WARD, Ark. – US Senator John Boozman is taking his annual tour of agriculture in Arkansas this week. He talks with farmers and other stakeholders in ag to hear about their issues and concerns.
On Wednesday he stopped by Sortomme Family Farms in Ward to see a smaller operation in the state.
Levi Sortomme has over 600 acres he farms and has a small number of livestock and bees but he’s mainly a hay farmer. He also wears many different hats with it being just a family farm.
“I’m not just a guy driving around on a tractor, that’s not it at all. Between my wife and my children we’re accountants, we’re doctors, we’re veterinarians,” Sortomme said.
He has seen the same struggles as larger farm operations. Shortages on parts and rising prices for example don’t affect him differently than those big spreads.
“That microeconomy that’s there, all with what we have, as our costs go up, everybody else in the United States with end-consumer products goes up as well,” he said.
Boozman says agriculture is the backbone to Arkansas’ economy.
“Agriculture is so important, it’s 25% of the state’s economy but also when you get out of any town of any size it’s probably 85 or 90% of the economy,” Boozman said.
Boozman said one of the biggest things smaller farms throughout the state do is help provide for their communities. Whether it be farmer’s markets or working with local organizations to prevent food insecurities.
“And that’s why we’re out here talking to farmers and we’re also talking to people who work in the school cafeterias. All this blends together,” Boozman explained.
Sortomme is also full-time in the Air National Guard. He says there are many similarities and skill crossovers between the military and agriculture. He mentioned things like a regimented schedule, a “mission” to complete, and work ethic as examples.
He says the two are rarely mentioned in the same breath but is trying to change that with his work through the Farmer Veterans Coalition. The Coalition helps veterans get into the agriculture industry and also assists those who are already in agriculture. Boozman says Sortomme’s work with the FVC has been vital, and will continue to be, for vets and farmers.
“Working together to support each other and to help make each other successful,” Boozman said.
Boozman says he is gathering information and listing the concerns that farmers all across Arkansas have and can hopefully apply it to the next farm bill in Congress. Boozman said normally the farm bill is done every five years so the next one to come up will be in 2023.