Growing up and spending time working on my grandfather's South Arkansas farm allowed me the opportunity to see firsthand the impact that America's farm families have on our lives. The experiences and lessons I learned during that time are still with me today as I work for Arkansas's farmers and ranchers in Congress.
Agriculture is a key part to our state's economy--constituting a $16 billion industry in Arkansas and providing more than 260,000 jobs. I have always been a strong advocate for Arkansas agriculture, and I worked hard to help craft and pass the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills which have proven to be both effective and efficient farm policy for Arkansas's farm families. In fact, I played a key role in ensuring Congress overrode President Bush's veto to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2008.
Since Congress first produced a Farm Bill in 1949, our farmers have had a federal agricultural policy that enabled Americans to purchase safe and affordable food and fiber products. The Farm Bill ensures that our farm families have a sound farm policy that gives them a safety-net when prices are down or weather is bad.
The current Farm Bill, passed in 2008, expires on September 30, 2012. Passing a new Farm Bill by that deadline will be critical to ensuring that our nation has a safe and secure source of food and fiber.
As Congress prepares to debate the new Farm Bill, it must guarantee that America's farmers and farm families are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to help them continue providing our nation with an abundant and safe food supply.
Our new Farm Bill must maintain key provisions that have been staples of previous agriculture legislation such as nutrition programs that will help American families better afford healthy food, incentives for renewable energy production to encourage American energy independence, responsible disaster assistance for farmers whose crops are stricken by severe natural disasters such as drought and floods, and conservation programs which take environmentally sensitive land out of farming and encourage environmentally friendly practices on working farmland.
The new Farm Bill must also address segments of agriculture that have been underserved, including specialty crop producers and beginning and minority farmers and ranchers. And above all, it must continue the important safety-net programs our farmers rely on because our farmers deserve assurances from their government that we will stand beside them in times when market conditions are both favorable and unfavorable.
As the U.S. Congressman for Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District, I will continue to advocate for Arkansas's farmers to ensure that they are provided with the tools and resources they need to continue feeding our nation.