Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem


Weekly Column: Do More with Less


This March, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted that the IRS planned to ignore more than 60 percent of taxpayers’ phone calls during tax season. The statistic in and of itself is infuriating, but the decisions that led to this “abysmal” level of customer service, as Commissioner Koskinen called it, are inexcusable.

On April 22, the House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, released a report showing the IRS deliberately diverted funding away from customer service – a decision that left millions of taxpayer questions unanswered.

More specifically, the IRS collects nearly $500 million in user fees each year. The agency has the flexibility to use this money as it sees fit.  In FY2014, the IRS spent 44 percent of the user-fee account – or about $183 million – on customer service. These numbers are similar to previous years.  But in FY2015, the agency expects to spend just 10 percent of the account on customer service – or $49 million. That’s a 73 percent reduction in one year.

Hardworking taxpayers deserve an answer from the IRS as to why the agency diverted so much funding away from serving taxpayers. I took it up with Commissioner Koskinen at a recent hearing and he responded by alleging the IRS’s poor customer service was Congress’s fault, as we had cut the IRS’s budget. 

It amazes me that in the past the IRS has found millions of dollars to spend on extravagant conferences, training videos, and a Star Trek parody video while also dedicating countless resources to targeting organizations based on their ideology, but when it comes to customer service, the agency can’t find the funds. Yes, Congress scaled back the IRS budget, but those cuts have been reflective of the IRS’s waste and abuse of your taxpayer dollars.

Ultimately, I’d like to see a tax code that is much simpler – a tax code that wouldn’t require tens of millions of Americans to dial up the IRS for help filing their taxes on time. But until we can simplify the tax code, the IRS needs to reassess its priorities.

Across the country, families are doing more with less. Yet the IRS Commissioner brazenly said the IRS has “no choice but to do less with less.” I see it differently.

Just weeks after his appointment, Commissioner Koskinen reinstated a generous bonus program within the IRS that costs taxpayers $60 million a year. Additionally, IRS employees spend 500,000 hours – worth around $20.7 million in staff time – on union activities each year and the agency used $2.1 million to hire an outside law firm even though it has a legal division staffed with tax lawyers. Had the IRS not wasted this money and continued investing user-fee dollars into customer service, the agency could have answered 25.9 million more calls from American taxpayers. But its leadership chose differently.

The IRS needs to get its priorities straight. Taxpayers must come first.


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Noem's Anti-Trafficking Legislation Passes Senate


Representative Kristi Noem today applauded the U.S. Senate for passing a sweeping anti-trafficking package, which includes legislation the congresswoman authored to help ensure shelters and facilities looking to provide housing for trafficking survivors have access to critical funding, among other things.

“Trafficking victims and survivors have been exposed to the worst of humanity,” said Noem.  “We have a fundamental responsibility to protect these young people, and when such efforts fail, we must help intervene and assist victims in the healing process.  I’m hopeful my legislation and the additional provisions passed by the Senate today will help facilitate prevention, intervention and recovery efforts to protect those involved or at risk of becoming involved in this criminal industry.  I applaud the Senate for today’s step forward.”

Rep. Noem’s language was first introduced as the Human Trafficking, Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act in 2014. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives in both 2014 and 2015, but was not taken up by the Senate until now. The Congresswoman’s legislation takes a three-pronged approach in combatting human trafficking:

  • Improves existing Department of Justice grants, ensuring the grants support shelters for survivors.  Currently, there are just 200 beds available in the United States for underage victims.
  • Launches a review by the Interagency Task-Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities.  The review will be done in consultation with nongovernmental organizations and will work to identify and develop best practices to prevent trafficking.
  • Requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed.
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Delegation Applauds Transition of 28th Bomb Wing under Global Strike Command


U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today praised Ellsworth Air Force Base’s announcement that the 28th Bomb Wing will be moving under the control of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). The official transition will take place on October 1. The command structure of the Air Force divides the Air Force into 10 major commands. Although AFGSC will be the controlling command for Ellsworth Air Force Base and the B-1B bombers, Air Combat Command (ACC) will continue to oversee the M-Q9 Reaper control stations located at Ellsworth, and will remain the controlling command for the Powder River Training Complex. This change will only impact the Air Force command structure that oversees Ellsworth and the B-1 bomber fleet. No personnel changes at the base will take place as a result of this decision.

