Congresswoman Cheri Bustos Signs Farm Bill Conference Report

Bustos, who is serving as a Conferee, signed the final version of the Farm Bill Conference Report paving the way for legislation to be signed into law

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos completed her duties on the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee by signing the final conference report. This report, negotiated by a select group of House and Senate members, merges House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill into a final piece of legislation. With this obstacle overcome, the Farm Bill is set to be passed in both Houses and signed into law in a matter of days.

“I am glad that we were able to come together and negotiate a bipartisan Farm Bill that supports our family farmers and strengthens our rural economy, while stripping away partisan provisions that would have left millions of Americans hungry. While it’s by no means perfect, this five year Farm Bill will give our agricultural producers the certainty they need and protect the existing crop insurance program. I am also proud to have included several of my provisions to help young farmers and veterans launch first generation family farms. I also included language in the bill to strengthen our rural communities by giving them the resources they need to combat the opioid epidemic and grow our rural economy through expanded rural broadband,” said Congresswomen Bustos. “However, the fight for our family farmers is far from over. As our producers continue to grapple with a downturn in the agricultural economy, the impact of President Trump’s trade war and the Administration’s undermining of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a lot of work remains to be done. I am committed to fighting for our hardworking Illinois farmers.”

Once the Farm Bill Conference Report is signed by both the House and Senate Conferees, it will be voted on by the full House of Representative and Senate before moving to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Several bills Congresswoman Bustos wrote have been included in the final version of the Farm Bill, including:

  • The Farmers of Tomorrow Act: If signed into law, this legislation would change regulations to make it easier for young farmers to buy land and put roots down. Specifically, with rising farmland real estate prices, this bill would modernize requirements so that more young farmers can access USDA loans. There’s a specific provision in here to ensure that more veterans have the opportunity to go into farming too. Congresswoman Bustos introduced this bill last December.
  • The Rural Health Liaison ActThis would create a new rural health liaison at the USDA to improve coordination and funding mechanisms to improve the delivery of healthcare to rural America. The USDA continues to be on the frontlines in the battle against opioid addiction and the Rural Health Liaison would be in position to spread best practices across small town America to address this ongoing challenge. Additionally, the USDA has the ability to finance the construction of hospitals and the implementation of programs for telehealth and health education. The Rural Health Liaison would promote the awareness and availability of these resources, and provide guidance and technical assistance to USDA field offices and staff on how to best serve their communities. The Rural Health Liaison would also coordinate with other government agencies on rural health issues. Congresswoman Bustos introduced this bipartisan legislation in February.
  • The Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act: This bill would help rural Americans better leverage USDA Rural Development programs to combat opioid and heroin use. Specifically, the legislation would set aside 20 percent of the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding for substance abuse treatment. It would also prioritize USDA Community and Facilities Direct Loan and Grant applications focused on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services – which will help incentivize the establishment of new treatment centers. Finally, it will prioritize USDA Rural Health and Safety Education grant funding for applicants seeking to improve education and outreach on opioids and other substance abuse issues. Congresswoman Bustos introduced this legislation in July 2017 with Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly.

The Farm Bill also includes $350 million to help the 23 million rural Americans without service. Bustos helped lead The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Act, which seeks to close the digital divide by awarding loans grant combinations for rural broadband projects.

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Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) announced her appointment to the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee this past July and then spent the month of August getting input from farmers across the 17th Congressional District. The Conference Committee, made up of a select group of House and Senate members, will merge the House and Senate versions of the bill into a final version. After the conference completes its work, the final version of the Farm Bill will be voted on in both chambers of Congress before going to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

In June, House Republicans passed a highly partisan Farm Bill without a single Democratic vote. Their bill would take way free school lunch programs from 265,000 households while taking food assistance away from one million households. It would also zero out Farm Bill funding for Rural Development and Conservation programs.

The Senate version of the Farm Bill does not include these controversial provisions – that’s why Congresswoman Bustos is working to achieve a final Farm Bill that is much closer to the Senate’ Farm Bill than the House Farm Bill.