The Farm Bill Conference Report is a constructive, bipartisan compromise that deletes provisions harmful to the SNAP program that is vital for Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region, where food insecurity is much higher than national averages. Conferees from both parties and both houses should be praised for this positive outcome for nutrition, agriculture and rural development.
"We applaud the bipartisan Farm Bill Conference Report and urge all nutrition advocates to endorse final passage. This will scrap a provision that would have kicked some deserving people off the program and delete earlier proposed cuts of $20 billion over 10 years in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding. SNAP is a vital safety net for 40 million Americans who struggle with food insecurity," Caucus Director Lee Powell said.
Farm bill issues have been the most urgent matters the Delta Caucus has dealt with all year, including at its November annual conference in Little Rock with Members of Congress, state and grassroot leaders from across the region. "We need to follow up and urge all our House and Senate members across the region to support the Farm Bill Conference Report," Powell said.
"In addition to preserving the SNAP safety net, the conference report contains other essential provisions to preserve the safety net for farmers when they are being harmed by trade disputes, re-authorizes the Delta Regional Authority, and continues USDA programs in infrastructure, rural small business, expanding broadband access and the fight against the opioids epidemic," Powell said.
Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna) said "I am grateful to see leaders from both parties in Congress working for a compromise that will support the all-important nutrition programs and other farm bill provisions that are crucial for east Arkansas and the entire Delta region."
Johnnie Bolin, Chairman of the Cornerstone Coalition in southeast Arkansas (Desha, Chicot, Drew, Ashley and Bradley counties) said "This is great that leaders from both parties are working together on a bipartisan, practical compromise that will be beneficial for nutrition, agriculture and rural development in southeast Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region."
At a time when Congress is often lambasted for dysfunctional gridlock, this was a welcome exception to that pattern as House and Senate leaders worked together for a constructive compromise. The Delta Caucus would especially express our appreciation for Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Congressman Rick Crawford, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan), Ag committee ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn), and many others for this result.
The conference report has overwhelming support in the Senate where it passed by a huge margin earlier in the year. The House passed its version by only two votes by a strict party-line vote, but with the bipartisan conference result, all we need are a few more US Representatives to support this bill, which is likely the single most important piece of legislation for the Delta Region.
Delta states unfortunately had five of the six worst food insecurity levels in America in the USDA 2016 data. Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were the three worst, with Arkansas and Kentucky respectively fourth and fifth. The only state outside our region in the worst six states was New Mexico.
The Delta Regional Authority received a vote of approval for the great job they are doing promoting the community and economic development of the 8-state Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and southeast Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt. Kudos to DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell and DRA State Co-Chairman, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and all the many supporters of the DRA across the region.