U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with members of the Illinois Soybean Association to discuss Mississippi River navigation the prospects for a new Farm Bill this year and other agricultural priorities.
"Illinois' soybean farmers are a critical part of our state's economy," said Durbin. "Last year, severe drought conditions damaged crops throughout Central and Southern Illinois and nearly halted traffic along the Mississippi River. I commend the Army Corps of Engineers for responding so quickly to our navigation concerns this winter. It is good news that conditions have improved, but I will continue to look for ways to better prepare and plan for similar events in the future. In Washington, the Senate is working on a Farm Bill and reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act that will provide Illinois farmers with the assurances to they need to plan for the long term.
In 2012, 2,900 counties nationwide -- including every county in Illinois -- were declared a disaster by USDA due to drought conditions. Roughly 45% of the contiguous United States is still experiencing a drought, which is down from July when 73% of the country was experiencing drought conditions. While the majority of Illinois is no longer experiencing drought conditions, there are still serious concerns that a few bad dry spells could send us toward a similar situation this year.
Durbin also spoke with members of the Illinois Soybean Association about the need for Congress to take up and pass a new Farm Bill this year. In June 2012, the Senate passed a five-year Farm Bill that would have provided farmers with long term certainty necessary to recover from this drought while saving billions from the federal deficit. It made significant reforms to American agriculture policy by ending four different commodity subsidy programs and replacing them with more market-driven programs that only make payments when farmers experience a loss. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives failed to act before the 112th Congress adjourned and Congress was forced to pass an extension that failed to fund several programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill.