Durbin Announces Final Passage of Farm Bill That Will Help Illinois Farmers & Working Families
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Illinois farmers will finally have the certainty they need to make plans for the future, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today following Senate passage of the Farm Bill conference report. The legislation will save roughly $23 billion over the next 10 years compared to pre-sequestration budget levels, and reforms several titles to help producers better manage risk, makes key investments in energy and research, ensures programs are in place to help rural communities grow and thrive, and helps those most in need put food on the table. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives last week, now heads to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.
“After repeated delays and short term extensions, today’s vote is a relief to Illinois farmers who have been waiting two years for House Republicans to come to the table and agree on a Farm Bill,” Durbin said. “This Farm Bill not only ensures stability for our farmers, but it will also invest in rural development, energy and agricultural research. I wish this bill took more responsible steps to reduce crop insurance subsidies for those who can afford it, while preserving the safety net for those who need a helping hand. But this bill is going to move us forward. Illinois’ economy starts on the farm, and this Farm Bill will give our farmers the certainty they need to plan for another crop year.”
The Farm Bill includes funding and reauthorizations for numerous programs that will benefit Illinois’ farmers and rural communities, including:
The Farm Bill repeals outdated direct payments to producers and replaces them with more market-driven programs that make payments when farmers experience a loss. The bill protects crop insurance as the primary safety net for producers, while improving environmental protections by making conservation compliance a requirement for receiving premium support.
The Farm Bill consolidates several rural development programs with similar goals while maintaining a strong commitment to rural communities. In 2013, programs authorized in the rural development title invested $629 million in support of rural Illinois, including funding rural housing, economic development, and essential community facilities.
The Farm Bill maintains robust support for agriculture research programs like those conducted at the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, and the Peoria Agriculture Lab. The bill creates a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which will solicit, accept, and leverage private donations to enhance research activities focused on the most pressing challenge facing American agriculture.
The Farm Bill streamlines conservation programs to find savings while still protecting some of our most sensitive lands. The Farm Bill reauthorizes the Conservation Reserve Program, which protects some of our most sensitive land from production, including more than 1 million acres of land in Illinois. The bill also increases funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which assists producers in developing and implementing conservation plans. During the last fiscal year, this program provided $18.7 million to support conservation practices in Illinois. Finally, the Farm Bill creates a new Regional Conservation Partnership Program to improve soil quality, water quality, or wildlife habitats in areas of highest need. The Great Lakes, the Mississippi, and the Illinois Rivers could all potentially benefit from this program.
The Farm Bill increases mandatory funding for important programs – like the Specialty Crop Block Grant program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program – that support local foods. Last year, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program made 13 awards totaling $540,000 in support to Illinois growers. These programs help support small producers who support local, sustainable food economies, while also encouraging healthy eating. The bill also includes provisions to will make it easier for individuals to utilize their SNAP benefits at farmers markets and community supported agriculture plans.
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