In this edition of Inside Democracy: From the Peach State to the Potomac, we highlight Congressman Rick Allen, who represents the Twelfth Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Augusta, Dublin, and Statesboro. Allen has served in the House of Representatives since 2015 and currently serves on the Agriculture Committee as well as the Education and the Workforce Committee.
Why is reauthorizing the Farm Bill important and how does it affect Georgia?
As the son of a farmer, I grew up working on the family farm, where I learned the value of hard work and the pivotal role that the agriculture industry plays throughout the world. In Georgia, agriculture is the number one industry, just as it’s the number one industry in Georgia’s 12th District. From blueberries to cotton to peanuts to our famous Vidalia onions, Georgia is rich with commodities that touch almost every part of the world, and we must protect those who do so much for our land and economy.
Simply put, our farm economy is not what it was five years ago. Farmers nationwide are facing a 52% decline in net farm income and have had their backs against the wall for far too long. While traveling Georgia’s 12th district, I’ve heard time and again that Congress must take action to address the economic hardships that have devastated rural America. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have worked diligently with my colleagues on the committee to draft H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, or better known as the Farm Bill, which just recently passed the House of Representatives. This important legislation protects crop insurance, strengthens rural development initiatives, modernizes rural broadband standards, and maintains and improves the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs.
Additionally, as we continue to see our economy grow with over six million available jobs in this country, H.R. 2 provides those currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with opportunities to prepare for gainful employment through education, training, or transitioning straight into the workforce. I believe that this generation has more opportunities than any before, and I will continue to stand firmly with rural America to implement policies that will allow all to achieve the American Dream.
With the current farm bill set to expire on September 30, Congress must come together to provide a brighter future for our American farmers. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues in the coming weeks to hammer out differences between the House and Senate-passed bills and send a meaningful farm bill to President Trump’s desk that will deliver certainty and commonsense solutions for our farming families.
Just six months after Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and it was signed into law by President Trump, our economy is soaring at new levels. What challenges and opportunities does this present?
At a very young age, my wife and I were blessed to have the opportunity to build our own construction company from the ground up, doing what every American family does by sitting down at the kitchen table, balancing our budget, and making payroll before seeing a dime. With this experience and the many hardships that came with it, I know just how difficult it can be to start and grow a successful business. Under our old tax system, many small businesses faced extreme barriers to growth; the tax code was complex, burdensome, and oftentimes a roadblock to success. That all changed when a little over six months ago, Congress passed comprehensive tax reform, which was quickly signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The proof is in the pudding when it comes to the impacts that tax reform is having on our economy. Small business optimism is at an all-time high, thousands of Georgians are already seeing lower utility costs, increased wages, and bonuses, unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly two decades and for the first time in history, we have more job openings than job seekers in America.
However, this level of economic growth brings new challenges that we must be prepared to face. Back home in Georgia’s 12th district, I have visited small business after small business and one question I always ask is, “What is your biggest challenge?” The answer to that question almost every single time? – workers! One of the top factors in where a business decides to locate is based on workforce, and with Georgia being named as the number one state to locate your business for five years in a row, our workforce needs in Georgia are even more dire.
As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I have been working with my colleagues to ensure that we have a qualified workforce that is equipped with the necessary skills to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. This is why I was a proud supporter of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act, and the PROSPER Act, both pieces of legislation that bridge the gap between the business community and our education efforts. Getting an education is essential, but it is equally important that our education efforts are aligned with the in-demand jobs in our communities.
The greatest joy of my life has been creating jobs for folks in my community, affording them the ability to provide for their family, for their loved ones, and their hometown—an opportunity that I believe should be available to all Americans. I am encouraged by the effects that tax reform and deregulation have had on our economy and will do all I can to ensure our small businesses have the workers they need.
What are you doing at the federal level to support priorities in Georgia’s 12th Congressional District?
Serving Georgia’s 12th District as their Congressman has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and during my time in Congress, I have supported and fought for the priorities critical to our area.
Providing for our military and protecting our nation is one of my top priorities—and under President Trump, we have increased defense spending significantly. Increased defense spending is not only about ensuring preparedness and readiness but also about building a 21st century military that is capable of fielding the threats of today, tomorrow, and beyond. Fort Gordon, one of the fastest growing bases in the country and future home of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, is located in Augusta. They are attracting the best and brightest, drawing new technology companies to the area. Fielding those threats is the mission of Fort Gordon and increased defense spending will help to facilitate improved training and capabilities in cyberwarfare.
The House recently passed the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, with my support, as well as the corresponding appropriations bills. These bills provide the largest pay increase for our soldiers in almost a decade, authorizes $99 million for military construction projects at Fort Gordon, and fully funds cyber operations.
Additionally, just as we take care of our soldiers in the field, we must care for them when they return home. Georgia’s 12th District is home to two VA hospitals, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta and the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin.
The VA has unfortunately been a failure for many veterans who needed its service. Throughout this Congress and with the help of the Trump Administration, we have made great strides to reform the VA to provide veterans with the care they deserve. Overall, about 20 pieces of legislation affecting our veterans have been signed into law in the 115th Congress – and nearly 50 more have passed the House.
One of the most meaningful bills passed this Congress and signed into law is the VA Mission Act. This critical legislation provides veterans more choice and expanded access to private care, so that the men and women who have served can finally obtain healthcare that works for them. It streamlines the department’s community care programs into one cohesive program to allow for more accountability within the VA. It also contains a number of provisions to improve and expand the VA’s ability to train, recruit, and retain the very best healthcare providers. I will continue to work with my colleagues and President Trump to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best possible care after their service.
Georgia’s 12th District is also home to every nuclear reactor in the state of Georgia: Plant Vogtle in Burke County and Plant Hatch in Appling County. Georgia-12 is leading the way in the expansion of our nation’s nuclear energy resources with two new nuclear reactors being built in more than 30 years at Plant Vogtle. The Nuclear Production Tax Credit is an important provision to the future of new nuclear, and we were successful in getting this important provision signed into law. By extending the Nuclear Production Tax Credit, we will continue to see America’s dominance in the global nuclear industry.
I have also been a strong advocate for addressing the spent nuclear fuel that currently sits idle in 121 communities across the nation, including at Plants Vogtle and Hatch. The House recently passed legislation in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion that implements a strategy to relocate nuclear waste off-site and provides practical reforms to our nation’s nuclear waste management policy, ensuring that the federal government fulfills its legal obligation to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste. I look forward to working with the Senate to get this important legislation across the finish line.