Senator Lamar Alexander on Monday highlighted the importance of agriculture in a speech to the Tennessee Farm Bureau, calling farmers the “original conservatives” and pledging to keep pushing their priorities – such as the farm bill – while fighting burdensome regulations and Obamacare.

“In Tennessee, farmers work on more than 77,000 farms and take care of approximately 10.8 million acres of land. That means they’re doing a full day’s work before many people even start the workday, and shows why agriculture is one of Tennessee’s most important industries,” Senator Alexander said. “It is my hope that legislation that improves certainty for farmers and allows them to increase production will become law, and that we can continue to push back against burdensome regulations. Farmers are the original conservatives, because they conserve and preserve the land for future production and future generations.”

Senator Alexander spoke in Franklin at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Farm Bureau, applauding the nation’s largest state farm bureau and its leaders for their work on behalf of farmers. The senator discussed a number of farm bureau priorities that have seen progress, including passage in the U.S. Senate, as well as challenges facing the industry that he intends to continue fighting against, such as the higher costs Obamacare is imposing on farmers.

Senator Alexander highlighted the following Farm Bureau priorities:

  • A five-year farm bill to provide certainty to Tennessee farmers. Senator Alexander supported the Senate-passed bill and said he hopes negotiators can reconcile differences between that legislation and a House version, to give farmers a five-year farm bill. Senator Alexander said, “This bill not only makes significant spending cuts, but it also reforms and modernizes agriculture programs and provides farmers the certainty they need to make future production decisions. It’s time for Congress to act.”
  • Passage of immigration reform that secures the U.S. border while creating an immigration system that respects the rule of law and provides farmers with the labor force they need. The Senate has passed immigration reform, and Senator Alexander said he hopes the U.S. House of Representatives will “improve the legislation and finish the job.”
  • The Water Resources Development Act to prioritize U.S. ports and inland waterways. Both the Senate and House versions – currently awaiting action by a conference committee – include portions of Alexander’s plan to replace Chickamauga Lock. Senator Alexander said, “More than 11 million tons of agriculture products are transported on Tennessee’s waterways annually, including 70,000 tons through Chickamauga Lock.” Both versions also include Alexander’s “Freedom to Fish” legislation to permanently stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from constructing physical barriers below 10 dams on the Cumberland River.

Senator Alexander also highlighted concerns for the agriculture industry, including:

  • Burdensome regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those include requirements Alexander has pushed back against that would have farmers make costly upgrades to store fuel on their farms, as well as overreach on the Clean Water Act, which could regulate puddles in farmers’ fields.
  • Obamacare, which Senator Alexander said is increasing insurance costs and limiting options for Tennesseans, including farmers and businesses in the agriculture industry. Alexander said, “I’m fighting to repeal and replace Obamacare with step-by-step reforms that will reduce health care costs by encouraging competition, and put Tennesseans in control by giving them more choices.”
  • “Obamacare II,” a rule change by Senate Democrats seeking to circumvent Republican opposition by allowing 51 votes to confirm presidential nominees – instead of 60. This will make it easier for President Obama to appoint people who will enact his “radical regulatory agenda,” Senator Alexander said.
  • Washington’s out-of-control spending. Senator Alexander said his Fiscal Sustainability Act, introduced with Senator Bob Corker, would reduce out-of-control entitlement spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years. He also noted that he has cosponsored legislation to repeal the federal estate tax, known as the death tax. Senator Alexander said, “Washington needs to address the out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving our $17 trillion debt and taking money out of your pockets.”