Arkansas needs a Farm Bill

by Jeff Blair ([email protected]) 1,372 views 

I always look forward to this time of year when harvest is in full swing. We see the American farmers’ hard work, entrepreneurism and innovation paying off as bushels and bales leave the field to feed, fuel and clothe the world.

As President and CEO of GreenPoint Ag, which serves thousands of farmers across Arkansas and nine other states, I want to take this moment to personally stress the significant contribution Arkansas farmers, businesspeople, local community leaders, and
ag educators are making to ensure a stable domestic and global food supply, and the support they need to sustain those efforts.

Arkansas is home to the climate and water resources that have driven the state to the nation’s number one producer and exporter of rice, and a top producer of broilers, cotton and soybeans. The state’s infrastructure includes robust organizations, which support the storage, transport, and distribution of crops and commodities. The ag industry within Arkansas boasts a sophisticated agricultural research and development sector that is advancing farming techniques to enhance both productivity and sustainability – what the University of Arkansas smartly calls “precision agriculture research innovation.”

Because of America’s farmers, our food supply chain and the ingenuity of so many people in the agriculture and agriscience industry, we have a generous and reliable food system here at home, and we are playing an increasingly crucial role in maintaining a stable, sustainable global food supply, which is essential to both domestic economic stability and successful, enduring international relationships.

The farmer-owned and locally focused company I lead is proud to employ 1,100 team members in our 106 retail and wholesale agronomy locations across the Southern U.S. In Arkansas alone, we employ 305 team members across 17 retail locations, and one of our parent companies, Tri-County Farmers Association, chaired by Sam Medford, is headquartered in Brinkley, Arkansas. We work to empower the Southern farmers and their communities, through economies of scale, stronger bargaining positions, and support that only suppliers intimately familiar with their producers can provide.

Jeff Blair.

As an owner of Land O’Lakes, Inc., my company is part of a broader family of cooperatives serving as advocates for farmers, including those in Arkansas who contribute $19 billion in added value to the state, employ more than 243,000 and pay out more than $10 million annual in wages.

The stability of our global food supply is fragile. At a time of global instability in the Black Sea region and among trading relationships, we need to ensure that our farmers and agriculture businesses have the tools they need to continue producing the food, fiber, and fuel we need. Food security is national security. That’s why we believe it’s important that farmers and their suppliers are at the table when important decisions are being made, particularly now, when Congress is returning from summer break and poised to write a new federal Farm Bill.

What the Farm Bill does – and doesn’t – do is of great importance to rural communities across Arkansas and the nation. We are lucky to have an Arkansan who very much understands this, U.S. Senator John Boozman, as the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.

As Congress returns, we urge Senator Boozman and those leaders who are writing the Farm Bill that we need a robust farm bill that meets the needs of farmers in these volatile times. We are urging Congress to:

  • Ensure that federal policies promote a competitive agriculture sector, healthy rural communities and support that allows farmers to remain productive and profitable while employing sustainable practices.
  • Maintain and strengthen the farm safety net that ensures commodity programs and crop insurance are responsive to changing economic conditions.
  • Strengthen rural development programs that include rural capacity building and technical assistance, leveraging public-private partnerships.
  • Provide predictability by ensuring there are no lapses in funding or authorities for Farm Bill programs while funding improvements to Farm Bill programs.
  • Commit to advancing policies that are voluntary and incentive-based for growers.
  • Keep critical domestic and international nutrition programs in the Farm Bill.

The agriculture sector needs to make sure our voices are heard in Washington. So, as we celebrate harvest, let us commit to using this opportunity to have this important conversation. Our future, and the future of billions of others, depends on it.

Editor’s note: Jeff Blair is the president and CEO of GreenPoint Holdings, LLC, a CropLife 100 seventh-ranked ag retailer in the U.S. with 1,100 employees across 106 locations in 10 states. The opinions expressed are those of the author.