“I applaud the Air Force’s decision to transition the 28th Bomb Wing under Global Strike Command,” said Thune “As the Air Force begins planning ahead for the Next Generation Bomber, moving all the bomber wings under one command will allow for a smoother transition. Air Combat Command will still maintain a role at Ellsworth, continuing its command of the recently expanded Powder River Training Complex (PRTC), and the control stations for the M-Q9 Reapers operating overseas. This transition further solidifies Ellsworth as a premiere U.S. Air Force Base and helps ensure our B-1 fleet remains the cornerstone of our air defense and global strike force. I thank the Air Force personnel who tirelessly worked to make this transition a reality. The men and women who serve at Ellsworth continue to make our state and nation proud.”

“I applaud today’s announcement by the Air Force, which underscores the important role Ellsworth Air Force Base continues to play in our national security,” said Rounds. “As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I look forward to continuing to find ways to support Ellsworth and our service members stationed there.”

“Ellsworth Air Force Base and the resilient airmen there serve an integral role in our national security strategy,” said Noem. “Time and again, they’ve provided strength and reliability in the face of 21st century threats. Today’s announcement by the Air Force further reinforces Ellsworth’s place within the military’s strategic framework. I’m hopeful the transition to the new command will further enable Ellsworth to fly, fight and win.”

According to its mission, Global Strike Command seeks to develop and provide combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global strike operations. Currently, Global Strike Command is responsible for the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the two B-52 wings, and the only B-2 wing.

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Noem to Address Civil Air Patrol Annual Conference April 18 in Pierre


Rep. Kristi Noem will address attendees of the Civil Air Patrol Annual Conference in Pierre on Saturday, April 18. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

WHAT:  Noem to Address Civil Air Patrol Annual Conference  
WHEN:  Saturday, April 18 – 6:00PM (CT)
WHERE:  Red Rossa (808 W. Sioux Avenue, #200, Pierre)
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Rep. Noem will address attendees of the Civil Air Patrol Annual Conference.  While there, she will also present the family of WWII-era Civil Air Patrol pilot John Rae with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal. 

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Weekly Column: Taxing Tragedies


When I was 21 years old, I got a call late one afternoon from Joanie, who worked with my family on our farm.  She said, “Kristi, your dad is stuck in a grain bin.”  I knew instantly what she meant by that.  I told her to turn on the fans and I was on my way. 

By the time I got there, neighbors and friends had taken payloaders and ripped down the grain bin trying to find him.  When they finally did, they started doing CPR.  I followed the ambulance to the hospital with my family and the doctors fought to save him for hours into the evening.  After he passed away, I remember opening the door to the little room they’d kept our family in and there was a crowd of people standing in the emergency room.  It wasn’t just a tragedy to me and my family.  It was a tragedy to our entire community.  Their support is something I’ll never forget.

We were a family that grew up with a man who could do anything.  To me, he was invincible.  It was impossible to imagine how we were going to pick up the pieces.

My dad’s number one dream in life was to pass his family farm onto us kids.  That’s why he got up at 5:00 almost every morning.  He wanted to give us the opportunity to farm together, if we wanted to. 

Shortly after the accident, my family got a letter from the IRS telling us that we owed the death tax because we had experienced a tragedy.  We could see that we had land that my dad had started buying while he was still in high school and land that my grandpa had bought.  We had cattle.  We had machinery.  And we had a family that needed to make good decisions. 

What we didn’t have was enough money in the bank to pay the IRS the death tax.  All I could hear in my head was my dad saying, “Kristi, don’t sell the land. God isn’t making any more.”  We were fortunate to get a loan.  It kept our family’s American Dream going, but it also impacted nearly every decision we made for a decade. 

I have never understood why the federal government thought it was appropriate to go after families with this double tax – especially in a time of crisis.  My dad had already paid taxes on the equipment, the land, and any other assets.  Now, we had to pay taxes on it again because he had died.  It’s not right.

On April 16, the House passed a full and permanent repeal of the death tax – the first time we had done so in a decade.  The administration has already threatened to veto it if the Senate decides to put it on his desk, however, which saddens me. No family should have to go through what ours did.

Through the death tax, the IRS is jeopardizing the American Dream for just two days’ worth of government spending each year.  They’re doing so at a time when a family is still grieving and trying to figure out how they’ll move forward without this person in their lives.  It’s wrong and I’m committed to repealing it.

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Noem Helps Lead House on Permanent Death Tax Repeal


Representative Kristi Noem today helped lead the House in passing a full and permanent repeal of the death tax with bipartisan support.  Noem’s family farm was hit by the death tax after her father passed away.

