Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Warnings from Europe

May 25 2012

Over the weekend, leaders from the G-8 nations met at Camp David.  The looming threat of a European economic collapse was at the top of their agenda.

From all accounts, it sounds like it was a lively debate at Camp David.  In one corner, you had the newly-elected president of France who believes that his nation isn’t spending enough.   In the other, Germany’s chancellor who has taken on the role as Europe’s chief proponent of austerity.  

President Obama is encouraging Europe to split the difference on those two approaches.  But is that what we are doing here at home?  If you look closely to what the President has advocated, you find austerity takes a back seat to government spending.

This is important to point out because we are not immune to the type of crisis we see transpiring overseas.  While much attention is focused on Europe’s fragile economic situation, we too are on shaky ground.  If we continue down the road we are on, we risk going the way Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Don’t think that could happen here?  Well, we already spend more per person than any of those four countries.  We have massive entitlement programs that are on a path to insolvency.  And, in recent years, we consistently drive our deficit spending to new record levels because the Senate refuses to pass a budget.

The only way will we get a handle on this situation is to reform the manner in which we budget and allocate federal dollars.  We have got to get serious about reigning in federal spending.  We have to strengthen Medicare and Social Security to ensure the solvency of the programs and control our deficits.  And we’ve got to cut the waste that is so rampant in today’s bloated federal government.

America should be leading by example.  As the world looks to us for advice on how to avoid an economic collapse, we should be in a position to give it.  We are not there.  It’s past time that we make the tough decisions that will get us there.

You may have heard our conversations with KASU in Jonesboro and KBJT in Fordyce on your way to work this morning. If you missed the interviews you can listen to them on the attachments below. We talked about a wide variety of topics including the Farm Bill, Iran Sanctions that the Senate approved earlier this week and budget proposals that were voted on last week.

Last week our Military and Veterans Liaison Steve Gray recognized the service and sacrifice of two WWII veterans with a medals presentation in Highland.

Richard Manning of Wilford, joined the U.S. Army in 1944 serving with the 76th Infantry Division in Luxembourg. Manning earned several medals for his service including the Purple Heart.

George McCants of Cherokee Village, served in the U.S. Army with the 75th Infantry Division. He arrived in Europe just before the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. McCants earned several medals for his service including the Purple Heart.

Steve travels across the state honoring the service of our veterans in medal presentations. “Gray, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, gave a poignant account of the difficulties American servicemen and women have endured over the years, and how important their service to the country has been at such trying times in history,” Tammy Curtis wrote in the Area Wide News. Read her story about this latest medal presentation: Local World War II Veterans Receive Honors.

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.