U.S. Senator John Boozman’s Weekly Column: Protecting Rural America
Protect rural America
There is a major disconnect between the struggles Americans experience on a daily basis and the image President Biden and his team are trying to project. This is most apparent in rural America. In his State of the Union address, the President only mentioned the word “rural” once, and the administration failed to prioritize the needs of our farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers. .
The president and his team often brag about record farm incomes, but never acknowledge the fact that the financial gains of family farmers, ranchers and foresters will soon be reduced by record production costs.
As the Republican leader of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have spoken with growers who are experiencing rising input costs. These same concerns are shared by farm families across the country. Prices for land, machinery, labour, fuel, seed and animal feed are all rising. Fertilizer prices have gone up by as much as 300% in some parts of the country, and at the same time the administration is levying customs duties on our fertilizer imports.
Every part of the food chain remains strained as labor shortages and supply chain issues continue to hamper our ability to get food from farms to tables.
For many, the increased costs of farming deter them from continuing in the industry, pushing the next generation of farmers down a different career path instead of continuing the family business.
The family farms that once populated Arkansas in such numbers will be eroded if we don’t make rural America and agriculture more economically sustainable.
This is bad news for rural America. In most of our rural communities, agriculture is all that’s left.
Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry, adding approximately $21 billion to our economy each year and accounting for approximately one in six jobs.
But rural Arkansas is suffering. Our state has 75 counties, and 55 of them lost population in the last census.
This exodus is fueled by a desire to leave rural America in search of economic opportunities outside of agriculture. It’s unfortunate, because the family farms that color the landscape of rural America are the true cornerstone of a better future. Reversing this trend should be high on our to-do list.
Arkansas families are proud to maintain the land their ancestors worked and passed down. We recognize family farms that have demonstrated their commitment to agriculture and ranching for at least 100 years as Arkansas Century Farms. This honor highlights the rich history of agriculture in our state and celebrates our continued commitment to agriculture. I was proud to lead the effort to direct the United States Department of Agriculture to establish a similar program at the federal level.
Our program must benefit those families who feed and clothe the world. Federal policies must serve more than urban and suburban America. They must reach and help the 60 million Americans living in our rural communities.
When people leave our small rural towns, we run the risk of losing schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure needed to support these communities.
We must provide solutions to rebuild economies and secure livelihoods in rural America.
During his remarks, the president continued to push forward his tax-and-spend agenda — which favors big cities over rural America — and pledged to resurrect his doomed Build package. Back Better.
My advice to President Biden: It’s time to stop pushing that rock up the hill.
Instead, keep your promise to unite the fractured country.
It starts with letting go of those misplaced priorities and focusing on the needs of all Americans.
3-4-22 5:45 PM KAWX.ORG