“Shortly after my dad passed away in a farming accident, my family got a letter from the IRS telling us that we owed a tax because he had died,” said Noem.  “I have never understood why the federal government thought it was appropriate to go after families with this double tax – especially in a time of crisis.  My dad had already paid taxes on the equipment, the land, and any money we had in the bank.  Now, we had to pay taxes on it again because he had passed away.  It’s not right.  No family should have to go through that.  I am committed to repealing the death tax and today we took a big step toward accomplishing that.”

A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Noem joined Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Devin Nunes (R-CA) in introducing H.R.1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, on February 26, 2015.  The bill fully repeals the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes – more commonly known as the “death tax.” The legislation will now be sent to the Senate.

Watch Rep. Noem’s Powerful Testimony on the Death Tax Read More

House Passes Bill to Repeal Estate Tax


The House voted Thursday to repeal the federal estate tax, in a move that is likely to have mostly political significance given President Barack Obama’s threat to veto it.

The GOP-run House also passed a permanent extension of a federal deduction for state and local sales tax, a measure that previously has been in effect on a temporary basis. Mr. Obama also has threatened to veto the permanent extension, arguing that it is too expensive.

The vote on estate tax repeal was 240-179, largely along party lines. The vote on the sales tax measure was 272-152.

The votes were timed for this week’s end of the federal tax-filing season, when lawmakers often debate high-profile tax proposals. The future of the measures in the GOP-run Senate remains unclear, given Democratic opposition as well as Mr. Obama’s veto threats.

The estate-tax repeal resonates strongly with elements of the GOP base, particularly rural voters but also small-business owners. Republicans argue that ending the tax would alleviate a big burden on many family farms and businesses, promoting entrepreneurship and creating more jobs in the process.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) said her family had to borrow to pay the estate tax after her father’s death in a farming accident. “We owed [the government] money because we had a tragedy happen,” she said. “It took us 10 years to pay off that loan.” She described the experience as one of the main reasons she got involved in politics.

The debate underscored the starkly different views that the two parties have of wealth and taxes, at a time of concern about income inequality as well as economic growth.

Democrats dismiss the repeal as a pointless giveaway to the rich, saying GOP lawmakers are merely pandering to their wealthy supporters. They noted that the estate tax’s reach already has been scaled back over the last 15 years, to the point where it affects a fraction of estates—about 0.2%. By now it hits only around 5,400 families each year—“the Hiltons, the Adelsons, the Kochs, those folks,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.).

Repealing it would encourage a “caste system” in the U.S. where “birth equals outcome,” added Rep. Ron Kind (D., Wis.).

Democrats also noted the repeal would cost the government around $270 billion over the next decade but wouldn't be offset with other revenue increases or spending cuts. Republicans eventually plan to cut spending on programs that benefit working people, Democrats argued.

The administration argued in its recent veto threat that the measure “would also shift a greater share of the tax burden onto working Americans at a time when the top 1% already holds more than 40% of the nation’s wealth and wealth disparities have risen to levels not seen since the 1930s.”

GOP lawmakers countered that many of the superrich will find ways around the estate tax. Instead, the tax mainly affects thousands of farmers and small-business owners who are trying to build up wealth to help their families, they said. “Feel free to dismiss” people whose estates must pay the tax “as the Paris Hiltons of the world or the superrich,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas), the bill’s main sponsor. “This is the American dream.”

Republicans also argue that the tax leads many more thousands to engage in wasteful and complicated estate planning to minimize their exposure.

The sales tax deduction was first enacted under the Bush administration. It is intended to equalize treatment for taxpayers in states that don’t have an income tax.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), a former Ways and Means chairman, termed the votes a “political action” to highlight support for parts of the tax code “that appear to be very popular with some parts of our constituencies.” But no one seriously expects either of the provisions to become law, he added.

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We Must Level Playing Field for SD Producers and Businesses, Says Noem as Congress Unveils TPA Agreement


Representative Kristi Noem, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, today released the following statement after leaders in the U.S. House and Senate unveiled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA-2015), a new Trade Promotion Authority agreement which would give Congress a stronger oversight role during ongoing trade negotiations:

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers residing outside our borders, we have a responsibility to ensure South Dakota job creators and producers have access to these markets and can compete on a level playing field with other exporters.  Moreover, when we enter into such agreements, we strengthen our ties with other countries and enhance our national security in the region. 

