U.S. Rep. Austin Scott represents the Eighth Congressional District of Georgia, which covers the mid-south portion of the state, including offices in Warner Robins and Tifton. He has served in the House of Representatives since 2011 and currently serves on the Agriculture Committee and the Armed Services Committee.
You are a member of the House Agriculture Committee which writes policy that directly affects millions of farms and rural communities in Georgia. What are your priorities on the Committee and what do you hope to see in the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill which is currently undergoing final deliberations?
No country that must import food for their people is truly a free country. America is blessed with a rich agricultural industry. Our growing seasons and developing technologies enable our farmers to produce enough food for America while also providing the ability to export billions of dollars’ worth of agriculture commodities to countries around the world. This is a tremendous global advantage for America, and I think that we take for granted that we will always have this luxury. As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, I am always looking for new ways to ensure we do everything we can in Congress to make sure agriculture remains one of America’s greatest assets.
Protecting our advantage requires a strong safety net in the farm bill to provide farmers the ability to limit the downside risk from natural disasters and other circumstances that are outside of their control. In conjunction with commodity markets, farmers can effectively limit downside risk and continue to produce through the toughest of years.
Also, one of the things that has changed on the farm in the last couple of years at an exponential rate is the use of technology. I, and many others on the Agriculture Committee, have been focused on access to technology in our rural communities. This is not just an issue for the farm. It is an issue for economic development, and it is imperative for ensuring growth and stability in rural areas of our country. In many places, our communities need access to quality broadband more than we need new roads and bridges to help grow our rural economies. Extending our nation’s broadband network to rural areas will significantly increase productivity and efficiency while bringing our smalls towns into the 21st century.
You owned and operated an insurance brokerage firm for nearly twenty years. What are your priorities when it comes to fixing the health care and insurance system?
My father is a surgeon, so I have seen all sides of this issue. In looking to address the issues plaguing the health care and insurance system, we need to start with the facts: Americans are forced to pay too much for healthcare, there were problems prior to the Affordable Care Act being passed, and there are more problems now.
The consolidation in the insurance industry, as well as the mergers between huge insurance companies, mammoth pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) and national retail pharmacies that unfortunately are being approved by the Federal Trade Commission, are going to reduce competition and eliminate any hope of transparency in the health care market. Simply put, I don’t believe these consolidations are in the best interest of hard-working Americans.
I represent twenty-four counties, and in twenty-one of those counties there is no competition in the insurance market. I have been fighting for Americans’ best interests by calling for the end of an exemption insurance companies currently enjoy that exempts them from the antitrust laws of our country so we can interject more competition back into the marketplace.
Keeping small business in health care is also important. Hometown pharmacists and small medical practices are increasingly being forced out by PBMs and other exclusionary contractual arrangements. The key to their survival and patients’ access to care is to shift more of the roles of health care management to the states. I do not think that it is possible to resolve this issue with one piece of legislation at the federal level, but I do think if you level the playing field by making all parties subject to antitrust laws, inject transparency, and allow all fifty states to develop solutions that work best for their citizens, Americans – especially those who live in rural America – can get good health care at a lower cost.
The home to nine military installations, Georgia plays an important role in our nation’s national security and defense. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, what are you doing to ensure our installations remain robust pillars of the communities they call home?
Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District is home to two military bases that are instrumental to our national defense: Robins Air Force Base in Houston County and Moody Air Force Base in Lowndes County. In mid-August, President Trump signed into law the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and Georgia was a big beneficiary of this year’s bill. From research and development to purchasing new equipment to providing better care for our troops, their families, and retirees, the impacts of this legislation will be felt in our military communities and throughout the state. I am also very happy we were able to secure a 2.6% pay raise for our troops – the largest in nearly a decade.
For me, the key has been working with the local leaders in the community and the leadership on the bases to find solutions challenges when we see them coming. These challenges are inevitable. I have found our base commanders and community leaders are very proactive in addressing them, and it’s my job on the House Armed Services Committee to help get the resources they need to address these challenges through the NDAA process.
Our men and women in uniform and our civil servants are not only an integral part of our national security, but they are also integral components of our communities. It is an honor to represent the men and women at Robins and Moody and their families, as well as the thousands of veterans and Department of Defense civilians associated with the bases, and they can rest assured I will continue to fight for them in Congress.
Atlanta is certainly the largest economic center in Georgia and one of the largest in the country. What are your priorities when it comes to ensuring our rural communities and small and mid-sized cities are able to grow their economies and provide good-paying jobs?
Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our country, and it is critical we ensure a business-friendly environment that fosters innovation, job creation, and economic growth. There is perhaps no better example of Congress’ commitment to growing our economy than in the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the first major overhaul of our nation’s tax code in over thirty years. Since implemented in January, Georgians are seeing more take-home pay, a booming economy, and thousands of new jobs throughout our state. While tax reform is certainly something to celebrate, I believe there is much more we can do to ensure Georgia remains a great place to live, work, and do business, and I am looking forwarding to continuing to deliver those results for Georgians in every corner of the state.
Interstate 285 is not a magic dome, so make no mistake about it, when Atlanta suffers, rural Georgia suffers, and when rural Georgia suffers Atlanta suffers. We are partners, and that is the way I see it. If it is good for Atlanta, I will help make it happen, and likewise the Members of Congress representing the Metro Atlanta region have always been willing to help rural Georgia.