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Agriculture is key to our state's economy, culture, and history. It is our leading industry with roughly $16 billion contributed to the Natural State economy each year. With rice, soybeans, cotton, corn, cattle, and wheat, we at Arkansas Public Media pledge to report on issues that impact not just this industry, but this leading way of life in our state.

A Look Ahead to the 2018 Farm Bill: Food, Farms and Forests

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Carrie Antlfinger
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ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dairy cows feed on a farm in Chilton, Wis., in the spring of 2012, when negotiations were underway on the 2014 Farm Bill.

Lawmakers are expected to begin work next month on the sweeping legislation known as the Farm Bill.  The bill covers dozens of nutrition, agricultural and rural policies that affect everyday life.

While discussions around the Farm Bill often focus on food stamps, the supplemental food program that assists millions of Americans, including about one in seven Arkansas residents, this year lawmakers are also concentrating on agricultural safety net programs for farmers.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-1st District) said he is looking to help Arkansas’s cotton industry switch back from an insurance program known as STAX (Stacked Income Protection Plan), which he said hasn’t been good for cotton growers, to more traditional price-loss coverage.

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U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford.

Crawford, who lives in Jonesboro, serves on the House Agriculture Committee. Agriculture is the state’s largest industry.

Randy Veach, who farms near Manila and heads the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said safety net programs can help protect Arkansas’s farmers from the unacceptable risks of failure to turn a profit or the amassing of debt.  He said this year, cotton, dairy and livestock are the most in need of price protection.

“We have to keep this adequate safety net and keep our farmers in business,” he said.

Earlier this month, President Trump was applauded at an American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Nashville, when he vowed to work towards getting the Farm Bill passed on time and with support for crop insurance premiums.

Arkansas’s forestry leaders are also looking to this year’s Farm Bill for financial and technical assistance for forests, the vast majority of which are privately owned and operated in Arkansas.

Max Braswell, president of the Arkansas Forestry Association, said a number of financial and conservation programs in place under the 2014 Farm Bill benefit private owners and need to be sustained.

“They actually help folks implement good, sound, sustainable forestry practices,” he said.

Predictions for passage of the 2018 Farm Bill ranged from four months to two years.  The policies of the current Farm Bill remain in place, even if the legislation expires.

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Listen to Congressman Rick Crawford discuss his priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

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