Weekly Columns

One of my summer traditions is traveling across Arkansas talking with agricultural producers and seeing the great work being done in our state to feed and clothe the nation and the world. The Ag Tour is a cornerstone of my work during the August in-state work period. I spend several days crossing the state to visit farms, ranches and agri-businesses to see firsthand how Washington’s decision-making is impacting their operations. 

From Fayetteville to Dermott, the 2018 Ag Tour covered hundreds of miles to visit diverse operations such as livestock ranches, ag research stations, row crop farms, orchards and more. 

Agriculture is an economic driver for our state. It accounts for nearly one-quarter of our state’s economic activity, making it Arkansas’s largest industry. This is one of the reasons I am proud to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and why I am committed to traveling across the state to listen to people involved in the industry.  

With many issues that directly affect the agriculture community front and center in Washington right now, the tour was very timely.  

We are in the process of reconciling the differences between the versions of the Farm Bill passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. As a member of the conference committee that will determine the final bill, it is vital that I have input directly from producers to ensure it meets the needs of Arkansas’s agriculture community. 

The farm economy and rural America have been struggling for the past few years. Passage of a Farm Bill would protect key risk management tools and provide certainty for our agricultural producers. I look forward to delivering this certainty and predictability to our farmers and ranchers.  

The current trade environment was also heavily discussed. There is an understandable anxiety amongst farmers and producers over the rising tensions between the U.S. and some of our trading partners.  

No one wants a trade war. However, the producers I spoke with agreed action was needed to push back on unfair trading partners like China. While every farmer we met with said they appreciate President Trump’s efforts to support the producers caught up in the standoff, they stressed that “trade over aid” is what is needed for a long-term solution. Farmers want Washington to protect the markets they have and work to open new ones. Given a level playing field, our agricultural producers can compete with anyone.  

The farmers and ranchers I visited with were also very supportive of our efforts to reduce the regulatory burdens family farmers and producers were saddled with by the previous administration. Sensible regulations benefit every American, but excessive rules that defy commonsense hurt the agriculture industry. More work remains to rollback unnecessary regulation, but the progress we have made is having a positive effect. 

As we continue our work in Washington to help create an environment that allows our farmers and ranchers to succeed, it is important that we take direction from those whose livelihoods are directly impacted. There simply is no substitute for visiting with the hardworking Arkansans who work the land. I look forward to taking what I learned from them during my agriculture tour to craft smart and effective policies that will benefit them and help our entire state.