This week, Congressman Crawford introduced three bills to strengthen rural America and sustain our agriculture producers during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
H.R. 7679, increases the authorized amount of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and indexes the amount to inflation, allowing it to change, as necessary, from year to year. The CCC has been the primary resource for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer aid to our agriculture producers during difficult times, such as the aftermath of China's retaliation when called out for unfair trade practices and during the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 7679 positions the CCC to be most effective for our producers.
H.R. 7680, the Reinforcing Utility Restoration After Losses (RURAL) Act, gives the USDA authority to establish a bridge loan program for rural utility companies experiencing losses in the wake of a federally-declared emergency. Companies will be able to access a line of credit for low-interest loans to cover qualified losses. Partial loan forgiveness may be accessed in certain circumstances. H.R. 7680 will provide a lifeline to rural utilities during emergencies and ensure they are not forced to stop critical services in rural America.
H.R. 7721, the Farm Labor Expansion (FLEX) Act, incentivizes agriculture producers to hire unemployed, domestic workers in place of H-2A visa workers, who have become incredibly scarce due to travel restrictions amid the pandemic. For each eligible replacement worker hired, farmers will receive a displaced farm worker credit as a refundable tax credit equal to 40 percent of the qualified first-year wages. H.R. 7721 will simultaneously incentivize producers to hire American workers and open opportunities for people experiencing unemployment due to current the economic environment.
Rep. Crawford released the following statement:
"These initiatives address challenges in rural America exacerbated by the recent pandemic. Sustaining our agriculture producers, securing our food supply, and protecting critical rural services are essential and should be the top priorities of the highest ranking Members on the House Agriculture Committee. Strengthening rural communities and supporting American agriculture are crucial to reinforcing our economy and national security."
Congressman Crawford represents Arkansas's First District and announced in 2019 his intent to run for the top Republican spot on the House Agriculture Committee which will become vacant next Congress. Crawford has served as the General Farm Commodities Subcommittee Chairman (2014-2018), Livestock, Rural Development and Credit Subcommittee Chairman (2012-2014) and is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is currently serving his fifth term in Congress.