As we’ve noted, Rep. Tom Cotton, the only member of the Arkansas congressional delegation to vote against the Farm Bill, has attempted cover via an ad claiming that President Obama “hijacked the farm bill and turned it into a food stamp bill.” In fact, food stamps have been part of every Farm Bill since 1973, and connecting agriculture aid with food assistance to the needy goes back to the Great Depression. Cotton achieved a rare trifecta, as Factcheck.org concluded that Cotton had tried to “rewrite history,” Politifact gave the Cotton ad its worst “pants on fire” label, and the Washington Post gave the ad “four pinocchios,” also as bad as it gets. Someone on Twitter suggested calling this the “Full Cotton.”
The Pryor campaign today held a press call with three Arkansas farmers, who criticized Cotton for his vote and his ad. When asked about these critiques (see video above, via Talk Business), Cotton was disdainful. “Just because a liberal reporter calls himself a fact checker doesn’t make anything he says a fact,” he said. Curiously, the Cotton camp has been less critical of fact-checking sites when they criticize his opponent. The AP’s Andrew Demillo attempted to follow up about the inaccuracy of Cotton’s ad, Cotton insisted he was right. Confidently. Dubiously.
As for the farmers, a few notes from the call…
Dow Brantley of England, a row crop farmer and the chairman of the USA Rice Federation:
Especially in the rice industry, this Farm Bill was very important to us. That we maintain one and have one in place that was good for our industry, kept a safety net in place. Throughout the entire process, developing the bill and voting on the bill, Congressman Cotton was opposed to it from day one. His most recent ad about his reasons to vote ‘no’ were false. … It was difficult. That’s the first time I’ve experienced a congressman or senator – as a whole, our six legislators – to work against us on the Farm Bill. In my time of being around, we’ve always had large support from everyone no matter which party they’re in. … I was shocked that he would oppose it when one of every six jobs in this state is … from agriculture.
Jeffery Hall, a cattleman from Grant County:
When I look at Tom Cotton’s vote against the Farm Bill, it was extremely concerning. … We’ve just come out of two extremely dry summers, really put some guys at a disadvantage in the number of cattle they can run. This Farm Bill had a livestock disaster program … that was extremely beneficial to not only Arkansas cattelmen but cattlemen across the country that experienced some major droughts. … Tom Cotton’s extreme views was not based on the president hijacking the bill, which he did not. He was listening to the outside groups on this very important issue to Arkansas agriculture.
Hall called on Cotton to take the ad down after the wave of recriminations from fact-checkers, saying “he didn’t go ahead and explain why he voted, he tried to use the Obama administration and make false accusations on why he voted against the Farm Bill.”
Abraham Carpenter, a row crop farmer from Grady:
We’ve worked on that Farm Bill for forever. Sen. Pryor led the way. We all, as farmers agreed it wasn’t the best, but it was the best that we had. And at that particular time we had to have a Farm Bill. It was so disappointing Tom Cotton not supporting it. It was a slap in the face to farmers. Here we are on the ropes, had to have a Farm Bill, and he’s using the lame excuse that the president hijacked the Farm Bill. All that’s a lie. … Every time he wants to cover for the wrong things that he’s done, he’ll bring up the president’s name. Well, we don’t want to hear that. We want to hear, what you gonna do for the farmers?
“We don’t want to hear nothing about what Obama did,” Carpenter added. “We may not happy with Obama, but Obama is not in question now. This is a race for senator, and we need somebody we can trust.”
Cotton, of course, says that the Farm Bill is really just a “food stamp bill.” Someone on the call asked the farmers, “Can any of you make the argument of why food stamps should be part of the Farm Bill?”
Hall responded with the basic political logic of the Farm Bill: a coalition of representatives from rural and urban districts. “To get a Farm Bill past the finish line, it has to have something in it to bring the votes to get to that magic number,” Hall said. “I think Chairman Lucas, the Republican House Agriculture chairman, said it best: ‘I cannot pass the Farm Bill without food stamps in it to get my colleagues that don’t have agriculture districts to vote on the Farm Bill.'”
Hall also pointed out the obvious: groups like the Heritage Foundation oppose farm subsidies and food stamps. “They’re opposing the Farm Bill and wanting to split it out.” Hall said. “They too understand that. Once you split out the food stamps portion of the Farm Bill, then it makes it even easier for organizations like them to oppose the Farm Bill because they know it’s not going to get the votes anyways.”
Hall added that food stamps are used to purchase “products that us farmers provide the American people, so it goes hand in hand.”