Dec 27, 2010  |  Today's News

It remains to be seen what the Congressional redistricting will mean, but no doubt it will mean changes for rural America and rural Illinois. With the loss of one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, downstate Illinois loses a voice.

The Belleville News Democrat reports the House district most likely to be split up is U.S. Rep. John Shimkus' neighbor to the north -- the 17th District recently won by Republican Bobby Schilling, according to political experts.

Both U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and Shimkus, R-Collinsville, will be affected by the redrawn district lines. However only to the extent their current districts, the 12th and 19th respectively, will be absorbing more counties and territory, said John Jackson, a retired Southern Illinois University Carbondale political science professor.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack answered a question about this topic from Iowa Public Radio News Director Kay Henderson last week. Henderson asked, “Mr. Secretary, I’d like to have a discussion with you about farm subsidies, the future of them. This past week the U.S. Census came out and the result of that will be fewer rural representatives in Congress. How do you build support in Congress for the continuation of farm subsidies if there are fewer rural members in Congress?”

Vilsack answered, “Well, I think there’s a couple of things. First of all, let’s take a look at how important rural America is to the rest of us. It is the source of our food, our fiber and an ever-increasing amount of our fuel. 85% of the surface drinking water is impacted by what happens in rural America. It is the place where it’s 16% of the population but 44% of the people serving in the military come from rural America. It is the heart and soul of this country. Because we have agricultural production that is the best in the world consumers have a tremendous advantage in America. We only spend about 10% to 15% of our paycheck for groceries. Part of the reason we do that is because we have a strong safety net for those producers who are faced with bad weather or bad markets. That allows them to stay in business. If we want to continue to repopulate the rural communities, if we want to return political strength to the rural parts of this country we’re going to have to revitalize the rural economy. Part of that is a strong safety net for agriculture, for farmers, for farm families. Part of it is strategies to allow small farm producers to migrate into mid-sized operations.”