Illinois Farm Bureau officials are pushing for farm bill passage during the lame duck session after the election. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
NORMAL - The Illinois Farm Bureau is now focused on the lame duck session for potential passage of the farm bill.
"We think it's just a matter of setting aside a couple of days after the election and getting it done, and getting the farmers the certainty they need as they move into another year," said Adam Nielsen, national legislative director for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Although the current bill expires on Sept. 30, Nielsen said there is nothing magical about that date.
"A lot of the programs will continue to receive appropriations like the food stamp program, crop insurance will not be affected, the commodity program, though, would be. We would have to have a new commodity program in place or the current one would have to be extended by the time they start rolling combines down in Texas to harvest wheat," said Nielsen.
The vote coming out of House Agriculture Committee prior to the recess was 35-11, which showed a lot of support for the proposal that would cut $35 billion out of the program over 10 years. Roughly half of those cuts are in the nutrition program, but those cuts are only one half of one percent of overall spending. It comes down mostly to tightening up eligibility requirements.
"I think some of the talking points have gone a little bit off on to the hysterical side there. In any $80 billion a year, there is room for savings. Certainly we on the farm side have said we don't need to have the direct payments anymore. We're willing to take a cut there," said Nielsen.
Nielsen believes the farm bill will be passed during the lame duck session. He said nutrition programs like SNAP are important for the food security of the country, and he reminded farmers that they, too, benefit from the existence of the programs.
"That program was responsible for putting more than $24 million into our local economy in 2011. If you look at the grocery store sales in Bloomington-Normal, that's going to be a significant portion of those sales," said Nielsen. "The program is important from a policy perspective that we provide for the basic nutritional needs of Americans. From a political perspective, it's important that we continue to tie nutritional spending with farm programs and conservation and research and all the other titles of the farm bill - crop insurance - so we can garner the biggest possible coalition of people pushing for a farm bill."
Nielsen gave the keynote address for Thursday's BN by the Numbers program presented by the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal area. He said he hopes those attending now realize that nutrition spending is the biggest part of the farm bill, and that they better understand crop insurance and have the facts when criticism of these programs comes out.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at email@example.com.