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Ag Not Only Issue on Farmers’ Minds


First, do no harm. It’s a popular term in the medical field, but one member of Congress has made it part and parcel of the way she approaches many issues, particularly those involving agriculture and particularly the ones involving trade.

“My attitude with anything, whether it be healthcare or tax reform or trade, is that first we do no harm,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., to an audience of farmers and agribusinessmen at the 28th Farmer Update Meeting at the Deer Valley Country Club in Deer Grove.

Bustos was on her holiday break from Congress and talked farm issues and concerns with the group.

She provided a brief update on key issues of concern to the ag community.

Bustos voiced some frustration and concern about threats by the Trump administration to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I happen to think it’s very dangerous every time somebody from the administration talks about pulling out of NAFTA. That’s very dangerous for the ag community. Canada and Mexico are critical to our success,” she said.

Bustos said one of her worries that as President Trump and other administration officials threaten to withdraw from the agreement, Canada and Mexico will look to other trading partners for a sense of stability and security.

Legal Authority

Bustos was asked to answer questions outside of agriculture, including a question about why Congress is not providing oversight to the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The FBI needs to be independent. They are under the Department of Justice. Robert Mueller, who ran the FBI, is viewed by both sides as someone who is honorable,” said Bustos, who reminded the audience she has a unique perspective on law enforcement.

“I’m married to the sheriff of Rock Island County, so I am very pro law enforcement. I like to say I love police officers — literally — and I have for the last 31 years. We just celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary,” Bustos said to laughter from the audience as she referenced her husband, Gerry. “I believe in an independent oversight investigation into what’s going on.”

An audience member asked Bustos if means testing for crop insurance subsidies would be on the negotiating table.

“My view is that we shouldn’t have means testing. My view is that we should have crop insurance that works for every farmer who needs to make sure they have it to cover their needs,” she said.

Bustos also expressed concern about proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget.

“I have concern that the administration is proposing to cut the USDA budget by 21 percent,” she said. “How is that going to filter down in the different programs we have at USDA?”

She noted that a number of rural towns and communities across the U.S. have benefited from the USDA Rural Development’s infrastructure grant and loan programs to improve and repair water systems, water treatment facilities and other community institutions such as libraries and schools.

“The fact that there’s a proposal to cut the USDA budget by 20 cents on the dollar, everybody should be scared about that,” she said.

The Time Is Now

On the topic of the farm bill, Bustos said the sooner lawmakers get started on negotiations and writing the bill, the better, especially in an election year.

Source: Jeannine Otto, AgriNews

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