U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, whose district includes Whiteside County, voted for a farm bill this week that she said provides farmers with "strong and stable" crop insurance. It would also eliminate a subsidy program for corn and soybean farmers.
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee, which includes Bustos, voted 36-10 for a farm bill that would, among other things, trim food stamps.
The bill does away with direct payments to farmers, which are controversial subsidies made every year whether farmers grow crops or not. Now, growers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and other crops get about $5 billion in such payments.
Under the House bill, some of the savings from the eliminated payments would go toward cutting the federal budget deficit. But much of the money would go to new subsidies for peanut, cotton and rice farmers, crops that are mainly grown in the South.
Asked about the new subsidies, Bustos, an East Moline Democrat, said compromises had to be made.
"A piece of legislation is imperfect," she said. "The fact that Democrats and Republicans could come together with a 36-10 vote meant that we have to compromise on some things."
Amanda Norris, president of the Sauk Valley Tea Party, opposes giving subsidies.
"Let the free market work. The demand will determine what crops get planted," she said in a telephone interview. "They're playing favorites. They're picking winners and losers."
The House bill would also cut 3 percent from the food stamps program. Bustos said she had proposed keeping the program intact.
Overall, Bustos said, the farm bill provides certainty for farmers in northwestern Illinois.
"Whenever I talk with farmers, their No. 1 concern is that they want certainty. Our bill does that. It gives farmers certainty. When we have severe weather, they can deal with that," she said.
Congress was supposed to have passed legislation last year, but extended the existing farm law instead.
The office of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, who represents Lee County, didn't return a message for comment.