What is the Farm Bill?
Every five years, Congress passes legislation to set national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy, commonly referred to as the “Farm Bill.” This massive legislative package is an opportunity for lawmakers to address farming and food needs while securing critical funding for agricultural programs and research. While Congress is in charge of writing and passing the Farm Bill, it’s also responsible for oversight on the policies as they are implemented across the country.
What does the Farm Bill cover?
Commodity programs are rules and support systems the government creates to support farmers who grow crops and raise animals. These programs make sure farmers have emergency assistance and protection when they face challenges, like unpredictable weather or changes in markets.
The Farm Bill covers agricultural commodity programs and policies, including price and income support options for specific crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton. This legislation outlines these special rules and support systems specifically for subsidies, crop insurance, loan programs and disaster assistance to farmers.
Conservation programs aim to promote and support environmentally friendly and sustainable land use practices. The Farm Bill includes a number of programs intended to conserve soil, water and wildlife habitats.
International agricultural trade helps grow the American economy and support folks in rural communities. The agricultural trade components of the Farm Bill cover regulations, policies and negotiations surrounding imports and exports of agricultural products.
Nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) help to address hunger and make sure that everyone has access to healthy and nutritious food. These programs are designed to help people who may not have enough money to buy the food they need or who may not have access to healthy options.
The Farm Bill outlines eligibility criteria, benefit levels and the best way to bring nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families.
Access to Credit
Providing access to credit and financial assistance to family farmers and rural communities allows individuals and agricultural companies to plan their financial futures. The Farm Bill includes terms for farm loans, loan guarantees and other financial tools to support day-to-day agricultural business operations.
Rural development programs help to make critical improvements in smaller communities across the country, like supporting rural business and co-op development, constructing rural housing and expanding access to internet and healthcare services. The Farm Bill includes funding focused on supporting these programs to boost the economy in rural areas like those in Central and Southern Illinois.
Agricultural Research and Education
Not only is agricultural research essential to modernizing how we farm, but it’s critical in educating the next generation of farmers on new methods and technology. The Farm Bill focuses on funding vital agricultural research and education programs like those conducted out of the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Parkland College, Richland Community College and Lincoln Land Community College. This funding helps to improve agricultural productivity, address emerging challenges, promote innovation and spread knowledge to farmers and the rest of the agricultural community. In addition to great strides in crop research being supported by the Farm Bill, research programs like the National Animal Health Laboratory Network help our farmers learn more about animal health and production.
Our nation’s forests are critical to both our environment and our economy. The Farm Bill addresses forestry by allocating funding to support policies and programs dedicated to forest management, conservation and wood production. Additionally, it includes provisions for forest research as well as wildfire control and prevention.
In order to stay competitive in the global energy market and create a cleaner world for the next generation, our country must invest in research and technology supporting the transition to a clean energy market. The energy provisions of the Farm Bill encourage renewable energy production and energy efficiency in the agricultural industry and bring necessary funding to Central and Southern Illinois to support biofuels, wind and solar energy projects as well as energy conservation methods.
Horticulture and Organic Agriculture
Horticulture is the science and art of the development, sustainable production, marketing and use of high-value, intensively cultivated food and ornamental plants.
The Farm Bill supports farmers who engage in horticulture to ensure that we have a steady supply of fresh and healthy food. It also includes provisions for organic agriculture to support those growing crops and raising animals without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Crop insurance is a special kind of insurance that farmers can get to protect their crops from bad weather, pests or other things that could harm their plants and reduce their harvest. Just like people get insurance for their cars or homes, farmers can get insurance for their crops.
The Farm Bill includes provisions that help farmers recover some of the money they would have made from their crops if they were healthy and didn’t get damaged. Specifically, it outlines the rules and regulations for federal crop insurance programs and establishes premium subsidy rates and insurance payments.
Nikki’s Farm Bill Priorities
As a native of Downstate Illinois and the Representative for some of the most productive farmland in the country, Nikki is proud to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture to give family farmers in Central and Southern Illinois an important seat at the table as the 2023 Farm Bill is crafted. And she’s formed an agriculture advisory council to hear directly and regularly from local family farmers and stakeholders. In the package, Nikki is advocating for resources and policies focused on revitalizing rural America, supporting 21st century agricultural innovation and ensuring every family has access to healthy food options.
1. Supporting the Next Generation of Farmers
As years pass, the average age of farmers in Central and Southern Illinois continues to rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers over age 65 now outnumber farmers under age 35 by more than 6 to 1, and the average age of farmers in the U.S. is over 57 years old. Nikki is championing bills to support young and beginning farmers and other underserved farmers who are having a hard time entering the agricultural industry.
Nikki has introduced the Young Farmer Success Act, a bipartisan bill that would help America’s young farmers manage their student loan debt by making them eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The Young Farmer Success Act represents an important effort in preserving America’s agricultural economy and will ease the financial burden on young farmers. She believes that making farm and ranch workers more eligible for public service student loan forgiveness is a commonsense way to bring more young people into the ag workforce while strengthening our rural economies.
