Illinois farmers are praising a deal on the federal farm bill, which moved out of committee and passed the Senate on Tuesday.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the farm bill, a massive piece of legislation dealing with issues connected with the country’s agriculture sector and the food stamp program, moved out of a conference committee. The Senate also passed the bill.
Movement on the bill came after weeks of work in the conference committee where the House and Senate versions were brought together in agreement.
Illinois Farm Bureau Government Affairs and Commodities Executive Director Mark Gebhards said Illinois farmers are pleased the bill is moving forward.
“This is an extremely important piece of legislation for our farmers to provide that certainty, the risk management tools that they need especially at a time that we’ve been dealing with such uncertainty from a lot of trade issues.”
After being approved in the U.S. Senate, where Illinois' U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth voted "yes," Gebhards said the agreed bill that now heads to the House for a vote. He said the bill maintains a strong crop insurance program, provides various opportunities to increase conservation reserve programs, and increases marketing assistance loan rates.
Perdue said the farm bill provides a safety net for farmers, and money for research and trade programs. But Perdue noted that it didn't include reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps. Some lawmakers had been pushing to revamp a waiver process that states use to get around rules that require able-body adults without children to work in order to continue to get SNAP benefits.
“While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients ... the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities,” Perdue said in a statement.
Gebhards said Illinois farmers understand the importance of the SNAP reforms, but didn’t want the issue to delay implementation of the bill, or to kick the topic to the next Congress that will be seated next month. He said farmers need the bill and they need it now.
Gebhards said the issue of SNAP reform isn’t going anywhere.
“USDA will look at that issue form a rules standpoint as they implement some of the provisions for the SNAP programs,” Gebhards said.
Illinois has requested a waiver from the federal work requirements for 2019 for all counties except DuPage County, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. That mirrors the request they made for 2018.
More than 1.7 million people in Illinois got SNAP benefits in August, about 13.2 percent of the state’s population, according to IDHS.
The Foundation for Government Accountability reports that of the 346,000 able-bodied adults without dependents getting food assistance in Illinois, 9,000 are working. That means 74 percent of those getting benefits are not working.