WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, one of 41 House and Senate members who helped negotiate a new farm bill, said Tuesday that he was proud of the end product and predicted it would pass the House Wednesday.
"This is a huge, huge successful vote for fiscal responsibility," said Davis, a Taylorville Republican. Over and over he cited the measure's $23 billion in cost savings over the next 10 years.
"This is the single largest deficit reducing bill that we've had this entire Congress," Davis said. "This is something I'm very proud of."
Davis defended the estimated $8 billion (over 10 years) in food stamp cuts. House Republicans originally wanted to slash food stamp spending by almost $40 billion, but compromised in the face of opposition from Senate Democrats.
The new farm bill, he said, would save $8 billion by eliminating a controversial "heat and eat" provision that tied federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance payments to extra food stamp assistance.
The bill also would include "robust" research funding, Davis said, including federal funds for research at the University of Illinois. The legislation continues the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative within the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. It is reauthorized at $700 million per year through fiscal year 2018.
One provision Davis didn't get in the bill, though, was one that would have required some food stamp recipients to work for the aid. Instead, 10 states will be allowed to begin a pilot program requiring work for benefits. Davis said he doubted Illinois would be one of the states in the pilot study.
"I wish the president would actually understand that it's not too much to ask able-bodied adults who aren't in school, who have no children, who aren't disabled, etcetera ... I don't think it's too much to ask them to be paired with a job," Davis said. "I don't think it's too much to ask them if they can't be paired with a job that they're paired with community service or volunteer service opportunities. We know that those skills that are learned by performing that work can be turned into a job someday."
In addition to the food stamp cuts, Davis said other savings would come from the elimination of direct payments to farmers, although the federal crop insurance program would be strengthened. Davis argued that the enhanced crop insurance provisions would not equal the loss of the direct payments.
"The bottom line is the Congressional Budget Office has scored this bill as saving taxpayers $23 billion over the life of this bill," he said.
Davis also said he was happy the farm bill included a provision allowing for the creation of a permanent subcommittee with the Environmental Protection Agency's science advisory board to examine rules and regulations related to agriculture.
He said it would "allow us to get ag to have a seat at the table when they are proposing rules and regs that would have a negative impact on agriculture."
But he again stressed the budget saving in the farm bill.
"This is truly a bill that is going to allow us to reduce our deficit," Davis said. "This is how we need to start governing in Washington again."