Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem


Weekly Column: Eternal Gratitude


John Ellsworth was just 13 years old when his mother met him at the door and told him his father wasn’t coming home.  America had lost a hero.

John’s father, Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth, flew 400 combat missions during World War II, earning numerous medals and proving himself as a man of great courage.  He returned to the U.S. where he became wing commander of the Rapid City Air Force Base.  While co-piloting a bomber during a simulated combat mission in 1953, however, his plane encountered bad weather, pushing it off course.  The freezing rain and fog limited the pilots’ visibility and the plane struck a hill, killing everyone on board.  A few short months after General Ellsworth was laid to rest in the Black Hills National Cemetery, President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled to Rapid City to rename the base in his honor.

Those who have served and the families who sacrificed beside them deserve our nation’s eternal gratitude.  Since 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery has been but one way this appreciation is shown.

Today, the cemetery offers 100 acres of peaceful landscape to serve as the final resting place for service members and their families.  The facility, however, will not have the room required to continue serving veterans unless it is expanded.

After working with a number of area veterans and related federal agencies, I introduced the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, which would add around 200 acres of land to the cemetery by simply transferring federal lands that are currently under the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

By expanding the Black Hills National Cemetery in this way, today’s veterans and service members, as well as their families, can be assured that America will be able to offer our eternal gratitude for all they have done.

Earlier this summer, we lost Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle, a courageous World War II paratrooper and one of the legendary Lakota Code Talkers.  He too was laid to rest in the Black Hills National Cemetery and continues to be an inspiration to the Lakota people and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.  It is his legacy, the legacy of General Ellsworth, and the legacies left by the brave men and women like them that we honor at the Black Hills National Cemetery.  Expanding it is a duty we must fulfill.

I was humbled to see our Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act receive unanimous support in the House earlier this month.  While further action is needed before this bill reaches the President’s desk, I’m hopeful we’ll see movement before year’s end.  Our veterans deserve the certainty that our nation will forever show its gratitude for the contributions they’ve made in protecting our security, freedom, and country.

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Black Hills National Cemetery close to tripling in size


Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (H.R.3839) was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

If enacted, the legislation would transfer nearly 200 acres of land outside Sturgis from the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to accommodate an expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery.

“Those who have served and the families who sacrificed beside them deserve our nation’s eternal gratitude,” said Noem.

“By allowing for the permanent expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery, veterans today and for generations to come can be assured that our country will forever honor their service. I strongly urge the Senate to move quickly on approving this important bipartisan legislation.”

Opened in 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis rests on around 100 acres of land. The facility requires more room to continue serving future veterans. The Bureau of Land Management currently holds land adjacent to the cemetery. Without legislation to make the transfer permanent, federal law limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years.

Noem introduced H.R.3839 in October 2015. In May 2016, she testified on the legislation before the House Natural Resources Committee, after which they passed the bill out of committee. The legislation must now be taken up by the Senate before reaching the President’s desk.
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US House OKs more land for BH National Cemetery


The U.S. House of Representatives passed an act sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery, effectively tripling its size.

The expansion act must now be approved by the Senate.

If approved and signed by the president, 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land near Sturgis will be transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now, the Black Hills National Cemetery only has 100 acres and, according to a release from Noem’s office, without legislation to make the transfer permanent, the VA would only be able to “borrow” the BLM land for 20 years.

“By allowing for the permanent expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery, veterans today and for generations to come can be assured that our country will forever honor their service,” Noem explained.

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House Passes Noem Bill to Expand Black Hills National Cemetery


Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (H.R.3839) was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives today.  If enacted, the legislation would transfer nearly 200 acres of land outside Sturgis from the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to accommodate an expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery.

“Those who have served and the families who sacrificed beside them deserve our nation’s eternal gratitude,” said Noem.  “By allowing for the permanent expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery, veterans today and for generations to come can be assured that our country will forever honor their service.  I strongly urge the Senate to move quickly on approving this important bipartisan legislation.”

Opened in 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis rests on around 100 acres of land.  The facility requires more room to continue serving future veterans.  The Bureau of Land Management currently holds land adjacent to the cemetery.  Without legislation to make the transfer permanent, federal law limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years.

Noem introduced H.R.3839 in October 2015.  In May 2016, she testified on the legislation before the House Natural Resources Committee (video), after which they passed the bill out of committee.  The legislation must now be taken up by the Senate before reaching the President’s desk.

