Why it matters: Agriculture is Arkansas’s largest industry, adding around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately one in every six jobs. Rice, soybeans, cotton, poultry and feed grains are particular staples of our state’s agriculture economy.
Where I stand: As a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Committee, I am committed to advocating for Southern—and especially Arkansas—agriculture to make certain that farmers and ranchers have the proper tools to be successful.
One major way to accomplish that is to ensure that the reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill—which expires on September 30, 2018—is fair, equitable and addresses the key needs of farmers and ranchers. Programs authorized by this law are vital to making sure that, as a nation, we do not become dependent on other countries for our food supply. The important risk management tools in the Farm Bill allow Arkansas’s family farms to compete in a high-risk, heavily subsidized global marketplace.
Similarly, our farmers need access to markets in order to sell their products. One market that is ripe for Arkansas products is Cuba, which imports nearly 80 percent of its food annually—including about 400,000 tons of rice. Allowing agricultural goods to be sold on credit through private financing, as my bipartisan bill the Agricultural Export Expansion Act would do, could open Cuba’s market to cheaper, better-quality food produced in Arkansas. This would be a true win-win scenario.
The Farm Bill and smart trade opportunities aren’t the only ways we can support and help advance the agriculture industry in Arkansas. Developing nutrition policies that help fight hunger and poverty are also important, and I’m working to make sure that America’s children have access to nutritious meals at school and during the summer. I’m also supporting rural development initiatives, including rural broadband expansion, that will enhance and improve the quality of life in rural communities that are such an important part of our state.