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It would be an understatement to say it’s been a rough year for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. Yes, the broader economy is doing well — very well, in fact — but today’s agriculture economy is lagging too far behind, and the effects are real, they are painful, and they are only getting worse. My message to farmers and ranchers is loud and clear: I hear you, and I’m with you. I’ve always been in your corner. It’s where I’ll be today and throughout this fight as we work to ensure you have access to the support and the resources you need to continue feeding the world.

When Paul Harvey described what God needed on the eighth day — a caretaker — he said, “It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church … So God made a farmer.”

Harvey’s decades-old address, which reads more like a sermon, echoes how most Americans feel about farmers and ranchers. They share his sentiment because farmers and ranchers are a special breed, cut from a cloth that’s soaked in generations of blood, sweat, and tears; people who aren’t governed by a time clock or office hours and aren’t bothered by the inability to just roll over and pull the covers over their eyes after the alarm clock rings.

Farmers and ranchers are tough and hardworking people who, even during the hardest of times, aren’t looking for a handout. They simply want a hand up. In the face of low commodity prices, protracted trade disputes, late-winter storms, and a wet spring, now is one of those times, unfortunately. This perfect storm of events has pushed net farm income to half of what it was in 2013. Folks in the agriculture community are struggling to make ends meet, and they’re worried about the future.

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You don’t have to travel far in South Dakota to see these effects firsthand. Many fields remain unplanted — underwater or too soggy to even get anything in the ground. Last year at this time, nearly all of the state’s corn crop had been planted. Today, fewer than one out of every two rows have made it into the ground. For soybeans, the situation is even worse.

While there’s plenty of darkness, there are a few bright spots. For example, the Trump administration followed through on its promise to lift the ban on the year-round sale of E15 fuel, a huge boon to producers in corn-producing states like South Dakota and something for which I’ve fought for more than a decade. Also, Japan recently announced it would lift age limits on U.S. beef imports, giving South Dakota ranchers full access to a major foreign market.

A win is a win, but we have a long way to go, particularly as it relates to giving the agriculture community the certainty it needs to effectively plan for the future. That’s why I’m relaying their concerns directly to President Trump and his administration, especially as they work to wrap up trade deals around the world, including the one between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I’m also monitoring and keeping pressure on the administration as it implements the 2018 farm bill, and I’m doing everything I can to ensure folks are treated fairly under crop insurance prevent plant and cover crop rules.

Please know that when you call, email, or write my office, I hear about it. When you stop me in the grocery store or at a basketball game, I listen. When you ask for help, I act. And when you do what you do, whether you’re free from the burden and anxiety of most days’ work or you’re praying for Mother Nature to intervene on your behalf, you help feed the world and inspire the next generation of farmers and ranchers. That, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story — the story defined by hard work, pride, faith, humility, and optimism. All of the qualities God looked for on the eighth day.

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John Thune represents South Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

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