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South Dakota Family Selected as Angels in Adoption after Noem Nomination


Rep. Kristi Noem today announced that Pat and Julie Schneider of Turton, South Dakota, will be honored with a 2016 Angels in Adoption award for their commitment to adoption.  After struggling with infertility for nearly a decade, the Schneider’s began to look into adoption through the Lutheran Social Services adoptive mother program.  After mountains of paperwork and numerous in-home visits, the couple was selected by the birth mother to become the new parents of a baby girl, Caycee.  A few years later, the family expanded with the adoption of their second daughter, Jaydn.  Four years later, they adopted a baby boy, Gavin. 

“From the first time I heard Pat and Julie’s story, it was clear their journey to parenthood could help inspire others and give hope to those struggling with infertility,” said Noem.  “Now the parents of three happy children, Pat and Julie serve as tremendous advocates for the miracle of adoption and often act as mentors to others going through the emotional ups and downs of the adoption process.  It was an honor to nominate them and I wholeheartedly congratulate the entire family on this well-deserved recognition.”

Each of the Schneider family’s adoptions have been open, which has enabled them and their children to build relationships with the birth mothers, who are all from South Dakota.  Pat and Julie have even collaborated with the birth mothers to help pick out names for all the children.

“We are humbled and honored to receive this nomination,” said Pat and Julie Schneider upon learning they had been selected as Angels in Adoption.  “Adoption is the best decision we ever made.  We are incredibly thankful that our children’s birth families chose us to raise and love these kids.  All three of our adoptions have been awesome experiences that have opened our hearts and expanded our family in a way we never could have imagined.  We thank the Lord every day that we are blessed with the opportunity to parent our children.”

The Schneider family, along with more than 100 other recipients across the country, will be recognized on September 20, 2016, at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s annual Angels in Adoption gala in Washington, D.C.  The first Angels gala was held in 1999 and has since honored more than 1,800 Angels from across the country who have made a lasting impact on the lives of children.

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Noem Thanks Garretson Native for Work during DC Internship


Rep. Kristi Noem today thanked Garretson native Bailey Willems for her participation in Noem’s internship program this summer.

“Bailey has been a tremendous addition to our D.C. office this summer,” said Noem.  “She was always ready and willing to work – and did so with enthusiasm for South Dakota and the people we serve.  I look forward to watching all she will accomplish.”

Willems, daughter of Dave Willems and Jenn Lacey, grew up in Garretson, South Dakota.  After graduating in 2015, Willems moved to Chestertown, Maryland, to attend Washington College, where she is majoring in Business Management and Economics with a minor in Political Science. On campus, she works as an office assistant in the president’s office and is the first sophomore to be elected to the board of a student-run organization that provides a free ridesharing service to students.

“Working in Congresswoman Noem’s office has been an unforgettable experience,” said Willems. “I have learned so much about the legislative process and had the privilege to see firsthand how dedicated Congresswoman Noem and her staff are to the people of South Dakota. This has been an amazing summer. I am so thankful for the knowledge and skills I have acquired while interning here.”

Noem’s internship program engages college-aged students in various constituent service and legislative research projects.  The program offers young people a unique understanding of the legislative process and the countless other functions of a congressional office.  For more information or to learn how to apply, please call 202-225-2801.

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Weekly Column: Training for the Race Called Life


I can’t believe the kids are headed back to school already.  Our daughter Kennedy started her sophomore year of college at SDSU and Booker has begun his freshman year of high school, which is hard for this mom to believe.  As most parents know, it’s bittersweet to watch them grow up.  Bryon and I are so proud of the independent young people they’ve become, but it’s still hard to watch them let go.

Olympic medalist Deena Kastor said about marathon running: “If you’ve got the training under your belt … the races take care of themselves.”  That’s how I have always viewed both parenting and education.  Both are about training for the race called life.

Late last year for the first time since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2007, Congress passed into law a bipartisan overhaul of our national education policies.  On top of having implementation problems from the start – especially in rural areas – No Child Left Behind had grown outdated.  The training provided to our nation’s elementary and high school students simply wasn’t preparing them for the race to come.

The new legislation takes a different approach, however.  Rather than staking a larger role for the federal government, the new law minimizes Washington’s influence in classrooms and returns more control to parents and local school districts.

For instance, the new law streamlines a massive and confusing network of federal programs, eliminating or consolidating 49 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs.  Doing so makes the programs simpler to use, while also giving states and local school districts more flexibility to efficiently and effectively improve student learning.

Moreover, we fought to equip parents and taxpayers with the information needed to hold their schools accountable.  This will help ensure that every dollar spent makes a direct and lasting impact for students.

Perhaps most notably, the new law strictly and explicitly prohibits the federal government from coercing states into adopting Common Core. 

