The Illinois Farm Bureau’s annual meeting was held December 1st through 4th in Chicago. More than 350 delegates (farmers) from throughout Illinois came together to review, discuss and change policy for the organization in 2008. Resolutions which were submitted by county farm bureaus throughout the year were debated by delegates at the meeting.

Peoria County was represented on the floor with five delegates who are each president of a county farm bureau. Each county bureau is represented by one additional delegate for every 500 voting members (farmers).

Delegates were uncomfortable with the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s decision to require livestock premises identification for all young people showing livestock at state, county, 4-H and FFA fairs beginning in 2008. A delegate from Piatt County suggested young exhibitors are “pawns” to force livestock facilities to register, as he indicated his 16-year-old signed his family’s farm up for a premises ID using a pork sandwich as a bribe at the Illinois State Fair.

State officials originally made this change in order to increase the percentage of registered livestock operations for animal identification purposes. The percentage of registered livestock premises has been stuck at 30 percent, which department officials feel is not enough in order to have effective 48-hour disease trace-back. Delegates agreed to continue to support efforts to promote voluntary premises registration, but feel there could be logistical problems with IDOA implementing its policy on livestock fair entries.

Delegates voted to support the development of a foundation to care for abandoned and unwanted horses. The foundation would receive money from animal welfare groups and nonprofit organizations to financially care for the horses. This issue has gained prominence with the closing of the United States’ only P olicy Updates at Annual Meeting Agricultural Issuesremaining horse slaughter plant in DeKalb this past year. One delegate described the devastation of the horse market at a local sale barn after state law banned the slaughter of horses for meat export abroad.

The Illinois Horseman’s Council has pegged a modest cost of $1,500 per animal per year to maintain and care for unwanted horses. It indicated that unwanted horses may need to be maintained for an average of 12 years, based on research of a horse’s lifespan. The council also projected that Illinois and the Midwest may accumulate 1,500 unwanted horses in the first year after the ban, a number that would grow to 7,500 by the fifth year and 18,000 by the twelfth year.

Delegates sought to address wildlife problems through newly approved policies. They voted to support efforts to extend all firearm, muzzleloading and late-winter, antlerless-only deer seasons to four days starting on Thursdays. Delegates also voted to encourage the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to allow both hen and tom turkeys to be hunted during turkey season in counties in which population control is necessary.

Illinois Farm Bureau delegates expressed opposition to gross receipts or value-added taxes as a way to increase state revenues. They also opposed leasing the Illinois State Lottery. IBI