Arkansas Farm Bureau chief Randy Veach warned months ago that details of a federal farm bill could be devastating for Arkansas.
On Thursday (June 21), Veach said a Senate-passed farm bill doesn't come close to protecting Arkansas farmers.
“As written, the legislation eliminates direct payments to farmers, and that will take $244 million out of the Arkansas economy on Day 1, with nothing in the bill that replaces that money,” Veach said.
“The purpose of the Farm Bill, historically, has been to provide a safety net for farmers and ranchers, and help them through difficult times,” said Veach. “This version of the Farm Bill passed by the Senate offers no safety net for much of southern agriculture.”
Veach said rice farmers, in particular, will be harmed by provisions of the $969 billion measure.
“Rice, in particular, is left without any programs that help farmers manage their risk. That, alone, makes this legislation unacceptable to us, though it is far from the only issue we find with this Farm Bill. We fear this could destabilize southern agriculture and could affect food prices,” he said.
“Despite our best efforts to get some amendments included that might improve this legislation, we were unsuccessful. We hold out hope that the U.S. House of Representatives can pass a Farm Bill that fulfills its purpose and allows for regional commodity differences,” Veach added.
Arkansas' two senators, Mark Pryor (D) and
John Boozman (R) voted against the Senate legislation.
Pryor said the plan will compromise tens of thousands of jobs in Arkansas and billions in economic activity.
“I am also frustrated that the bill no longer contains an important safety inspection measure meant to protect Americans from contaminated catfish imported from overseas,” said Pryor. “Not only does this action put our safety at risk, it allows contaminated and cheaper imports to disrupt the Arkansas catfish industry.”
Pryor pledged to work with House members to address his concerns.
Boozman has not issued a statement since Senate passage of the bill, but earlier this month, he spoke against provisions of the farm act.
“I am very concerned that this proposal is couched in the assumption that we will continue to have these high commodity prices. A revenue plan is attractive when prices are high, but I am not sure there is anything in this plan that protects producers from a multi-year price decline and an untested, one-size-fits-all program, with no producer choice could leave many producers vulnerable,” said Boozman, who sits on the Senate Agriculture committee.
In 2010, Boozman unseated Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), who chaired the powerful Senate ag panel.
Agriculture accounts for about $17 billion annually to the Arkansas economy, according to statistics kept by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. It accounts for more than 10% of the state's GDP.