Most recently, she introduced the Increasing Land Access, Security and Opportunities Act. This bipartisan bill will expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Increasing Land, Capital and Market Access Program that was created in 2022 to support underserved producers. The Increasing Land Access, Security and Opportunities Act expands this program, authorizing funding at $100 million per year for the next five years and improving pathways for funding to reach young and beginning farmers.
2. Providing Resources for Rural Development
For far too long, communities in rural America have been overlooked and underfunded. With a seat on the House agriculture subcommittee focused on rural development, Nikki is focused on finding ways to reduce energy costs, continue to improve access to broadband and retain essential rural health care providers in this year’s Farm Bill.
3. Investing in Agricultural Research
With a leading ag research institution like the University of Illinois and top-notch community colleges like Richland, Parkland and Lincoln Land paving the way on cutting edge agriculture innovations, Nikki aims to champion funding for critical ag research programs. It’s why she is proud to serve on the House agriculture subcommittee focused on research, education, and extension programs where she is a strong advocate for research initiatives and educational programs.
Not only do these research programs help contribute to the local economy, but they also create better farming practices and new technologies that can reduce the impacts of climate change, cut energy costs and increase the crop yields.
4. Enhancing our Conservation Programs
Conservation programs in the Farm Bill focus on protecting and improving the health of soil, water, air and wildlife habitats. With some of the most fertile soil in the world, Central and Southern Illinois crop yields rely on maintaining soil health and integrity. Nikki is working to ensure that farmers receive financial support and technical assistance for their efforts to conserve their farmland.
5. Protecting Crop Insurance
Within the blink of an eye, extreme weather has the power to wipe out a farmer’s entire crop for that season. In the 2018 Farm Bill, 86% of corn and 85% of soy planted in Illinois were covered under crop insurance. In the upcoming Farm Bill, Nikki is looking forward to working on protecting crop insurance so that all farmers will have a strong safety net to fall back on if disaster strikes.
6. Promoting Biofuels
Expanding the role biofuels play in our nation’s fuel supply will reduce gas prices, support family farmers and cut harmful emissions: a win-win-win. As leading producers of corn and soybeans, communities throughout Central and Southern Illinois directly benefit from increased ethanol and biodiesel demand, Nikki is proud to be a strong supporter of biofuels as she works to help revitalize rural America and create new economic opportunities for family farmers.
During her first few months in Congress, she introduced the bipartisan Next Generation Fuels Act. This bipartisan legislation would phase in higher gasoline octane levels by increasing the use of ethanol — reducing prices at the pump for consumers.
Nikki believes that technological innovation is making corn ethanol even cleaner, and the Renewable Fuel Standard should be updated to recognize these advances. As a result, she introduced the bipartisan Fuels Parity Act. This legislation would allow ethanol from corn starch to qualify as an advanced biofuel and allow family farmers, consumers and the environment reap the benefits of increased blending. The bill would also require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Argonne GREET model to determine the greenhouse gas emission profile of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
7. Improving Food Access
More than 80% of funding in the Farm Bill is dedicated to policies that ensure every family can put food on the table – like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for low-income households. In the upcoming Farm Bill, Nikki is advocating to maintain strong nutrition programs and improving SNAP programs to ensure that those in need have access to healthy food and pathways to self-sufficiency.
Agriculture is the number one economic driver in the state of Illinois and in communities throughout the 13th District. The Farm Bill supports Illinois’ agriculture economy and opens the door to new jobs, sustainability innovations, advanced farming research and support to help revitalize rural communities.
Here’s how Illinois’ 13th Congressional District is impacted by the Farm Bill:
More than 54,000 SNAP Beneficiaries
In 2021, SNAP helped more than 54,000 families in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District put food on the table. That’s nearly 18% of our households. Here’s what this program means to Nikki’s constituents:
- For James, a 66 year-old from Urbana, the $55 a month he receives in SNAP benefits barely help him to get by. “If I didn’t have SNAP, I would starve,” he said.
- Kathy, a 66 year-old from Decatur lives on a fixed income of $1,088 a month. She gets $98 a month from SNAP and pays around $100 on food each month. As someone living with diabetes, Kathy shared that a lot of the high carb foods offered at local food banks send her blood sugar through the roof. She uses her SNAP benefits to buy fresh fruits and vegetables that help her to stay healthy. SNAP benefits, she said, are “a matter of life and death” for her.
- Don, a 56 year-old from East St. Louis, doesn’t know what he would do without the $100 he receives each month through SNAP. “It’s the only way to put food on the table,” he said.
The Farm Bill ensures that these families across Central and Southern Illinois can continue to access healthy food. Nikki is fighting to ensure that none of them go hungry.
