S.D. Legislature Going To Washington To Seek Help For Farmers
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) _ Nearly 6,000 farmers and ranchers who marched on the state Capitol cheered when lawmakers said the entire South Dakota Legislature would go to Washington seeking help for financially strapped farmers.
Inside, the House suspended its rules Tuesday and passed an emergency bill setting aside $95,000 to pay for the Feb. 25 trip. State senators were expected to pass the measure today.
The marchers stood in the snow and waved handmade signs as the legislators promised to seek an end to the federal economic and agricultural policies they said are threatening to kill small family farms.
There are 105 seats in the state Legislature.
Gov. Bill Janklow, who will accompany the lawmakers to Washington, said the South Dakotans will insist on talking to the nation’s top leaders.
″It’s the president and the vice president of this country we have the right to see,″ Janklow said earlier during speeches opening the march and rally at a high school. ″We demand that right when our Legislature goes to Washington.″
The marchers, carrying signs that read ″Save South Dakota Farms″ and ″Don’t Destroy The Family Farm,″ presented Janklow with more than $17,000, raised mostly from $1 donations, to help pay for the trip to Washington.
U.S. Rep. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Republican U.S. Sens. Larry Pressler and Jim Abdnor said Congress would listen to the farmers’ request for a fair farm program.
″Farmers aren’t asking for a handout. They’re only asking for a fair shake,″ Abdnor said.
Janklow and other elected officials, clergymen and farm leaders spoke for nearly three hours. They said the huge federal deficit has driven up interest rates to the point where farmers can no longer earn a profit at the prices their products receive.
In addition, America’s farmers can’t compete fairly on international markets because other nations subsidize the sale of their farm products, they said.
In Iowa on Tuesday, farmers and politicians said they were angered but not surprised by U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Block’s statement Monday that the federal government has offered all the financial aid it can to struggling farms.
″John Block is to agriculture what Benedict Arnold was to the military,″ said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, saying Block was wrong in seeing the farm crisis as confined to the Midwest.
″This is a national problem,″ the Democrat said. ″It’s deep and it’s big.″
Farmer Max Allsup of Runnells said the farm debt crisis is a political football. ″We expect very little. This thing has been thrown back and forth.″