It does this by prohibiting federal employees from incentivizing or in any way forcing states to adopt Common Core.  They also can no longer interfere with a state’s standards or assessments.  Moreover, the policies and programs federal officials have used to pressure states into adopting Common Core will now be rejected.  And any new regulatory burdens on states or school districts to comply with standards, assessments, or state accountability plans are prohibited.  To put it simply: those closest to our kids will now – without question – be the ones deciding curriculum and assessments.

We don’t need federal bureaucrats pulling the strings when it comes to educating young people.  I am incredibly grateful to the many South Dakota teachers and school administrators who put our students first each and every day.  They – along with parents and states – should be empowered to make choices about student success in the classroom.  That’s what this new education policy aims to do and I’m confident it will help ensure our students receive the training, if you will, needed for the race called life.

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Noem Walks Through Sioux San, Says IHS Hospital Will Pass Accreditation


South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem says the Sioux San Indian Health Service hospital in Rapid City will pass federal Medicaid and Medicare accreditation in September.  

Some IHS hospitals in South Dakota have struggled with accreditation and funding this year.

Noem took a  walkthrough Sioux San this week. She says the hospital has had its challenges with CMS accreditation.  She says funding could have been pulled this month but the deadline was pushed back.

The hospital has until next month to fix issues CMS outlined earlier in the year. Noem says she took the chance to talk with officials about her IHS reform bill.

“We looked at some of their challenges that they have with space, the things that they have done to meet the requirements that are being told to them from CMS," Noem says. "So, I think they’ve gone a long ways in filling in some gaps that they’ve had and have worked hard to meet those challenges. You know, when I go into these facilities, the people who are providing care are very dedicated. They love people, they’re here to serve, but they face challenges from within the bureaucracy of the Indian Health Services.”

Noem says she supports fully funding IHS, but not until reforms are made.

Noem is up for re-election in November. Her challenger, Democrat Paula Hawks, says IHS issues exist due to lack of fully funding the service.

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Noem tours Sioux San, speaks out on IHS reform bill


South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem was in Rapid City Thursday - touring Sioux San Hospital.

Noem's visit comes after she introduced a bill to reform the Indian Health Service.

The Rapid City facility faces a 20 percent shortage of doctors and nurses, but Noem hopes her bill will help with recruitment by raising salaries and extending contracts.

She says the problems in IHS need to be fixed before increasing the agency's budget.

Noem said, "I agree that there needs to be more funding for IHS health care. There does need to be. But, I don't want to throw more money at it until we fix the problem. So I want to fix the problem with this bill and then advocate for more appropriations as we go forward."

Noem says Sioux San is also at risk of losing reimbursement for services provided to Medicare and Medicaid-eligible patients.

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Rep. Kristi Noem climbs wind turbine


They’re visible to everyone on the distant hills northeast of Conde, but Rep. Kristi Noem got a much more up close and personal look at the wind turbines there Tuesday afternoon

Noem, a Republican representative from rural Hamlin County, said she enjoys challenges.

“I’ve never been a big fan of heights, so going up a wind tower will be a bit of a challenge. But I actually have gone surfing off the north shore of Hawaii, and I don’t know how to swim, so that was adventurous as well, but we’ll see how this goes,” she said.

Noem has championed wind energy in the past and according to her website has led efforts in the House to extend the Production Tax Credit for wind energy.

“Wind energy is obviously an important part of South Dakota’s diversified energy we rely on to give us the kind of electricity we demand across the state,” she said.

There are now more than 50,000 wind turbines in the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association. As of the beginning of this year, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission reported the state had more than 884 megawatts of wind power installed.

Sixty-six of those turbines belong to NextEra Energy Resources near Conde, where Noem climbed Tuesday along with Kathleen O’Connor, a campaign employee.

The climbers suited up with safety harnesses, hard hats and safety goggles before ascending on ladders inside the column of tower 36, which was about 300 feet tall.

Technician Brock Sandness said the large blades turn a motor inside the turbine at a ratio of 85:1, meaning that while the blades appear to be moving slowly, they’re generating a lot of power which the wind farm sells to Basin Electric Power Co-Op.

While the wind was blowing at about 30 mph according to the computers at the wind farm’s base, by the time Noem began climbing Sandness said the wind was actually blowing closer to 36 mph, which makes the column sway with the climbers inside.

After coming back down the turbine, Noem gave a gleeful shout as she walked back outside and said she has a greater respect for the people who repair them for a living.

“We looked, but we did not get up and stand on the top,” she said. “You could see where they hang over the side to work on it and I would not be able to do that.”

