Chairman’s December Briefing: Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill

December 13, 2013

Achieving a Comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill for America

One of the most critical pieces of legislation before Congress today is the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill. Currently, our nation’s farmers, businesses, and communities have been relying on extension after extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, and another extension of this legislation will have a consequential negative impact on our region and our country. It is time for America and the Delta region to have certainty in their federal resources, reliability in their food prices, continuation of research and innovation in their energy sources, support in developing their basic infrastructure, and continued job creation through a comprehensive Farm Bill.

At my recent meeting of the White House Rural Council, the item at the top of the agenda for Secretary Vilsack was to illustrate the importance of the passage of a comprehensive Farm Bill to our families, communities, farmers, and businesses. It is clear that a Farm Bill is paramount to all of us being able to do our jobs to strengthen and grow regional economies across our country. 

Feeding our nation falls squarely on the backs of farms, rural businesses, and rural Americans. Rural America is home to only 16 percent of Americans, yet 40 percent of our military personnel come from rural communities. And our nation gets its energy sources primarily from Rural America. In fact, one of our nation’s burgeoning industries—the bioeconomy—is predominantly coming out of education and research institutions in rural America. 

However, it is important to recognize that this bill is not just about rural America; this bill is for the entire country.  Supporting our rural economy and farmers means supporting our national economy and all Americans.

Although commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, this piece of legislation encompasses many aspects of American life, business, and community development. The Farm Bill is:

  • A job creation bill – expanding new opportunities for American agriculture, increasing manufacturing potential, securing jobs for veterans returning home, and supporting Main Street businesses across Rural America through USDA-Rural Development;
  • A research bill – funding and encouraging innovation among our farmers and entrepreneurs and driving the emergence of rural communities as key players in the nation’s bioeconomy;
  • A trade promotion bill – assisting our farmers and ranchers to export a record amount of product around the world and increasing global trade connections for Delta farmers and businesses;
  • A nutrition bill – ensuring that all Delta families and workers are healthy and productive members of their community; and
  • A deficit reduction bill – bringing reforms to our federal agriculture policy that will save billions of dollars over the next decade.

One of our strongest allies in our mission to strengthen the local and regional economies of the Delta region has and will continue to be USDA-Rural Development. With 85% of America’s counties with persistent poverty covering rural communities, the need for rural development is undebatable. 

A comprehensive Farm Bill will renew USDA-Rural Development’s full authorization, provide critical resources for certain programs such as energy and water infrastructure support, and institute policy improvements needed to strengthen Rural Development’s programs and services. Over the past four years, these programs have provided clean water to 14 million rural Americans, supported improvements to 276 hospitals and medical clinics, 166 schools, and 401 libraries in rural America, and invested in more than 800 local and regional food projects. 

With a comprehensive Farm Bill, we at DRA are able to do our best job partnering with Rural Development to increase business opportunities, help to create jobs, and strengthen the infrastructure, health, leadership, and business environment of Delta communities. These are programs such as the Healthy Delta Initiative, the Delta Leadership Institute, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative, each made possible through the Farm Bill. With Rural Development and a comprehensive Farm Bill, we are also able to successfully leverage our partnerships with other federal agencies to ensure that federal investment and programming comes to the Delta region.

Finally, the Delta Regional Authority’s direct ability to support the nearly 10 million people in the 252 counties and parishes of our region relies on a comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill. Like USDA-Rural Development, the DRA’s authorization and future ability to leverage public and private investment to create and retain jobs, maintain and enhance public infrastructure, train our region’s workforce, and expand the capacity of our region’s health, education, and entrepreneurial structures rely directly on the passage of a comprehensive Farm Bill. 

Over the past twelve years, we have used investments of more than $119 million to leverage another $2.7 billion in public and private investments that are helping to create and retain more than 41,000 jobs, train nearly 30,000 workers, and provide clean and safe water and sewer services to more than 61,000 families. With a Farm Bill that maintains our full authorization of $30 million, we will be able to continue towards these outcomes by initiating our funding programs and investing in our local communities, thus strengthening the greater Delta region.

Currently, a conference committee of Senators and Representatives are negotiating a comprehensive Farm Bill, and the Delta region is fortunate to have five members taking part in these negotiations: Senators Thad Cochran and John Boozman, Congressmen Rick Crawford and Mike Rogers, and Congresswoman Martha Roby. We appreciate their dedicated efforts toward achieving a comprehensive Farm Bill that supports the Delta region and all of our efforts to grow and strengthen our regional economy. 

I encourage you to review the White House’s report on “The Economic Importance of Passing a Comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill” for further explanation of the impact this could have on our region and our country. A comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill must be achieved by January 31, 2014, so that America and the Delta region can get back to creating jobs for its residents, building its communities, and improving the lives of its people.

Chris Masingill
Federal Co-Chairman
Delta Regional Authority