This summer, I embarked on the #ARisAG tour, traveling the Natural State to highlight the importance of agriculture to Arkansas and to hear firsthand the concerns and ideas of our farmers and ranchers. During that tour, I heard one message over and over again–pass a meaningful farm bill.
It took some heavy lifting, but we have delivered for our farmers and ranchers. Congress has approved a final five-year reauthorization of the farm bill law. This is very good news for production agriculture and rural communities across our nation.
First and foremost, the farm bill will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers over the next five years. This is especially important given the intense pressure our agriculture producers are under.
If you look at the numbers across the nation, net farm income is approximately half of what it was when we passed the last farm bill. Farm bankruptcies are up by 39 percent since 2014, financing has become more expensive, commodity prices have plummeted, input costs are rising and the trade outlook is volatile and uncertain.
Farmers across the country—regardless of where they call home or which crops they grow—are hurting. The farm bill that Congress approved delivers meaningful and real relief for our farmers and ranchers in these difficult times.
Along with strengthening key risk management tools for our farmers, this legislation also helps our rural communities by authorizing crucial economic development and job creation programs along with provisions that range from combating the opioid crisis to home financing to high-speed internet access.
The farm bill is vital to our continued economic growth in Arkansas. Agriculture is a driving force of the Natural State’s economy, adding around $16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately one in every six jobs. That’s why agriculture advocacy groups in Arkansas were very excited when we passed the final version.
The Arkansas Farm Bureau said it was “pleased that Congress has recognized how important a new farm bill is to the hard-working farmers and ranchers of this country” and expressed gratitude that we came together to pass “this critical legislation before the new year.”
The Agricultural Council of Arkansas said it “cannot stress enough the importance of the farm bill and the need for it among Arkansas farmers.” The Council went on to add, “a farm bill with meaningful support is critical in preventing significant harm to Arkansas farms.”
And the Arkansas Rice Federation said the farm bill will provide “certainty in such a variable agricultural climate.”
The farm bill would not have been as beneficial to Arkansas farmers and ranchers without the diligent efforts of the conference committee leadership who worked to ensure that harmful, arbitrary policy changes were excluded from the final conference report. As a result of these efforts, family farms are protected from additional regulations and unnecessary paperwork.
This would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Their commitment to making this bill fair and equitable to the diverse needs of producers across all regions of the country. They worked hard to make certain we would get this done before adjourning the 115th Congress. I look forward to ensuring its successful implementation.