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When I sat down with a group of farmers and ranchers a few weeks back in Parker, they all told me the same thing: forage stocks are running low because of our wet spring. South Dakotans are well-aware our planting season has been delayed because of continuous flooding and rain. This has gotten national attention. What’s not talked about quite as frequently is how this adverse weather affects what goes in our livestock’s bellies down the road.

Our thriving beef and dairy herds require a substantial amount of forage in the form of hay or silage as the basis of their diet. Much of that forage that we feed locally was hurt by the tough winter and wet spring. Wet conditions for crop farmers complicate this process further. During a wet season, farmers can’t plant on time and must claim a prevent plant insurance policy on whatever they couldn’t get in the ground. If a farmer claims this insurance coverage, the rules say they can’t harvest their cover crop until Nov. 1. This date is too late to hay, graze or chop the feed needed for our cattle’s food supply.

Our state’s livestock economy is so important, which is why I introduced the Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act or the FEEDD Act to move this Nov. 1 date up. The FEEDD Act would create an emergency waiver authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow producers to graze, hay or chop a cover crop before Nov. 1 in the event of a feed shortage due to excessive moisture, flood or drought. My legislation would help farmers while not putting at risk their prevent plant insurance.

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Farmers need high quality feed, and if they have extra, they should have the flexibility to give it to other farmers — my bill would make this a reality. Producers want to see this legislation get across the finish line. Todd Wilkinson, De Smet native and Vice Chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, expressed the FEEDD Act will help producers manage the worst impacts following the aftermath of this year’s natural disasters. I’m grateful 14 national agriculture groups support this legislation. Every day since I introduced this bill we’ve had Republicans and Democrats sign on in support.

Producers are already facing five years of declining net farm incomes and this wet spring has thrown another challenge their way. This simple fix will help ease our feed shortage, enhance the farm safety net, and improve soil health by promoting cover crops. Government can’t control the weather, but we must do what we can to provide certainty to our farmers and ranchers.

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Rep. Dusty Johnson is a Republican who represents South Dakota in the U.S. House.

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