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The Illinois Farm Bureau held its 91st annual meeting December 3 to 6 in St. Louis. Nearly 2,000 members from throughout Illinois attended the four-day meeting, including five delegates from the Peoria County Farm Bureau.

Delegates unanimously approved new federal farm policy that will give the Illinois Farm Bureau a seat at the table as Congress writes the next farm bill. Developed over the past year and a half, the new IFB federal farm policy equips the organization with the flexibility to react to circumstances that will influence the upcoming farm bill debate. Delegates said they expect the next farm bill to be driven largely by federal budget deficits and yet-to-be determined world trade obligations that could reduce commodity supports. Delegates adopted a series of proposals that would enhance conservation, place a stronger emphasis on rural development, and enact regulatory reform.

Revisiting the issue of 1031 exchanges, delegates agreed to seek federal tax law changes that would relax requirements for sellers of farmland who must purchase new land to avoid capital gains taxes. Many Farm Bureau members believe 1031 exchanges are artificially driving up farmland values and cash rents beyond the reach of beginning farmers and others who’d like to expand their operations. A study conducted for the Illinois Farm Bureau found that 1031 exchanges accounted for about half of all farmland purchases in Illinois. If lawmakers adopt new Farm Bureau policy on 1031s, sellers would have more time to reinvest the proceeds of a farmland sale and the opportunity to purchase stock or other assets and still receive the tax advantages.

Illinois Farm Bureau delegates went on record in support of state legislation “requiring gasoline sold in Illinois to contain a minimum of 10 percent corn based ethanol, and diesel fuel to contain a minimum of two percent soybean based biodiesel.” Delegates also would like to require that all new vehicles become capable of burning 85 percent ethanol (E-85).

Members adopted new language to “oppose the use of eminent domain in the taking of private property for the purpose of economic development by private parties” and called for the continuation and funding for outlying U of I research centers, including the Dixon Springs Research Center in southern Illinois.

Illinois Farm Bureau honored Peoria Congressman Ray LaHood with the 2005 Illinois Farm Bureau Charles B. Shuman Distinguished Service Award. Rep. LaHood has been a long-time supporter of ethanol and free trade and helped win House passage this year of the energy bill CAFTA and legislation to build seven new 1,200-foot locks on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. As a member of the agricultural appropriations subcommittee, LaHood helped win funding to modernize the USDA research laboratory in Peoria, as well as funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Colleen Callahan of Kickapoo received the Illinois Farm Bureau Eagle’s Award for three decades of work as a farm broadcaster on both radio and television. IBI

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