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.
Unfortunately, our nation's Farm Bill expired on September 30th of this year. Consequently, America's farmers have been without a farm policy that ensures they have the tools and resources necessary to help them continue providing our nation with an abundant and safe food supply. Additionally, without disaster assistance, Arkansas farmers and ranchers have faced numerous challenges this year because of severe drought conditions, making an already tough economic situation even worse.
During the last year, Congress has debated the provisions of the 2012 Farm Bill, but has failed to pass this much needed legislation. It is important that representatives come together and find a long-term solution that provides consistency for our country's agricultural sector.
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. Agriculture is a key part to our state's economy--constituting a $16 billion industry in Arkansas and providing more than 260,000 jobs.
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 farmers of our state and our nation need our help and Congress must put politics aside and pass a long-term Farm Bill. A new Farm Bill 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 Members of Congress return to our nation's capitol this week, they must dedicate themselves to working together for the good of the American people to pass a Farm Bill and avert the fiscal cliff we now face. This is our nation's opportunity to show the world how to lead, that America can step up and solve its own problems. We must not let partisanship prevail.
Congress has the opportunity and responsibility to come together as Americans and stop the partisan bickering. Members of both parties should be willing to reach across the aisle, compromise and work together to find a bold, bipartisan and balanced approach to solving our nation's problems.
I have always stood ready and willing to work with both sides to pass bipartisan, commonsense legislation. And I will continue to be a moderating voice in this debate, bringing everyone to the table as we find commonsense ideas that help us avert this fiscal cliff and pass a comprehensive Farm Bill.