Weekly Columns

Congress is back in session after a long in-state work period. As a regular feature of the Congressional calendar, this work period allows me to spend significant time in Arkansas.

I traveled to 31 counties over August to hear directly from Arkansans about what Washington needs to be doing to help our state. It was a good opportunity to get feedback on the important issues we are debating in the Senate. The two issues I heard the most about during my travels were national security and the economy.

Given that national security was on the minds of most Arkansans, I made sure to visit Camp Robinson, the Little Rock Air Force Base and the Pine Bluff Arsenal to make sure Washington is helping the men and women serving at each of these installations.  I also wanted to see how we can better serve Arkansas’s veterans, a community who has given so much for this nation. I met with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regional staff at Fort Roots and officials from the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital to get feedback on the best ways in which we can serve the varying needs of Arkansas’s veteran community. Whether it be career training, education or healthcare, the officials I met with are committed to ensuring that the promises made to our veterans are kept.

After a week focused on veterans and the military, I launched my annual agriculture tour. For the sixth straight year, I hit the road to highlight the importance of the industry to Arkansas. My tour included meetings with producers, ranchers and farmers at their family farms and production facilities. As Congress prepares the next farm bill, it’s important for me to hear the ideas of those directly impacted about how we can improve this legislation. Having input from those in the industry is vital to crafting legislation that meets the needs of agriculture.

During the final week of the in-state work period, I joined Fourth District Congressman Bruce Westerman for a three-day forestry tour we called “Seed2Sawmill.” Arkansas is covered by more than 19 million acres of forests that sustain thousands of jobs and add millions of dollars to Arkansas’s economy. Our state is home to a number of wood products manufacturing facilities that produce lumber, plywood and other engineered wood products as well as paper related manufacturing facilities and a budding woody biomass energy sector. Congressman Westerman and I need to know how Washington can help timber rich south Arkansas. At each stop we heard a similar message: Washington needs to do more to encourage a skilled workforce for this industry. It all comes back to jobs and the economy.

I appreciate this break from Washington because I’d rather spend time visiting with fellow Arkansans and learning what I can do to help the state. Traveling around Arkansas gives me a better understanding of how to vote and make improvements to our laws to make sure that our tax dollars are being used best. I am honored to serve you in Washington and I am committed to putting the feedback I gained during these visits to help our great state.