Western Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, voted late last night to advance the bipartisan, five-year Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 1947), better known as the Farm Bill, out of the House Agriculture Committee and to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber. Last year, Congress failed to pass a five-year Farm Bill, so instead a short-term extension was passed which expires this September.
The bill contains an amendment sponsored by Bustos that would help aid improvements to river transportation infrastructure, flood prevention, and drought relief, including the aging locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. It also provides for a stable and strong crop insurance program. It passed through committee with a large bipartisan vote of 36 to 10.
“With the short-term Farm Bill extension set to expire in September, our farmers and the others in our region who rely on agriculture for their livelihood deserve the certainty and assurances that come with a bipartisan, five-year Farm Bill so they can plan for future investments and growth,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “I am pleased and encouraged that my amendment to help improve the river transportation infrastructure, flood prevention, and drought relief in our region was incorporated into the bill. 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.”
“It is my hope that House leadership will bring the Farm Bill to the floor for consideration by the entire chamber, so that we can iron out our differences with the Senate and send the bill to the President’s desk by the fall,” Bustos continued.
Highlights of the Farm Bill include:
Bustos-sponsored amendment that would aid improvements to river transportation infrastructure, flood prevention, and drought relief:
- The amendment sponsored by Bustos specifies that as the USDA updates its study on rural transportation issues that is 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 provide the food our nation, and world, depend on.
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 reduced crop insurance premiums for beginning farmers, expanded the definition of socially disadvantaged farmers to include veterans, and established a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison to connect returning veterans with agricultural training opportunities and resources.
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.
Although the bill does contain cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Bustos voted for several amendments which would have restored funding to help feed hungry children and families as they strive to get back on their feet.