“Establishing TPA would be a step closer to a free and fair trade agreement that will meet both our national security and economic interests.  Perhaps most importantly, it would give Congress the power to hold the administration genuinely accountable for its actions during ongoing negotiations. I thank Chairman Ryan and Senators Wyden and Hatch for their leadership on this agreement.”

For a summary of TPA-2015, please click here.

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Noem Staff to Hold Mobile Office Hours in Parkston on April 14


U.S. Representative Kristi Noem today announced that Kari Weller of her Sioux Falls office will hold Mobile Office Hours in Parkston on the morning of Tuesday, April 14.  If any Parkston resident needs help with a federal agency or has comments they would like passed along to the Congresswoman, they may schedule an appointment with Weller by calling 275-2868.

While in Parkston, Weller will also be holding meetings with community organizers and local businesses.  To get immediate assistance, please contact Rep. Noem’s Sioux Falls office at 275-2868 or visit her website at


WHAT: Noem Staff Hold Mobile Office Hours in Parkston     
WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 – 9:00AM (CT) to 12:00PM (CT)
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT: Please call Kari Weller at 275-2868
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:  Parkston residents may meet with Kari Weller of Rep. Noem’s Sioux Falls office to get help with a federal agency or pass on any concerns or comments they have for the Congresswoman.

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FAA, Air Force completing final work for airspace expansion


Federal officials are completing the final work required on a newly approved aerial training area over the northern Plains, and military bombers could begin roaring overhead as soon as September.

The U.S. Air Force could be able to begin using at least parts of the expanded Powder River Training Complex over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration completes mapping work on the training airspace, an Air Force spokeswoman said Tuesday. The FAA approved the plan last month to roughly quadruple the training airspace to span nearly 35,000 square miles, making it the largest over the continental U.S.

The airspace will be used by B-1 bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The Air Force says the expansion will significantly boost training opportunities for Ellsworth and Minot aircrews. It's expected to save Ellsworth up to $23 million a year in fuel costs by reducing the number of training flights to other states.

But before aircrews can start practicing in the newly expanded training area, the FAA has to publish the airspace expansion in its aeronautical maps, Air Force Spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement.

That publication is expected in September, but it will only open up certain parts of the training area. The full airspace won't be open until an aircraft recall communications system is installed, said Qusi Al-Haj, who oversees the western part of the state for U.S. Sen. John Thune's office.

Thune has been pushing for the expansion since 2006.

Al-Haj said the system is necessary to help prevent inconveniences for other aviators in the area and to ensure that aircraft can be recalled in an emergency.

Stefanek said the Air Force currently has no firm date for when the installation of the communications system will be complete but called the project's completion a "high priority."

Under the plan, any given location across the training area could experience up to nine low-altitude overflights annually. Supersonic flights would be limited to 10 days a year during large-scale exercises involving roughly 20 aircraft.

The Air Force has said as many as 88 civilian flights a day could be delayed when the large-scale exercises are conducted, but that number would likely be smaller.

Elected leaders in Montana have said the bombers would disrupt rural communities. Gov. Steve Bullock wrote in a mid-March letter to the FAA that the expansion "would be at the expense of the livelihoods and economic prosperity of Montanans."

Opponents could petition to have the FAA decision to allow the expansion reviewed by an appeals court.

Lawmakers and Air Force officials are also thinking longer-term. South Dakota U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem has been working to get funding for an expensive, specialized device used to electronically simulate enemy air defenses. Noem's office said a site in Belle Fourche is expected to get one of the training aids in fiscal year 2019, which would be an improvement over current capabilities.

A spokesman for the Air Force's Air Combat Command Airspace, Ranges, and Airfield Operations Division said in a written statement the Joint Threat Emitter "provides a wider array of simulated threats."

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Noem Staff to Hold Mobile Office Hours in Freeman on April 14


U.S. Representative Kristi Noem today announced that Kari Weller of her Sioux Falls office will hold Mobile Office Hours in Freeman on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 14.  If any Freeman resident needs help with a federal agency or has comments they would like passed along to the Congresswoman, they may schedule an appointment with Weller by calling 275-2868.

While in Freeman, Weller will also be holding meetings with community organizers and local businesses.  To get immediate assistance, please contact Rep. Noem’s Sioux Falls office at 275-2868 or visit her website at


WHAT: Noem Staff Hold Mobile Office Hours in Freeman     
WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 – 1:00PM (CT) to 4:00PM (CT)
SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT: Please call Kari Weller at 275-2868
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:  Freeman residents may meet with Kari Weller of Rep. Noem’s Sioux Falls office to get help with a federal agency or pass on any concerns or comments they have for the Congresswoman.

