BLOOMINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Thursday that if everything goes the way he wants in the new farm bill, which is set for a House vote on Friday, Central Illinois residents should see benefits.
“We took the advice from a lot of farmers and producers and talked one on one with many of them, both in Illinois and in Washington D.C.,” the Taylorville Republican said during a conference call with media. “We believe we put a good farm bill together when it comes to addressing some of the issues that the last farm bill may have caused when it comes to implementing agriculture policy.”
The new bill protects crop insurance, improves commodity protection programs, strengthens agriculture research and makes significant investments in workforce training, Davis said. It also would offer more job search resources to help recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called the food stamp program, which accounts for about 80 percent of the farm bill's annual spending.
Davis helped write the last farm bill four years ago and assisted with this one as a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
“There is a big difference between the last time and this time and that is that now we have a growing economy,” he said. “We have an unemployment rate of around 3.9 percent. Some areas of my district had double-digit unemployment four years ago.”
“In Illinois, 67 percent of work-capable adults are on SNAP without work,” Davis said. “The new bill would make more resources available to help them find work.
"We need them to be able to access our community colleges like Richland, Parkland and Heartland and train these people so they can get good, high-paying jobs right away.”
Davis said he feels the bill could have a rough time getting through Congress because of political rather than philosophical issues.
He isn’t the only one, said Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau’s national legislative director. Several conservative and libertarian Republican members of the House, known as the Freedom Caucus, may withhold their votes until a vote on immigration moves forward.
“It’s just anybody’s guess right now how this will evolve,” he said.
“There are several different wrinkles, of course, but by and large, the changes are not revolutionary, but are evolutionary,” he said. “The bill four years ago was revolutionary, but the way this looks, it isn’t going to have a major impact on Farm Bureau members.
“For our farmers and producers, we just didn’t want to mess with the success of the last farm bill,” Davis said. “We took their advice and tweaked around the edges, but in doing that, I think we made it better for them.”