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Dakota Midday: Kristi Noem's Take On Agriculture


As a top industry in the state, agriculture is on the minds of many South Dakotan voters. U.S. Representative Kristi Noem visits Midday to provide her insight on agriculture as she represents local farmers and producers in Washington, D.C. She also discusses the ongoing search for a compromise regarding Country of Origin Labeling, the importance of food supply to national security, and how South Dakotans consistently farm beyond next year’s crop.

Listen here.

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Taxes via postcard? Noem says it could happen


The future of filing taxes should be as easy as sending a post card, Rep. Kristi Noem said Monday in Sioux Falls.

Under a proposed tax overhaul plan backed by the South Dakota Republican and other Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, the country's tax code could be shrunk, meaning less work for taxpayers.

The plan calls for the reducing tax brackets from seven to three, streamlining tax reduction and benefit forms, setting a 25 percent tax rate for small businesses and 20 percent for corporations. The "Blueprint," which lays out the proposal without explicit detail, says the reforms would make it substantially easier to pay taxes.

"If we could allow Americans to receive a post card and file their taxes, that would change their life," Noem told about a dozen people gathered for a town hall forum downtown.

Noem promoted the plan and said House Republicans would push it next month when they return to Congress.

"The biggest challenges that people are facing today has to do with tax policy and with regulations. You talk to any small business person and they're struggling with regulation under the Obama administration."

Paula Hawks, a Democrat challenging Noem for her seat, said the plan would likely result in scaling back of other programs.

"If enacted, this plan would necessitate cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare which South Dakota seniors depend on," Hawks said. "That's not something I can support."

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Farmers voice concerns at Dakotafest


It was a packed house at Dakotafest by farmers who were concerned about being able to do their job and make a living.

"We've got a lot of things going on. Farm economy isn't real good people are wondering how do I sharpen the pencil and survive this. We also have regulations raining down from Washington D.C.," said President of South Dakota Farm Bureau Scott VanderWall.

Senators John Thune, Mike Rounds and Representative Kristi Noem were on hand holding a forum to discuss the low commodity and live stock prices and trade policies that have farmers suffering from making their fair share of wages.

"I know the challenges but this is been a very difficult crop year with the drought that parts of the state are facing and low commodity prices there facing are some unique challenges," Noem said.

Representative Noem grew up in a farming household and she says it is issues like these that give her fuel.

"This reminds me of why I do what I do. We need normal everyday people that know how these producers feel making the argument for these policies in Washington D.C.," added Noem.

One of the frustration some farmers told us they face are all the regulations being dropped down, costing them thousands of dollars.

"All these regulations coming out of this administration is really stifling the farm economy and really the economy of the whole country," said Mel Freeman, a farmer for 30 years from Ethan.

"All these regulations that are impacting the industry get passed down to consumers. The average U.S. American pays an extra $15,000 per year just to comply with regulations," said Noem.

Several farmers share the thought that government in Washington D.C. think they know what is best for their land.

"No one better than us growers and producers that know about the land. We know what we produce better than anybody but us growers and producers. They always feel like they are in control, they are the ones that best know how to run and operate everything. It's not the case," said farmer Mark Engelbrecht.

Many of the farmers we spoke to today said having Senators Thune, Rounds and Representative Krisit Noem come down and listen to their problems gives them hope for the future.

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S.D. delegation denounces federal rules at farm show


The growth of expensive regulations from unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. is costing American families and burdening farmers, South Dakota’s Republican congressional delegation said Wednesday at an agricultural forum.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds spoke at Dakotafest, Mitchell’s annual farm show. Lauding agriculture as a top industry in the state, Noem said lawmakers need to make sure federal regulations in areas such as clean water and power-plant emissions aren’t slowing down economic growth.

“The regulations we face coming out of Washington, D.C are a threat to our way of life,” Noem said. “That is a weight around your neck.”

Agriculture is a difficult and unpredictable way to make a living, and lawmakers in Washington need to make sure policies are in place to encourage a strong farm economy, Thune said, praising provisions in the federal Farm Bill passed in 2014.

Acknowledging low grain and livestock prices that are dragging down farm income, Rounds said farmers have to be able count on a safety net and pledged to fight attempts to cut to crop insurance.

Thune and Noem are up for re-election in 2016. Noem faces Democratic state Rep. Paula Hawks, while Yankton businessman Jay Williams is challenging Thune.

An audience member said she couldn’t vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and asked the delegation what South Dakota residents should do in the November election. Thune, in part, made his argument for Trump based on the possibility of future appointments tilting the partisan leaning of to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Politicians come and go. Presidents come and go. Members of Congress come and go,” Thune said. “The Supreme Court is a permanent, lifetime appointment that will be generational in terms of its impact on this country.”

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Noem focuses on tax, trade policy during luncheon


The U.S. needs to revamp its tax and trade policies.

