Democratic Senator Mark Pryor Friday drew distinctions between himself and his opponent, Republican Representative Tom Cotton over votes on the farm bill and Social Security.
Speaking Thursday at the Delta Grassroots Caucus in Little Rock, Cotton referred to the farm bill as the food stamp bill, criticizing the amount going to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Pryor responded with his own characterization and said it’s the single most important piece of legislation affecting Arkansas.
“We shouldn’t call it the farm bill anymore because only a portion of it is actually about farming. We should probably call it the rural America bill. If you look at the farm bill all those rural programs, that’s where they are. So things like rural water, rural electricity, rural economic development, rural broadband, rural housing, etc., etc., etc., it’s in the farm bill. It’s an essential part of rural America,” said Pryor.
Cotton was the only member of Arkansas’s congressional delegation not to support the farm bill. Pryor also criticized Cotton for previously supporting raising the age for Social Security to 70.
Cotton’s campaign responded by distributing a video of Pryor suggesting raising the age to 68 or 69 for people who are now teenagers could make Social Security solvent longer. But speaking after remarks in Little Rock Pryor said it’s not something he hopes to pursue.
“I think you talk about it. For me Social Security is age 67 for my parents it’s age 65. I think you talk about it. I actually think there are other ways to fix it you don’t have to do that. But you know, you talk about it and see,” said Pryor.
Pryor also called for greater infrastructure investment in the Delta. He compared the importance of river and rail in the 19th century and highways in the 20th to the current need to invest in broadband for rural communities.
“At first people had to be on an ocean or a river because they needed that water transportation. Then back in the 1800s it became railroads, you had to be on a railroad, if you want to be connected to the world you’ve got to be on a railroad. Then eventually, fast-forward, eventually it got to where you had to be on an interstate highway if you wanted to be connected to the world. That’s just a basic foundational element of economic development today; you’ve got to be on an interstate highway. In today’s world the other foundational element is broadband. We have to connect broadband to rural America and we have to connect rural America to the world with broadband,” said Pryor.
Both Cotton and Pryor made their remarks at the annual Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus comprised of officials from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois.
The Green Party's senate hopeful Mark Swaney and Libertarian nominee Nathan LaFrance were not in attendance.