Hare to push for $6 billion to rebuild levees

Matt Hutton

U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, was honored Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, by the Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau. He was presented with the Illinois Agriculture Association's "Friend of Agriculture Award."

"It's not looked upon lightly," said Terry Davis, of Roseville, who introduced Hare and presented the award.

Hare discussed a number of agriculture-related issues Friday. One item he is working on is a bill that will be introduced in January that includes $6 billion to rebuild the levee system along the Mississippi River. He said this issue is especially important to the farms and families that were either displaced or saw farms destroyed.

"I get angry when I hear it dismissed as 'just agricultural areas of the levee.' Those are people's families ... we have an obligation," Hare said.

He said the plan to increase most areas of the levee to the 500-year flood level has been signed off by the governors of four states, including Illinois, and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

"We spent $14.5 billion in flood relief," Hare said, pointing out the government had to do the same thing 11 years ago. If, a decade from now, another flood hits the area, the price tag could be $20 billion to $25 billion. "The plan is ready to go. There's no further studies needed" because they have been done already.

Hare also discussed the recent passage of the Farm Bill. He said it was important to make sure farmers had a safety net. He also challenged the notion that it is wrong for "million dollar farms" to receive any government assistance. He pointed out that a new tractor and combine costs $500,000 alone, in addition to other expensive equipment and supplies. He fought against the Kind Amendment, which he said would have cut safety nets for farmers.

He also drew attention to a recent campaign by agriculture organizations to send members of Congress boxes of cereal with eight pennies attached - the farmer's cost.

"It really drives home the point ... don't blame farmers for the cost of food," Hare said.

Davis commended Hare for asking questions - both of his constituents and his colleagues - even as a freshman congressman, rather than sitting back and "learning the ropes." The farm bureau was especially appreciative of this when it came to the recently passed Farm Bill.

"It took courage ... and a willingness to listen to do that," Davis said.

Hare said agriculture issues were important, not just to his congressional district, but to the country.

"I cannot tell you how incredibly honored I am to have this (award). It means a lot to me. This will be on my desk," he said.