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S.D. congresswoman: Trade agreements help ag exports

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- Three trade agreements signed by the president in the fall should be good for the nation's farmers and ranchers, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said this week.

Noem, who is seeking re-election this year, spoke to about 60 people Wednesday in Aberdeen, S.D.

The trade agreements are with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. And, Noem said, they should result in $3 billion in agricultural exports and help create 27,000 jobs nationwide. The nation's ag exports result in 19,000 jobs in South Dakota, she said.

Agriculture, the deficit and the federal budget were three of the prime topics Noem discussed Wednesday.

She said she wants to learn more about the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency's announcement earlier this week that it is closing offices. But, she said, it sounds like the closure decision is final.

USDA announced it is closing 259 offices, labs and other facilities in 46 states to save $150 million a year. The plan includes four Farm Service Agency offices in South Dakota: Campbell, Harding, Jackson and Jerauld counties.

Farm Service Agency offices in Minnesota on the list for closure are in Chisago, Nicollet, Pine, Scott and Waseca counties.

The Farm Service Agency administers agricultural programs.

Noem said geography is one of her concerns with the office closings. Farmers and ranchers should be able to access Farm Service Agency offices without having to travel too far, she said.

The current farm bill expires in September, and when members of Congress author a new one later this year, there will be significant changes, she said. A tariff on imported ethanol and a tax break on U.S.-produced ethanol have already expired. And, she said, farm bill direct payments are going away. Direct payments are made to grain and other producers, regardless of yield or market prices.

If members of the House and Senate can't agree on a new farm bill before it expires, the current measure will likely be extended, she said.

Waltman writes for the American News in Aberdeen, S.D.