Weekly Columns

Agriculture Tour

Aug 30 2013

During the August work period, I spend one week focusing on agriculture. I travel across the state meeting with family farmers, facility managers, agriculture researchers and others who make their living growing, processing, and securing our supply of food and fiber. 

Agribusiness is critical to Arkansas, as it contributes significantly to our state’s economy. One out of every six jobs in Arkansas is tied to the industry. We are serious about job creation in Arkansas, so we must be in tune with the needs of the agriculture economy and our rural communities. Washington’s decisions on agriculture policy will have a dramatic effect on our state’s economy. Members of Congress must be in touch with the needs of our farmers, ranchers, processors, and foresters. 

That’s why I conduct this annual tour and try to make the stops as varied as possible. This year we’ll be visiting a lumber company and a tree farm to hear the needs of our timber industry; checking out our conservation efforts at a wildlife refuge; attending Farm Bureau meetings; touring a flood damaged farm to see how we can help our state recover from the spring storms; stopping by universities’ agriculture research facilities; and visiting poultry plants. 

The tour takes on extra significance as we are running up against the September 30th expiration of the Farm Bill, which is the legislation that dictates our nation’s agriculture policy. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill. Each contains different approaches for providing a safety net for our producers of food and fiber, balancing the needs of our producers and our environment, increasing the integrity of programs that protect the neediest members of our community, and expanding economic security and opportunity in rural America.  

In early August the group of senators tasked with reconciling the differences between the two bills was selected. I’m grateful to have been chosen to serve on this conference committee, which will hammer out differences into a compromise bill that would be able to pass both chambers and be signed into law.  

This agriculture tour will help me ensure that this compromise not only meets the needs of Arkansas’s producers, but provides a safety net that is fair to all crops and regions and strengthens our rural economies. The senators selected to serve on the Farm Bill conference committee are an experienced and knowledgeable group. We are all ready to work in good faith to get a fair bill for everyone, including taxpayers.  

Both the House and Senate bills include significant reforms and contribute to reducing our federal deficit. We must get a bill that provides our producers with security and certainty, strengthens our nation’s fiscal future, protects the neediest members of our communities, and ensures that we continue to have the safest, most reliable, and most affordable food supply that the world has ever known. I look forward to talking to Arkansas’s producers about their priorities, and working with my colleagues in Congress to get the Farm Bill done when Congress is back in session.