Farm Director KC Sheperd sat down and talked with U.S. Senator James Lankford about a few issues directly impacting rural America and Oklahoma including the farm bill, inflation, education, daylight savings and more.
Regarding the USDA investing $14 million to help start and expand independent meat processors in the state, Lankford said this will help increase competition for some of the bigger packers. The funding will also help beef and poultry plants in Oklahoma build facilities, develop retail markets, and upgrade equipment.
“It is a very good thing for the state,” Lankford said. “It is something we have worked on for a long time, and it is giving the opportunity for more small to medium-sized processors to be able to grow, or to be able to expand or to be able to add extra hours.”
As Lankford hears firsthand the concerns of those in the ag industry, he said the farm bill is one of the biggest priorities of many ag groups.
“Everyone is absolutely panicked about the giant number that came out on the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Program,” Lankford said. “The SNAP program before was around 700 billion dollars. This new number is 1.2 trillion dollars. It is a really big jump.”
Lankford said many worry that because of the large price tag associated with the SNAP program, the farm bill will not pass.
“You have got a 1.5 trillion-dollar farm bill that is out there and only 300 billion of that is actually on farm programs,” Lankford said.
The SNAP program, Lankford said, is incredibly out of balance.
“For instance, you could walk into most convenience stores, and you could buy an iced coffee, and that will qualify under SNAP, but a hot coffee does not,” Lankford said. “If you put a lid on that iced coffee that you got, that qualifies, but if you don’t have a lid on your iced coffee, now it also doesn’t qualify just like the hot coffee doesn’t.”
Absurdities throughout the SNAP program, Lankford said, are going to need some reform. The SNAP program serves its purpose, Lankford added, but it has room for improvement.
The farm bill is a great tool, Lankford said, as it helps producers in the United States continue to produce our own food and fiber- many countries do not have this advantage. The crop insurance program, Lankford said, will be in the next farm bill, as it received a great deal of support.
Other issues producers are facing, Lankford said, relate to illegal immigration. Not having secure borders, Lankford added, is detrimental for the farming industry for a number of reasons.
“In Yuma, Arizona, two years ago they had eight thousand people that illegally crossed the border in that area,” Lankford said. “Last year, they had 310 thousand people illegally cross the border in that area. Tens of thousands of immigrants moving through farmer’s fields, Lankford said, are harming crops with foot traffic and leaving behind feces.
“We never want to incentivize illegal activity,” Lankford said. “That is by definition, a bad idea. We still do want to have legal immigration for individuals that want to be able to come work and then return back to their family or whatever country they are from.”
On the topic of inflation, Lankford said the administration is handling this by pushing up interest rates to slow down big purchases to slow down the economy.
“It is a really painful answer to a really painful problem, but it is not going to be quick,” Lankford said. “I don’t anticipate inflation is going to come down in the next few months. This is going to be a long-term process.”