Despite undergoing significant change in the past fifty years, agriculture remains at the heart of the Arkansan economy as the largest industry in the state.
The Arkansas First is home to over fourteen thousand farms, twenty-two thousand farmers, and many more whose livelihoods are tied to the agricultural economy. The district is the largest rice producer in the United States, the 3rd largest cotton producer, the 3rd largest poultry and egg producer, and the 6th largest soybean producer.
The size of the agriculture sector masks the uncertainty and precariousness that underlies farming. Nearly half of the farmers in our district have to work another job in addition to farming. Net farm incomes continue to fall sharply from record highs in 2013, driven in part by weak prices for commodities like soybeans and cotton. In 2018, net farm income in the U.S. is expected to decrease by 6.7 percent. Production expenses continue to rise and farm debt is forecast to increase in 2018. And climate change creates a more unstable, extreme environment for farmers to contend with.
All Arkansan farmers, regardless of their acreage, the types of crops they grow, or their background, deserve support to sustainably grow and diversify their production. They deserve certainty and support that they can count on in hard times, not extreme positions and quick reversals that rattle markets and threaten farmers’ plans.
Arkansan farmers and rural communities need sound decision-making from federal officials. Congress needs to:
Support counter-cyclical direct farm payments to guarantee certainty for farmer incomes.
Promote fair trade policies and productive engagement in international trade regimes to ensure that U.S. agricultural commodities are competitive in global markets.
Increase funding for USDA programs that improve economic opportunities for farmers, including the Value-added Producer Grants, the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers program, and Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans.
Maintain environmental regulations and climate change funding to protect American farmlands and waterways today.
Strengthen and streamline regulations to improve safety for farm workers who handle agrochemicals and for end consumers of food while reducing regulatory burden for producers.