Boost for AR Agriculture with Congress Passage of Farm Bill

Boost for AR Agriculture with Congress Passage of Farm Bill

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WASHINGTON – After months of negotiations, the U.S. House on Wednesday followed up the U.S. Senate’s action from Tuesday and passed the $867 billion Farm Bill. The bill now goes to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill includes everything from crop insurance to money for rural broadband.

All four Arkansas congressmen in the U. S. House of Representatives backed today’s passage.

“Agriculture is Arkansas’s number one economic industry, and I am proud to support the passage of this year’s comprehensive farm bill that brings much needed security and support to hardworking Arkansas farm families,” said District 2 Rep. French Hill in a statement. “We take pride in what we produce in our state, and I will continue supporting our farmers and ranchers who produce agricultural products that are second to none.”

The House easily passed the bill 369-47. The massive legislative package reauthorizes agriculture programs and food aid.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton voted no on the farm bill saying:

“I support farm bills, not food stamp bills. Despite many of the farm bill’s positive agriculture provisions, 77% of its $867 billion price tag went to unchecked spending on food stamps, not farm programs. In today’s booming economy, 40 million Americans now use food stamps, up from 33 million in 2009 at the bottom of the recession. Grown men without children shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the taxpayer’s generosity.”

A news release from 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack (AR-3) explained that the final version authorizes and reforms essential food and farm programs, including initiatives related to commodity and crop assistance, agricultural trade, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and rural development, for five years. The legislation makes critical investments to support Arkansas farmers, ranchers, producers, and rural communities. 

Congressman Womack said, “Farmers and ranchers from Arkansas’s Third Congressional District feed and fuel our economy and families across the globe. Our agriculture policies must create certainty for hardworking producers and advance a vibrant farm economy – this Farm Bill delivers on those priorities. From enhancing insurance and risk management programs for dairy and livestock farmers, to investing in rural development and preventing SNAP fraud, this legislation makes sound reforms that support the strength of our food supply, producers, and American families.” 

Amongst other provisions, the bill supports Arkansas’s Third Congressional District by:

  • Bolstering dairy and livestock protection, disaster, risk management, and safety net initiatives. 
  • Enhancing farm ownership and operating loan programs to better enable producers to maintain, buy, and expand investment into new or existing farms or ranches. 
  • Increasing funding for rural health and opioid addiction services.
  • Investing in rural broadband access to support underserved areas.  
  • Establishing a National Animal Health Vaccine Bank to better protect livestock and prevent animal disease. 
  • Strengthening locally-led conservation programs that empower livestock producers, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). 
  • Implementing reforms to prevent fraud under federal nutrition benefit programs. 

First District Rep. Rick Crawford issued this statement on the Farm Bill’s passage:
“Given the importance of agriculture to Arkansas’ economy, I’m pleased to see the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This farm bill provides important updates to our food security system, delivers a robust crop insurance system, removes burdensome SAM/DUNs requirements for farm programs, invests in the vitality of our rural communities, and makes progress in our efforts to allow agriculture commodities to be exported to Cuba. Food security is a matter of national security, and a nation that cannot feed itself is a nation in trouble. This Farm bill ensures American farmers and ranchers will continue to produce a safe, affordable food and fiber supply for all Americans.”

Rep. Crawford is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture as well as the Chairman of Subcommittee General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. He also served as a Conferee for the 2018 Farm Bill.

Before the bill’s final passage, 4th District Rep. Bruce Westerman spoke in favor of the legislation. His remarks, as delivered:

“I thank the gentleman for yielding.

“Mr. Speaker, I was blessed to be a walk-on football player for the University of Arkansas and participate on two 10-win conference championship teams. Coach Ken Hatfield’s triple option offense averaged over 300 yards per game but it came in small chunks that resulted in first downs, that resulted in touchdowns, and eventually led to victories.

“Mr. Speaker, farm incomes are down across the board, the West is consumed by wildfires, China and other nations are taking advantage of unfair trade laws. What rural America needs is a first down. Our farmers and ranchers need to see Congress move the ball forward and provide their families the protection and relief they need during these hard times. This Conference Report is not a hail Mary. It does not contain everything I would like to see in a Farm Bill but it does move the ball forward. It is progress that our farmers need right now.

“I’m disappointed that Senate Democrats blocked many needed forest management provisions as we continue to sift through the ashes of catastrophic wildfires. However, this Conference Report strengthens the farm safety net and provides certainty to our farmers. It does address some forest management issues. It provides millions of dollars in new funding to combat a range of issues facing rural America – from funding to eradicate feral hogs to (funds to) address the opioid crisis and to expand rural broadband. This conference report moves farm policy in the right direction. I urge the adoption of the rule for this Farm Bill and I yield back.”

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