As a new member of the House Agriculture Committee, freshman U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas 19th, says he will work to get cotton back into the farm bill as a covered commodity. And he says he will work closely with Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, Texas 11th, to roll back burdensome regulations.
Speaking at the National Cotton Council annual meeting at Dallas, Arrington said leaving cotton out of Title 1 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 “was a mistake,” and that “getting cotton back in as a covered commodity is our No. 1 priority.”
In a press briefing, he said there is “too much government intervention” in agriculture and other businesses. “I am not anti-government — I believe in limited government.” Deregulation must occur without undue disruption, he said.
“We have to be careful how we roll out new programs, and we must be careful how we close them down. Responsibly phasing out one policy into something else,” is a sensible path to easing the regulatory burden.
Two specific areas of needed reform are the Environmental Protection Agency and banking, Arrington said, suggesting modification of the Dodd-Frank Act. He stopped short of calling for repeal of the EPA. “We all want clean water. We see good intentions on both sides — but the issue is, who is best suited to achieving the desired outcome. In the past, Congress has been too vague in passing regulations.” Lack of clarity, he said, leaves enforcement open to interpretation.
OBAMACARE: ORDERLY TRANSITION
A similar transition away from the Affordable Care Act is also called for instead of an immediate dismantling, Arrington said. “We don’t want to pull the rug out from under consumers who bought policies under Obamacare.”
He prefers the term “reform” over “replace” for health care, and would support more flexibility for states. “Competition is the key to delivering high quality, affordable health care — let the market dynamic work.” Tax credits and health savings accounts could play crucial roles in a new health care program, he says. “Pre-existing conditions should not be excluded from coverage.”
He also supports state control of education, through block grants and other measures. “I am on record supporting the dismantling of the Department of Education. Nothing in the constitution supports it.”
Arrington, who grew up in West Texas, is the son of a farm equipment dealer. “But I didn’t realize until I started campaigning that rural America needs a voice.” He encouraged farmers to communicate with consumers. “Make sure America values what you do. Tell your story, and win hearts and minds.” Producing food and fiber is a national security issue, he said. Consumers “take food for granted. We need to value agriculture in this country.”
A SECURE FOOD SUPPLY
Producing a safe, affordable, and abundant supply of food and fiber is part of the U.S. Constitution’s promise of securing “the public good,” Arrington said, and a secure food supply also is essential for the “common defense” of the nation.
He anticipates a challenge to farm policy. “We have a lot of hard work to reform regulations and tax codes. And we need to open new markets — if we can compete head-to-head, we win every time. We need to work toward fair trade.”
Agriculture is a “serious business,” Arrington said, especially in his district, which is the heart of the U.S. cotton production region and “the largest cotton patch in the world. Everything good about West Texas is what you guys do. I see great opportunity ahead of us — and cotton is the lifeblood of the place I call home.”