With a budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly, there are numerous items that interest the agriculture community. First, farmers are very pleased to see legislators didn't pass a proposal to eliminate the agricultural sales tax exemption for feed, seed, fertilizer, and chemicals for the fiscal year 2005 state budget. The continuing campaign of countless farmers and agri-businesses contacting legislators and the governor's office drove home how important the agricultural input sales tax exemptions are to agriculture and the Illinois economy.

Methamphetamine is a problem that's plagued rural Illinois for the past several years. Anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer for corn, is one of the ingredients in the highly addictive drug. Senate Bill 2244 creates a new act to make it more difficult for persons engaged in the unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine to obtain the chemicals to manufacture it. The bill places restrictions on the display of cold tablets and requires retailers to place some of the products most popular with meth makers-adult-strength cold tablets with ephedrine or pseudo ephedrine-behind store counters or in locked cases. It also requires that retailers sell no more than two packages of regulated cold tablets at a time, in blister packs, and in packages containing no more that three grams total of ephedrine or pseudo ephedrine. The bill also makes it illegal for retailers to sell any such medicines if they have reason to believe the buyer will use the tablets to make meth. Let's hope this legislation will help reduce the negative impact methamphetamine has had on so many.

Senate Bill 2327 establishes increased weight access by permit from local road jurisdictions and the Illinois Department of Transportation. The bill allows a local road jurisdiction or the Illinois Department of Transportation to issue a permit granting 50 miles access from a field, farm storage, livestock facility, or a grain elevator/warehouse. The permit will allow trucks to have a gross weight variance based on the number of axles a truck has. Trucks with two axles have a 35 percent variance; three and four axles have a 20 percent variance; and five axles have a 10 percent variance. The maximum gross weight of a truck can't exceed the maximum allowable weight the truck is licensed for. Trucks must abide by all posted bridge weight limits.

In another end-of-session item, a bill was approved that made changes to phase down the commercial distribution fee (CDF) on truck licenses. In the new language, the CDF, currently calculated as a 36 percent surcharge on a truck registration, will be reduced to a 21.5 percent surcharge July 1, 2005, and then to 14.35 percent July 1, 2006. For an 80,000 pound plate, that means the CDF will be reduced from $1,005 to $600 in 2005 and to $400 in 2006.

In the end, there were no increased fees on agricultural practices or services. There were alternatives looked at by the budget negotiators, but none made the final cut. IBI