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Illinois Congressman Confident On Farm Bill Vote


U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Thursday he supports work and job training requirements in the draft of the new Farm Bill.

Democrats said that would drastically cut food aid to the needy and that many people on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) already work.

Davis represents the 13th Congressional District, including parts of Bloomington-Normal. He said the bill is a balancing act and there are exceptions to job training and employment requirements.

"We believe we have done our due diligence in protecting those who truly need help the most. But in the end, we, as a country, should not be telling Americans that they cannot succeed," said Davis.

Davis said the bill likely coming to a vote Friday includes a $1 billion a year for a decade in job training money.

The $868 billion measure would set food and farm policy for the next five years, including everything from crop subsidies to rural development to land conservation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Farm Bill would cut more than $20 billion in SNAP benefits over a decade, or nearly a third of the total. About half that reduced spending would come from work requirements.

Davis noted SNAP eligibility used to carry work requirements in the Clinton era. Following the Great Recession, waivers were granted to states. He said returning to those reasonable guidelines would help people get back to work as long as they can enter a job training program.

If they refuse such training they can be locked out of SNAP benefits for up to three years.

Some Republicans have criticized Illinois and other states for continuing to game the system, long after the economy recovered. The waiver operates if the unemployment rate is above 5 percent. Illinois averaged all counties for an aggregate jobless rate, conservatives said, preserving work requirement exemptions for 337,000 work-able childless adults who live in counties with jobless rates below 5 percent. The new Farm Bill would prevent states from combining county unemployment rates for waiver eligibility. Illinois' aggregate unemployment rate dropped below 5 percent last year, ending the waiver.

Davis, of Taylorville, also said he opposes conservative efforts to tie the Farm Bill to immigration issues. Some members of the House Freedom Caucus want to hold up a vote on the bill unless a provision is included to reduce legal immigration by 25 percent and crack down on sanctuary cities. Davis told reporters he does not think that will work.

"I'm certainly optimistic that we can get enough votes on the Farm Bill and I made my opinion very, very clear to some of my colleagues who would like to use the Farm Bill as leverage to get or not get other issues taken care of. And I let them know my displeasure for that type of policymaking," said Davis.

The SNAP provisions, however, have alienated many Democrats, potentially making the Freedom Caucus votes more important for House passage.

Davis is running against Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield in the November election. Her comments on the GOP Farm Bill were not available as of Thursday afternoon.

GLT Assistant News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio and has won numerous state and national awards for journalism. He lives in Normal with his family.