The Arkansas Farm Bureau expressed disappointment Wednesday afternoon in the farm bill legislation that was passed by the U.S. Senate, citing a glaring gap for several commodities grown in Arkansas.

“The purpose of the farm bill, historically, has been to provide a safety net for farmers and ranchers, and help them through difficult times,” said Randy Veach, president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. “This version of the farm bill passed by the Senate offers no safety net for much of southern agriculture.

“Rice, in particular, is left without any programs that help farmers manage their risk. That, alone, makes this legislation unacceptable to us, though it is far from the only issue we find with this farm bill. We fear this could destabilize southern agriculture and could affect food prices.

“Despite our best efforts to get some amendments included that might improve this legislation, we were unsuccessful. We hold out hope that the U.S. House of Representatives can pass a farm bill that fulfills its purpose and allows for regional commodity differences.”

See more with Veach here.

Veach noted that both of Arkansas' senators, Mark Pryor and John Boozman, voted against the proposed legislation, citing the lack of commodity and price support programs that are needed for irrigated crops grown in the south.

“We applaud Sens. Pryor and Boozman,” Veach said. “They studied this legislation very closely, and they understand how it falls far short of the historical standards of a farm bill. That is why they voted against it. They both worked tirelessly to make improvements to the bill.

“As written, the legislation eliminates direct payments to farmers, and that will take $244 million out of the Arkansas economy on Day One, with nothing in the bill that replaces that money.

“Agriculture is the largest business sector in our state, and it is important that a workable farm bill be in place. The farm bill has an impact across our entire state.”

Veach is hopeful that the version of the farm bill that comes out of the U.S. House of Representative can provide for regional crop differences and price protection for southern crops. He said the House is expected to begin debate on its version of the farm bill after the July 4 recess.

“We have great hope that the House Ag Committee, where Rep. Rick Crawford is a member, can craft legislation that is more workable. We will work with all our House delegation, including Reps Mike Ross, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack, to help ensure a version of a farm bill that is more equitable to southern agriculture.”

The differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill will be brought in front of a special conference committee, which will then come to a consensus that will be presented to both the Senate and House for approval.

“We fully understand that our government spending must be brought into better alignment,” Veach said. “We don't believe, though, that you can balance the budget on the back of agriculture. In fact, I would suggest the farm bill is one of the best investments our country makes, because it helps ensure a safe, abundant and affordable food supply for the citizens of this country.”