I grew up on my family’s small cattle ranch in Yell County. Like so many other Arkansans, farming for us isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. I took the lessons learned on our farm into the Army and now to Congress.
That’s why I was disappointed with the Farm Bill considered by the House recently, which was a bad deal for Arkansas farmers and taxpayers. It had a staggering $940 billion cost, an incredible 56 percent increase-$335 billion-from the 2008 Farm Bill, at a time when we’re $17 trillion in debt. Yet Arkansas farmers would’ve received less than 1 percent of the money from its farm programs, and over 75 percent of Arkansas farmers were expected to receive nothing from these programs.
In truth, the Farm Bill should be called the Food Stamp Bill because nearly 80 percent of its spending goes toward nutrition programs-primarily food stamps. While food stamps can provide needed temporary aid for struggling Arkansans, the program is riddled with fraud and abuse and has expanded by almost 136 percent under President Obama.
The bill’s emphasis on food stamps made the needs of Arkansas farmers an afterthought. Based on historical estimates, Arkansas farmers expected to receive about 0.5 percent of the bill’s whopping $940 billion price tag. Worse still, those same estimates indicated that our farmers would’ve received 50 percent less than the last Farm Bill.
Our farmers weren’t just getting a bad deal; they were getting a worse deal than they once had.
Even those Arkansans who benefit from farm programs wouldn’t have fared well. These smaller operations comprise 70 percent of Arkansas farms, yet they would’ve received only one-sixth of the payments made to Arkansas farmers.
And that’s just the farmers who receive benefits. More than 75 percent of Arkansas farmers-mostly cattle, hog and poultry farmers-don’t receive any payments from the farm programs.
The bill was also loaded with policies unrelated to farming, which all come at a cost to Arkansans. For instance, it spent $375 million to teach kids that candy and sodas aren’t part of a well-rounded diet. It also authorized new taxes on Christmas trees.
I had hoped to support a good Farm Bill. I still do. A better bill would separate food stamps from farm programs, provide a true safety net for difficult farming years, and protect taxpayers from massive cost overruns.
This bill cost too much for Arkansas taxpayers and provided too little for Arkansas farmers. That’s why I couldn’t support it.