Pryor Calls Ag Secretary Johanns' Visit to State Vital; Says Trip Could Help Him Relate to Southern Agriculture Needs
WASHINGTON D.C. - Senator Mark Pryor today said he hopes Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns' visit to Arkansas helps the Secretary gain a better understanding of the state's capital-intensive crops. Furthermore, he hopes that it allows Johanns to hear from local farmers about the impact this Administration's budget cuts and other policy decisions will have on their business and communities.
Pryor said Secretary Johanns' visit to the state this week is necessary in order for him to better relate to southern agriculture needs before making further decisions that could adversely affect Arkansas' farmers. Pryor said agriculture in the state is threatened by the Administration's current across-the-board budget cuts and costly payment limits. He said combating soybean rust, trade negotiations, conservation funding and the 2007 Farm Bill are also areas Secretary Johanns should address during his visit.
"Agriculture continues to play a pivotal role in our state's economy and way of life. That is why it is so vital for Secretary Johanns to understand and respect the stability provided by current farm policy, in contrast to current efforts to undermine it," Pryor said. "Our southern farmers are already shouldering the lion's share of the Administration's deficit reduction efforts, and the Secretary is asking them to give even more by stripping away their safety net and imposing unexpected payment limits. I know the community is anxious to bring these issues to light."
Pryor is trying to garner more federal funding to help Arkansas farmers combat Asian Soybean Rust - a windborne fungus that could infect the state's entire crop in a matter of days. Earlier this month, Pryor inserted language into the Iraq-Afghanistan Emergency Supplemental Bill that directs the Department of Agriculture to initiate "an immediate and strong response" to meet the threat of Asian Soybean Rust. Just days later, Johanns' agreed to steer $1.2 million toward addressing the problem. Pryor commended the move, but stressed that much more funding is needed to adequately address the threat to Arkansas agriculture.
"I hope the Secretary will leave with a better understanding of the soybean rust threat and the cost of educating producers to help them prevent and combat this disease," Pryor said. "He has allocated some funding, but it is not really enough to conduct the aggressive campaign required of our farmers to control the fungus."