In the News

As the new federal farm bill is being written in Washington, Sen. John Boozman is seeking feedback from Arkansas agricultural producers on ways the government can better help farmers.

"Right now we're really looking at a generational set of problems. Because of high-interest rates and because of high input costs, farmers are like everybody else, they're trying to make a living. That living is being stretched also by the fact that just for their personal stuff everything has gone up so much," said Boozman, who is a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

On Monday, Boozman met with farmers from across the River Valley at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith to discuss the upcoming bill.

Mark Williams and his family have operated their Angus cattle ranch in Lavaca since 1954. Williams told 40/29 News last year's drought combined with rising overhead costs made for one of the most difficult years ever for local beef producers.

"A lot of ranchers went out of business. A lot of them, as we did, we had to sell off a lot of replacement heifers that we would have kept. Feed cost has gone through the roof. I can remember when we would give, years ago, we'd be paying $100 for a ton of feed. Now we're paying upwards of $400 a ton for feed," Williams said.

When asked about the 2023 farm bill, Williams said getting federal reimbursements faster to help compensate for lost crops and herds would better help farmers who experience a disaster.

"It takes so long to get a check out. It may take sometimes two years. Well, the cattle rancher can't say, OK well I'm going to depend on this in two years, he can't do that," he said.

The federal farm bill is passed by Congress every five years. It sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy.

"It's a massive bill. It's about farming and it's about our nutrition programs," said Boozman, who told 40/29 News the bill is estimated to cost $1.4 trillion during the next 10 years. Early estimates show that approximately 80% of funds would go to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Boozman said in Arkansas, agricultural and livestock accounted for approximately 25% of the state's gross domestic product.

"When you get outside of any town of any size though, it's probably 85 or 90%. We've lost our manufacturing, our rural counties are contracting, and they're losing population. So this is all about helping the farmers. It's also about helping rural America. Through broadband, rural hospitals, rural water, all of that is mixed within the farm bill," he said.