Steps for agriculture in E-T
Published 8:20 am Monday, April 30, 2018
BY REP. PHIL ROE
Since coming to Congress, there are three groups I’ve always said I’ll never apologize for helping: active duty military, veterans and farmers. There’s no question America wouldn’t be as strong as we are without our men and women in agriculture, which is why I am committed to advocating for Tennessee farmers as this year’s Farm Bill moves through Congress. Growing up, I worked on a tobacco farm; that work convinced me that chemistry wasn’t so hard after all. All my life, I’ve seen first-hand the hard work and dedication it takes to maintain and operate a farm; whether that farm is large or family-run. Every day is a work day — including weekends and holidays.
Last week, the House Committee on Agriculture passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, which reauthorizes the Farm Bill and strengthens the farm safety net. Over the last five years, net farming income has declined 52 percent because of issues like natural disasters and changes in the global economy. I’m pleased the 2018 Farm Bill preserves critical crop insurance programs, maintains trade promotion initiatives for agricultural exports and strengthens Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC).
One industry that’s been hit particularly hard in East Tennessee are dairy farmers. Over the Easter District Work Period, I met with a large group of dairy farmers to better understand what they are going through and to hear their ideas for reforming dairy programs through the Farm Bill, as well as suggestions they have to bring relief to dairy farms in East Tennessee. So many small dairy farms in our region and other areas of the southeast are in dire straits. I’ve shared many of their thoughts with the House Committee on Agriculture to consider as they work on the Farm Bill, like bringing back whole milk in our schools, and I’ve brought this issue directly to the attention of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. We are going to do everything we can to try to help these farmers.
I also believe reforms being made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, are a positive step that will encourage greater self-sufficiency. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, in order to receive SNAP benefits, able-bodied adults will be required to work or participate in job training programs at least part-time. Currently, there are 547,000 able-bodied, SNAP eligible adults living in Tennessee, but 68 percent of these able-bodied Tennesseans are not working. By encouraging workforce training so that people can obtain the skills necessary to get good-paying jobs, we can help provide a better future for these individuals and their families. Work requirements have received bipartisan support since President Clinton championed them in the 1990s, and I’m hopeful this latest reauthorization continues the transformation of this program into something that will leave recipients better off in the long term.
Through regular meetings with agricultural stakeholders across East Tennessee, I have heard many of the priorities of our farmers and will work with my colleagues to make sure the Farm Bill continues to ensure American agriculture is the best in the world.
Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.