Soybean farming marks Bustos' 61st 'Cheri on Shift'

Visit allows congresswoman to get Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau president's thoughts on tariff dispute with China, House version of 2018 farm bill.

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U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, helped plant soybeans in Warren County for her 61st “Cheri on Shift.” Jared Kunkle, president of Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau, explained the planting process and discussed other ag issues with Bustos. (Photo by Deana Stroisch)

By Deana Stroisch

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos helped plant soybeans for the first time this week on a Warren County farm while discussing the importance of trade and crop insurance.

During her visit, Jared Kunkle explained the planting process and the technology and shared how he and his wife, Rachel, became first-generation farmers in 2008. Kunkle serves as president of Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau.

“Ever since I was farming the carpet in my parents’ living room, I’ve always wanted to farm,” Kunkle said. Growing up, Kunkle often visited his grandparents’ farm east of Peoria, but his dad got out of farming when he was in his early 30s.

Kunkle said he and his wife made sacrifices to make his farming dream come true. “We’re very blessed with where we’re at right now,” he said.

Bustos’ visit marked her 61st “Cheri on Shift,” regular events held so she can learn more about the work done by her constituents. Although she comes from a “long line of farmers,” Bustos said she’d never been around a planter before. She seemed impressed by Kunkle’s enthusiasm and dedication.

“Jared’s a first-generation farmer,” said Bustos, D-East Moline. “It’s something we have to talk more about. For every farmer getting into this who’s under the age of 35, there are six farmers over the age of 65 who are getting out. So, Jared’s our future.”

Asked about the tariff dispute with China, Kunkle said he doesn’t have the “emotional reactions at first that some people do.”

“If we were to have all these tariffs slapped on, there’s a good chance it would be hard on commodity prices,” Kunkle said. “But at the same time, farmers are good at trying to be low-cost producers.”

Bustos said she remains concerned about the effect the proposed tariffs could have on agriculture.

“We’re dealing with an ag economy that’s struggling right now,” she said. “Commodity prices are down. When we’ve got China threatening to put tariffs on our corn and beans and pork, it’s very hurtful.”

During a recent roundtable discussion, Bustos said one farmer told her the proposed tariffs, if finalized, would cost his family $112,000 this season alone. “Multiply that by all the farm families that we have,” she said.

Bustos also said her disappointment with the House version of the 2018 farm bill. The House Ag Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 28-20. She predicted the bill wouldn’t pass the full House in its current form.

“It’s not going to get urban lawmakers’ votes,” she said. “You can’t knock 235,000 kids off the school lunch program. You can’t knock 3 million people off the nutrition program. And I don’t think Democrats are any different from Republicans as far as wanting people to work. … but when the administrative costs take up a great deal of the work requirements and when we have a state that wouldn’t be prepared to have that many new people in these work requirement programs. We’ve got to allow these pilot programs that we passed out of the last farm bill … let’s let those be implemented and then we can deal with the numbers in a much better way that’s more cost effective for the taxpayers.”

Bustos said Democrats received the text of the bill on a Thursday at 12:30 p.m. – days before they had to vote “on a two-inch thick piece of legislation without any of our input.”

Besides the nutrition component, Bustos said she’s concerned the proposed farm bill eliminates mandatory funding for rural development.

Kunkle, who invited Bustos back to help at harvest, said he appreciated the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with the congresswoman.

“It’s nice that she makes the effort to come out, get to know us and be able to take our stories back to D.C.,” he said.

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