WASHINGTON, D.C. (PRESS RELEASE) – U.S. Congressman Jodey Arrington (TX-19) delivered opening statements on the Farm Bill Conference Committee Wednesday.
“I think this is as critical a time as ever to get a Farm Bill and get it on time, get it right and make sure the safety net is reliable and effective for our agriculture producers around the country. This is not just about the over 10 million jobs that agriculture creates – it is about national security, it is about food and fiber independence.
“If you look at the cuts to the Farm Bill safety net – billions of dollars over the years – if you look at the historically low commodity prices and the tariff subsidies and other trade inequities and so on, these guys are living in really tough times and we need to help them with certainty and stability by getting a good Farm Bill and safety net that works.
“There has been a 50 percent decline in farm income over the last three years and a 40 percent increase in bankruptcies. The young guys can’t get in this business if we don’t do this, and do it right and do it quickly. The safety net to me is at the heart of it. We spend .26 of 1 percent of the entire federal budget to get a safety net right so that China won’t put us out of the food and fiber making business.
“I am encouraged by what I’ve seen on that side, but I’m concerned – I’m concerned about the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) going from nine-hundred thousand to seven-hundred thousand…the AGI reduction, I think, is a threat to the safety net.
“I come from cotton country – the largest cotton patch in the world. The Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP) provides support for U.S. textile manufacturing infrastructure. We don’t have food and fiber independence if all we can do is grow the raw material. We have to get it all the way to a final product. China is going to put us out of the fiber-making business. We used to spin 80 percent of the fiber grown here. Now 80 percent is sent to China for them to spin. That is a threat to the safety net.
“I want to end on food stamp reform. We have an economy that is growing. We have 7 million surplus jobs. We have aided and abetted, in my opinion, by not tightening up the work requirements and enforcing them. We have millions of able-bodied adults in this country. We are not talking about the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled or pregnant women. We are talking about able-bodied adults. I have heard the statistics. We have millions and we need to pull them up and out of the welfare trap and dependence on this government. We need to give them the opportunity for a better quality of life for them and their families. That is what our reforms are about and I hope we can get that done.”