As a young girl growing up in central Illinois, few things made me happier than my family’s trips to my grandparents' farm in Milford.

I’d spend hours outside on the farm, playing with the baby pigs while taking in the sights, sounds, and yes, the smells.  My grandparents, aunts, uncles and nearly every one of my cousins are family farmers.  That's why it's personal when I say I have a deep-felt appreciation for farmers, and for the critical role agriculture plays in keeping our communities great places to live, work and raise a family.

That’s also why as a new member of Congress who sits on the Agriculture Committee, giving family farmers the certainty and predictability they need to grow our food and power our economy by passing a farm bill has been one of my top priorities.

After lots of hard-work, for the first time since 2008, Democrats and Republicans were able to find common ground and finally pass a long-term, bipartisan farm bill.

Here’s how the farm bill will help our region:

-Illinois farmers have endured some of the most extreme weather in recent years, including record floods and drought. The bill keeps a stable and strong crop insurance program in place so farmers who are at the mercy of Mother Nature can continue to feed our nation and the world, while conserving and protecting critical habitats and fragile soils.

- The bill contains a provision I authored that will require the Department of Agriculture to examine the impact of upgrading and repairing our nation’s aging locks and dams, including those on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. These locks and dams, built in the Depression era, are in desperate need of repairs to help speed up the movement of the high quality goods and products from our region to the rest of the world and to help prevent floods and aid in drought relief.

- Because no one wants to see children go to bed hungry at night, I fought hard against cuts to nutrition programs that help put food on the table for families. While some modifications to the SNAP program were made, I’m pleased this bill will not make any cuts to nutrition programs in Illinois.  And the bill contains further resources to support food banks across the country.

- Additionally, the bill will encourage veterans and young people to become involved in agriculture, provide access to healthy food, promote public wellness, and increase our agricultural exports.

While I’m encouraged about finally passing a bipartisan, five-year farm bill, I will not rest in advocating for our region’s agricultural economy. I’ll make sure our region always gets a seat at the table and that our values are taken into consideration. This will ensure that future generations of Illinoisans are able to have the same appreciation for farming that I found as a child on my grandparents' farm.