In the News
PROGRESSIVE FARMER: Ag and the Next Congress; Top Republican on Senate Agriculture Committee Points to Opportunities Ahead
Dec 07 2020
Arkansas Sen. John Boozman is looking forward to the opportunity to take the lead for Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee in the next Congress.
With Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., retiring from Congress, Boozman is in line to become either the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, depending on the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.
At the moment, Boozman and other senators are waiting to see how congressional leaders and the White House negotiate a possible coronavirus aid package. At least some lawmakers have coalesced around a $908 billion package that is viewed as a starting point for final negotiations. That package includes $26 billion for nutrition and agriculture.
"I hope that, you know, in the next day or two, we can come up with a good compromise that helps," Boozman told DTN in a phone interview. "Certainly, our schools or businesses, particularly small businesses, making sure that our health care providers have all of the resources that they need to fight the virus that's going on as we speak. But also to make sure that, as far as vaccination delivery, all of those kind of things are adequately funded. And I feel sure that they will be, but it's something that we need to come to an agreement."
Looking at agriculture and farm income, Boozman noted farmers appreciate the aid they have received over the past couple of years, especially in 2020 with government payments looking to account for just under 40% overall net farm income. But Boozman said such high payments cannot last.
"That's good in the sense of getting them by, but that's not sustainable long term," Boozman said. "I understand that, and the Agriculture Committee understands it. And our farm community understands it."
As a result, Boozman said senators are focused on ensuring China meets its Phase One Agreement obligations to buy more agricultural products. Lawmakers expect China will uphold its end of the agreement even after President Donald Trump leaves office in January.
"We're looking forward to significant purchases next year," Boozman said.
Boozman put a lot of emphasis on continued trade talks with the United Kingdom and European Union that would have to come through negotiations with the incoming Biden administration. More trade agreements are needed, Boozman added, because U.S. farmers are driven to increase production.
"Our farmers just do a tremendous job of producing things, and we've got to work hard to sell those products overseas," he said.