Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Since my election to the Senate five years ago, I have spent time during each August visiting with Arkansas’s farmers, ranchers and industry leaders during my annual agriculture tour.

This year’s tour was extremely beneficial as there are a lot of important issues facing the agriculture community that Arkansas producers were eager to discuss. 

Among them:

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to show me their operations and share their concerns about agriculture-related issues during this year’s tour. It is my hope that by the time next year’s tour rolls around, we will have quashed the misguided WOTUS rule, reauthorized the child nutrition law and settled the labeling dispute.

In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' I respond to an email from Curt in Wynne who told me he can't afford they skyrocketing electric prices that will likely result from the EPA's so-called “Clean Power Plan.”  Unfortunately, this plan makes Arkansas families vulnerable to high energy costs, electricity blackouts and job cuts. That's why I'm fighting against it.
In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' I answer an email I received from Karen in Fayetteville who says she is concerned about the Iran nuclear deal. This is why I won't be supporting it.
In this edition of 'From the Mailbag' I respond to an email from Lauren in Little Rock who wrote about the need to stop the cycle of short-term extensions to fund inrastructure projects and support a long-term bill.

The last week before the August in-state work period begins was a busy one with a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, another harmful EPA mandate announced and my introduction of a bill to provide flexibility to federal child nutrition summer meals programs. Read about these and more in the Week in Review.

On Saturday my office hosted a Veterans History Project workshop in Springdale to teach Arkansans how they can help capture the experiences of our veterans and have them included in the collection at the Library of Congress. I am proud to see so many people are interested in participating in the project and sharing the stories of our veterans. Thanks to KNWA for this story on the workshop. 

Later today, the Senate will hold a procedural vote to try to move forward a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Earlier today, I visited with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business about why I think the organization has crossed a line and why we need to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood. If you missed the segment, you can watch it here.

Another busy week in Washington comes to a close with passage of a long-term highway bill and the announcement of an upcoming vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Read about these and more in the Week in Review.

  • Thank You Summer Interns: Our second session of summer interns have wrapped up their time in DC and are headed home. I appreciate the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of these interns for the hard work they’ve done this summer alongside my staff and myself to address issues that affect Arkansas. This internship in Washington has presented them with excellent opportunities to gain insight into the legislative process, constituent service and other work being done in the nation’s capital on behalf of Arkansans.

Today is recognized as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. As a member of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, I believe that whistleblowers play a critical role in exposing wrongdoing. Unfortunately, these brave Americans often face retaliation for doing what is right. As a member of the Veterans Affairs Appropriations subcommittee, I heard testimony today from VA officials as we reviewed whistleblower claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

We need to encourage VA employees to report misconduct because our veterans earned the best care we can offer.

When the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the Financial Services and General Government bill yesterday, my colleagues and I took the opportunity to add language that would move forward efforts to change U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The committee agreed to add three Cuba-related amendments, including one I sponsored, to the bill. The bill itself was approved by the Appropriations Committee and now awaits consideration by the Senate.

My amendment—cosponsored by Senators John Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—would help support and improve the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba. It mirrored a bill I introduced with Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) earlier this year.

The number one barrier that farmers and agricultural exporters in Arkansas and across the country have faced when trying to export to Cuba is a prohibition against providing lines of credit. Current law prohibits any kind of financing of exports to Cuba and requires cash payment up front, essentially preventing farmers and ranchers from being able to ship their products to Cuba.

My amendment would lift the ban on private banks and companies from offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba and help level the playing field for U.S. farmers and exporters. The private lenders themselves would assume all the risk.

As I told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, we need to look for every available path to normalize relations with Cuba, so the appropriations bills are good vehicles to move changes forward.

My colleagues who support normalizing relations are of equal mindset. That is why Senators Moran and Tester offered additional amendments to help ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Senator Moran’s amendment was identical to a bill that I cosponsored with him and several other senators from both sides of the aisle. It would end restrictions on travel to Cuba unfairly imposed on American citizens and legal residents. Senator Tester’s amendment would eliminate a law that prevents any ship that has docked in Cuba from loading or unloading any freight in the United States for 180 days.

These are steps in the right direction. We have been following the same policy of isolation for over fifty years and nothing has changed in Cuba. It is far more effective to have an open line of communication and a working relationship with governments in need of democratic assistance, rather than shut them out. In normalizing relations, you not only trade goods, but ideas. The two go hand-in-hand. Normalizing relations will allow us to remain competitive and create jobs at home, while pushing for human rights and democratic change in Cuba.