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Bustos: Compromise was needed to get Farm Bill passed

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While the new federal Farm Bill doesn't contain everything for everybody, it is still one that will bring some certainty to farmers for the next five years, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-17, said Friday.

Bustos, speaking to about 50 farmers at an event at the Peoria County Farm Bureau on the day the new Farm Bill was signed into law, said Congress avoided destructive changes to the crop insurance program and protected farmer safety nets.

"Overall, I think we did a pretty good job. You know the Mick Jagger song, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want?' That's what this feels like," Bustos said. "But at least we got a bill, the first five-year comprehensive Farm Bill we've had since 2008. I'm pleased we got that far."

Bustos, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee even though she is a freshman on Capitol Hill, said uncertainty was the chief concern among the farmers she talked with during her first year in office. Coming from a long line of farmers in her family, she said she understood those concerns, which was why she fought hard to keep crop insurance at least stable for the life of the new bill.

She said there are other parts of the new bill she feels good about, including making it easier for younger generations to have access to low-interest, start-up loans so they can go into farming.

She said she is pleased that there are no cuts in nutrition programs in Illinois and that the bill actually adds some funding for food banks around the state. While overall there will be some cuts in nutrition programs, including food stamps, they will not be as heavy as some had proposed.

The ag committee, Bustos said, fought hard on that issue as it faced many urban lawmakers, "some of whom have never seen a cow or a pig and do not understand farming. But they do understand hunger."

The next step is implementing the new bill and Bustos said she will want to hear from farmers as that step progresses. "I turn to you for advice because you do this for a living," she said. "My message to the USDA is let's move on implementing this bill so our farmers know what to expect."

Bustos was asked about renewable energy issues, including a recent statement by the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that suggested cutting funding to ethanol. She said she wrote to the EPA asking that it rethink that position because of its economic importance to Illinois and other farm states and because of the importance in reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

She also discussed the need for improvements to the nation's system of locks and dams, particularly those integral to the movement of crops on U.S. rivers. Bustos introduced the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Now Partnership Act that encourages private-public partnerships to upgrade the locks and dams systems.

The House Transportation Committee, of which she is a member, hopes to have a Water Resources Bill before Congress in the coming weeks that will address those concerns.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).