WORD ON WASHINGTON
North Carolina is the nation’s eighth most agriculturally productive state, and the Seventh Congressional District surpasses all other districts in North Carolina in productivity. Indeed, our district is one of the leading agricultural districts in the country, and we contribute over $2.5 billion worth of the agricultural products sold each year.
For those of us who live in rural communities, we understand well the extraordinary sacrifice and contribution of our farm families who provide a bountiful and safe food supply for all Americans. We also understand the significant financial impact of agriculture on our economy and the small businesses that fuel and sustain our rural communities. That is why it is critical that we focus attention on the policies which strengthen agriculture and help maintain a robust and thriving American agricultural industry.
As a senior member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, I am very concerned about the serious implications of continuing without the enactment of new farm bill. Last Congress, our committee worked in a bipartisan manner to advance a strong, fiscally responsible bill that would that would preserve the farm safety net, while consolidating over 100 programs and making targeted cuts to help rein in federal spending and balance our budgets. Our reforms would have actually resulted in $36 billion in savings for the American taxpayer over the next ten years. Unfortunately, our bill was never permitted a vote by the full House of Representatives, but I am continuing to work for the passage of a new bill this Congress.
In this 113th Congress, we have an opportunity to reauthorize a five-year comprehensive farm bill, and I have urged the Speaker of the House to help pass it. We must work together in partnership to craft a bill that protects and supports America’s farmers, strengthens rural development, encourages conservation and provides nutritional support for the most vulnerable in our society. Delay in its passage will have serious implications – not only for farmers if policies revert to 1949 commodity programs, which would be inefficient, costly and ill-suited for modern-day agricultural practices – but also for folks in rural communities who continue to struggle in these tough economic times. Many communities across North Carolina lack the infrastructure to grow effectively and attract new jobs, and a new farm bill would provide crucial support for economic development through USDA Rural Development.
Recently, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, testified before the House Agriculture Committee to review the state of our rural economy. I shared with him my views about some of these important issues, including our need for improvements in rural infrastructure and broadband, continued job growth and economic development, and concerns facing our livestock and meatpacking industries which are so important in Eastern North Carolina. The impact of sequestration may further exacerbate these issues, but I remain fully committed to the passage of a new farm bill and will work to ensure that we make responsible investments in agriculture. Passing short-term extensions does not provide the certainty and real reforms that are so desperately needed, and our farm families, rural America, and indeed our nation, deserve much more.