Southwest Times Record: Why I Fought the Farm Bill
Feb 24, 2014
Articles & Op-Eds
Southwest Times Record
By: Congressman Tom Cotton
I grew up on my family farm in Yell County — and I still work it today. I learned the value of hard work, selfless service and thrift on that farm, just like my dad decades earlier. I also learned you can’t spend more than you take in.
I took that Arkansas common sense into the Army and then to Congress. That’s why I couldn’t support the so-called Farm Bill, in reality a Food Stamp Bill. I was disappointed with the bill, and I agree with farm groups representing a majority of Arkansas farmers, which opposed it. This Farm Bill spends too much and leaves Arkansas farmers with too little, while making too few reforms to President Obama’s runaway food stamp program.
This Farm Bill has a staggering $956 billion price tag, an incredible 60 percent increase from the 2008 Farm Bill, while we’re $17 trillion in debt and many Arkansans are struggling to make ends meet. Arkansas taxpayers have had too many of their tax dollars wasted on President Obama’s bailouts and failed stimulus.
What’s worse — even with all that spending — Arkansas is an afterthought in this Farm Bill.
Arkansas farmers will receive barely 0.5 percent of that $956 billion price tag — half what they received from the 2008 bill. Small, family-owned farms are the backbone of our agricultural economy. They comprise 70 percent of Arkansas farms, yet will receive only one-sixth of this bill’s benefits. And 75 percent of Arkansas farmers — mostly cattle, swine and poultry producers — won’t receive any payments from the farm programs.
This is so because the bill is better called the Food Stamp Bill. Nearly 80 percent of this $956 billion bill doesn’t even go to farmers. It goes to food stamps, a program that has doubled over the last five years because President Obama prioritizes welfare over jobs.
The food-stamp program can provide important, temporary aid to those in need, but the current program traps people in a cycle of dependency and doesn’t provide them with tools for success. Yet this bill lacked even minor reforms that would have helped change that. For example, the bill omitted common-sense work requirements that would provide job-training to able-bodied adults receiving food stamps. Nor did it include an asset test to prevent millionaires from participating in the food-stamp program.
Farm legislation should not be tied to the out-of-control spending of the broken food stamp program. That’s why I voted for both a true farm bill that separated farm programs from the nutrition title and a reformed food stamp program last year. I was hopeful the conference committee would retain the reforms I supported, including separate authorization periods for the two bills.
Further, this bill places unfair regulations on livestock producers, which is one reason most livestock groups opposed the bill, as did countless Arkansas farmers I heard from. These regulations also expose all Arkansas farmers to retaliatory foreign tariffs; for example, Arkansas rice faces a 100 percent tariff in Canada. These tariffs could harm our agriculture industry and potentially increase food prices for all Arkansans.
The best thing we can do for Arkansas taxpayers is to cut federal spending. Reducing our deficit will provide taxpayers and job creators with the certainty they need to succeed. We need to let Arkansans — not Washington bureaucrats — make decisions for themselves. Arkansans know success comes from hard work. We need to get the government out of the way and let them get back to that hard work.
Proverbs tells us “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” But if Washington keeps spending money we don’t have, we will only leave our grandchildren with more debt and a less prosperous America. Like so many Arkansans, farming for my family isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. And like all Arkansans, we’re taxpayers, too. It’s time for Washington to get out of our way and respect us all a little more.