Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Please Mr. Postman

Proposal Keeps Rural Post Offices Open

May 15 2012

In an effort to preserve rural post offices the United States Postal Service proposed an alternative to closings and consolidations. This is a step in the right direction to providing rural communities with the ability to utilize USPS services while working to balance its books. This is a welcomed announcement that should provide some peace of mind to rural Arkansans. The plan modifies the hours of service operations. You can find the proposed hours for your local post office here. The proposal is a reasonable plan to maintaining services in rural America while working to regain financial footing. The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. 

I supported Senate passed legislation to reform the USPS and provide good guidance for it to get back on its feet without cutting the practical access to a post office. I have also been active in urging the USPS to maintain rural Arkansas post offices most recently signing onto a bipartisan letter with his senate colleagues to extend the current moratorium on post office closures until Congress addresses postal reform measures.

“James Jones got the award in ‘America's Classics’ category Monday night in New York, after their first trip ever on a plane, and his first vacation since graduating high school in 1963. He was recognized as one of America's top chefs for making one distinctly American dish, and making it perfectly.”

That is how CBS News concludes their story on the honor bestowed on a tiny, two-table restaurant in Marianna, Arkansas.   On Monday night James Jones, proprietor of the Jones Bar-B-Q, was in New York City to receive an "American Classics" award from the James Beard Foundation.  The Foundation’s honors have become known as the "Oscars of Food."

To coincide with awards ceremony, I inserted the following statement into yesterday’s volume of the Congressional Record:

Mr. BOOZMAN: Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the owners of one of the oldest African-American-owned restaurants in America—the Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna, Arkansas—which has been honored by the James Beard Foundation Awards.  

The Foundation recognized Jones Bar-B-Q as one of five restaurants from across the country in the “America’s Classics” category at the 2012 annual awards ceremony taking place today at the Lincoln Center in New York City.    

Foodies will tell you this honor is a big one.  Arkansas writer Rex Nelson calls the Beard award the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Certainly high praise for a small operation that began on a back porch, but this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill barbecue.     

This honor is a long time in the making.  Jones Bar-B-Q Diner has been in operation, in some form, since at least the 1910’s.  Walter Jones—the founder and first pitmaster—lived in a bare wood dogtrot house and first served barbecue from the screened-in back porch on Fridays and Saturdays.  The family recalls that original cooking setup as a “hole in the ground, some iron pipes, a piece of fence wire and two pieces of tin.” 

Eventually, Walter moved from selling the meat on the back porch to a small place in town called the “Hole in the Wall.” It was literally a window in a wall from which he would sell meat from a washtub.  The modern incarnation, the Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, opened in 1964.

The business today remains true to its small town, family roots.  Hubert Jones, Walter’s son, is the present day proprietor and his son, James, tends the pits.  The pork shoulder is still smoked with a simple set-up over the pit.  They still serve a very limited menu that centers around smoked pork, hacked into bits, and served on white bread with the Jones’ vinegary sauce.        

The James Beard Foundation—which is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to celebrating, preserving, and nurturing America’s culinary heritage—only awards its “America Classics” distinction to restaurants with “timeless appeal…that are beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community.” 

To qualify for the “America’s Classics” award, establishments must have been in existence at ten years and they must be locally owned.  The honorees are selected each year by the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurant Committee, which is comprised of 17 people throughout the country, many of whom are notable food critics and culinary writers.  The Foundation is acutely aware of how special Jones Bar-B-Q Diner is to Marianna, the state of Arkansas and southern cuisine.  

I’ll leave you with one piece of advice.  If you want some of Jones’ famous smoke pork, it’s best to arrive early.  The diner usually opens around 7:30 am Monday through Saturday, and then closes by early afternoons when all the meat runs out.  So get there early, bring your appetite and be sure to congratulate the Jones family for being recognized by the James Beard Foundation.  Their restaurant is definitely an integral part of the community and of Arkansas’s culture.  I am proud of Jones family’s contribution to the Natural State’s heritage and commend them for receiving this honor.  The Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna truly is an American Classic.

I stopped by KARK in Little Rock to visit with their morning show team. We chatted about the jobs report, UALR's new nanotechnology department and the Farm Bill.  You can watch the full interview here.  

Rivers of Recovery

May 02 2012

Rivers of Recovery is dedicated to offering our combat veterans the opportunity for rehabilitation through outdoor-based therapies. We learned about this innovative program last year and wanted to participate to show our support for its efforts to help our combat veterans. We have had the opportunity to get to know the program founder and staff. Like us, they share our passion for helping our veterans who have been physically and psychologically injured during their service to our nation and I was happy to help the program expand in Arkansas. In April, we joined some of our wounded warriors on the White River and KTHV caught up with us on our trip. To learn more about Rivers of Recovery click here.

We joined KASU’s Mark Smith this morning to discuss some important topics we’re debating in Washington. If you missed the interview you can listen to it here. We talked about the Farm Bill and reservations I have about the bill marked-up in Committee in addition to the postal reform legislation that I supported in the Senate and other votes we took last week in the Senate.

Farm Bill Reauthorization

Protecting Arkansas Agriculture

Apr 26 2012

The Senate is working on reauthorizing the Farm Bill. Senator Boozman is a member of the Agriculture Committee and delivered this opening statement before the markup of the bill.

Before I address the bill, I would like to express my appreciation to the Chair, Ranking Member, and their staff for all of their hard work and assistance throughout this process.  

