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Simon urges bipartisan support for Illinois farmers, consumers 

 
SPRINGFIELD – Jan. 16, 2014. With Congress poised to tackle expansive agriculture legislation in the upcoming weeks, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is leading state-level discussions on the possible impact it will have on rural Illinois residents. During a meeting of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) today, Simon said she wants the farm bill to preserve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) so that low-income residents can afford healthy food.

“A total of 49 million Americans live in households that are food insecure,” Simon said. “Too often they have to choose between paying for food, rent, medicine or heat. SNAP helps address those incredibly difficult choices. We should work together to strengthen, not weaken SNAP.”

A representative of Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a member of the 2013 Farm Bill Conference Committee, provided a status report on the bill negotiations during the GRAC meeting. Representatives of the Illinois Farm Bureau also spoke about the importance of federal action to pass the farm bill.

Simon has submitted two letters to Congress in recent months, one asking that SNAP be protected from devastating cuts and another advocating for a well-crafted Hunger-Free Communities Incentives Grant that provides incentives for SNAP recipients to buy local food. The grant provision, currently in the Senate version of the farm bill, is a win for consumers, who increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a win for farmers, who enjoy increased revenues, said Simon.

State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) also discussed progress of the Education Funding Advisory Committee, which is examining the state’s current education funding system and plans to propose a system that provides adequate, equitable, transparent, and accountable distribution of funds to school districts that will prepare students for achievement and success after high school. Simon, who serves as the state’s point person on education reform, testified before the committee this week regarding inequities that often hamper rural school districts in Illinois.

Established by Governor’s executive order and chaired by Simon, the GRAC is tasked with improving delivery of state services to rural Illinois and expanding opportunities for rural residents to enhance their quality of life. Under Simon's leadership, the GRAC has worked to expand access to locally grown, healthy foods and enhance emergency medical services (EMS) in rural areas, as well as other rural issues.