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U.S Senator John Boozman said regional differences, inflation a challenge to crafting the farm bill

Picture of a tractor on a farm
Fred Miller
/
UA Division of Agriculture
Corn research plots at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville, Ark. on July 8, 2022.

In an interview with Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’ U.S Senator John Boozman, said the extension lawmakers have received to work out the details of the upcoming farm bill has been helpful. The farm bill is legislation that has to be renewed every 5 years and it deals with farm programs like crop insurance, as well food programs like food stamps.

Boozman, a Republican, said part of the challenge of creating a farm bill is the regional differences of lawmakers.

“Southern agriculture is distinct front the I’s- Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The I- states are very different. We [southern states] are able to irrigate with a lot of water so we can produce the crop and the fertilizer. We worry about the price going down because of how much it grows,” Boozman said. “In the Midwest, they don’t have as much water. They don’t irrigate as much. They worry about not having the crop.”

Boozman also said the farm bill is taking longer to approve than previous years because of the challenges created by inflation. In an interview with Arkansas PBS earlier this year, U.S Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, also said inflation is making it difficult to pass a bill.

“We failed to do in those previous farm bills was to index those to reference prices so they haven’t kept pace with the interest rates and production cost. Here we are with the 11 year data that is not a good reflection of the economic pressure facing farmers,” Crawford said at the time.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed into law the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024, which extended the deadline for lawmakers to renew the farm bill, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture. Boozman said part of the reason why the farm bill is important for farmers is it allows them to get loans from banks. He said allowing a continuing resolution for the farm bill gives farmers the assurance it will be done, making it possible for them to get loans.

In the House, members of Boozman’s party, the Republicans, are wanting to make cuts to nutrition and food assistance programs, but Boozman said he does not agree with that.

“Sadly, if you’re making $1,400 on social security, if you got a minimum wage job or a little above, you simply can’t make it. When you look, the greatest people on food stamps are the elderly, people I just talked about, and then the people that are working during a situation where they are underemployed. I am not interested at all in kicking people off of food stamps,” Boozman said.

Boozman said he is interested in addressing workforce training through the farm bill to help those who are using food stamps because they are underemployed.

Boozman is a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and Crawford is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.