After three-plus years of working hands-on to craft a new Farm Bill, I’m pleased my House colleagues have joined me in securing our nation’s food supply while also providing nutrition assistance to families who need it most.
I believe Congress succeeded in creating a bill that not only gives Arkansas First District agricultural producers a strong safety net but also deploys investments and jobs across this entire great state.
Still, the process has not proven easy. We’ve battled through sharp differences that extend well beyond party affiliation. Often these differences extended among geographic regions, or they simply displayed the ever-growing divide between urban and rural communities. Nevertheless, I think this new Bill promotes regional fairness by protecting all producers from market risks.
Crop insurance is one of the biggest improvements. Mid-South producers have long said crop insurance doesn’t work for them. Finally, through expanded access—including Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and a shallow-loss revenue program—it finally offers coverage upon which First District growers can count.
Beyond crop insurance, disaster assistance receives permanent reauthorization. I’m happy to say that after years of hardship from drought and adverse weather conditions, our cattle producers know they can rely upon much-needed relief.
In addition, our rural communities will see improvements through critical investments, while our most struggling families will see nutrition assistance to help put food on their tables. As water availability and quality issues grow more rampant, this Farm Bill establishes conservation efforts that will benefit Arkansas’ First District. These efforts include 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.
Yet, despite these victories, I believe Congress left much work unfinished. It didn’t reform harmful Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulations or fix mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements for meat producers, which increase costs for meat and poultry producers while also threatening trading relationships with Canada and Mexico. In addition, Congress failed to rein in burdensome Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for our District’s agricultural producers, allowing a vocal minority of environmental activists in the Senate to push their own agendas. In particular, I unsuccessfully advocated for greater reforms to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule requiring agricultural producers to build containment facilities around tanks containing oil-based products.
Despite my misgivings, I’m happy 250 House members joined me in passing this vital piece of legislation. I also thank Arkansas Sen. John Boozman for serving as a conferee throughout this lengthy legislative process. Without his and his staff’s tireless efforts, molding the Bill would’ve proven nearly impossible. Sen. Boozman listened to the needs of Arkansans, and he helped deliver a reflective product.
Ultimately, I give credit to the patience of Arkansas’ producers and rural communities. Thankfully, they now have a Farm Bill that works across Arkansas’ First District and throughout the U.S.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford represents Arkansas’ First Congressional District. The district includes Chicot, Desha and Lincoln counties in Southeast Arkansas.