This Week in Washington


In North Carolina, the impact of the agriculture industry cannot be understated. It accounts for one in every five jobs throughout the state and provides more than $70 billion a year in economic activity. This vital industry serves as the main economic engine in many parts of our state, and our district serves as a perfect example of the importance of the industry.

Few people outside of our communities know of the wide assortment of crops grown here. Nor do they know that our district produces the most chickens in all of North Carolina. There's an unfortunate trend of people believing that the gifts of Mother Nature are an industry of the past, or that the hard work done on a farm has little to no impact on the general public. We need to educate folks and get back to promoting the importance of the jobs that God intended us to do, and so bountifully provided for us.

A friend once told me a story about a time they overheard a person remark, "What do I care about farms? I buy my food from the grocery store." Comments like this show a dangerous ignorance. Agriculture touches nearly every aspect of life. Many in Washington simply do not understand the importance of the work done in agriculture or its impact on all of our working families. From food prices to food safety to contributing the fibers and furniture that clothe us and furnish our homes, the things grown in our state help feed our nation and fuel our economy. It's a simple fact.

This week, the Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, which serves as a major step in the right direction to helping our state continue its recovery. While we will all never agree with every single aspect of this legislation, it's a way to move forward and look at the programs and opportunities that are working, and help make those growing industries stronger. Many talk about across-the-board cuts as the best solution to cut waste, but do not realize that we can cut entire programs that simply do not work and reward the programs that do, while still ending up reducing government spending.

We can cut costs by shifting tax payer dollars into programs that help us right here in our communities, putting people to work and protecting the industries we rely on, and end the wasteful spending that does nothing to provide or guarantee a safe food supply for our nation. At the same time, the Farm Bill serves as a way to take an even harder look at the unnecessary rules and regulations that hinder our farmers, hinder our businesses and intrude on lands our families have passed on from generation to generation--and throw those flawed laws out.

Our family farmers were our first environmentalists and have nurtured our lands for decade after decade, and it should absolutely never be government's job to tell them what's best for themselves or their business, what to grow or not grow, or tax them as they try to pass their legacy on to future generations. These industries built our area--and will continue to--and no arm of our government at any level should be able to stop that.

Here in North Carolina, we're blessed to have ever-growing agriculture-based industries that pair well with the manufacturing and service industries that call our district home. I've seen cotton grown in the heart of our district, just miles from my home, that is then spun into yarns and woven into fabrics and dyed to make shirts and clothing manufactured entirely right here in our state. Few other states have the opportunity to power their own economy at every step of the way, yet there are companies here that do it each and every day. If we better understand the importance of the land we're blessed to walk on, we can better realize the ways in which we can continue the hard work that made our nation great. There should be no partisan divide or bickering in any of this. In districts just like ours throughout the nation, people rely on the food grown and materials processed right here at home, and we need to continue to provide to as many people as possible and ensure that all of our industries flourish. You don't have to live on a farm to understand the importance of the farm. It's everywhere around us.

As the House of Representatives begins consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill, I continue to see this as a unique opportunity to ensure that the needs of our district are met. With such an economic reliance on the products created within the agriculture industry, and the many other industries they impact and benefit, we can use the Farm Bill to invest in our district, create jobs and ensure that the things we grow and create right here remain the best in the world. Our state relies on this industry and its benefits spread into so many other areas of our economy that it's important we embrace that fact and keep Washington out of the way. No matter who you are, whether you have ever stepped on a farm or not, passing a good, strong Farm Bill will impact your life, and I promise to do all I can to make sure it is a good one.