Illinois representatives sound off on failure of federal farm bill

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Last week’s vote on the federal farm bill, fell flat, leaving farmers wondering what’s going to happen. (Pixabay)

By Cole Lauterbach/Illinois Radio Network

WASHINGTON – A new Farm Bill faces an uncertain future after conservative House Republicans wanting a vote on an unrelated immigration bill joined Democrats in defeating the legislation.

Between Democrats opposing work requirements for food stamp recipients and conservative Republicans wanting a vote on a tougher immigration bill, they had enough votes to sink the Farm Bill. The 600-page legislation would renew the federal laws on farmer subsidy programs like reimbursement for crop insurance, but the biggest monetary portion goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

President Donald Trump wants to add a stronger work requirement for able-bodied SNAP recipients, something Democrats opposed.

The House bill would impose a work requirement of 20 hours per week or the equivalent hours spent in job training for able-bodied adults without dependents, a position that a broad majority of Americans favor.

In the midst of the partisan fighting, Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation and policy with the Illinois Farm Bureau, said politics are getting in the way of needed stability for farmers.

“Getting House passage would have been a little bit of a shot in the arm,” he said. “Instead, everybody’s wondering where do we go from here.”

Illinois’ Democrats all voted against the bill while all GOP representatives voted for it.

Rep. Rodney Davis said: “Tanking a bill critical to our farmers not because you disagree with the bill, but because you want a vote on something unrelated is wrong. Refusing to be part of the process because you think your party is going to win in November is wrong.”

Democrat Bill Foster voted against the bill. He called it “an attack on crucial benefits, including SNAP, that children, seniors, students, veterans, and working families need.”

Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, was disappointed with the lack of Democratic support.

“Farm bills have historically been a bipartisan effort, but that requires the other side to want a bill to pass and to not play politics,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, Illinois’ only Democrat outside of the Chicago area, said Republicans refused to work with Democrats on the bill, calling it a “fake” farm bill, adding that farmers have already been struggling from the effects of a growing trade war with China.

“Republicans wrote their own bill behind closed doors and barred the door when we showed up to work with them,” Bustos said.

Republican Mike Bost called the “no” votes shameful.

“There’s no other way of putting it – Washington politicians failed our farmers today,” he said. “I came here to get work done for the people of Southern Illinois and I’m outraged that some folks chose to play politics rather than provide our farmers, ranchers, and producers the certainty they deserve.”

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, wasn’t in attendance, but released a statement in opposition that said “the GOP majority attempted to pass harmful cuts to crucial safety net programs under the guise of the Farm Bill, undermining legislation with a history of bipartisan support.”

The 2013 bill also failed in its initial vote before being passed into law early the next year. The Senate could also vote on their own version soon.

Funding is set to expire Sept. 30 if a new deal is not reached.

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