In the last year, the House of Representatives has debated the provisions of the 2012 Farm Bill and how it could be used as a service for American farmers during these tough fiscal times. In the coming weeks, it is important that representatives come together and find a long-term solution that provides consistency for our country's agricultural sector. The new Farm Bill must address the need for emergency assistance for our farmers.
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. 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.
Farming has always been the cornerstone of Arkansas's economy and it is vital that we maintain and improve our state's proud exports. Agriculture is a key part to our state's economy--constituting a $16 billion industry in Arkansas and providing more than 260,000 jobs.
However, Arkansas farmers and ranchers have faced numerous challenges this year because of severe drought conditions, making an already tough economic situation even worse. I applaud Governor Beebe's request of Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack that he issue a disaster declaration for all of Arkansas's 75 counties due to drought, and I have been encouraged that the entire Arkansas delegation supported this action.
Even though this disaster designation makes Arkansas's farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency assistance due to drought, Congress has failed to pass legislation that funds many of the disaster aid programs that could help our farmers and ranchers.
That's why I was proud to vote for H.R. 6233, the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act, which would provide supplemental agricultural disaster aid for certain losses incurred during Fiscal Year 2012. It reauthorizes several expired disaster programs to provide assistance to agricultural and livestock producers who are being affected by the drought or other natural disasters, but who are not covered by crop insurance. This legislation passed the House of Representatives, but must now be considered by the Senate.
The farmers of our state and our nation need our help and Congress must put politics aside and pass a long-term Farm Bill with drought assistance before the September 30th deadline. A new Farm Bill 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. 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 and environmental 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.