America is home to the world’s most affordable, abundant, and safe food supply. Industrious producers across America and the 1st District of Arkansas are the source of the food and fiber that feed the millions of mouths here and around the world. By the year 2050, the world’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion, and I am confident that America will lead the way in agricultural production through technological innovation.
Agriculture is a cornerstone of Arkansas' economy. Annually, it is a $16 billion industry that employs over 260,000 Arkansans. On a national level, our First District produces more rice by a healthy margin than any other. Agriculture is critical not only to the District, but to the State, the Delta region, and to America.
As a Member of the House Committee on Agriculture, I am responsible for writing policies that support our farmers and advance the interests of American agriculture. A ready supply of food and fiber is a national security priority, and as a nation we should always be self sufficient with regard to food. The day we become a net importer is the day we say goodbye to our national security. We can't be dependent on other nations to feed ourselves.
I have worked with my colleagues on oversight and will continue to do everything within my power to scale back the EPA’s overreach.
Additionally, I will continue to actively support the farm safety-net our farmers rely upon. I understand that agriculture is a cyclical industry and the American farmer can often face unforeseeable hardships such as crop failure, climate fluctuation, natural disaster and significant market downturns. It is critical that farmers have support mechanisms so they can mitigate risk and ensure income despite possible setbacks. I am committed to making this my primary focus when I, along with my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee, write the next Farm Bill.
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.