IFB stresses farm bill passage a priority during D.C. visit


During a recent visit to Capitol Hill, Illinois Farm Bureau’s newly-appointed director of national legislation laid out the organization’s policy priorities to Illinois’ congressional delegation.

During the two-day visit, Ryan Whitehouse met with eight lawmakers and/or their staff, including U.S. Reps. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Robin Kelly, D-Chicago; Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap; Mary Miller, R-Oakland; Eric Sorensen, D-Moline; and Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville; as well as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield.

Topping the list of policy issues discussed was the farm bill, which has continued to face delays after the reauthorization was postponed a year to September.

“Our main message is farmers need a farm bill,” Whitehouse told FarmWeek, adding he encouraged lawmakers to work to get a farm bill done this year.

House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pennsylvania, says the committee will mark up a farm bill before Memorial Day, and expects to release farm bill text to the public several days before a scheduled markup, likely in mid-May.

Whitehouse said his sense is committee members want to move on the legislation.

“The Illinois delegation is optimistic and motivated to get a markup of the farm bill to be debated,” he said. “And IFB is appreciative and also motivated to get a markup going.”

IFB is asking its delegation to be “outspoken champions” on the importance for agriculture in getting a farm bill done, Whitehouse said, adding the organization remains open and committed to working with members on policy text.

Crop insurance, specifically maintaining the safety net, also was a priority Whitehouse discussed with lawmakers, as well as a fix to California’s Proposition 12, which places housing restrictions on farms that ship pork to the state and has major implications on pork prices, costs to farmers and interstate commerce.

Whitehouse said he specifically advocated for solutions to mitigate the issues Prop 12 creates for livestock farmers.

Coincidentally, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai was on the Hill during the same time testifying during House and Senate committee hearings on President Joe Biden’s trade policy agenda. With Illinois a national leader in ag exports, trade is top of mind for IFB.

Tai faced criticism in both chambers for the administration’s “feckless” stance on trade, as one member of the House Ways and Means Committee characterized, with lawmakers pointing to a lack of negotiations to open new markets for U.S. agricultural products and absence of enforcement actions against China.

USDA’s prediction of a record agricultural trade deficit of $30.5 billion for fiscal year 2024 — nearly double the $16.7 billion deficit in FY 2023 — also prompted lawmakers to demand more details about the trade agenda.

Whitehouse commended LaHood, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, for asking Tai about the status of negotiations with Brazil over the South American country’s 18% tariff on U.S.-imported ethanol.

Also while on Capitol Hill, Whitehouse thanked Durbin for his continued push for a summertime E15 sales waiver, referring to a recent letter to the Biden administration signed by the senator.

Previously IFB’s associate director of national legislation and policy development from 2013-2019, Whitehouse is no stranger to Washington, D.C.

Initially meeting with Illinois members of the House Ag Committee and members in farming districts, Whitehouse plans to meet with other members of Illinois’ delegation in future trips to Washington, D.C.

“It’s important for Illinois Farm Bureau to be seen on the Hill,” he said. “And Illinois Farm Bureau is a very reputable organization; every door was open.”


Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.