When you run a farm or a ranch, there’s no timeclock. There’s often no set lunch hour. There’s no paid vacation. Unlike most jobs, the last person leaving the office doesn’t turn out the lights – in farming and ranching, Mother Nature will take care of it for you. In this line of work, which is more like a way of life, farmers and ranchers not only pray for a safe day in the field and for their family and community, but they know God was listening when they wake to the near-musical sound of rain drops hitting a tin roof. They’re hardworking, dedicated, patriotic people, and I’m proud to have many of them as my friends.

Agriculture, particularly production agriculture, is South Dakota’s lifeblood. It’s the top industry, and nearly everyone in the state is affected by it in one way or another. That’s why I knew that I needed to use my voice in Congress to ensure the farming and ranching community was being treated the way it deserved to be treated. After all, where we’re from, “agriculture” is nearly synonymous with “South Dakota.”

At the end of the day, I think farmers and ranchers want to know that policymakers truly understand how tough this business can be. Having stood in the fields and witnessed the blood, sweat, and literal tears that go into this, I get it. It’s why I chose to serve on the House Agriculture Committee and now the Senate Agriculture Committee, and I believe that I’ve used my voice – their voice – to effectively give South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers a platform to be heard.

There’s no greater example of this than the pro-farmer, pro-agriculture farm bill that’s moving through Congress – the fourth farm bill that I’ve helped write – which is thanks, in large part, to the help and advice I’ve been fortunate to receive from the South Dakota agriculture community.

Knowing that this isn’t always an easy process, in March 2017, nearly 20 months before the current farm bill was set to expire, I tried to get ahead of the game by introducing proposal after proposal to reform and strengthen the next farm bill. Since I started this process, I’ve rolled out roughly 40 legislative ideas. As evidenced by our bipartisan farm bill, which is now on its way to the full Senate for consideration, it’s safe to say that the hard work paid off.

Multiple proposals that I’d written were included in the Agriculture Committee’s draft bill, and several more were included before the committee voted 20-1 to move it one step closer to the finish line. I still have a few ideas on how to improve this already strong bill once we get it to the Senate floor, and I’m glad to have a commitment from Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow to help implement some of them, particularly my proposals related to the Conservation Reserve Program, which is so important in South Dakota.    

Going through this process, I’m reminded of what Paul Harvey told the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978. He talked about what God needed on the 8th day: a caretaker. “God said, ‘I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks, and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.’ So God made a farmer.”

Thank you, God, for making a farmer and for having him call South Dakota home.

About the Author: Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Senator Thune serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and the Finance Committee. Thune, who is the senior most Republican on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, serves as Chairman.