That's what U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told a group of about 35 people today during a luncheon hosted by the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Committee.

She called the session a conversation because people appreciation conversations more than hearing speeches.

As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Noem spoke about tax and trade policies, both of which she said need to be reformed.

The Ways and Means Committee, she said, is often referred to as the oldest committee in Congress as it was the first one established. And some people refer to it as the most powerful committee because it has jurisdiction over tax policy, trade policy, health care issues and mroe.

South Dakota has never had a person on the committee, she said.

“I decided that if I was going to be there and be away from my state and my family, I wanted to be where I could have the biggest impact,” Noem said. “When you come from an agricultural state like South Dakota does, (tax and trade) issues are huge.”

Today’s tax policies are in dramatic need of reform, she said, which is why the committee put forward a tax reform blueprint prior to dismissing for an August break.

The blueprint, available on the committee’s website, is so dramatically different, Noem said most who take the time to look at it will be astounded.

And that’s what she’s hoping for. The committee is using the August break to discuss the blueprint and get general feedback. In fact, there are already changes being drafted based on discussions had by some committee members, she said.

“It really is a fundamental change in the way we look at our taxes,” she said.

The committee is focusing on lower rates so keep more money in their pockets and reinvest where needed, she said.

Noem said the U.S. in the only developed country that hasn’t reformed its tax code in 25 years, which has corporations doing business elsewhere. Vehicle companies, for example, are moving to manufacturing in Mexico, she said. Not only are there lower taxes, but Mexico also has more trade agreements, she said.

Being competitive in the world market will get the U.S. economy going and turn the country’s fiscal situation around, she said.

Part of that is establishing fair trade agreements. Most any store (in the U.S.) has products made in Vietnam, made in China, she said.

“But you walk into stores in those countries and you don’t see made in the USA products,” she said.

That is a problem the U.S. has with its trade agreements, she said.

“We would be foolish to think we don’t need any trade agreements at all,” she said.

The U.S. can negotiate better agreements that break down the barriers for producers, farmers, ranchers and businesses, she said.

“We can’t just sit here and worry about what’s within our borders,” she said.

That's especially true, Noem said, when 95 percent of world's customer base is beyond U.S. borders.

Follow @vlusk_AAN on Twitter.

Find out more about tax reform as proposed by the Ways and Means Committee at

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Watertown air service goes airborne again


At approximately 8 a.m., nearly 11 months without commercial service came to an end for Watertown Regional Airport passengers.

The first Aerodynamics Inc. (ADI) flight carrying approximately 30 passengers took to the skies Monday morning en route to Denver. After going through the Transportation Security Administration screening process — which called for passengers to remove shoes, belts, and items in pockets — the passengers boarded the 50-seat airplane, guided by TSA and ADI staff members the entire way.

On board, passengers lined into a plane that featured a row of window seats on the left side and a combination of aisle and window seats on the right side. Passengers had the option of storing their belongings in either cubby holes above their seats or underneath the seat.

Each seat was lined with leather material, making for a comfortable ride throughout.

Some passengers, such as Watertown City Council Alderman Glen Vilhauer and his wife, Darla, arrived as early as 6:10 a.m. for the flight, planning to be back in the afternoon to allow Vilhauer to attend Monday night’s city council meeting.

Having a front-row seat in witnessing a process that included a few hiccups, Vilhauer approached the flight somewhat skeptically. Those hiccups began with the canceled flights and subsequent termination of service of the city’s previous airline service provider, Great Lakes Airlines, and included the bankruptcy of ADI’s former parent company, SeaPort Airlines, back in February.            

“For the last several months, I’ve been telling the mayor (Steve Thorson) that I’ll believe this when I see it when that first flight takes off,” Vilhauer said while in flight. “By golly, we got the job done. So far so good.”

With the affordable rates of the airline — at an average of $99 for a one-way ticket between Watertown and Denver — the Vilhauer couple foresees taking future trips to Denver even though they are not frequent fliers. Glen Vilhauer also believes the rates will allow others to consider booking future flights.

“I just really hope Watertown and the surrounding communities support the air service out of Watertown,” Vilhauer said. “It’s been a long time coming. Hopefully, we’ll make it worthwhile.”

About 20 minutes after initial takeoff, at about 8:20 a.m., the flight stopped in Pierre to pick up almost 20 passengers, bringing the plane nearly to its 50-passenger capacity. During the approximately 20-minute stop, some passengers used the time to take the opportunity to use the small walk-in restroom located at the back of the plane. Approximately 8:40 a.m., the inaugural flight resumed its journey to the mile-high city.

