Wednesday February 25, 2015
Our day started at the USDA headquarters, where Ms. Kathryn Hill hosted our group.
|Deputy Undersecretary Karis Gutter, USDA|
Karis Gutter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services has served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the past six years. This division oversees Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Risk Management Agency (RMA). Mr. Gutter described programmatic changes to the farm safety net--crop insurance and commodity programs. With the launch of the new farm bill in spring of 2014, FSA prioritized deployment of disaster programs, dairy risk protection tools, financial lending, and conservation programs. Further discussion with SDARL leaders addressed the need for livestock risk management products; farm program participation affected by wetland compliance concerns; and increasing lending limits for guarantee loans.
|Kanable, Symens, Nelson and Kettwig|
Rural development (RD) issues were the focus of Sam Rikkers, who serves as Deputy Adminstrator for that agency within USDA. Rural housing, business support and utility programs were highlighted during this dialogue. An example of a RD business program which farmers or ranchers could utilize would be Rural Energy for America Program (REAP,) which provides grants and low interest loans to upgrade to higher efficiency systems, such as grain dryers or barn ventilation fans. Broadband access and wastewater system improvements continue to be high demand infrastructure needs of rural communities, also. Class members shared examples of how their South Dakota communities have benefited from RD programs, such as new housing triplexes and daycare centers.
|SDARL Class VIII at USDA|
|Dr. Shelly Ver Ploeg: "Food Deserts"|
Food deserts were the subject of a presentation by Dr. Shelly Ver Ploeg, economist within the Economic Research Service (ERS). Food deserts are described as an area with limited access to healthy, nutritious food and usually in a low-income area. Dr. Ver Ploeg outlined analysis conducted countywide to identify areas within both urban and rural areas that lack proximity to grocery stores and transportation to those shopping centers. South Dakota's map shows quite a few food deserts, primarily in southwest and northwest counties and a few scattered communities in central and northeastern parts of the state.
|Congresswoman Noem meeting with the class|
|Congresswoman Kristi Noem & SDARL Class VIII|
SDARL members took to the Hill on Wednesday afternoon, meeting with Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, as well as with their senior policy advisers. Senator Thune's office arranged a tour of the Capitol, which concluded our visit to the Hill.
|Senator John Thune|
|Senator John Thune & SDARL Class VIII|
|Senator John Thune meeting with the class|
|Sen. Thune's policy advisors Lynn Tjeerdsma & Ty Littau|
|Senator Rounds, members Randy Nelson and James Kroupa|
|Senator Rounds & SDARL Class VIII|
|Senator Rounds with Eric Jennings. Jennings' great grandfather Peter Norbeck's desk is nowadays used by the Senator.|
Submitted by Trudy Wastweet