Weekly Columns

No matter where they call home, there is one thing leaders across Arkansas share in common – wanting to help our state and its citizens. As I travel around the state, I hear many of the same issues and concerns from community leaders who are finding solutions to problems and laying the groundwork for future development. Resources for improvements to roads, bridges, railways and water infrastructure are key components to economic growth. These are common themes in every corner of our state. Arkansans recently traveled to Washington to deliver that message directly to the Trump administration.

The White House invited community leaders from across the state to talk about issues important to Arkansas. It’s great to see this outreach by the White House to connect with local leaders who provide the essential services we all rely on from education, roads and utilities. Making this connection helps develop relationships with federal agencies and advance shared priorities. The meeting is part of a two-year initiative to welcome elected officials and community leaders from each state for a personalized briefing with federal officials.  

As infrastructure is an issue that I often hear about from Arkansans, I’m pleased that this topic was a focus of discussions. Administration officials also talked about workforce development, trade policies and agriculture. Together with Congress, we have made progress on these issues. 

This summer, Congress passed, and the president reauthorized legislation to support workforce development and train students and workers to learn technical skills to meet the needs of 21st century jobs. We are making progress on important infrastructure priorities like the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 while also funding important infrastructure needs through the appropriations process. The Senate and the House of Representatives each passed a version of the Farm Bill. Now, I’m working with my colleagues to create a bill that will provide Arkansas farmers and ranchers with the certainty and predictability they need to feed and clothe the world. 

Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, which makes it important for Arkansans to have an opportunity to share their ideas with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The secretary spoke about his support for rural communities including policies like the Farm Bill, trade and expanded broadband access. 

Closing the rural broadband gap has been a priority for me. That’s why I helped launch the Senate Broadband Caucus. Working together at the local, state and federal level, we can improve access to broadband. This connectivity is just as essential today as having roads and bridges. I’m pleased the administration is joining us to accomplish this. 

While I was able to participate in the forum at the White House, I visited with many of the elected leaders in advance of their meeting and visited with them after the discussion. It’s always great having friendly Arkansans in Washington. 

Launching a dialogue between community leaders and the administration develops a working relationship with federal agencies and offers another voice to share the priorities of our state. Having the support of the administration will go a long way to achieve our goals.