Lawmakers are expected to begin work next month on the sweeping legislation known as the Farm Bill. The bill covers dozens of nutrition, agricultural and rural policies that affect everyday life.
While discussions around the Farm Bill often focus on food stamps, the supplemental food program that assists millions of Americans, including about one in seven Arkansas residents, this year lawmakers are also concentrating on agricultural safety net programs for farmers.
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-1st District) said he is looking to help Arkansas’s cotton industry switch back from an insurance program known as STAX (Stacked Income Protection Plan), which he said hasn’t been good for cotton growers, to more traditional price-loss coverage.
Crawford, who lives in Jonesboro, serves on the House Agriculture Committee. Agriculture is the state’s largest industry.
Randy Veach, who farms near Manila and heads the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said safety net programs can help protect Arkansas’s farmers from the unacceptable risks of failure to turn a profit or the amassing of debt. He said this year, cotton, dairy and livestock are the most in need of price protection.
“We have to keep this adequate safety net and keep our farmers in business,” he said.
Earlier this month, President Trump was applauded at an American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Nashville, when he vowed to work towards getting the Farm Bill passed on time and with support for crop insurance premiums.
Arkansas’s forestry leaders are also looking to this year’s Farm Bill for financial and technical assistance for forests, the vast majority of which are privately owned and operated in Arkansas.
Max Braswell, president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, said a number of financial and conservation programs in place under the 2014 Farm Bill benefit private owners and need to be sustained.
“They actually help folks implement good, sound, sustainable forestry practices,” he said.
Predictions for passage of the 2018 Farm Bill ranged from four months to two years. The policies of the current Farm Bill remain in place, even if the legislation expires.
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