Crawford, Hodges don’t agree on much in First District Congressional debate

by George Jared ([email protected]) 826 views 

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R) on the left and State Rep. Monte Hodges (D) on the right. Photo courtesy Arkansas PBS.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, didn’t vote to certify President Joe Biden’s election due to the fact that Arizona and Pennsylvania changed their voting procedures without legislative input, he said during an Arkansas PBS debate Thursday (Oct. 20) with his opponent State Rep. Monte Hodges, D-Blytheville.

Crawford believes that Biden is the elected president, but judges and others allowed for special provisions for voters due to the pandemic. Some of those provisions included extending deadlines for mail in ballots, allowing for more voter ballot drop boxes, and others.

The congressman said he didn’t believe the conspiracy theories that surrounded the 2020 election and he thought those changes in those states were a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“That was the basis for my decision,” he said.

When asked if there were any changes to make the vote more secure, Hodges said he thinks we have a fair election process. The state representative said Republicans have been on a mission to suppress voters, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the last election were unbelievable. The only changes that need to be made are ones that will allow for more ballot access, not less. “Voting should not be so cumbersome,” he said.

One major concern for the next congressman from the First District of Arkansas will be the federal Farm Bill that will be formulated next year. Crawford said changes need to be made to the indexing system for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and other programs.

The PLC payouts to farmers have been indexed at 2012 production cost levels. Inflation has caused those inputs to dramatically rise since then, and the indices need to be adjusted. Crawford also wants a system of self-funded, tax deferred savings accounts for farmers to be established as a safeguard against losses.

Hodges noted that he’s been in the banking industry for many years and many of his bank clients are farmers or have businesses connected to the agriculture industry. The district is dominated by row crops, and Hodges said he would work with other lawmakers to craft a bill that will aid farmers in new ways following several years of declining harvests.

One problem that has vexed Arkansas rice farmers for years has been the inability to sell their crops in China. The Chinese government has made overtures in the past, but they never follow through, and it’s a “pathology with them,” Crawford said.

The solution may be to trade more rice to other Asian countries such as Japan, India, or Vietnam. The bottom line is that the Chinese will need our agricultural goods to feed their population, he added.

Hodges said he didn’t know what specific steps he would support to prompt China to buy more rice. He said, if elected, he would make every effort to remove any barriers, so that farmers can sell their crops internationally.

Arkansas farmers for years have dreamed of selling rice and poultry to Cuba. But the decades-long embargo has prevented that.

The people in Cuba want to buy U.S. rice and poultry, but their government has balked at efforts. Hodges said if the government isn’t a willing partner, it might be time to look elsewhere.

“If they don’t want to do business with us, it may be time to find someone who does,” he said.

Crawford has fought for expanded trade with Cuba for years. He acknowledged the problems with the government, and with payouts after the agriculture commodities are delivered. He said these problems are steep obstacles that will continue to inhibit trade.

“Cuba would be an awesome destination for Arkansas rice,” he said.

On the issue of abortion, Hodges said he opposes the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending a woman’s right to choose on the federal level. It’s a women’s health issue and human rights issue, he added.

Abortions will happen whether it’s safe and legal or not, he said. As a society we don’t need to return to a time when women had to resort to using coat hangers and chemicals to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Crawford said he’s pro-life, and the decision by the Supreme Court didn’t end a woman’s right to choose. He said the decision allows for states to craft abortion rights laws that reflect the values of the people who live in those states.

There’s a push to cut funding for the Craighead County Library, located in Jonesboro, the district’s largest city. A group of conservatives is trying to reduce the millage rate for the library from two mills to one. This came as a result of the library administrators keeping a LGBTQ-themed display, books and other programs.

Crawford said that public entities like libraries should represent the people who pay the tax dollars that fund them. If people don’t like the programming or content harbored in the library then they should have the opportunity to change that, he said.

Hodges disagreed. He said the issue has been politicized and a library should never be used as a political tool, he added. The state representative said he would oppose any effort to defund the library.