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South Dakota's congressional leaders react to Obama's tax proposal


Back in February, President Barack Obama released his budget proposal. In it, several tax proposals to improve finances for middle class families across the country.

Monday, the president explained his plan to KSFY's Nancy Naeve, detailing exactly how it would affect South Dakotans.

In response, South Dakota's members of congress said it's a bad idea and the wrong one for the people of South Dakota.

"A third of the farmers, because of run-up in land values, would be hit by the tax, which, we think need to be repealed. The President's policies on taxes, raising taxes on a lot of middle-income families, his proposals in his budget would attack these 529 accounts people could use to put aside money to pay for kids' education," South Dakota Senator John Thune said.

He's not the only one. According to Senator Mike Rounds, 98 out of 100 fellow senators, on both sides, refused to support Obama's plan. The priority is to get the national debt under control, he says.

"Everyone in South Dakota knows there is no free lunch and you can't simply tell people 'don't worry about, we'll pay for it later and let the kids take care of it'... That's the wrong message. That is the one the president has. His budget will increase the national debt to $25 trillion dollars by 2025. That's wrong," Senator Mike Rounds said.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem agrees, hoping for a fairer system, getting rid of loop holes, exemptions and to pass a tax reform.

"The president have a different way of looking the government's role in peoples lives. He thinks opportunities come from government and i think they come from people. I think more people should be able to keep the dollars they earn and choose and have freedom to spend that to better their families," Rep. Kristi Noem said.

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Weekly Column: Taxed If You Do, Taxed If You Don't


When Benjamin Franklin said “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” I don’t know if even he knew the extent to which that would become true in America. 

After the President’s health care law was enacted, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mandates were in fact taxes on hardworking Americans.  The most notable tax included was a tax on those who don’t have health insurance, but over the next few years, another tax will come into play: a tax on those who do have insurance.

It’s called the health insurance tax – or HIT.  The President’s health care law included an annual multi-billion-dollar “fee” on health insurance companies, the costs of which will largely be passed directly on to consumers to the tune of $350 and $400 per year for a family plan.

Earlier this month, I met with local small businesses – many of whom helped pay for their employees’ health coverage long before the President’s mandates went into place.  Now, they’re wondering how they can afford to continue providing it.  Then again, they can’t afford not to either.  One employer told me:  “We can’t afford the insurance.  We can’t afford the fine [if we don’t provide insurance].  And so, if we have to cut them to 30 hours, for them that means what?  A third job?”  He didn’t see that as a good option either.

These taxes have real-world implications on small businesses, on families, on folks’ financial independence. That’s something the administration doesn’t seem to understand. 

Over the last few years, Congress has passed and the President has signed nearly a dozen reforms to the health care law that give people some relief.  I want to do all I can to continue offering that relief, keeping in mind that my ultimate goal is to replace the President’s health care law with a patient-centered approach.

Currently, much of the focus centers on an ongoing Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell.  As written, the law only provides subsidies to those who purchase insurance through state-run exchanges.  But only 14 states opened their own exchanges.  The other 36 states, including South Dakota, use the federally run exchange. 

Through regulations, the IRS made the subsidies available to everyone who purchased health insurance on an exchange – regardless of whether it was a state- or federal-run exchange.  The question before the Court now is whether the IRS broke the law in doing that.  If the Court rules that they did, millions could lose the financial assistance they’ve been getting from the federal government to help pay for health insurance.  The loss of that subsidy could undermine the President’s health care law, requiring that it be replaced.

A final decision will be issued by the Supreme Court in June, but Republicans in Congress are working on an alternative now.  I’m hopeful this will allow us to move quickly and purposefully if the Court rules against the President.

Regardless of what happens in King v. Burwell, this debate is not over.  I will remain committed to protecting hardworking taxpayers from the President’s health care law, which taxes you if you do and taxes you if you don’t.

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Loosening the belt on school lunches


Legislation with South Dakota roots has been proposed in Congress to loosen the rules regarding school lunch standards.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has proposed the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, which is primarily targeted at reducing the sodium and whole grain requirements that school lunch programs have been required to meet.

She told The Daily Republic this week that her bill is directed at allowing for more flexibility for schools to set healthy menu options.

"This is really about giving local schools the most flexibility we can, while still maintaining an effort to have our students eating healthy and nutritious meals," she said. "I think a lot of schools are finding it difficult under the current format."

That bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and would lower some of the requirements mandated by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a law championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Obama stands behind the law, reaffirming recently that to get students acclimated to healthier foods, they must start young. Some of the standards in the 2010 law are set to expire this year.

But national education organizations say this hasn't been a success. NSBA Deputy Associate Executive Director Lucy Gettman said the association surveyed nearly 650 schools last fall in 36 states and found that the national nutrition standards increased costs for 82 percent of districts, decreased participation in more than 75 percent of the schools and increased plate waste in 84 percent of schools. She said at a recent conference, a representative from Oregon said some of the school's waste is being used to feed pigs on a nearby farm.

Prior to this effort, Noem introduced an initial bill in 2013 with similar goals of loosening standards.

The latest version of the bill is targeted towards whole grain requirements and Target 2 sodium levels, which would tighten the amounts of sodium students could receive in a day in 2017-18. Noem wants to see the sodium levels stay at the current standard, Target 1 and loosen the whole-grain requirement from 100 percent whole grain rich to 50 percent, which is where the grain requirement was a few years ago. Schools have said that 100 percent whole grain is a problem when trying to serve pastas, biscuits or tortillas because the supply offered is limited.

Schools have to follow government nutrition standards to receive federal reimbursements for free and reduced price meals for low income students.

Groups like the American Heart Association have said the sodium standards are necessary to prevent more students from developing high blood pressure and putting them at risk for heart disease or stroke.

Noem said milk and cheese products include naturally occurring sodium and more stringent rules aren't realistic for schools. Her bill wouldn't make changes to the calorie count requirements or the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables required to be served to students.

The Republican-controlled Congress has worked on short-term solutions as part of a spending bill passed last year. Noem said the flexibility in the rules is needed because too many schools are experiencing students throwing away food and dealing with more waste.

"We've seen a negative impact since these rules have gone into place and there's less students participating and more food being thrown away," she said.

Mitchell Food Service Director Sean Moen said the school district has felt the impact of the program first hand. He's in his 10th year running the food service program, and while the first eight years were stable and successful, Moen said the last few have been rough. The district has raised meal prices to try to cover a revenue deficit in the previously self-sustaining school meal program, upping the lunch rates by a 25 cents prior to 2014-15.

"How can you go from a program that's viable to one that's struggling with participation as much as we have?" Moen said. "There's a problem here and we're not the only ones."

Moen said the availability of some of the items can come and go, as the food service industry tries to figure out the new demands. For example, finding "smart snacks" that meet U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations and that students will eat remains difficult. Some smart snacks available through al a carte in Mitchell include small bags of popcorn and baked potato chips, Moen said.

"It's still hit or miss. You've got the industry trying to keep up and that's not done overnight," he said. "This has been in effect for more than a year, and they're still trying to figure out where to go."

Mitchell Board of Education Member Neil Putnam is the Western Region Director for the National School Board Association, which has endorsed Noem's legislation. He served on the group's Policy and Resolution committee and the topic has been a focus of the organization's legislative activity.

"We're seeing that this is an issue all across the country, even in the most urban of areas," he said. "I think it's something we're feeling in South Dakota because we're such a rural state and we're much further away from the coasts, where getting large quantities of fruits and vegetables might be easier."

Gettman said school lunches are ultimately an extension of the school's educational mission and everyone believes they should be healthier, a feeling she said is felt on Capitol Hill. But federal regulations also need to give school districts a way to meet the guidelines. She said schools in the New England states have tried to come up with buying consortiums or co-ops to make buying goods easier for the schools.

Putnam said the work of Noem and others is appreciated.

"I think, at least on our end with the NSBA, we're supportive of her proposal, not only for the intent of it but because it continues the conversation about getting healthy meals into our schools in an affordable manner," he said.

Putnam said it's concerning that many school lunch programs used to be self-sustaining and would pay for themselves. Now, some schools have had to direct more money to school lunches and away from educational programming.

A counterpart to Noem's bill has also been introduced on the Senate side by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). Noem said both North and South Dakota have similar issues with the bill because they're located in some places that are far from markets.

"I think it shows that these one-size-fits-all types of legislation are not good fits for our citizens," Noem said. "Not all of our kids are the same. Some of them play multiple sports and some of them are less active but it's a situation where our local people know what's best for our students."

Moen said the flexibility to build a menu around what kids are used to while still hitting the guideline markers is what he wants to see. He said Congress is reactive and will soon figure out to make a change.

