Weekly Columns

Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation recognized me with the Golden Plow, the highest honor it awards sitting members of Congress.

The success I’ve had in shaping ag policy is thanks, in large part, to the Farm Bureau – and especially its Arkansas branch – serving as a vital resource in supporting Natural State farmers, ranchers and foresters. 

For over 100 years, the Farm Bureau has been on the forefront of efforts to boost rural America and strengthen the lives of those who call it home.

I strongly believe the best ideas come from the ground up, not the other way around, which is why the Farm Bureau’s voice carries so much weight in my book. We have stood side by side on numerous battles over the years and those outcomes would have been much different had the Farm Bureau not been there. 

The Farm Bureau’s guidance will be heavily relied upon as we begin to develop the next farm bill, the nation’s five-year-plan for agriculture, conservation, food, forestry and rural development policy.

Arkansas Farm Bureau has made a notable impact on the farm bill drafting process already, as members offered testimony at the Senate agriculture committee’s recent field hearing in Jonesboro.

Our witnesses shared insights and concerns about our commodity programs, safety nets, risk management, conservation programs, rural development and more—covering nearly the whole gambit of issues that the farm bill touches. The hearing was invaluable in that it provided a look into the effectiveness of, and opportunities to improve, farm bill programs for our state’s ag industry. 

There is a long list of challenges we face as we begin writing the next farm policy framework. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has created a global food shortage. Inflation is historically high and Americans do not feel positive about the economy. Our producers are dealing with high input costs, including record high fertilizer prices and skyrocketing energy bills. They are also dealing with drought, a labor shortage and supply chain bottlenecks. Consumers are facing the highest food inflation rate since the Carter administration.  

I’ve had the opportunity to work on several farm bills over the years. There is one consistent key to success—we have to all work together. The good news is the Senate agriculture committee has a long and storied history of doing just that.

But there is one threat that continues to hang over the farm bill process: the Democrats’ reckless tax and spending legislation. Their latest proposal sets aside the bipartisan farm bill process and charges forward in designating funding for specific farm bill programs in a partisan way which will make it much more difficult to write farm bills in the future. 

Using this partisan process to increase farm bill spending sets a bad precedent and undermines our own work. If we're not careful, farm bills will only be written this manner moving forward. Not only does this process cut out the minority party, but it also means policy is written without input from the stakeholders. 

Having input from those directly impacted by the policy is vital to ensuring the final product will work when it is implemented. Engaging farmers, ranchers and producers should happen as we formulate legislation, not as an afterthought. I am committed to always seeking out and incorporating the counsel of the Farm Bureau, and other agricultural stakeholder groups, as we craft policy in the Senate.