The Farm Bill plays a critical role in Arkansas’s economy, benefiting the livelihood of the state’s farmers by guiding crop planting efforts, aiding in access to crop loans, and bolstering the state’s critical agriculture economy writ large. Whenever the future of this important legislation has been jeopardized by political back-and-forth, Arkansas’s agricultural community has vocalized its support for the Farm Bill – such as in 2013 when Chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation Dow Brantley said that farmers “desperately need a farm bill written so we know where we stand” when it comes to deciding which crops to plant. That same year, Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach said that the state’s farmers and consumers would “suffer” if Congress did not pass a Farm Bill or extend the previous bill.
Yet despite obvious and vocal support for the Farm Bill, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers’ primary political engine, has consistently been at the forefront of the fight against the Farm Bill. AFP opposed passage of the Farm Bill in 2014, and went so far as to attack crop insurance premium subsidies and revenue guarantees – intended to protect the livelihood of farmers – as “corporate welfare.” AFP also opposed the 2013 and 2012 Farm Bills, and advocated for making cuts to the crop insurance program in the 2012 bill. Taking their advocacy a step further, AFP is spending big to help their preferred candidate in Arkansas’s 2014 U.S. Senate contest, Republican Congressman Tom Cotton. Why? Because Congressman Cotton was the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to vote against the Farm Bill. Instead of standing with the rice and cotton farmers who drive Arkansas’s agriculture economy, Tom Cotton turned his back on his home state by joining the out-of-state billionaire Koch brothers in opposing the Farm Bill.
This Koch-fueled advocacy against a bill so critical to Arkansans and the state’s economy goes even deeper, though. AFP has a long history of involving itself in legislative battles around policies important to the agriculture community and to Arkansas in particular. For instance, in 2012 AFP supported prohibition on new enrollment in CRP (the Conservation Reserve Program), a policy enacted under President Ronald Reagan that pays farmers annual rent in exchange for conserving a portion of their lands, which protects the critical wildlife habitats enjoyed by nearly 700,000 sportsmen in Arkansas and better prepares farmers for drought conditions. This one program, which AFP opposes, directly benefits more than 3,000 Arkansas farms. Guess who joined AFP in opposing this pro-Arkansas program? That’s right, Congressman Cotton.
AFP also supported efforts to eliminate the Farm Bill’s Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program (MAP), which help farmers sell their goods abroad. Once again, Congressman Cotton voted to eliminate these programs – a shocking move since he represents a state that produced agricultural exports worth $3.2 billion in 2008 and whose agricultural exports supported more than 37,000 jobs in the state as of 2009.
It’s clear that Tom Cotton and the Koch brothers are bad for Arkansas’s farmers. If you want more proof, American Bridge has the inside story on the long history of the Koch agenda harming agriculture in Arkansas.