Farmers urge support of farm bill priorities

Duckworth calls Peoria Ag Lab a national resource, vows to fight to keep it open.

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U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth met with farmers in Peoria this week and heard about the importance of crop insurance, among other issues. (Photo courtesy of Peoria County Farm Bureau)

By Deana Stroisch

A group of Illinois farmers Monday urged U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth to support crop insurance and keep Peoria’s Ag Lab open.

About 15 Farm Bureau members met with Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, at the Peoria County Farm Bureau office. They encouraged the senator to support Farm Bureau’s farm bill priorities. Maintaining crop insurance ranks No. 1.

Mike Shane, a farmer and ag lender from Peoria, said he explained how he moved back to help on his family’s farm just a year ago.

“It’s a big risk already, but without crop insurance, there’d be no way I’d put my family at risk with the devastation that can happen with a crop failure,” Shane said. “On top of that, I’m an ag lender, and there’s no way farmers could borrow money from us without any backing. With that crop insurance backing, if something happens, they’ll be able to pay the bank back.”

Jake Streitmatter of Princeville told Duckworth about the need to update county rental rates in the Conservation Reserve Program.

“Indirectly, I’ve run into where the government rental rates, since they haven’t been updated, are paying more than tillable farmland is, especially in the pollinator program,” Streitmatter said. “It just needs to be revamped.”

Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget cuts crop insurance by $26 billion over 10 years and reduces the rate of return for crop insurance companies, including COUNTRY Financial, among other cuts.

After the meeting, Duckworth noted bipartisan support to restore proposed cuts to agriculture, including crop insurance.

“Crop insurance is a cost-effective program,” she said. “Farmers have to buy crop insurance – it’s not a handout. And it allows them to help themselves and provides some stability as they go from season to season because you never know what the weather’s going to be like.”

Farmers also encouraged Duckworth to help restore funding for Peoria’s National Agricultural Utilization Center, eyed for closure for the second year in a row. Lawmakers last year successfully restored funding for the lab, which provides more than 250 jobs and contributes $100 million a year to the local economy.

“That ag lab is a national resource,” Duckworth said. “It is something that should remain. And I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep it.”

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