Agriculture

BWFFAStar.jpgBackground

More than 30 years ago, I won a Creed Contest as a 9th grade member of the Future Farmers of America.  I can still recite most of the FFA Creed. One part that has always meant a lot to me was its second paragraph:

"I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuit, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny."

Less Hassles for Farmers, More Freedom to Trade

There is no question that American agriculture is the best in the world. Although they account for slightly over 2% of the population, American farmers produce enough food and fiber for every American and export nearly a quarter of their product worldwide.  

Our nation’s farm policy has played a key role in helping American agriculture advance and will continue to play a key role in the future.  As your next Congressman, I will advocate that future agricultural policies should focus on ensuring a reliable and safe food supply by:

  • Implementing and enforcing common sense, science-based safety standards and regulations that ensures a safe food supply, but does not create unnecessary burdens for agricultural producers and processors.

  • Promoting agricultural research and innovation to ensure that American agriculture remains the world leader in technology, efficiency, and productivity.

  • Expanding foreign markets, and opening new markets while ensuring American producers are competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world.  Free trade must also be fair trade.

  • Reducing regulatory and environmental barriers and requirements for job creators in farming and forestry while making critical investments in land stewardship, rural electric, water, and other infrastructure needs that grow job capacity.

    • A good example of the barriers facing farmers is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to redefine the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act.  Under President Obama's EPA, small streams and ditches would be regulated even if they are miles away from navigable waters, even if they are dry most of the time.  This unfair expansion of power defies common sense and puts the livelihoods of Arkansas farmers in jeopardy.

  • Ensuring that the 2014, five-year farm bill is fully implemented and clearly defines U.S. farm policy giving certainty to America's ranchers, farmers, and consumers.

 

Rural Broadband

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the “Farm Bill”) ensures funding for rural broadband programs in targeted areas and sets minimum “acceptable” speed levels for service.

In Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District, rural broadband is critical for employers, workers, students and families.  Our state has proven that our people can compete globally.  Broadband is a tool that can put the Fourth District on the same footing as other parts of our state and allow small business owners and entrepreneurs in the district to make a mark on the world market. 

Working with other Members of Arkansas’s Congressional Delegation, I will fight to ensure the people of the 33 counties of Arkansas’s Fourth District have the tools their friends in other parts of the state have when it comes to broadband connectivity.

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)

I support the SNAP program as a safety net for Arkansans who have a need for it.  Unfortunately, nearly 16 million more Americans, approximately 46% more, are receiving SNAP benefits since President Obama took office.  This is a sad commentary on the state of our nation’s economy, and on much broader problems in current federal policy.

Legislation for agriculture and SNAP should undergo rigorous scrutiny to ensure waste, fraud and abuse are being eliminated, and the dollars belonging to hardworking Arkansas taxpayers are spent wisely. 

The inclusion of SNAP in a future “Farm Bill” will not preclude me from voting for the measure.  Like all votes I will take in the 114th and future Congresses, the interests of the Fourth Congressional District and the State of Arkansas will be my primary consideration.
 

Homegrown Influence

The Future Farmers of America had a profound impact on my early years—not only enriching my experience of growing up on a small farm, but also in opportunities to develop leadership skills. My FFA supervised occupational experience program began with a few show pigs and grew into a feeder pig operation that, by the time I graduated from high school, earned me the Arkansas FFA Star State Farmer Award.

I was also honored to be elected FFA State President and, as a result, earned a summer internship program with then-Senator David Pryor, who served on the Senate Agriculture Committee.  As such, I was able to attend committee hearings with the senator, allowing me to see up close how our farm policy is decided in the United States.

Agriculture continued to play a role in shaping my life as I obtained a degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Arkansas and later obtained another agriculture-related degree with a Master of Forestry from Yale University.  My first job out of college was Plant Engineer at Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, and I am currently a part owner of a consulting engineering firm that designs manufacturing facilities in the forest products and bio-fuels industry. I live on a farm with pastureland and timber, and my children raise show hogs for the county fair.

The FFA Creed's final two paragraphs conclude with thoughts that I believe are pertinent to farm policy today:

"I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so—for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

"I believe that rural America can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task."

Food is obviously a necessity of life. A country that cannot feed itself is a weak one.  God has blessed America in our ability to feed ourselves, and I believe we will continue to feed ourselves in the future with the best food supply in the world, despite changes in the ways our food is being purchased.

While working to pass sound farm policy, I will also work to shrink the size and influence of the federal government and reforming entitlement programs so more Americans can start working in good-paying jobs, establish long-term careers and grow our economy.

 

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