This nation has a diverse fabric of agriculture with a variety of risks, and writing a Farm Bill that serves as a safety net for all crops and regions is no easy task.  Yet, this is a responsibility we must embrace to ensure that the United States continues to have the safest, most reliable, and most affordable supply of food and fiber in the world. 

Our nation is at a crossroads and we are in desperate need of fiscal discipline.  I am pleased that this Farm Bill includes important reforms, reduces spending by more than is required of this committee, and eliminates duplicative or obsolete government programs to ensure that we are getting the most out of every dollar we invest in Agriculture. 

The Forestry title contains important improvements that will benefit Arkansas’s forestry industry.  The improvements to the USDA Bio-based Markets program in the managers’ package will allow forest products to be included in the program.  The current USDA Bio-based markets program favors foreign products over our American forest products, which puts American workers at a disadvantage. So I’m happy with the progress on this issue, and I appreciate the effort to promote and purchase our renewable, home-grown products.

Crop insurance also contains some improvements, and the provisions for irrigated and non-irrigated enterprise units, supplemental coverage options, and yield plugs will help many producers who may have otherwise been left unprotected by the elimination of direct payments and the counter-cyclical program. 

At the same time, this is not a perfect bill and I have serious concerns about the Commodity title and the impact it will have on southern producers and the planting decisions they make.  I also have concerns about some missed opportunities in terms of eliminating waste and abuse in the Nutrition title. 

The Commodity title, as it is currently written, will have a devastating impact on southern agriculture which relies heavily on irrigation and, therefore, benefits less from Crop Insurance.  Furthermore, the new revenue plan is designed to augment crop insurance – so this new program leaves gaping holes in the Southern Safety Net.  Even with a reference price, this revenue plan may not even be strong enough for our farmers to get operating loans.  For example, most estimates find that Rice would lose more than 70% of its baseline – far more than their fair share.  However, this is not about just one crop.  

I am very concerned that this proposal is couched in the assumption that we will continue to have these high commodity prices. A revenue plan is attractive when prices are high, but I am not sure there is anything in this plan that protects producers from a multi-year price decline and an untested, one-size-fits-all program, with no producer choice could leave many producers vulnerable.  

Throughout this process, I have said that anything that goes too far in any direction can violate the core principals of this effort.  I am afraid that this Commodity title does that in its current form.  

It is my opinion  that we could have done more to eliminate waste and abuse in the nutrition title and ensure that we are getting the most out of these investments and that they are, in fact, going to the neediest among us.  We should have fully closed the LIHEAP loophole, which artificially inflates benefits for SNAP recipients, and there are other things we can do to make save money without reducing benefits and reinvest in other critical nutrition areas and deficit reduction. 

But just because we there isn’t full agreement, does not mean that our farmers stop needing a safety net.  In spite of our differences at this point in time, I am still optimistic.  I know that with the leadership of the Chair and Ranking Member, and with all of the members of this committee working together to give up their fair share and get back what they need, we can build the consensus necessary to usher a Farm Bill through the legislative process and see it signed into law this year. 

 We can do this while preserving the safety net, making reforms, and achieving deficit reduction.  I am confident that we can craft a bill that we are all proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Chair, Ranking Member, and all the members of this Committee and seeing this through.

The General Services Administration (GSA) continues to come under fire as more and more information surfaces about the expanding scandal surrounding excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissible use of taxpayer money .

During this morning’s Senate Environment and Public Works hearing, we brought two GSA officials before us to testify.

GSA Inspector General Brian Miller and Dan Tangherlini, the agency’s Acting Administrator, both spoke of the black-eye this scandal has given the GSA and how they are working to prevent future abuse.  I was pleased to hear Mr. Tangherlini say he’s moving to strip some autonomy from the regional offices and that Mr. Miller intends to turn names over to the Department of Justice for prosecution. 

My concerns, however, remain.  Is there a culture of corruption that has become endemic at GSA?  Neither witness would confirm that under questioning, but it is hard to see how it would be inaccurate to say as more abuses come to light.

We can’t afford the costs of these wasteful actions—financial or otherwise.  Americans have lost faith in their institutions and government employees need to work to restore confidence, not further erode it. 

We deserve better than the actions on display by the GSA officials and employees wrapped up in this scandal.  My colleagues and I will work to hold everyone responsible for these wrongdoings accountable.

I have long been an advocate for using our natural resources in an environmentally sound way. Opening up areas of our country rich in energy resources like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a commonsense solution that will allow us to gain energy independence from countries we currently rely on for oil. Unfortunately, this is an issue that has been discussed for years, but Congress has not taken appropriate action. 

Ten years ago, at the time when the average cost for a gallon of gas was $1.45 a gallon, the Senate debated opening up a portion of ANWR to oil and natural gas production. The amendment was defeated after Senate Democrats argued it would take up to 10 years for the oil to reach the market. Energy production was blocked in ANWR and remains off-limits. As my colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who represents Alaska, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, this was a missed opportunity. 

Fast forward to today where the price of gas nearing $4 a gallon and we have lost up to an additional 1.5 million barrels per day of domestic oil that would be available to help lower the cost of gasoline. 

During my tenure as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I visited ANWR. Having seen the area first-hand and spoken with local residents, I understand that developing the natural resources in this area of the country can be done with minimal environmental impact and provide maximum benefit. I have supported opening up this area to energy production and will continue to work toward adopting an energy policy that uses all of the resources we have been blessed with.


Senator Boozman was an early riser on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, joining THV This Morning to discuss legislation and priorities on Capitol Hill.