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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Protection For Our Farmers And Ranchers

April 30, 2018
Weekly Columns
Oklahoma is a leader in multiple industries, like aviation and energy, but there is no question that agriculture is at the heart of the state’s commerce. Farmers and ranchers add incredible value to our nation’s economy, and we should not take them for granted. Our national well-being depends on the health of the nation’s agriculture production. To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers need protection and stability. Congress provides those securities through the Farm Bill, which is comprehensive legislation aimed to support and to reform aspects that impact the agriculture industry in America.
 
The first farm bill passed in 1933 as the Agricultural Adjustment Act. This legislation sought to reform a variety of issues in the agriculture community, protect farmers and ensure access to healthy food for all. Ever since the passage of that bill, programs have been reviewed and reformed, and funds reauthorized every five years. Policies have continued to address a variety of agriculture programs beyond just America’s farms, including food assistance, crop support, and conservation.
 
This year, Congress will revisit the Farm Bill to address critical issues that not only affect farms and ranches but the consumer as well. One of the more significant provisions in the bill encompasses nutrition and food assistance programs. Currently, an average of 42.2 million people are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which may cost an estimated $73.2 billion for Fiscal Year 2019. This year’s Farm Bill will not only aid with those who struggle to put food on the table; it will establish solid work and training requirements that will help enrollees secure well-paying jobs and create financial stability. Additionally, it will provide a variety of options along with work requirements that will increase opportunities for enrollees, including the guaranteed Employment and Training program - but should an individual decline Employment and Training, he or she will no longer be eligible for SNAP.
 
The Fourth District alone is home to more than 13,000 farms and ranches. However, farmers and ranchers across Oklahoma are far too familiar with unpredictable obstacles, like droughts, that can destroy crops quickly. Crop insurance is vital to protecting years of hard work and good harvests. I am pleased that this year’s Farm Bill will preserve and strengthen crop insurance coverage. The bill will require more research and development to address risk management solutions and financial protection options should a natural disaster happen.
 
Conservation plays a fundamental role in maintaining healthy lands, clean air and water and vigorous wildlife. If farmers have quality lands to cultivate, then more crops can be harvested. This year’s Farm Bill will continue to maintain the Conservation Reserve Program, which has been beneficial to Oklahoma’s farmers for decades. The program supports farmers with the most vulnerable lands and provides funds for them to revitalize those lands to appropriate farming standards. This program promotes soil conservation and protects farmers from going out of businesses. The Farm Bill will increase its enrollment cap for this program to 29 million acres, increasing opportunities for future production while improving the overall quality of the environment.
 
There are no better stewards of the land than those whose livelihood depends on it. Our farmers and ranchers are the foundation for the vitality of our nation. This year’s Farm Bill will provide economic stability and protection for rural communities and the nation as a whole. I look forward to supporting it when it comes to the House Floor for a vote.
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