Online Staff Report
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, announced her support of the first bipartisan, five-year Farm Bill since 2008.
In 2012, Congress failed to pass a five-year Farm Bill, so instead a short-term extension was passed which expired last year.
The bill contains an amendment sponsored by Bustos that would quantify the impact upgrades to river transportation infrastructure, including the aging locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, would have on agriculture.
Waterway infrastructure is a vital component in our agricultural markets and this amendment will strengthen the case for investments in river transportation improvement projects. The Farm Bill also provides for a stable and strong crop insurance program and maintains funding for programs that help feed hungry Illinois children and families.
“From the day I took office, I’ve been committed to doing my part in relieving the uncertainty and unpredictability that Illinois farmers and producers have faced for years without passage of a comprehensive, five-year Farm Bill,” Bustos said. While not perfect, I’m encouraged that Democrats and Republicans finally came together today to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that will protect our region’s economy, critical nutrition programs and create jobs.
“I’m also pleased that my amendment to help improve the river transportation infrastructure was included in the Farm Bill that passed today. This bill also provides for a stable and strong crop insurance program so our farmers, who are at the mercy of Mother Nature, can continue to grow the food our nation, and world, rely on.”
Highlights of the Farm Bill
—Aids improvements to river transportation infrastructure, flood prevention, and drought relief. The amendment requies the USDA to update its study on rural transportation issues to examine the impact of river infrastructure on the production and movement of agricultural goods and the benefits of upgrading and repairing our waterway infrastructure, in particular the aging locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. This would aid not only river transportation infrastructure but also flood prevention and drought relief in the region.
—A stable and strong crop insurance program. Illinois farmers have endured some of the most extreme weather events in recent years, including record floods and extreme drought. The bill keeps a stable and strong crop insurance program in place so that farmers who are at the mercy of Mother Nature can continue to feed our nation and the world, while conserving and protecting critical habitats and fragile soils.
—Encouraging veterans, and other young people, to become involved in agriculture. The bill helps build the pipeline of young farmers by reauthorizing and amending several beginning farmer and rancher programs. For instance, the bill reduces crop insurance premiums for beginning farmers, expands the definition of socially disadvantaged farmers to include veterans, and establishes a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison to connect returning veterans with agricultural training opportunities and resources.
—Increasing agricultural exports. The bill provides mandatory funding for the Market Access Program which helps producers and trade groups to build commercial export markets oversees to sell U.S. goods, so they can continue to feed the American people and those the world.
—Encouraging job creation, healthy living, and increased access to food. The bill helps establish the Healthy Food Finance Initiative – a program that creates jobs, helps small businesses and local economies, eliminates food deserts, and promotes public health. It also provides loans and grants to food retailers, cooperatives, and farmers markets to establish or expand stores in rural and underserved areas to provide consumers living in food deserts access to healthy and affordable foods. The legislation also Provides $20 million per year in additional support for food banks and SNAP incentive grants to increase purchases of fruits and vegetables.
Jan. 29, 2014