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Letter: Time to pass a farm bill

Published: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Since we can’t make it rain, the single most important thing Congress can do to assist producers affected by this year’s drought is pass a farm bill.

Most farmers will tell you they can survive one bad year, but right now farmers can’t plan for future years.

Nearly three months ago, the Senate passed a full five-year farm bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

It would reauthorize several expired disaster programs, extend several other programs to assist fruit and vegetable growers and dairy producers, and expand crop insurance coverage.

The Senate farm bill also would provide farmers with long-term certainty in farm policy that will allow them to plan out their recovery from this drought while still reducing the deficit by $23 billion. 

Unfortunately, the House won’t even bring a farm bill to the floor for debate.

Instead, House members offered an extension of a few disaster programs that do little to help Illinois farmers and producers that have struggled through this drought.

Nearly 63 percent of the country is experiencing some level of drought. Every county in Illinois has been declared a disaster by the U.S. Agriculture Department.   

And while our first thought during a drought is the impact on crop farmers, these conditions have a serious effect on businesses and economic growth throughout the state. About 1.5 million Illinois workers are employed in agribusiness industry, which contributes more than $8.85 billion to the state’s economy annually.

It’s time for the House to take up and pass a farm bill with robust disaster assistance and the long-term policy farmers need. If the House can’t write a bill, members should at least call the bipartisan Senate bill for a vote as soon as possible.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Assistant Senate majority leader

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