Carl Sandburg College hosts Farm Bill hearing

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Local farmers got a chance to sound off on national agriculture policy. That's as Congress held a field hearing Friday on the new Farm Bill in Galesburg.

It's the all-encompassing legislation that governs everything from nutrition programs to growing standards.

Jane Weber grows corn and vegetables in Scott County for Farmers Markets. Inside the hearing at Carl Sanburg College, the Bettendorf woman pushed for nutrition and conservation programs.

"We've got to conserve our soils and retain the rain on the soil," she said. "You can only do that with conservation practices."

With the 2011 harvest in the books, time is running out on the current Farm Bill. It's set to expire at the end of September. The search is on to find a long-term solution rather than a short-term extension.

"When we have these field hearings, they're a great opportunity for the farmers to come out and say, 'Here's what we think,'" said Rep. Bobby Schilling, (R) Illinois.

The panel heard plenty about crop insurance, regulations and labor issues. It's a chance for farmers to speak out about a system that's governing their work.

"As the Farm Bill passes, really bring that certainty, and as best we can, making sure that we're not doing damage to these people who are really feeding the world," said Rep. Randy Hultgren, (R) Illinois.

But even the congressmen concede that developing this Farm Bill will be a challenging process. Discussions are complex and comprehensive, covering a wide range of issues.

Whether crops or conservation, this Farm Bill means a lot to growers looking for a better way to do things.

"I felt like I could speak up for conservation practices in Iowa," Weber concluded. "Especially after experiencing floods in Western Iowa and floods in Eastern Iowa, they are a necessity."

For these farmers, it's a necessity that could become a reality.