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During Heartland ag complex tour, Rep. Eric Sorensen talks farm bill and foreign aid

Rep. Eric Sorensen, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, toured Heartland Community College's new Agricultural Complex on Wednesday afternoon. The Rockford area Democrat said versions of the Farm Bill
Lyndsay Jones
Rep. Eric Sorensen, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, toured Heartland Community College's new Agricultural Complex on Wednesday afternoon. The Rockford area Democrat told reporters he would not support a revised farm bill that guts funding for the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan.

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen said he will not support a version of the farm bill that does not include funding for a federal nutrition program.

The Moline Democrat representing the 17th Congressional District told reporters during a tour of Heartland Community College's agricultural complex Wednesday that plans to eliminate funding for the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan in the farm bill are a "non-starter" for him.

The Thrifty Food Plan is one of four nutrition programs the federal agency is charged with developing. It has a direct tie to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the largest source of federal food aid for low-income Americans.

Nutrition assistance comprises a significant portion of the once-every-five-years legislative effort known as the farm bill, which is overdue for passage. The current farm bill expired in September 2023, and while Congress gave itself an additional year to pass a new version, progress has stalled due to political gridlock.

"The constituents that I serve in this district — many of them are having trouble making ends meet," Sorensen said. "The cost of groceries is going up (and) I'm working on what I can do to bring that cost down, but we can't take away funding for a single mom who's working two jobs and say, 'Your SNAP benefits are going from $126 to $62 — just make do.'"

Sorensen, who sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, also indicated he supports strengthening crop insurance provisions within the bill to make sure it is as "robust as possible."

"A lot of our producers don't want disaster assistance at the end, or after a disaster happens," he said. "Why don't we just make sure that the crop assistance and insurance is taken care of so that it meets the farmers and producers as they go? There needs to be that stability and crop insurance and we have to invest in that."

Ukraine and Speaker Johnson

Finalizing a new farm bill isn't the only matter pending long-awaited congressional action: House Speaker Mike Johnson has pledged to take a vote on a package that includes funding to Ukraine. The Senate already passed a $95 billion aid package in February that included funds for Taiwan, Israel, humanitarian relief for Palestinians, as well as Ukraine.

"I hope he is a man of his word," Sorensen said of Johnson on Wednesday. "We're here at Heartland college talking about agriculture, understanding that we need exports from Ukraine — fertilizer, for instance, that we need in the Midwest... that's coming out of Ukraine. There are real implications if we just allow Russia to win or if we just allow the politics of Washington to take over."

Sorensen accused Johnson of "playing politics" with the matter but did not indicate he supports Republican calls for Johnson's ouster. Republican House member Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to remove Johnson as speaker in late March; Johnson's predecessor, fellow Republican Kevin McCarthy, was removed from the position via an October vote that marked the first time in history a speaker had been removed in that manner.

"This is child's play that is going on today. I talked with the Speaker of the House — I want to work with the Speaker of the House. I want to make sure that we get things to the floor of the House have them voted on so that we can actually solve problems," Sorensen said. "I hope we'll do that."

Sorensen was in Normal on Wednesday to tour Heartland Community College's new Agriculture Complex. The $23 million facility opened with a ribbon-cutting in January and is expected to serve students in three new agriculture degree programs. The project received support from the McLean County Farm Bureau, Growmark and Funk Family Foundation, Precision Planting, Illinois Soybean Association, Cargill and others.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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