My Grandpa lives today in the very same rural farm house where he was born over 90 years ago, and both my parents were farm kids too. I grew up in town, in the communities of Yankton and Tabor. But as in so many towns around our state, the influence of agriculture was all around me, right down to the ways I was able to earn extra money by picking rocks and riding the bean bar for area farmers. Because ag continues to be the foundation of our state’s economy, our lone member of Congress should be an aggressive advocate for farmers and ranchers, especially as work continues on a new farm bill.
The ag economy has been strong in recent years, with high commodity prices and mostly good growing conditions. But wet conditions in the northeastern part of the state are just one reminder of why it is so critically important that producers have a safety net in place for when times are tough. We need to protect crop insurance as the most important component of a strong safety net. On the livestock side, we must defend the critical livestock indemnity program.
As for other farm programs, no matter how they are restructured, I believe we must target them to small- and medium-sized family farms. We should do it through a cap on payments to any individual or couple, and we must close loopholes that allow non-farmers to receive payments. That will preserve a safety net that the public can support even in tough budgetary times. It will also stop the government from wasting money on mega-farms that don’t need our help.
We cannot forget conservation programs. They are struggling to keep up with rising land prices. But they are important to the health of the land and for providing pheasant and other wildlife habitat, which is so important for hunting.
Support for biofuels has weakened nationally, but I still believe strongly in the need for continuing support for corn-based ethanol and transitioning to advanced biofuels made from other feedstocks.
We also have to protect small-scale farmers and ranchers from further consolidation in the livestock industry through market reforms to outlaw unfair market practices by meatpackers.
Agriculture is a way of life in South Dakota, and I’ll fight to protect the family farms and ranches that contribute so much to our state. With these priorities, we can help South Dakota farmers and ranchers continue to “make hay while the sun shines,” but also prepare for the day when storm clouds roll in again on the ag economy.
Click here to read my complete 2012 Farm Bill position paper.
Our health care system provides high quality care to those who can afford it. But for too many individuals and small businesses, the cost of that system has risen beyond reach.
Now that the uncertainty over the Supreme Court decision is behind us, we can all focus once again on strengthening the economy and on further efforts to improve health coverage, care, and cost-containment.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, is far from perfect. It will not singlehandedly solve this problem. Yet it is step forward, and many of its provisions are already making a positive difference in the lives of Americans: young people are allowed to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26; insurers can no longer discriminate based on “pre-existing conditions;” co-payments on preventative care, such as annual physicals or immunizations, have been eliminated; annual and lifetime limits on benefits have been abolished. In coming years, additional benefits will be implemented: the “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage for seniors will be closed, and the creation of state health exchanges will make it easier to compare insurance plans and find the one that offers the best value for any particular family’s unique situation.
On the issue of health care, Congress should look forward, not backward. Instead of repealing the bill and then starting a new divisive health reform debate, Congress should work on further improvements to our health care system.
Among those future improvements, I would support the idea of achieving even greater cost containment through creation of voluntary regional health care exchanges as an alternative to 50 individual state exchanges (i.e., allowing for competition across state lines), which would provide consumers more choices at lower prices.
South Dakotans can take great pride in an economy that has weathered the national economic downturn better than most. We have lower unemployment and a more stable economy than many other states, but even here, too many working families are struggling. Too many rural towns are shrinking for lack of economic opportunity. We lose too many talented South Dakotans to career opportunities elsewhere. Sound, balanced economic development policies can address these challenges.
For almost eight years, I worked directly on economic development in South Dakota – helping entrepreneurs and inventors find ways to transform their ideas into businesses; helping small businesses access financing for expansions; helping communities improve water and sewer systems, industrial parks, business incubators, and other facilities and that have made our communities even more attractive to prospective employers and workers. I’m excited to put this experience to work in Congress.
Economic development occurs when we have a vibrant community of entrepreneurial businesses, along with elected leaders committed to helping businesses grow. We need to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and make sure that our government is a partner to business. Often this just means staying out of the way, but it can also mean working aggressively to ensure that our infrastructure—from roads and bridges to clean drinking water and wastewater treatment systems to Internet access in our communities —is modernized and ready to serve the needs of citizens and businesses. I also understand the importance of access to capital across South Dakota, the value of workforce training, and the need for affordable housing to attract job seekers. Finally, I agree strongly with those who have said that education is our best economic development policy. I will support investments in these critical areas.
Honoring our veterans means more than simply showing up to local Veterans Day programs and then forgetting about those who have served. Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women of our armed forces, who give their time and talents, and often risk their lives, to protect the freedoms we hold dear. One way our society shows its appreciation for this service is by keeping the promises we’ve made to our veterans.
I believe in protecting the benefits our veterans have earned, strengthening the VA medical system, and supporting educational and job opportunities for veterans. Though we must continue finding ways to cut federal spending, we simply cannot do so by sacrificing services for our veterans.
The fact of the matter is, our veterans answered the call when our nation needed them. In exchange for their service, our nation promised them certain benefits. When the budget is tight, however, it seems like veterans programs are early targets for budget cuts, and that’s just plain wrong.
Keeping our promises to our veterans is a matter of keeping our word. Our nation’s honor is at stake. I think we should be promoting more resources into things like prosthetics research, treatments for traumatic brain injuries and for the PTSD that so many of our returning soldiers experience.
I also like to remind people that the more we learn about caring for soldiers’ war injuries, the more we are also able to help our family members injured in car accidents, our friends who lose limbs in farming accidents, and the many other tragedies that can befall any of us in our daily lives. Doing our very best for our injured veterans is a matter of following through on the promises we made, and all of us benefit from making good on our promises.
