This week I traveled our First District and listened to the challenges farm families are facing. Even though the House of Representatives did pass an important drought relief package, at every stop on my Farm Tour producers expressed the need for a five-year Farm Bill to provide security for the future. I will not stop working until a Farm Bill is signed into law. Instead of attending my party’s national convention, I will be in Arkansas advocating for responsible farm policy and ensuring families are getting the help they need in the wake of devastating drought conditions.
Agriculture is the number one industry in Arkansas. Our district is home to a great variety of agriculture interests. In the fertile Mississippi River Delta we grow cotton, rice, corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and even catfish. In stark contrast to the Delta stand the Ozark Foothills where we have poultry, cattle, dairy and timber producers. More rice is produced in our congressional district than any other district in the nation. In fact, our district is responsible half of all rice produced in the United States. Annually, agriculture in Arkansas is a $16 billion economic powerhouse that employees over 260,000 Arkansans.
At visits across our district this week I was able to hear directly from producers about the challenges they are facing. In Smithville, cattle farmers told me how the drought is hurting their bottom line. In Pocahontas, I was on hand for the grand opening of a new peanut buying point that will help farmers in our district diversify their crop production. At a fish farm in Paragould, I was impressed with the superior quality standards in place, which makes American farm-raised fish the best in the world. In Stuttgart, I visited one of the largest rice mills in the country and talked about trade opportunities to expand market reach. At our visit to Arkansas State University I was impressed by their efforts to make bio-fuels more accessible for farm operations, while paving the way for long-term sustainability.
Agriculture is truly the lifeblood of our district and a responsible Farm Bill is needed to ensure our rural communities are not left behind, and have the certainty and security farm families need to stay in business. While the First District is home to some of the most diverse agricultural production in the world, every single producer’s message to me was the same: we need a Farm Bill. I was proud to join Democrats and Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee to pass the Farm Bill out of committee. Farm legislation is too important to be used as a political football. So when Congress goes back into session I will exhaust every option possible until a Farm Bill is signed into law.