play a role in it? Weigh in today!