South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

    Q&A: Sen. Rounds discusses farm bills, student loan debt

    U.S. Senate Photographic Service
    Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, right, shakes hands with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, X and SpaceX, on Sept. 13, 2023, in Washington, D.C., during a discussion about artificial intelligence.

    The Collegian was invited to sit down with Rounds in the Student Union Friday morning for a Q&A.

    Can you talk about the upcoming farm bills and what your priorities are?

    It looks like the Farm Bill has been pushed into 2024. Primarily because the House and the Senate have not had a chance to get together and agree on what it looks like. The house is kind of in disarray right now. And so, they’re worried that they’re probably not going to have enough time to put everything together. And on the Senate side, it sounds like a lot of this stuff is coming together, we’re focusing specifically on what we call the safety net portion of it, which is the insurance, the crop insurance programs, some of the commodity programs in terms of making sure that if a market goes south on us that there is a protection for farmers to get a minimum on their crops, even if the price starts going down. The Conservation Reserve is another area that we’ve got a real interest in expanding. It’s one more way in which a farmer can get cash and at the same time can take some land out of production and put it into reserves. It’s worked in the past, it’s really good for wildlife. And we think with the price of the rental costs of farmland going up, a lot of farmers rather than putting it into grass have basically kept it in a row crops. And we’d like to see more in the reserve or the Conservation Reserve Program. So, the emphasis is on the safety nets for farmers, and also on the Conservation Reserve Program and the expansion of that if at all possible. The unfortunate part of the farm bill is that about 86% of the money will be spent on nutrition, which is on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which is basically the old food stamp program. And so, while they call it the Farm Bill, it’s really a nutrition bill. And farmers need a safety net. But to get their programs established, a significant amount, like I say 86% of what’s in the Farm Bill really goes towards school lunch and the SNAP program.

    So, if we want to get anything done, we’ve got to have the support of members of the Senate members of the House that come from urban areas, the part that gets the urban members to be involved in the Farm Program, or the Farm Bill, or the nutrition programs that are included the 86%. So, 14% of what you will see in the Farm Bill will go to farming and ranching communities. But we don’t expect it to be completed until 2024 now just because of the slowdown in getting things out of the house.

    Can you talk about your position on student debt?

    We’ve looked at trying to find a path forward on student debt. There wasn’t a program prior to the initiation of Obamacare, in which students could get a loan from their local bank, the local bank would then have a subsidized loan, which was paid by the federal government, that the student wouldn’t have to pay anything on while they were in college. And for about six months after they had completed college, then the bank would sell that loan to a third party who would hold it and bill a student at the current interest rates, which were fairly low at the time when they were looking for ways to fund Obamacare in 2007 and 2008. Rather than having the banks participate in President Obama’s administration changed it over to a federal program only cut the banks out of it. And in doing so, the interest on those student loans then went to offset the cost of Obamacare in his program. So, it was a paper item where the government was now taking the interest in and then they were having an offset putting the subsidies into Obamacare. Those interest costs have continued to climb and with the cost of college going up, it’s a bit of a double whammy for students.

    The other piece of this is, is a lot of families out there that are middle class, they don’t qualify for subsidization or for Pell grants and so forth. For those students, I still think they need to be able to have access to that student loan money. It’s a national security issue, in my opinion, to get these young people through. And that money should be available for a four-year degree or for a two-year technical degree as well, if they want to go to a technical school, and it should we should subsidize the cost of the interest on the debt during that time. That should be a just in terms of national security, I think it’s very important that young people get to a college or to a two-year degree, get a trade establish and not end up with a huge cost of interest included on the debt during that time in which they’re at school. It’s an incentive to continue to go to school.

    Could you talk about like with everything going on in Israel right now? Why should South Dakotans be aware of this and care about what’s going on?

    Our responsibility in this case is what any civilized country should have, which is to not put up with that type of a terrorist attack. And if, if they can do it in Israel, they can do it in the United States. Right now, what we have for with Israel, who is an ally of the United States, our strongest ally in the Middle East, what they’re going to need is a resupply of ammunition, or their army and their air force. And they’re going to need the public support, to be able to go back in find these perpetrators and bring them to justice or kill them. The unfortunate part of this is that Hamas hides behind civilians, and the civilians that are in the Gaza Strip. They’re going to they’re going to go through a terrible number of months ahead, where Hamas is going to hide there. And they’re going to use civilian civilians in Hamas or in the Gaza Strip as human shields. Hamas also took a whole bunch of prisoners. hostages, they’re holding them, we don’t know where they’re holding them, but some of them are Americans. That brings the American military into the and while I don’t know whether we have any Americans on the ground right now, but because there are Americans that are being put at risk, we have the right to go after Hamas as well if it is deemed to be in our country’s best interest. And so, who what I worry about not only the civilians in Israel that have been killed or wounded or attacked, but I care about the Palestinian civilians who are innocent, who are going to be caught in this crossfire. And it is absolutely an only the fault of the terrorist group Hamas, and we should not. We should not conflate Israel’s right, to protect their nation with what Hamas did. Hamas is the problem in this case.

    USD just had their drag show and ours is coming up within the next month. Can you just speak about your position kind of on the drag shows on the campuses?

    We’ve got lots of things in this world to worry about. And whether or not you’ve got people that want to play and act and audition, and participate in different and risky activities, is something that will never change. And those particular dragshows well, very inappropriate for kids are something that have been a part of the perhaps an outlier of traditional society but seen as more amusement than anything else. And I think there are lots of other things that we should be concerned about, as opposed to whether or not a kid wants to dress up in costume.

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    Greta Goede, Editor-In-Chief

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