During the second leg of the journey, flight attendants offered passengers an assortment of drink options, including Coca-Cola products, apple and orange juice, and water. Those who partook in the beverage options were able to pull out a small table attached to the back of the seat in front of them.

At approximately 10 a.m. Central Standard Time (9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time), the flight completed its journey to Denver with a landing at Denver International Airport as passengers traversed the tarmac to a lower level of the airport.

Many passengers who intended to fly back to Watertown after landing in Denver used the 90-minute break to grab breakfast within the airport’s many restaurants, with Denver omelets being a popular selection at Lefty’s Colorado Trail Grille. Those who wandered around the airport a bit could find more familiar fast food fare in McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, albeit at higher-than-average prices.

Other passengers on the inaugural flight opted to stay in Denver or continue on their journeys to cities such as Phoenix.

At about 11:30 a.m. CST, many of the passengers boarded the return flight to Pierre and Watertown. After returning to Watertown Regional Airport shortly after 2 p.m., the passengers were greeted by area citizens, including U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., in celebration of a successful return of airline service in Watertown, highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Summing up the magnitude of the moment, Noem said, “This is a great day for Watertown, but really, it’s a great day for all of northeast South Dakota. I’m thrilled to see this airport filled up with people. I caught a lot of flights out of this airport, and I hope to continue to catch many more.

“I hope everybody encourages their family and friends to use this,” Noem added. “This is a wonderful thing to have in a city and it benefits our entire state. It will really help us develop economic growth as well.”

Shortly after Noem concluded her remarks, a voice over the airport’s intercom announced that a new wave of passengers were cleared to begin boarding for the second ADI flight out of Watertown.

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Rep. Noem holds town hall meeting in Madison


U.S. Representative Kristi Noem spent time in Madison on Friday.  Noem toured some facilities, including East River Electric Power Cooperative, and also held a town hall meeting in East River’s auditorium.

At the town hall meeting, Noem told those attending that she holds these types of events to update residents on what is happening in Congress, as well as hear people’s questions and concerns.  On Friday, Noem talked about her serving on the House Ways and Means Committee and its work currently on tax reform.

Noem says our country’s corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world, and companies are leaving because of it.

She said that the country’s trade policy also needs to be addressed.

Noem said that the United States needs to have better trade agreements in order to allow access to our products by other countries to help grow our economy.

Noem fielded several questions from residents at the town hall meeting, including questions about the EPA, the federal budget, and health care.  Noem said that she has not been in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and that she is a sponsor on a healthcare reform bill that came out recently that would replace that.

Noem is traveling around the state this month while Congress is in recess.  She said Congress will be back in session in September.

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Air service, postal facility and other concerns expressed to Rep. Noem


While Huron is seeing growth and expecting more in the future, there are challenges in the areas of health care, agriculture, lending, the local workforce and air service, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., learned Thursday.

In an informal session with about a dozen community leaders representing different sectors, she was briefed on problems the city faces that she said her office can hopefully address at the federal level.

Huron has been hurt greatly by the Essential Air Service program and will lose commercial flights at the end of September.

Great Lakes Aviation is providing unreliable service and people don’t want to take a chance and buy tickets here, Mayor Paul Aylward said.

“So basically, we’re done,” he said.

The airline industry has struggled with a pilot shortage after the government passed a law that required pilots to have 1,500 flight hours to fly commercial planes.

Aylward and Greater Huron Development Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Borszich also talked about the frustration with the uncertainty of the future of the Dakota Central mail processing facility.

Borszich said the last he heard they were to close last month, and yet they’ve been hiring. But he said he has not been able to get any response from the Postal Service.

“Nobody wants to talk to us,” he said.

Noem said her office has been unable to get answers either.

Dakota Central employees are extremely concerned, Aylward said. Younger employees and their families have moved on, but the more veteran workers don’t want to transfer, he said.

Workers are trying hard to keep the plant open and running well, but aren’t getting any information either, he said.

It would cost money to close Dakota Central and move the operation to Sioux Falls.

“It will not only cost money, it will cost service,” Aylward said.

He said the issue is a big deal not only to local business owners, but also to area farmers and ranchers.

“It will affect our mail service,” he said.

The Postal Service is in deep financial trouble because Congress has mandated that it pre-funds its retirement plan. No other business in South Dakota operates like that, he said.

Noem said a postal reform bill to help fix the cash flow problem has not gained traction in Congress.

Meanwhile, the leaders also talked about the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers in town, and the fact that hundreds of jobs are going unfilled. It’s hard to attract new businesses or for existing ones to expand when they can’t find workers, they said. Beadle County has an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent.

