Barry McNamara  |   Published August 26, 2021

‘The Future of Rural America’

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos to discuss that topic Sept. 7 at Monmouth College’s fifth annual Wiswell-Robeson Lecture.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A politician with deep roots in Illinois agriculture will present Monmouth College’s fifth annual Wiswell-Robeson Lecture on Sept. 7.

CHERI BUSTOS: Congresswoman to give Monmouth College's fifth annual Wiswell-Robeson Lecture o... CHERI BUSTOS: Congresswoman to give Monmouth College's fifth annual Wiswell-Robeson Lecture on Sept. 7.U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who serves the 17th Congressional District in Illinois, will speak at 7 p.m. in the College’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. Titled “Perspectives on the Future of Rural America,” her talk is free and open to the public.

Those in attendance will be asked to wear masks. The event will also be live streamed on the College’s YouTube page.

Born in Springfield, Illinois, Bustos comes from a long line of farmers and teachers. The granddaughter of a hog farmer, she is proud of her agricultural roots.

One of the only former journalists in Congress, Bustos spent nearly two decades listening to and writing about the struggles and accomplishments of everyday people across her community. In 2013, she was sworn into her first term in Congress. Now in her fourth term, she is the only member of elected Democratic House Leadership from the Midwest. Bustos also serves on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. In the 116th Congress, she was appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

But most related to her Wiswell-Robeson Lecture, Bustos continues to serve on the House Agriculture Committee, where in her first term she played an important role to develop and pass the first long-term Farm Bill in years. Then, in her third term, she continued that work by serving as a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, where she helped lead efforts to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill.

“As a member of Congress from a rural district who comes from a long line of family farmers, I know how important our growers and producers are to our local economy.” Cheri Bustos

While working on that piece of legislation, Bustos conducted a 21st Century Heartland Tour to better understand the needs of family farmers. Sitting at kitchen tables and in barns and garages across the 17th Congressional District, she asked hundreds of farmers and agricultural producers what worked for them in the last Farm Bill and what they needed from a new one.

“As a member of Congress from a rural district who comes from a long line of family farmers, I know how important our growers and producers are to our local economy,” said Bustos. “In western and central Illinois, we have some of the richest farmland in the nation, and agriculture is the top economic driver. That’s why as a member of the House Agriculture Committee I’ve made growing our agricultural economy a priority.”

VISITING FARMERS: Bustos regularly visits farms throughout Illinois and the Midwest to get the be... VISITING FARMERS: Bustos regularly visits farms throughout Illinois and the Midwest to get the best sense for what is needed by today's growers and producers.Bustos fought in 2018 to pass another bipartisan Farm Bill that included several pieces of legislation she authored, including The Farmers of Tomorrow Act, which makes it easier for young farmers to buy land and establish roots in agriculture.

“But to keep our agricultural economy growing, we need to help our farmers export their products to new markets,” she said. “That’s why I traveled to Cuba with the Illinois-Cuba Working Group and the Illinois Farm Bureau to help our farmers develop the right relationships so they can export more of our agricultural products. It’s also crucial that our growers and producers have a seat at the table when negotiating new agreements with our trading partners.”

Bustos has called the previous administration’s move to “dismantle” the Renewable Fuel Standard – also known as RFS – “devastating to our corn growers and biofuels producers alike.”

“I’ve been working to restore the integrity of the RFS and to ensure that our growers and producers have the support they need to keep our agricultural sector strong and continue investing in the production of cleaner-burning fuels,” she said.

Bustos earned a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. She also attended Illinois College, a member of Monmouth College’s athletic conference. An accomplished basketball and volleyball player for the Lady Blues, she was inducted into the Illinois College Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

The Wiswell-Robeson Lecture was founded in 2016 through a gift from 1960 Monmouth graduate Jeanne Gittings Robeson of Monmouth. The lecture’s purpose is to annually feature a speaker from the agriculture community who explores issues, challenges and innovations in the industry. Robeson and her late husband, Don Robeson, who was a 1954 Monmouth graduate, operated their farm in Warren County.

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