FFA offered me incredible high school experiences for which I will always be grateful. Much of what I know about agriculture and animal husbandry came not only from growing up on a small farm, but also from the classroom and hands-on experiences FFA afforded. Looking back, I had no idea how important FFA would be in my career, but I sure do now. The number one industry in Arkansas’ Fourth District, which I’m privileged to represent in Congress, is agriculture. In fact, in the most recent 2017 Census of Agriculture, the Fourth District ranks first in the nation in poultry and egg sales and is home to a variety of other agricultural production including but not limited to forestry, row crops, produce, catfish, and cattle. For a small state, Arkansas is an agriculture powerhouse that we can be proud to know produces or has in reserve all the agriculture and natural resources needed for our state to be self-sustaining.
The agriculture industry directly employs over 19.3 million Americans and contributes over $2 trillion to the economy each year. In Arkansas, agriculture contributes over $16 billion our state’s total economy annually. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed holes in the U.S. supply chain felt now by Americans across the nation, and those holes are increasing prices and making it harder for farmers to produce our food supply. What’s worse than holes in the supply chain caused by market forces are the unnecessary burdens placed on farmers by the Administration, hindering farmers’ ability to make a living.
Since the beginning of his Administration, President Biden has railed against agriculture, signing misguided Executive Orders, such as E.O. 14037: mislabeled as Promoting Competition in the American Economy that, in reality, directed federal agencies to conduct rulemakings on anti-competitive business practices relating to agriculture. What’s considered anti-competitive, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and in this case, the eyes of liberal government bureaucrats. When this subjective discretion leads to increasing regulation on our nation’s food producers, who are responding to market forces, it will not only hurt existing business, but will also inhibit entrepreneurship and decrease processing capacity that in turn will raise prices at the grocery store.
Overregulating the business of agriculture ensures the economy no longer works for the consumer or the farmers, as additional regulations prohibit small to medium-sized processors from entering the market. Government mandates on agriculture will only slow processing, further increase prices, and ultimately do nothing to stop so-called “anti-competitive” practices. The Biden Administration doesn’t seem to understand the real-world consequences of its actions.
Our agriculture producers have successfully fed Americans and the world for decades without the White House orchestrating their every move. Congress needs to stop the Biden Administration’s proposals that micromanage all farmers, from small family enterprises to large companies. You and I know that our local famers know how to farm. They don’t need Speaker Pelosi, President Biden or Vice President Harris to tell them how to raise chickens, grow hogs, or produce watermelons.
I’m disappointed in the lack of confidence that this Administration has in the American farmer, and I’m saddened by proposals like the return of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that continue to make their way into the conversation during this Congress. Farmers and ranchers are trying to grow their capacity to feed roughly 10 billion people worldwide by 2050. Instead of regulating the agriculture industry into the ground, Congress and this Administration must support agriculture by getting out of the way and letting farmers farm.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and as Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources.
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