When I am home it allows me the opportunity to travel throughout our district and listen to the concerns of my constituents.
In August I met with job creators during a manufacturing tour and an agriculture tour. These tours are invaluable as they allow me to hear directly about the concerns of the manufacturing and agriculture sectors and take those concerns back to Washington. If there is one thing Washington needs right now, it is the values and ideas of the hardworking people of Southwest Missouri.
My Job Creators Tour gave me the chance to meet with area manufacturers and their employees. According to the Missouri Association of Manufacturers, in 2011 manufacturing contributed $32 billion to the state's economy and employed approximately 250,000 workers throughout the state. In 2011, the average annual wage for manufacturing workers in Missouri was $50,447. Based on employment the top manufacturing industries in Missouri are food, transportation equipment, fabricated metals, machinery, and chemical.
Throughout the manufacturing tour I listened to mounting concerns over the lack of a federal budget. Manufacturers are hesitant to hire because they don't know where the federal government plans to spend money. The lack of a plan has made it difficult for these businesses to create a long-term plan of their own. As a former small businessman, I know the importance of budgeting and being a responsible steward of the taxpayer's hard-earned dollars.
In an effort to ensure a level playing field for our nation's manufacturers, I am the lead sponsor of the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act (H.R. 3057). I understand that American companies face threats from foreign companies who work to circumvent international trade laws in an effort to avoid paying the duties they owe. My legislation works to ensure that U.S. Custom Officials will aggressively enforce anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders. This legislation does not stop free trade. It simply promotes free and fair trade and sends a message that the U.S. will not tolerate abuses of agreed international trade rules. The ENFORCE Act is about protecting U.S. jobs and manufacturers by making sure foreign businesses are not able to violate the laws that everyone, including American businesses, follow.
Agriculture is another vital industry in Missouri. I believe it is important to support the growth and development of Missouri's agriculture industry, which will encourage economic growth in our state and nation, and that is the message I heard during my agriculture tour.
Although we have received much needed rain recently, the long term drought conditions have been devastating to most of our farmers. On August 2, I supported disaster relief legislation to help farmers. The disaster relief legislation retroactively extends the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program, the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program and the Tree Assistance Program for the current budget year of 2012. The bill is paid for through reductions to conservation programs resulting in net savings of $256 million over ten years. Unfortunately, this legislation is stalled in the Senate.
Farmers and ranchers are small businessmen and I support passage of a long-term farm bill that would provide certainty for the agriculture community. I signed a bipartisan letter urging House leaders to bring the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill (H.R. 6083) to a vote. I am frustrated the House has not debated H.R. 6083 because I believe a long-term farm bill provides the House with an opportunity to reform programs to work better in today's marketplace and to do so in a fiscally accountable manner. We feed the world and once we lose or diminish our agricultural industry we will never get it back to where it needs to be.
During these tough economic times, now more than ever, we need to create jobs. To do this we need to keep our nation's manufacturing and agriculture sectors strong, and make the United States the best place to do business.