Senate floor fight was to protect Southern growers

The U.S. Senate recently completed work to pass the most significant farm legislation in our country's history. I am proud of the efforts that my colleagues and I took to produce this piece of legislation because it is good policy. In the bill that passed the Senate, we provided more resources for nutrition, conservation, rural development, and renewable energy than ever before.

I was especially proud that my Senate colleagues and I fought off efforts by farm critics to impose additional provisions on the Senate floor that would have crippled Southern growers of capital-intensive crops like cotton and rice if implemented. While producers of commodities such as corn, wheat, sugar, and dairy were protected in this bill, these critics took serious aim at Southern growers, despite the fact that significant reform was already included in the underlying bill that unanimously passed the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Their proposals would have eliminated the modest safety net that exists for Southern farmers, and if successful, could have seriously limited their ability to compete in the global marketplace. Despite the fact that the committee instituted the vast majority of the reforms they were seeking, it was still not good enough.

Fortunately, I was joined by a bipartisan group of legislators who share my vision to support agriculture in all regions of our nation. Senators from states like Vermont, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Utah joined with their Southern colleagues to beat back the assaults on Southern farmers because they believe that our nation benefits from having a diverse bounty of safe food and fiber to feed and clothe the American people. They may not grow the same crops as we do in Arkansas, but they understand the issues that our family farmers face because their farmers face their own unique obstacles.

As a result of our victory, our family farmers will be able to continue to produce an affordable, safe, and abundant food and fiber supply in Arkansas and throughout the South. Moreover, we will not be forced to make unilateral changes to our farm programs — which could result in the outsourcing of our nation's rice and cotton production to other countries — while our foreign competition maintains their crop subsidies and tariffs.

I am proud of the stand that we took on the Senate floor and appreciate the support of those who stood with us. It makes no sense to specifically single out Southern producers when other growers around the country are not being asked to make the same sacrifice.

The market challenges and trade obstacles for our crops are different, and the needs for our growers are different. As a result, our programs must reflect that diversity so that our family farmers can continue to produce the crops they are best suited to grow. Southern farmers can be sure that I will continue to stand up for them in Washington so that they, like other American farmers, can continue to build upon their farming heritage and compete on equal footing with their global competition.

Mrs. Lincoln chairs the Production, Income Protection and Price Support Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

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