National Leader in Soybean and Corn Production
Counties in Illinois 13th Congressional District lead the nation in the production of corn and soybeans. In 2022, Piatt County was the number one producer of soybeans in the United States, yielding 74,2 bushels per acre. Macon, Sangamon and Champaign counties each ranked in the top 10.
Illinois also had the top five counties in the country in total corn production, with Champaign County ranking in the top five counties nationally.
Headquarters to Top Biofuel Manufacturers and Agriculture Businesses
Not only is the 13th district a top producer of corn and soybeans, it’s also home to some of the world’s leading biofuel manufacturers and agricultural businesses.
With its North American headquarters in Decatur, Illinois, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) produces 375 million gallons of ethanol from crops grown in Central and Southern Illinois. And as one of the world’s largest nutrition companies, ADM is a leader in both human and animal nutrition, transforming crops into ingredients and solutions for foods, beverages and supplements for people all around the world. They also manufacture a wide range of products for livestock, aquaculture and pets.
Madison, Illinois is home to the headquarters of Green Plains — a leading ag-tech company using innovative processes to transform annually renewable crops into sustainable, high-value ingredients and fuel. Green Plains processes 300 million bushels of corn and produces 88 million gallons of ethanol annually. In other words, they convert a kernel of corn into sustainable products, mainly specialty alcohols and low-carbon fuel, for the global market.
And Prairie Farms, one of the largest and most successful dairy cooperatives operating in the Midwest and the South, is headquartered in Edwardsville, Illinois. Prairie Farms is a nationally recognized leader in the dairy industry known for setting the standard for milk flavor innovations and producing award-winning milk, cheese and cultured dairy products. Elements of the cooperative include more than 600 farm families, 7,000 associates, 50 manufacturing plants, over 100 distribution facilities and annual sales of over $4.2 billion. Their distribution footprint covers over 30 percent of the United States.
Home to the Farm Progress Show
Central Illinois is home to the famous annual Farm Progress Show, rotating each year between Decatur, Illinois and Boone, Iowa. The Farm Progress Show is the nation’s largest outdoor farm event that annually hosts over 600 exhibitors from around the world. Every year, this event brings thousands of producers and companies that are leaders of agriculture innovation together to see what’s next for the agriculture industry.
World’s Largest Producer of Horseradish
Collinsville, Illinois and surrounding area are home to an estimated 60% of the world’s horseradish root. Since this land is located at the bottom of a bluff which used to be in the Mississippi River Basin, the soil is rich in potassium, an important nutrient for horseradish growth.
Leading in Agricultural Research
As home to the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and many exceptional community colleges, like Parkland College, Richland Community College and Lincoln Land Community College, the Farm Bill is essential in churning out new research and technologies to advance American agriculture. Schools in Central and Southern Illinois are leading the way in 21st century agricultural research and education and helping to train the next generation of family farmers.
At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) is considered among the top agricultural schools worldwide. The ACES Program is unique because their academic programs range from engineering to finance, economics and law, to nutritional science and communications. The program’s goal is to discover, advance and apply new research to ensure nutritious and safe food, economically and financially strong families and communities and environmentally sustainable use of natural resources to benefit Illinoisians and people around the globe.
Another key agriculture research program can be found at the Midwest Center for Precision Agriculture at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. The Center provides students, employees, local growers and high school teachers the research and skills-based training to be successful in the agriculture industry. Their programs include one of the most advanced Precision Ag curricula in the Midwest, while our faculty, technology, facilities and company connections lead the way nationally in agricultural technology education.
Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois has a Department of Agriculture with some of the newest agriculture education facilities and resources in Illinois. Students train with cutting-edge technology, such as simulators and precision agriculture equipment, both in the classroom and outdoors in the “Land Lab.” And after two years, their graduates start out earning over $40,000 to $60,000 on average just one year after graduation.
And in the Metro East, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) has created the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) — a nationally recognized research center dedicated to the development and commercialization of biofuels, specialty chemicals and other renewable compounds. The Center’s fully functional dry grind pilot plant and laboratories are equipped with advanced biofuels capabilities including corn fractionation, pretreatment and a fermentation suite. Its facilities are staffed by industry veterans with more than 150 years of collective experience in fermentation and biofuels production. This knowledgeable team has the flexibility and expertise to design and carry out projects in any region of the advanced biofuels or specialty chemicals space.
Passing the Farm Bill
With the 2018 Farm Bill set to expire in September, 2023, it’s critical for the House and Senate to come together to pass a bipartisan package to renew essential programs that farmers and families rely on every day. Nikki has launched “Farm Bill 101” to highlight the ways this major legislative package impacts her constituents in Central and Southern Illinois. And she’s pushing her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to focus on passing a bipartisan Farm Bill this year. One that ensures families can put food on the table, guarantees safety nets that family farmers depend on, invests in research and development and provides desperately needed resources to rural communities.