As one of the largest agricultural districts in the country producing corn, soybeans, and biofuels, family farms are the heartbeat of our economy in the 16th Congressional District. Every five years, Congress is tasked with renewing the Farm Bill – comprehensive legislation that renews federal programs for agriculture, energy, and nutrition policy. The Farm Bill significantly impacts our communities, economy, and families in central and northern Illinois, making it critical that Congress pass a robust and timely extension of the legislation this fall. Investing in our rural communities means investing in the overall health of the American people, and I am working to protect and strengthen Illinois agriculture as Congress negotiates the upcoming Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is vital to connecting Illinois agriculture to the rest of our country, the food we put on our plates, and the fuel that keeps our communities moving. The Farm Bill covers several different agricultural programs and policies, including crop insurance, commodity support programs, training for beginner farmers, export programs for agriculture products, conservation of our land and environment, support for expanded rural development, and much more.
I am proud to say that the 16th District has some of the most fertile farmland on our planet. Many of the top output counties reside in the 16th district. McLean County led the nation in total production of corn and soybeans in 2022, with Livingston and LaSalle following closely for corn output. The same results are true for nationwide soybean production – McLean leading with Livingston and LaSalle close behind. Illinois also has some of the top counties for soybean and corn yield in the nation.
As I have traveled throughout the 16th Congressional District this past year, one of the top priorities I hear about is the pending Farm Bill reauthorization. With family farms in Illinois facing diverse challenges, we must protect vital programs in the Farm Bill like access to credit, crop insurance, and agricultural research and development funding. Farmers were challenged this past year with low rainfall and strong storms and weather impacts, with drought conditions discouraging farmers as it lowers the chances of a good crop. They also face economic challenges, like inflation and rising costs of everyday goods and inputs, and a spike in energy prices. Low rainfall and other economic disruptions underscore why it is critical that we support and enhance crop insurance in the upcoming Farm Bill – which protects producers against poor yields and returns, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters. While crop insurance does not fully replace the loss of a good crop, it acts as an instrument to keep farmers afloat during these tough times. In addition, we have the opportunity to bolster key conservation programs that can help the United States expand sustainability efforts, enhance productivity and strengthen our food supply.
Biofuels, particularly ethanol, provide our farmers and our state with a major economic engine that reduces costs for consumers at the pump and lowers carbon emissions. Moreover, Illinois is the 4th largest producer of biodiesel in the United States and contributes thousands of jobs to our state. As we work on the Farm Bill, I want to ensure that we maintain biofuels protections, while we continue to encourage the construction of new ethanol and biodiesel facilities in Illinois. Producing and expanding biofuels in our country will help reduce reliance on foreign imports, improving America’s energy security and independence.
Reauthorizing the Farm Bill is vital to protecting our family farmers and rural Illinois. The Farm Bill impacts all Americans and now is not the time for politics. Passing a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill supports our farmers and creates a reliable safety net for our producers – this needs to be a top priority for Congress this fall. As we approach the deadline to pass the Farm Bill, I will ensure that Illinois farmers and producers have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Peoria Republican, represents Illinois’ 16th Congressional District in Congress.