Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn Arrives in First District

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, we celebrated the first full day of fall in the First District. While the temperatures may still get rather warm during the afternoons, we've seen --and anticipate -- a shift in the overall weather patterns. Harvests are in full swing. Football is here. We've even seen some leaves turning colors!

So, in honor of autumn, check out several of my stops from this past week. I hope you enjoy this great season, too.


On Wednesday, I traveled to Heber Springs to participate in a National Mitigation Fish Hatchery Forum. Arkansas' First District houses two mitigation fish hatcheries -- Greers Ferry and Norfork National hatcheries. Combined, these two hatcheries help preserve important ecosystems where the Federal Government has built large Water Development Projects while also returning nearly $100 for every dollar invested.
On Thursday, I had the privilege of presenting the Flag of the United States of America to Criswell-Robinson American Legion Post #71 Commander Jim Sanders (left). This flag, flown over the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2014, now resides under the Legion's care in Cabot and is on display for the First District to see.
Following the flag presentation, I visited the home of U.S. Navy Veteran Carl Schmidt in Cabot. Mr. Schmidt, a former submariner, has a miniature, WWII-era Navy submarine on display in his front yard. This sub was well worth a detour!
My final stop Thursday was at the Lonoke Farm Field, hosted by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. This field day celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which established a system of cooperative extension services connected to land-grant universities. I'm grateful to UAPB and farm manager Charlie Cummings for the opportunity to speak.
‘Farm Protection Act’ Provides Needed Assurance to Producers

The only certainty upon which Arkansas’ First District agricultural producers can rely is the uncertainty they face year to year. Summer droughts commonly scorch crops and livestock while spring floods inundate young stands and pastures. Diseases and insects can dash dreams of a promising harvest. Input costs may skyrocket. And unpredictable markets may force farm product prices to plummet, requiring producers to have a stellar harvest just to break even.

With all the risks associated with production agriculture, any time farmers can add a little assurance to their operations, they do it. In fact, one of the main jobs of a modern farmer is to minimize risk.

But they can never eliminate it.

The collapse of Turner Grain Merchandising, Inc. in Brinkley is a prime example of the unforeseen hazards facing agricultural producers. Customers of Turner — who thought they were minimizing risk by selling their crop to the merchandiser — were left with no guaranteed source of income for crops they've already harvested or had yet to harvest.
To make matters worse, many of the producers had secured Commodity Credit Corporation loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). These loans had a fast-approaching repayment schedule, and growers had no way to pay them back.

My Arkansas delegation colleagues and I immediately saw the need to provide some relief to producers facing loan defaults with the Federal Government. We requested that FSA provide growers involved with Turner a 180-day loan extension and that FSA revisit the situation after 180 days to determine if producers need additional time. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded with a total extension of only half our requested time, forcing us to act immediately.

Following our letter, I introduced legislation aimed at protecting farmers when a grain buyer goes bankrupt. This legislation, known as H.R. 5542, or the Farm Protection Act of 2014, protects growers from making payments on a loan when they are a creditor in a grain buyer bankruptcy until after the bankruptcy is resolved and the farmer receives payment from the bankruptcy estate.

Sadly, bankruptcy cases often take months or years to fully resolve. Armed with this knowledge, the Farm Protection Act requires USDA and FSA to automatically extend the terms of the agency’s market access, ownership, operating, or emergency loans for a farmer caught in a grain buyer’s bankruptcy until 180 days after that bankruptcy case resolves.

I appreciate my Arkansas House delegation colleagues signing on as co-sponsors to the Farm Protection Act, and I’m glad to see Arkansas’ Senate delegation introducing similar legislation. I look forward to progress on our legislation and pursuing a compromise in the coming months. More importantly, however, I look forward to providing some needed assurance to First District agricultural producers.

Tags: Arkansas, 1st District,Representative ,Rick Crawford, newsletter, Farm Protection Act, Stops in District To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

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