"We live in the middle of the country, in the heartland," he said. "We eat different things and our appetites are different that those on the coasts. We're a meat and potatoes type of program."

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Recap of 2015 Youth Leadership Conference


Yesterday was such an exciting day!  For the second year in a row, I held my Lead Now! Youth Leadership Conference – this year, in Rapid City.  During the conference, students from more than a dozen schools joined to learn about leadership from some of our state’s most experienced and inspiring leaders.

Dr. Heather Wilson – President of the South Dakota School of Mines – shared with the students that leaders understand things don’t always work the first time around, saying “Know why they call it WD-40? The first 39 didn’t work!”  President of Sioux Falls-based Click Rain Paul Ten Haken talked about young people’s digital footprints, urging kids to “Protect your brand. Use the grandma test.”

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard shared a video message with the students, saying “Age doesn’t matter… Actions matter – and your actions have consequences.”  And Mrs. South Dakota International Shirlene Hagler was there, urging young people to speak up if they see bullying.  You can watch her story on KELOLAND here.

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker, Commander of Ellsworth Air Force Base Colonel Kevin Kennedy, and President of Black Hills State University Dr. Tom Jackson also spoke with the students about their experiences in leadership.  And everyone seemed to have fun with my husband Bryon as the emcee – he had them doing all sorts of teambuilding games and activities!

Overall, it was a great day where the students inspired the teachers as much as the teachers inspired the students. 

If you want to see more of what the students got to experience at the conference, check out Rapid City Journal’s article in today’s paper:  “Area high school students encouraged to be leaders in Rapid City youth Conference.”  You can also read through some of the tweets that were shared during the event by clicking here.

Yesterday made clear that we have an incredible next generation of leaders right here in South Dakota.

All the best,

Kristi Read More

Rep. Noem talks leadership with South Dakota high school students


South Dakota students are learning what it means to be a leader.
U.S. Representative Kristi Noem spoke with high school students from across the state Wednesday afternoon at the second annual Lead Now! Youth Leadership Conference held at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker kicked off the event, and students had a chance to hear from some other notable speakers as well. Speakers included Mrs. South Dakota International 2015 Shirlene Hagler, President of Black Hills State University Dr. Tom Jackson Jr., and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology President Dr. Heather Wilson.
Representative Noem says these events are important for the development of today's youth. “Today's conference has been a great opportunity for us to get some of our high school students to think about leadership in a different way. I think most of them believe that sometime in the future they'll be asked to fill some kind of leadership role, when maybe they don't realize that could be today - that they could be a leader right in their own community. They can serve other people, and even amongst their friends and family that there's leadership activities that they can be part of and really make a big difference in people's lives,” said Noem.
Dr. Wilson says these events are a great way for youth to hear how leaders in their community got their start. She says it shows just how broad the possibilities are for their future. Wilson said, “Most of these students are leaders in their high schools but they don't...haven't always had the opportunity to interact with and hear from senior leaders in the community, whether it's Congresswoman Noem, or President Jackson from Black Hills State, or other business leaders in the community. It's an opportunity for them to hear: alright how did you get to do what you're doing? What's my path and how big can I dream?”

The conference had students from 18 different schools in attendance. Congresswoman Noem says she hopes students walk away knowing that failing is just one step closer to success. 

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Area high school students encouraged to be leaders in Rapid City youth conference


Google has created contact lenses that monitor blood-sugar levels. Reebok has developed a mesh hat that logs blows to athletes heads. And there's a bracelet drone that can be deployed to take "selfies."

The three products are a scant few examples of so-called wearable technology, an industry that will only explode over the next decade to produce seemingly countless career options for area high school students who strive to be leaders, according to Paul Ten Haken, founder of Sioux Falls-based Click Rain, a website-development and digital-marketing firm.

"The next 10 years will be ridiculously cool," Ten Haken said Wednesday to a packed house of high school students who attended U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem's second annual Lead Now! Youth Leadership Conference at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology's King Center.

"You guys are also entering into a time when your digital footprint will be key," he said of activity on various social media outlets. "Your digital footprint: This is the topic that I love, love, love to talk about, especially with people like you because it's so so critical ... . Your digital footprint is your key to success in a lot of ways for a job, for a scholarship, for someone who wants to know more about your skills."

His advice to young leaders: Think of yourself as a brand.