Huron businessman Rich Bragg said the community is being helped with the temporary influx of Dakota Access Pipeline workers this year, but they’ll be gone by fall and the economy will struggle once again with low commodity prices, he said.

The city’s population once dipped to about 10,000, but is back up to around 13,000, Aylward said. School Superintendent Terry Nebelsick said the district enrollment was down to 1,900 at one point but has rebounded to 2,500 because of Dakota Provisions.

The Huron school district has a 49 percent minority enrollment, by far the highest in the state. And 33 percent of the students are enrolled in the English as a Second Language program.

Some came to Huron not proficient even in their native language because there was no schooling in the refugee camps. But now students are graduating from high school here and going on to college.

Noem said it’s been a challenge in the House because so many members represent urban districts and don’t understand what life is like in rural America.

In an update on House activities, she said the chamber has been working on appropriations bills.

“We as Republicans, especially, like to do our appropriations bills because it lets us identify funding for our priorities,” she said. “If we don’t do that, the administration basically controls the purse.”

It’s also an opportunity to get policy riders in place to address the concerns of South Dakotans.

One example is the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) proposal that the Environmental Protection Agency put forward so it would have jurisdiction over any water that could someday end up in a stream, navigable river or ocean, she said.

It would mean a new layer of bureaucracy on almost every acre in the state and nation, Noem said.

But funding to implement those regulations was stopped through an appropriations bill. It’s how bills can be used to get policies put into place when backers can’t necessarily get the president to sign a bill into law, she said.

Noem said she asked to be appointed to the House Ways and Means Committee because 80 percent of everything that’s considered in the House goes through that committee.

Tax and trade policy and the entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all considered by members of the Ways and Means Committee.

“I really wanted to be where the work was,” Noem said. “I wanted to be able to influence tax policy, which is one of the biggest drags on the economy and why so many companies are leaving the country.”

She also wanted to work on trade agreements because 95 percent of the world’s customers are outside the United States, she said.

“You go into any store in the United States and you can see products from all over the world,” Noem said.

“But you go to their countries and you don’t see anything made in the United States on their shelves,” she said. “And that’s because we’ve done a poor job with our trade agreements.” Read More

Weekly Column: Thank a Farmer


On Capitol Hill where very few people were “farm kids” and even fewer actually pursued farming or ranching as a career, the personal impact of agriculture can get lost. But as I like to remind people, while not everyone farms, we all eat.

Earlier this month at the Sioux Empire Fair’s annual Ag Appreciation Lunch in Sioux Falls, I had the opportunity to say thanks by serving a meal to those who feed the world.  Not only do these producers grow the food our families consume, they provide the backbone to South Dakota’s economy and a layer of security for our country, as we never want to become too reliant on foreign nations to feed us.  It is for these reasons that I fight so hard to make sure agriculture policy provides a strong safety net for our food supply without imposing unnecessary costs and regulations on producers.

The last farm bill was the most reformed we’ve seen in my lifetime.  Many of the programs now work more efficiently and with greater accountability to taxpayers, but we are always looking at ways to improve them.  While we continue to monitor the legislation’s implementation, preliminary work has already begun for the next farm bill with formal hearings likely kicking off next year.

For my part, I’ve been working closely with Ag Committee Chairman Conaway to ensure he’s aware of how current programs are playing out in South Dakota.  I’m also working with Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson and Rep. Kevin Cramer on legislation we hope to have included in the next farm bill that would help alleviate the problematic wetland determinations backlog.  Producers can’t make certain improvements to their land until they’ve been given the OK that changes won’t impact protected wetlands.  We need to ensure we are protecting our land and habitat, but producers shouldn’t have to wait years for a decision. Our legislation makes a series of reforms – including requiring that producers get an answer within a few months of a request. 

Overzealous regulators are also a challenge for producers. One of the most concerning regulations we’re fighting against today is the EPA’s controversial Waters of the U.S. rule.  This could be one of the largest federal land grabs our generation has seen with penalties rising to more than $30,000 per violation per day.  We’re working through both the legislative and judicial system to reverse course and we’ve had some successes – especially after a Federal Appellate Court issued a temporary suspension. 

Tax reform is another area that is incredibly important to our agriculture community.  This Congress, I gained a position on the committee that major tax reform measures must go through.  Moreover, I’m one of only 14 Members of Congress – and the only one with a deep background in agriculture – to serve on the committee’s specialized tax policy panel.  That’s important because for the first time in a long time, there is real momentum behind this issue and we need to get it right.

Late last year, we made the Section 179 tax deduction permanent, giving farmers and other small businesses more certainty on investments into their operations.  Now, we’re looking at broader efforts to help both small businesses and individuals.  We’re fighting to make the tax code more simple, more fair, and better at promoting healthy economic growth. I’m truly humbled to give agriculture a voice at this table.

