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Local Farmers Wait For Farm Bill
The waiting game continues for agriculture communities across the nation as lawmakers scramble to pass a half-trillion-dollar farm bill in the U.S. House by weeks end.
80% of the money the federal government spends on the current Farm Bill goes to nutritional programs like food stamps and that is precisely the area slated to see a substantial cut.
“We needed to have it pass last year. And it's been passed in the Senate but the House never dealt with it," Sangamon County farmer Ed Mies said.
It is déjà vu as Illinois farmers watch Washington closely. Once again the ball is in the U.S. House's court as lawmakers squabble over whether food stamps should see a 3% cut in funding.
"We've been waiting now for a year and a half, two years to try to get one passed. It's time for them to get it done," Sangamon County farmer Larry Beaty said.
Beaty is frustrated with the holdup but he acknowledges it is a difficult decision when it is not just money for food stamps that could bite the dust.
"Agriculture is about the only bright spot in this economy right now and without our agricultural products that we have our economy would really be in bad shape. I'd like to see the insurance maintained and I’d like to see a farm bill passed. It's important to us," Beaty said.
It is important to farmer Mies too and not just because of his personal stake in the business.
"Basically we have the lowest cost of food anywhere in the world because we have a farm bill which puts a lot of money into hot lunch programs and nutritional programs," Mies said.
The Farm Bill, which passed the Senate last week, proposes $2 billion dollars in cuts annually from funding for food stamps. That would leave 2 million food stamp recipients nationwide off the roll.
But local farmers say the budget must be balanced even if that means finding other ways to fund essential programs.
"All the money that used to go to like University of Illinois, there's no federal dollars anymore. It's mostly farmer funded. We need that basic research to keep pace with the world," Mies said.
The Illinois Department of Human Services says they are waiting for more information from the federal government before they can determine how many people who depend on food stamps would be affected by this proposed bill.
If the Farm Bill fails Congress will eventually have to file another continuance of the 2008 Farm Bill. It’s last extension was in January.