Farmers throughout the state met in Chicago, December 2-5, for the 92nd Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting. Over the weekend, activities centered on Young Leader Awards, district caucuses and keynote speakers such as Rulon Gardner, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist.
On Monday morning, the meeting focused on setting policy for the farm organization in 2007. Three hundred and fifty-four farmers on the delegate floor represented the 86,000 Farm Bureau members in Illinois. The Farm Bureau’s delegation includes their county president plus one delegate for every 500 farmer members in their respective county. Peoria County had five delegates representing our 1600 farmer members.
Delegates urged the organization’s leadership to seek changes next month in American Farm Bureau Federation policy so AFBF can be at the table when the 2007 farm bill is written (The AFBF annual meeting is January 7-10 in Salt Lake City, Utah). Currently, AFBF policy calls for an extension of the current farm bill until an agreement over the World Trade Organization is reached.
Not only are world trade talks stalled but the incoming chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees are motivated to write a new farm bill next year, according to IFB President Phil Nelson from Seneca in LaSalle County. Nelson feels that the farm bill will be written and the Farm Bureau should not be on the sidelines when that happens. The farm bill could be passed before the August congressional recess.
Bureau delegates said IFB should “maintain our association’s leadership role” in writing the next farm bill. Delegates want a farm bill that preserves the funding baseline, meets trade obligations and “serves the best interest of our members.”
Also during the two day session, IFB delegates reversed the association’s position on national identification, opting to support a voluntary instead of a mandatory animal ID program. The shift in thinking likely occurred because of the change in policy announced in late November by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johannes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving ahead with a voluntary ID program.
Delegates passed a number of energy-related resolutions, including several recommendations of a task force that was created last year to focus on farm profitability. IFB will encourage the Chicago Board of Trade to offer mini-energy contracts to better allow producers and others to hedge farm input costs.
Illinois Farm Bureau will seek legislation to establish a goal of having 15 percent of the total volume of all gasoline sold in Illinois be ethanol by 2012.
IFB is encouraging the increased use of Illinois coal as part of a national energy strategy. At the same time delegates want to protect the property rights of surface owners. They are calling for state law to guarantee fair compensation for damage caused to the surface by mining subsidence or drilling for coal bed methane.
Rivers and flood control were significant topics of discussion with delegates concluding that any comprehensive Army Corps of Engineers plan for flooding on the upper Mississippi be “fair, clear and equitable” to all counties affected by river flooding. IBI