Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. lost 400 acres of corn this year because of spring flooding. The 2012 drought cost him even more.
“Fortunately, in both cases, we had crop insurance,” he told members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee this week. “By offering crop insurance in this farm bill, farmers have a tool to manage risk. … This also saves the government from additional requests to provide disaster relief each time a significant weather event impacts crop production around this great country.”
Guebert and dozens of others urged lawmakers last week to maintain the crop insurance program, support trade opportunities and increase funding for ag research, among other things, during the U.S. House Ag Committee’s farm bill listening session at Richland Community College in Decatur.
The 2 ½ hour meeting marked the fifth such session the House Ag Committee has held across the country. Illinois’ three congressional members on the committee attended: U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; and Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, also participated in the hearing.
Chad Schutz, IFB District 15 director and a grain and livestock farmer from White Hall, stressed the importance of the conservation title in the farm bill, particularly the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). His operation has transitioned to 100 percent no-till, which he described as a “game changer for how we farm.”
“Over the years, our family has been able to utilize the cost share in the EQIP program to install dry dams, tile lines and better use those resources that we have on our land and conserve our soil,” Schutz said.
David Erickson, IFB vice president, shared member-suggested ideas from farm bill work sessions held earlier this year. Erickson proposed implementing a commodity marketing loan program that ties loan rates more closely to the current price of commodities, while providing incentives for beginning farmers and farmers who plant cover crops.
Earl Williams Jr., IFB District 2 director from Winnebago County, urged support of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which helped his family’s operation transition to no-till.
“As I look forward, I realize that we as farmers are going to have to make a lot of changes on how we grow our crops in order to meet some of the needs of the nutrient reduction strategy to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that goes down the Mississippi. The program like CSP, which I strongly urge you to continue to support, is very important for allowing farmers to make that transition. It covers some of the risk in learning how to farm differently than we have in the past and gives us some of the tools and support needed to make that transition.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., remained committed to having a farm bill drafted late this year or early next.
“We’re ready to go back and get this done,” Peterson told reporters following the hearing.
Comments from Illinois’ Congressional delegation on the farm bill listening session
Davis: Reflecting on listening sessions in Texas, Minnesota and Illinois: “What really gets me about all three of them is the consistency of the issues that those in agriculture want us to address in Washington, D.C. It may be a different crop, but many of the same issues that face those different commodities and growing those different commodities are the same ones that face ours.”
Bustos: “This is one of the most bipartisan committees in all of Congress. We all work very well together. … We know how important the ag economy is to the health of our overall nation.”
Bost: “I appreciate hearing the feedback from participants during this listening session, and I thank Chairman Conaway and other members of the committee for making the trip to this event.”
LaHood: “We had a tremendous hearing, a lot of good feedback, a lot of good questions and comments. It reminds us: Ag is the No. 1 industry in the state Illinois.”
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.