Crop insurance, nutrition programs, key elements of farm bill

By WEEK Producer

January 30, 2014 Updated Jan 30, 2014 at 9:28 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- For Illinois farmers one of the more critical parts of the farm bill passed by the House this week is the continuation of crop insurance.

"In 2012 we had a severe drought throughout the Midwest and the majority of farmers did have crop insurance and that's why they're in business today," explained Patrick Kirchhofer, manager of the Peoria County Farm Bureau.

Farmers will still have to pay premiums for crop insurance. In Illinois, those premiums can range from 20 and 35 dollars an acre.

The farm bill also eliminates direct subsidy payments to farmers. Cirrently those subsidies are paid regardless of whether they produce a product.

The change will save the government about $4.5-billion a year and is something farmers have been in favor of because of an improved ag economy.

"Prices, from a historical perspective, have been very good in the last 5 to 10 years," said Kirchhofer, "and the general farm economy has been good."

The farm bill also cuts $800-million a year from Food Stamps, or SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

That could mean more people relying on places like Peoria Friendship House for food assistance. When cuts to SNAP were imposed in November the food pantry at Friendship House saw demand practically double. If Illinois is included in the new cuts that demand could increase even more, leaving Friendship House to reach out for help.

"I know that there are churches in the area that will do a food drive for us so we can make ends meet," said Jenny Lee, director of community support for Friendship House.

Of course, the farm bill still has to pass the Senate, where that chamber could make alterations. And then it will need the signature of the President.