The Farm Bill, Winter Weather, and Propane
Winter storms are revealing a degree of vulnerability facing some of Arkansas's farms. Changes and support structures in the long-contested farm bill signed into law Friday by President Barack Obama may have a big impact in Arkansas where one in six jobs is tied to the state's largest industry – agriculture.
In his weekly radio address Governor Mike Beebe talked about some of the major challenges facing farmers in Arkansas.
“It's difficult for farmers to avoid risk. Weather, insects, and a myriad of other problems can have a severe effect on a farm's sustainability. In 2012, it was the severe drought that hurt farmers in Arkansas and across most of the country. This year's winter has dealt them another blow. Already, 11 winter weather systems have blown into Arkansas, as compared to the normal four or five,” said Beebe.
The onslaught of paralyzing winter weather nationwide and in Arkansas has done more than slow traffic, close schools, and cause power outages. It also proving to be a problem for the state's agriculture industry.
Governor Mike Beebe talked about the hardships facing some Arkansans in the industry.
“Sustained cold weather nationwide has caused disruptions in the supply and distribution of propane, which has also resulted in a sharp increase in prices. That has been particularly problematic for Arkansas's poultry farmers, who rely on propane to heat their chicken and turkey houses. Propane prices have now more than doubled, causing some farmers to consider halting production until warmer weather arrives. State and federal governments have eased restrictions on the transportation of propane, but in the end, propane is a commodity sold on the free market,” said Beebe.
The governor said the difficulties facing farmers are especially felt by smaller, family owned farms. Beebe noted the nature of farming in Arkansas, as around the nation, is rapidly transforming with 70 percent of farm land predicted to go through a change in ownership over the next 20 years.