Whether we’re talking tax policy, regulatory issues, or the farm bill, I stand up every day in support of South Dakota farmers and ranchers.  I’m proud to explain what the industry is – and isn’t – and to keep unnecessary regulations away from operations.  Most of all, I’m grateful to represent a state whose economy is still rooted in agriculture.

Read More

Inside the IHS Crisis in South Dakota: 'a matter of life and death'


Long-standing staffing and management shortcomings have been plaguing the Indian Health Service(IHS), and now members of Congress and members of the tribes are scrambling to improve the Federal agency.

"The morale of the tribal members themselves is very low at this point," said William Bear Shield, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board.

There's a cruel joke often told in Indian country, don't get sick after June. The truth beneath the humor, the IHS yearly budget is typically depleted after six months.

William Bear Shield says if tribal members get sick, they're forced to foot the bill.

"Sometimes they decide to ignore their health concerns and try to deal with it until October 1st," Shield explained.

Funding problems are only a small part of the picture, according to David Flute, chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe.

"A lot of our tribal members get misdiagnosed. They get wrong medicine prescribed to them," Flute said.

Flute says the members of his tribe don't get the medical attention they need until it's too late.

“The doctors know that they need some specialty care, but the Indian Health Service won't pay for it until it's a loss of life or loss of limb," Flute said.

While problems plaguing IHS have been well-known in the Great Plains area, lawmakers in Washington seemed to be relatively unaware of the crisis until tribal members testified before Congress. In the last 7 months, 9 people have died because one IHS emergency room was shut down.

"They could not believe that we have this kind of healthcare being delivered in America today. It’s third-world quality health care, and it’s shameful," said Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD).

Rep. Kristi Noem has introduced a bill to overhaul the embattled agency.

"It's time for them to realize that we are serious about getting this crisis fixed," Noem said.

Noem's bill comes after health inspectors uncovered serious quality-of-care deficiencies at hospitals over the past 14 months.

"Change can happen quickly when you're dealing with life and death situations," Shield said.

Meanwhile, IHS announced it will spend $700,000 dollars to help hospitals across the country meet accreditation standers, but Shield said the nightmare won't end until the legislation passes.

"We are very hopeful that the bill after it is worked up within committee, will be passed and we will immediately see change," he said.

Read More

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1323 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2801
Fax 202-225-5823

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U.S. Representative Kristi Noem is a wife, mother, experienced rancher, farmer, and former small business owner. Kristi was born and raised in rural Hamlin County in northeastern South Dakota and still lives there today with her husband, Bryon, and their three children, Kassidy, Kennedy, and Booker.

Kristi learned the value of hard work early in life from her father. He put Kristi, her sister and two brothers to work on the family farm at a young age caring for the cattle and horses and helping with planting and harvest. After graduating from high school, Kristi began attending college at Northern State University in Aberdeen. When her father died unexpectedly in a farming accident, Kristi returned to the family farm and ranch full-time. Her father’s death left a huge absence, so Kristi stepped up and helped stabilize the operation and provided leadership when it was needed most.

Kristi’s work on the farm and ranch didn’t go unnoticed. In 1997 she received the South Dakota Outstanding Young Farmer award and in 2003 she was honored with the South Dakota Young Leader award.

Kristi’s experience as a small business owner shaped her understanding of government and its purpose. Too often, government is inefficient and ineffective, simply getting in the way of small businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to create jobs and grow our economy. Realizing this, Kristi decided to get involved to try and make a difference.

Her service includes the South Dakota State Farm Agency State Committee, the Commission for Agriculture in the 21st Century, the South Dakota Soybean Association, and numerous other boards and committees. In the fall of 2006, Kristi was elected as the 6th District Representative to the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Kristi quickly realized she could serve her district, and the State of South Dakota, more effectively in a leadership position. So in her second term she ran for, and won, the position of Assistant Majority Leader in the State House, where she served until 2010.

Kristi was first elected to serve as South Dakota’s lone Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, 2010.

While keeping up with her Congressional duties in Washington, D.C. and work with constituents in South Dakota, Kristi continued to take undergraduate courses from South Dakota State University. In December 2011, Kristi graduated from SDSU with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

On November 6, 2012, Kristi was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where she continues to serve on the Agriculture Committee and House Armed Services Committee.

Kristi enjoys helping her daughters compete in rodeo and 4-H. She has been a 4-H leader for 14 years. Kristi is also an avid hunter. She particularly enjoys pheasant hunting on the homestead and archery elk with her brothers.

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