Nearly 2,000 members attended the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting December 8 to 11 in Chicago. Three hundred sixty-five of these were delegates who voted on changes in policy for the “grassroots” farm organization.

How is the number of delegates determined? In the tri-county area, Peoria County was represented by five delegates; Tazewell County had five delegates; and Woodford County was represented by four delegates. Each county Farm Bureau president is automatically a delegate, and another delegate represents the first 250 voting (farmer) members. A delegate is allocated for every 500 voting members thereafter.

During the meeting, both Illinois U.S. senators addressed the delegate body. Sen. Richard Durban spoke to members December 10, and Sen. Peter Fitzgerald was able to make remarks the following day.

Newly elected Illinois Sen. Dale Risinger of Peoria made the trip to the windy city December 10 and attended a district reception. A room full of Farm Bureau members was able to discuss a variety of farm-related issues with him. 

Illinois Farm Bureau President Ron Warfield announced he wouldn’t seek a sixth term when his current term ends in December 2003. He’s at the midpoint of his fifth two-year term and was first elected president in 1993.

The Illinois Farm Bureau Board consists of 20 farmers. A farmer represents each of the 18 districts in Illinois. Also serving on the board are the president and vice president. Peoria County—along with Fulton, Knox, Warren, and Henderson counties—are in District 8. Kent Schleich of Fairview in Fulton County was elected to his second two-year term during the District 8 caucus at the state annual meeting.

During the two days the delegates were in session, there were many issues debated and discussed. Delegates voted to support a comprehensive revision to the state-supported insurance fund that protects farmers from losses in the event of grain elevator failures.

With wind energy emerging as an issue in Illinois and across the nation, delegates adopted language that supports research and incentives for wind and biomass energy development.

In a departure from a previous position, delegates now support haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acres during weather-related emergencies. Many farmers in the southern third of Illinois experienced a severe drought during the 2002 growing season.

In an effort to create an incentive for landowners to sell their land and assets to young farmers, Illinois Farm Bureau will seek federal legislation to exempt farmers from paying capitol gains taxes if they sell their assets to a beginning farmer.

Delegates voted to protect livestock farms from suburban encroachment and potential neighborhood conflicts. IFB is calling on local governments to pass so-called “reverse setbacks,” comparable to those in the Illinois Livestock Management Facilities Act, for new residential development near established livestock operations.

Recognizing the importance of the state’s equine industry, delegates adopted a first ever policy on equine agriculture that seeks to establish access to horse trails on public lands. Equine education programs and efforts to provide liability insurance coverage to horse owners were also supported.

Delegates reaffirmed Farm Bureau policy to oppose packer ownership of livestock and turned aside a proposal to encourage Illinois school districts to adopt dress codes. IBI