U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Robert Flider to discuss the potential disruption of navigation on the Mississippi River due to historic low water levels, and steps that are being taken to minimize the impact this would have on Illinois farming communities. The Mississippi River is a critical transportation artery for essential commodities, such as corn, grain and oilseeds, coal, petroleum and other products.
"This was a tough year for farmers in Illinois. After a summer of high heat and little rain, farmers that rely on the Mississippi River to transport their goods must now contend with the possibility that low water levels will force barge traffic on the river to come to a halt," Durbin said. "I have met with the Army Corps of Engineers to make certain we are doing all we can to keep traffic on the river moving safely for as long as possible, which includes expediting the process of removing rock pinnacles to improve navigation. I will remain in regular contact with industry and the Corps as we continue to carefully monitor the water levels in the river."
Durbin has also called for a meeting with state and local officials and representatives from industries such as agriculture and shipping for a briefing from the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss maintaining navigation on the Mississippi River through means other than releasing additional water from the Missouri River.
With both Nelson and Flider, Durbin also discussed the critical need for the House of Representatives to pass a full five-year Farm Bill. In June, the Senate passed a new Farm Bill with a strong bipartisan vote which would save $23 billion in taxpayer money over the next ten years and strengthen initiatives that help America's agriculture economy continue creating jobs. Although the previous Farm Bill expired on September 30, the House of Representatives has not yet considered the legislation.
"We can't make it rain, but one thing we can do to help our farmers right now is pass a full five-year Farm Bill. The Senate passed a bi-partisan Farm Bill six months ago. The House of Representatives has refused to even call that bill -- which includes savings of $23 billion -- to the floor. If the House of Representatives would just roll up their sleeves and pass the Senate Farm Bill, we could start reducing the deficit in a way that is supported, not only by a bi-partisan group of senators, but also by nearly every major farm group," Durbin said.
The Senate-passed Farm Bill reauthorizes several expired disaster programs to immediately help producers; provides a safety net for producers; makes investments in rural communities, research, and energy development; protects nutrition programs and saves taxpayers $23 billion over the next ten years. It would also provide farmers -- and the businesses that rely on those farmers -- with long-term certainty in farm policy that will allow them to plan out their recovery from the ongoing drought crisis.