Weekly Columns

America’s farm economy is in a much different place than it was last time Congress passed a Farm Bill. Farmers and ranchers are experiencing the most fragile farm economy since the 1980’s farm crisis. 

Farm bankruptcies are up by 39 percent since 2014. Financing is becoming more expensive. Input costs are rising and the trade outlook is volatile and uncertain. Farmers across the country—regardless of where they call home or which crops they grow—are hurting. 

This is a particularly troubling trend for a state like Arkansas, where 95 percent of the state’s land resources are devoted to agriculture and forestry. Agriculture is a driving force of the Natural State’s economy, adding around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately one in every six jobs.  

That is why Senate passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill was an important step forward. With the current Farm Bill set to expire at the end of September, we must pass a new one in a timely manner to provide certainty and predictability to the folks who feed and clothe our nation and the world.

Programs authorized by the Farm Bill are vital to making sure that, as a nation, we do not become dependent on other countries for our food supply. These programs allow our nation’s family farms to compete in a high-risk, heavily subsidized global marketplace. 

Along with providing key risk management tools for our farmers, the Farm Bill also helps our rural communities by authorizing key economic development and job creation programs. It helps rural Arkansans with everything from home financing to internet access to small business loans.

The Agriculture Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), approved a fair and equitable Farm Bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. I was particularly pleased to see that the committee-passed mark maintained strong farm policy for producers of all stripes. Ensuring that producers across the nation have options that meet their specific needs when those needs are so varied is a delicate balance to strike, but the Chairman and the Ranking Member achieved it. 

I was pleased to see the process move forward with consideration and passage of the bill by the full Senate. However, I have serious concerns about provisions that were included at the last minute that have the potential to negatively impact farmers in Arkansas and across the country.  

One provision in particular, aimed at bolstering small family farms, will in fact hurt family farms across the country. USDA estimates that Arkansas will be the third-most impacted state behind Texas and Illinois. Iowa will be the fourth-most impacted state. This provision does not discriminate against regions, it discriminates against farmers and those who feed and clothe this nation.

I am committed to working with my colleagues to address these concerns so that the final bill ensures all farmers and ranchers are able to compete on a level playing field in the global marketplace. We can provide our farmers and ranchers with the certainty and predictability they need to succeed if the final Farm Bill is free of provisions that undermine the delicate balance we struck at the committee level.