Arkansas’ First Congressional District is home to a diversified agricultural economy. In the fertile Mississippi River Delta we grow cotton, rice, corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and even raise catfish. In stark contrast to the Delta stand the Ozark Foothills, where we have poultry, cattle, and timber producers. More rice is produced in my district than any other district in the nation. In fact, farm families in my district grow nearly half of all rice produced in the United States. Annually, agriculture in Arkansas is a $16 billion economic juggernaut that employs over 260,000 Arkansans.
Of all the members on the House Agriculture Committee, I am one of the few Representatives from the Mid-South, so it is my job to educate members of the Agriculture Committee from other corners of the country about the unique challenges Arkansas’ producers face. Just as manufacturers face competition from overseas, Arkansas farmers also feel the pressure from foreign markets. I am proud that American farmers produce the safest, most reliable, most abundant supply of food on the planet.
After more than three years of working towards crafting a Farm Bill, my House colleagues finally joined me in passing a bill in 2014.
In the 2014 Farm Bill our rural communities saw improvements through critical investments, while our most struggling families received nutrition assistance to help feed their families during tough times. As water availability and quality issues grow more rampant, the last Farm Bill established conservation efforts that benefited Arkansas’ First District. These efforts included annually increasing funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), expanding access to the Conservation Stewardship Program, and creating the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which even includes funding for irrigation districts.
Crop insurance was improved in the last Farm Bill, but in many ways it is still lacking and was largely built upon a Midwest mentality. So, as we look to a new Farm Bill, I know farmers are hoping for a bill that more closely resembles the ’08 bill in terms of providing an adequate safety net. Reforms will have to be made to the crop insurance programs to ensure food security and to ensure efficient spending of taxpayer dollars.
Despite several victories, the 2014 Farm Bill wasn't perfect: Congress left much work unfinished. As we continue our research and work into drafting the next Farm Bill, please don't hesitate to call my office with your questions and concerns.