CREVE COEUR, Ill. — They were at the Peoria lock and dam to talk about the need for U.S. waterway infrastructure repair and rehabilitation, but another agricultural topic came up — the farm bill.

Asked if she had any thoughts on the farm bill, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said she did.

“I have a lot of thoughts on the farm bill,” said Bustos, noting that she was one of 24 Democrats to support the original House version that passed the House Agriculture Committee that included both nutrition and farm titles.

“It was not perfect, but it was something we could have sent to committee and worked with the Senate version and tried to work out those differences.”

Instead, that version was voted down due to lack of support from the House leadership. Instead, a version that deleted the nutrition titles was passed.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., then stepped up to give the audience a quick lesson in political science. He said the final vote in the House on June 20 came as a shock.

“It was a total surprise. This is Politics 101, Capitol Hill Congressional Politics 101. There are not enough congressmen and congresswomen from farm districts in the House to pass a farm bill. They need to have suburban and urban legislators, members of Congress, to join them. It’s just that basic. That’s why this (split House) version, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of a future as it passed in the House,” he said.

Durbin also noted that a unified farm bill has managed to pass both houses of Congress for half a century and be signed by whatever president was in power.

“Fifty years ago, we decided that the way to pass a farm bill was to make sure that our friends living in cities would vote for it, so we included the nutrition section of the bill that had the food and feeding programs, school lunch programs and put those two together and formed a winning alliance that passed the farm bill without a hitch year after year after year,” he said. “Now the House has broken that alliance.”

Bustos and Durbin also pointed out that more than 500 agriculture and conservation and environmental groups opposed the split House bill.

“Everything came unglued, and we have a version that ended up passing the House that I did not support, that, literally, 500 agriculture and related groups said do not vote for this. That’s the version that ended up getting through,” Bustos lamented.

Both lawmakers pointed to the work remaining on getting a new farm bill passed and expressed hope that a unified farm bill could get to President Obama’s desk sooner rather than later.

“We’ve got a long way to go on it still. Farmers deserve certainty. We’ve got to move this forward. We’ve just got a long way to go still,” Bustos said.

“I think there’s a way to do this. We found a way in the Senate. I hope they can in the House,” Durbin added.