(The candidate is answering the question: Congress has not agreed on a farm bill. What should a new farm bill look like and what must be done to ensure its passage?)
Our region is home to some of the richest farmland in the world. Agriculture is our No. 1 industry.
It feeds the world and supports our economy through major employers, such as Deere and Caterpillar, but also through numerous small businesses and innovators throughout the 17th Congressional District.
We also have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research facility in Peoria that is at the forefront of finding new uses for crops and creating new technology that improves environmental quality and food safety.
That's why Congress' failure to pass a farm bill is a prime example of gridlock in Congress and how that gridlock has a negative impact on the economic fortunes of our community.
During the worst drought in a generation, Congress failed to pass a farm bill because of gridlock.
Like most Americans, I am disappointed that partisanship stood in the way of passing such a crucial piece of legislation for our region.
A new farm bill has been passed every five to seven years since the 1940s, allowing farmers to plan for their futures and apply for loans to build their businesses.
Traditionally, the farm bill is a five-year bipartisan effort, but this year, Congress couldn't even get a one-year extension passed. The Senate passed its version almost three months ago with bipartisan support, but the House of Representatives refused to take action on this bipartisan version.
Congressman Bobby Schilling chose to vote the narrow ideology of his Tea Party allies rather than the interests if the 17th District. Congressman Schilling is part of the problem in Washington, and he has the wrong priorities for our region, choosing ideology over what's best for our community.
The Senate-passed farm bill continued the programs of the 2008 bill, such as crop insurance, which proved to be critical during the current drought. Just this year, we experienced one of the worst droughts in decades, and crop insurance helps to protect farmers from such uncontrollable circumstances.
Farm families are asking for such protection from poor weather conditions and unstable markets, but Congress is just ignoring them by not making it a priority. Without knowing the details of the next farm bill or when Congress will act, farmers are struggling with uncertainty, which will discourage further investment in their businesses.
Given the importance of agriculture, we need to support our farmers. I disagree with Congressman Schilling's vote to cut $30 billion in resources from our hardworking farmers.
Our district is blessed with lush farm land, yet Congressman Schilling wants to take away opportunities to develop it further. I believe we should foster an environment where the farming industry can grow, particularly after this harsh drought.
While farmers are left with uncertainty during a drought because no farm bill passed, seniors wonder if the Ryan-Schilling budget will pass and take away their guaranteed Medicare benefits.
And students are left unable to afford college because of Pell Grant cuts. Congress has the wrong priorities, and its wrongheaded actions will hurt hard working Americans. I am running to change Congress' priorities and bring a little common sense to Washington.
It was wrong of Congress to play politics with the farm bill. If I have the honor of serving as your next representative, I will work with both sides to pass the farm bill, and I will never let partisan gridlock stand in the way of what's best for this region.
Cheri Bustos of East Moline is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 17th District.