And there are three keys in developing it: The "grandma test," by which the social-media savvy don't display details of themselves that their grandmothers wouldn't approve of; "Googling yourself" to see what exactly is on the Internet; and fixing what you don't like by producing positive content.

"Each of you are a brand," Ten Haken said. "When I say things like 'Apple,' there (are) immediately things that come to your mind when you think of that: technology, innovative ... . Apple has spent billions of dollars to make you think that about their brand, so what you have to do is, you have to think of yourself as a brand, and you have to protect that brand."

Noem also stressed Ten Haken's message, saying she doesn't even let interns into her office without first screening their social media activity.

"I think a lot of times high school students don't recognize or realize how much people look at your social media," she said. "In Washington, D.C., in the state government, I know with many employers that I meet with every day, they literally do not consider anybody for a position — even if its working at the local gas station, or hiring somebody as a teacher or a coach — without looking at what their social media looks like."

Others who spoke Wednesday included Mayor Sam Kooiker, Mines President Heather Wilson, Ellsworth Air Force Base commander Col. Kevin Kennedy and Black Hills State University President Tom Jackson.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, presented a message via video. Tulsi, who at 21 years old became the youngest person ever elected to a state legislature, stressed that age doesn't matter when it comes to leadership.

"An early lesson that I learned that has served me incredibly well throughout my life is that you are never too young to lead," she said. "If you are willing to do what is right, put in the hard work, and you're motivated by a desire to be of service, it will allow you to work with others, opening up opportunity for your future potential."

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Noem honors life of Congressional Gold Medal recipient


The family of Civil Air Patrol Pilot Earl Wilkinson enjoyed a very special celebration of his life Wednesday. 
Wilkinson was a pilot during WWII and was recognized for his valor and dedication in December with the Congressional Gold Medal.
On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Kristi Noem met with family members of Wilkinson and presented them with a bronze replica of the medal.

Wilkinson was recognized due to the hard work of his grandson, Tom. 

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SDFB encouraged by progress toward estate tax repeal


Farm and ranch members of the South Dakota Farm Bureau are expressing their thanks for their Congressional delegation’s work on permanently repealing the estate tax, a tax that is especially devastating to families trying to pass the farm or ranch down to the next generation.

Last week, U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) helped pass H.R. 1105 – the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 – out of the House Ways and Means Committee, paving the way for a vote in the full House later this year. A similar bill authored by U.S. Senator Thune (R-SD) was also adopted last week by the Senate as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolution.

“Facing an estate tax of up to forty percent when a family is trying to hand down the farm or ranch can be absolutely devastating to that next generation. It’s time to permanently repeal this unfair tax, and we appreciate the hard work of our Congressional delegation to get this job done as soon as possible,” said Scott VanderWal, SDFB President and third-generation family farmer from Volga, S.D.

The estate tax is hard on all family-owned businesses, but especially farms and ranches because agricultural assets – land, livestock, buildings, machinery – are not liquid. As is common with all small businesses, farms and ranches may have a lot of equity, but that does not necessarily translate to cash in the bank. Faced with a death tax of up to 40 percent, families may be forced to sell off assets to access enough cash to pay the tax – assets they need to keep the business operating. Another option is taking a large mortgage on the assets. Either way, it places a huge financial burden on the next generation.

Josh Geigle is a young rancher from Creighton, S.D. who can relate to concerns over what the future may hold if the estate tax stays in place. He and his wife, Shasta, are the fourth on his family’s ranch which was founded in 1907.

“Farming and ranching require extremely high capital investments that take an entire lifetime to pay off,” Josh Geigle commented. “My father and mother have worked their entire lives to keep our family farm and ranch viable so it can be passed down to the next generation. If we ever did face a death tax of this magnitude, we would have to sell half of our land and/or other assets to pay the tax. This would be a huge step backwards for any young family that is stepping up to be the next generation of their family’s farm or ranch.”

The South Dakota Farm Bureau represents more than 14,300 farm, ranch and rural families across the state.

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Noem holds youth conference in Rapid City


U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem on Wednesday will hold her second annual Lead Now! Youth Leadership Conference in Rapid City.

The conference starts at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology King Center. High school juniors and seniors from throughout the state are invited.

Speakers include: Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker; Mines president Heather Wilson; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Col. Kevin Kennedy, outgoing commander of  the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base; and Tom Jackson, president of Black Hills State University.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Noem will present the family of World War II-era pilot Earl Wilkinson with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal. The presentation will be held at the South Dakota School of Mines Dorr Room in the Surbeck Center.

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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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