One of the ways I’ll pursue these goals is through collaboration with important organizations like Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. In fact my initial interest in public service was sparked partly by my participation in the American Legion’s Boys State and Boys Nation programs, when I was a high school student in Yankton.
Spikes in gas prices take a bite out of family budgets, leaving less money for groceries and other necessities. As I’ve filled up my Buick on the campaign trail across South Dakota, it’s pretty easy to see how high fuel prices can cripple local businesses, when money that could have been spent on a family night out or a community event instead gets pumped into the gas tank.
Though we have made progress in recent years, our addiction to foreign oil remains a major liability for our country. Congress needs to work proactively to blunt the effects of gas prices and move us toward energy independence.
In the short-term, we need to continue responsible expansion of domestic oil and gas production, continuing the progress of recent years in places like North Dakota. There’s also plenty of evidence that Wall Street speculators contribute to price spikes, and I support giving the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) greater authority to crack down on excessive speculation. Big Oil companies will resist anything that holds down the price of a barrel of oil, and they’ve spent a fortune on an army of lobbyists and campaign contributions to members of Congress to ensure their gravy train keeps on rolling.
No one expects oil companies to operate like charities, but their jaw-dropping gains are bleeding our economy. We cannot afford to fuel a never-ending growth in their profit margins through artificially inflated oil prices. For that matter, we should also end taxpayer subsidies for these extremely profitable companies. I’ve also pledged not to accept a dime of campaign contributions from Big Oil, so South Dakotans can rest assured that I am free to stand up to Big Oil on behalf of consumers.
I’ll also work to enact a long-term strategy for energy independence. That strategy should include aggressively investing in research and development of technologies that improve energy efficiency. We should also push forward with expansion of renewable energy sources, including home-grown biofuels like corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel.
In the electricity sector, coal and hydroelectric will continue to fuel base-load generation for the foreseeable future. We should recognize this and do all we can to maximize the efficiency of these resources in cost-effective ways. Falling costs for natural gas and wind generation present opportunities to expand our reliance on these technologies. When it comes to wind, we should accelerate this expansion with policies that will finally help us take advantage of South Dakota’s exceptional wind resource.
Pursuing domestic and renewable energy production will stimulate our economy here at home, and free us from our dependence on imports from unfriendly nations. America really can be a world leader in developing, manufacturing and exporting clean reliable energy to the rest of the world. Let’s create jobs in America and keep our dollars circulating in our own communities. With the right federal incentives and investments, we can have a more secure and cost-effective energy infrastructure.
A quality education is the best gift we can give to any child, and it is the key to our economic competitiveness. I’m committed to crafting a federal education policy that preserves flexibility for individual states and districts to chart their own paths to success, and delivers tools and resources to accelerate that success.
Congress should start by reforming No Child Left Behind. Few could argue with the goal contained in its title, or the notion that schools should be accountable for the performance of students. In practice, however, No Child Left Behind has been too focused on standardized testing, and hasn’t given schools enough latitude to develop their own plans for improving student performance.
South Dakota schools have needs that are different from the needs of schools in more urban states. I will work to protect programs like Impact Aid that are so important to rural schools, and fight to ensure that unreasonable burdens aren’t placed on rural schools with fewer resources than large schools.
I will also support access to higher education, including 4-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and technical education. I know firsthand what it’s like to need Pell Grants and student loans to pursue higher education. I will be a strong voice for keeping higher education affordable, so that we educate our next generation of South Dakota leaders, and provide young people with the skills they will need in the workplace.
Like many South Dakotans, I grew up fishing in our streams and lakes as a part of a tradition that was as much about spending time with family as it was about our catch on any given day. I’m also a gun owner who enjoys opportunities to hunt, shoot trap, or spend time at the shooting range.
Sportsmanship is more than just recreation — it’s a part of our heritage. I am a participant in that heritage, and I will defend the rights of South Dakotans to enjoy that heritage for generations to come. That means preserving the rights of law-abiding gun owners and protecting our great outdoor spaces for future generations. These places are treasures not only because of their natural beauty, but also because they provide habitat for game, and attract visitors who keep tourism a vibrant part of our economy.
Seniors in South Dakota deserve to know that retirement security programs they have paid into as workers will be there for them when they retire. For many seniors, living on a fixed income already means stretching every dime to make ends meet. I believe strongly that we must protect the Social Security and Medicare benefits seniors have earned.
I will stand strong against efforts to balance our budget by privatizing Social Security or turning Medicare into a voucher system that no longer guarantees medical coverage, as the House recently voted to do.
Instead of looking to slash or eliminate Social Security and Medicare, we should instead continue finding ways to strengthen and improve them, and ensure these programs are available for the retirement security of future generations. This will certainly involve tough choices, but these choices cannot include slashing benefits or otherwise balancing the budget on the backs of seniors.
Click here to read my complete issue statement on preserving and strengthening Medicare.
Ending the cycle of poverty in Indian Country must be a top priority, along with working to ensure that the United States upholds its treaty and trust responsibilities to American Indian tribes. Matt will respect the sovereignty of tribes, and strive to be a partner in cooperative efforts to bring increased development, education, job creation, and infrastructure to our Indian communities.
We can achieve greater development through investment in tribal colleges and other educational facilities that train a future middle class of workers and business owners. We should also support innovative programs that help to get new private-sector ventures off the ground.
A strong justice system and quality infrastructure are also necessary not just for business development, but also to ensure that people in Indian Country and across the state enjoy a basic standard of living.
I will pursue these and other initiatives in close cooperation with tribal leaders, working to ensure that our lone member of Congress is an effective advocate for the interests of all South Dakotans, including American Indian people.