The farm bill is a safety net for our families and the farmers who feed, fuel and clothe us. Unfortunately, the bill that’s been proposed by Agriculture Committee Chairman Thompson fails the Heartland in both of these critical missions. 

 Our farmers’ livelihoods are incredibly dependent on our weather and climate. The high level of uncertainty that results is the reason we’ve established safety net programs to help farmers in the event of things like drought, natural disasters and trade instability.

At every meeting of my agriculture advisory council, I constantly hear about the need to protect these programs and ensure that they meet the needs of our corn and soybean producers in Central and Southern Illinois. I’m deeply disappointed that the farm bill released by House Agriculture Committee Republicans fails to meet this mark by harming our ability to respond to emergencies and deepening regional disparities in our safety net.

The importance of rapid response during these emergencies is exactly why the secretary of agriculture has access to flexibility through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to support farmers in real-time. It helped Illinois farmers receive more than $400 million in CCC assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. But instead of maintaining this flexible tool, the 2024 Farm Bill redirects more than $53 billion away from the CCC and into safety net programs like Agricultural Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage, and the federal crop insurance program with a deeply flawed distribution. 

Besides the fact that the Congressional Budget Office can’t back up the math being used in the calculation of this shift, $45 billion of this supposed $53 billion in savings is diverted into Title I programs that disproportionately support growers of southern commodities like rice, cotton and peanuts when you look at payments per base acre. At the same time, only around $3 billion of these funds are added to crop insurance – the primary safety net used by our corn and soybean farmers across the Midwest. With these changes, this Farm Bill not only kneecaps the USDA’s ability to respond quickly to crises, but it also redirects those resources unfairly. 

The Majority is also playing favorites in an otherwise positive new effort to improve crop insurance by incentivizing policy writing in areas with high loss ratios. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to arbitrarily cut Illinois and four other midwestern states out of these improvements. While our state is lucky to have low loss ratios in most years, it’s unacceptable to discriminate against our farmers. 

Unfortunately, these aren't the only safety net programs weakened in this Farm Bill that would impact my constituents at home. Chairman Thompson’s farm bill privatizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), pulling back nearly $30 billion from the program over the next ten years, all while seeking to jeopardize the jobs of the unionized workers who administer it. This would mean that more than 55,000 families in my district and nearly 22 million American households would have less buying power at the grocery store, even as we continue to face high costs. In fact, this would be the largest cut to SNAP in nearly 30 years. 

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The bill also attempts to undermine the most important investment in our climate in history by removing guardrails from around $13.5 billion in Inflation Reduction Act conservation resources. These funds have supported climate-smart agriculture practices in every state across the country, and my Democratic colleagues and I have made it very clear that the IRA integrity must be preserved as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve soil health. 

These kinds of cuts to SNAP and changes to the IRA have been a nonstarter in farm bill negotiations since day one. And since then, we’ve seen time and time again that any major legislation can only make it over the finish line when we come together in a bipartisan fashion. 

Instead, this farm bill picks favorites among our commodities, takes food away from hungry families and rolls back historic investments in our climate. This isn’t just wrong; it also ignores political reality. The only farm bill that can pass the House and Senate brings together the needs of our growers and the hungry families they sustain. It’s only when this reality is recognized that we’ve been able to make real progress – and that’s what my constituents expect us to do with this year’s farm bill. 

I’ve met repeatedly with members of my agricultural advisory council to hear their thoughts on how this legislation impacts them and their operations.

We’re glad to see this bill include some important provisions regarding the Rural Energy Savings Program, funding and updates that support Illinois’ flourishing bioeconomy, a definition for sustainable aviation fuel, increased research facilities funding, a new Specialty Crop Advisory Committee and doubled funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.

But what sticks with me is that these strides are made alongside concerning changes to our farm safety net, and they come at the expense of hungry families and our climate. I cannot support a bill that fails the farmers and families I’ve been advocating for throughout this entire process. I’ll continue to remain deeply engaged as I push for changes to this bill and advocate for a bipartisan compromise that actually has a chance of passing both the House and Senate.

Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski is a freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving the 13th District of Illinois, which includes Champaign, Decatur, Springfield, the Metro East and dozens of communities in between. Budzinski is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.