As a fourth generation farm kid, I’ve always taken some solace that my legislators in Washington DC will always protect the way of life that has defined our state for generations. Strip away the party affiliation and the other divisive issues and at the end of the day they would fall on the side of farmers and ranchers. They’d risk a little political clout to ensure protections and policies are in place to help the people that feed the world and work from dawn until dusk to do so.
Yesterday, Senator John Thune became the first South Dakota Senator I can remember to vote against South Dakota. He voted against the Farm Bill and then had the audacity to throw partisan talking points back here to South Dakota as his reasoning.
I worked for a farm organization in college. We worked with our federal elected officials on a daily basis and they were our partners and allies. We met with them – Senators Tim Johnson and Senator Tom Daschle and Representative Bill Janklow – when we visited Capitol Hill. We had honest conversations about issues facing farmers and ranchers. We all came together in one room to talk about the issues that affected our shared home. What we lacked in population, we made up for in team of legislators who were a force on Capitol Hill. Partly because of character and partly because of the unified front they became for South Dakota’s agricultural community.
So it seems the decades of cooperation for like-minded South Dakota officials are gone, for now anyway – swallowed up in a sea of presidential aspirations and pressure from extreme factions of the Republican party. As I watch my little brother take on the risks and rewards of taking over our family farm, and see photos of his 4 year old twins riding in the cab of the tractor, smiles beaming as they help their daddy plant soybeans, I hope someone is showing Senator Thune a similar thing in this office. I know the fields of South Dakota probably feel far away from Thune’s desk in Washington DC, but they’re still home to me.