As a conferee to the 2013 Farm Bill conference committee, last week I had the privilege of participating in the first public meeting of the committee with members of both the House and Senate. There, each of the 41 conferees, including myself and Arkansas Senator John Boozman, had the opportunity to lay out their initial markers and priorities on what the bill should contain. It is an important first step as we begin the negotiating process to hammer out the differences between the two bills and reach a consensus that will be fiscally responsible and support agriculture jobs around the country.
I am pleased the Commodity Title in this legislation has been crafted in such a way that provides options for farmers, based either on revenue or price, which provides the right amount of regional flexibility. Historically, Farm Bills have been written to favor Midwestern interests while Southern farmers were left with programs that were not the perfect fit for their needs. I am proud to have worked with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to address the regional needs of both Southern and Midwestern farmers, and am looking forward to a final product that preserves this regional flexibility.
Additionally, this bill does an excellent job of addressing regulatory overreach from the federal government that is hurting production and jobs in the agricultural sector. For instance, the legislative text of my regulatory relief bill, the FUELS Act, was included in the House-passed Farm Bill to provide relief for on-farm fuel storage facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed burdensome and costly regulations that cost tens of thousands of dollars per farmer on average to any farmer with on-farm storage over 1,320 gallons – which, according to the USDA, comprises nearly 70% of American farms. According to the University of Arkansas, my legislation will save the agricultural sector $3.36 billion in compliance costs that can be reinvested into capital and growth. This is just one example of a reform-minded Farm Bill that gets government out of the way of job creation.
I am looking forward to the conference committee process and working with my Arkansas colleague, Senator Boozman, to ensure the voice of Arkansas is well represented. As the top industry in Arkansas, it is imperative that we have a final bill that provides certainty for our growers while remaining fiscally responsible. I look forward to a final product that addresses these concerns and will provide a long-term vision for American agricultural policy.
Farm Bill Conference Committee Critical for Arkansas Jobs