Delegates to the Illinois Farm Bureau’s (IFB) Annual Meeting, held in Chicago Dec. 2-5, took part in one of the meeting’s most honored and respected traditions: grassroots, member-driven discussion to set the organization’s policy for the coming year.
Two of the most important actions by the delegate body was to pass their sense of the delegate body resolutions, including resolutions which dealt with the cost of healthcare and the importance of trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Healthcare is a major concern because it’s a major cost issue for our membership,” said Mark Gebhards, executive director, Governmental Affairs and Commodities, IFB. “What the delegate body asked for in this particular resolution was for our board of directors to look for options that might be out there. As an organization, are there opportunities where we can try to provide some choices or option in this health insurance area for our membership to look at?”
Delegates also passed a sense of the delegate body resolution expressing strong support for NAFTA and trade agreements.
“We are concerned, to say the least, with the administration’s focus on potentially withdrawing from NAFTA,” Gebhards said. “There’s a lot of talk about bilateral and unilateral agreements with countries and that’s great – we hope they come about. But we have a trade agreement here with NAFTA that is significantly important to agriculture and if we withdraw, we will see some negative impact on commodity prices and demand.”
Gebhards said the resolution emphasized remaining in NAFTA and ensuring there’s a plan in place for agriculture if the U.S. would happen to withdraw. To underscore support for the 23-year-old trade deal, members sent more than 1,100 text messages to members of Congress during annual meeting in support of NAFTA.
Delegates also focused their energy on several important policy submittals and changes, including solar energy, pesticide management, endangered species, conservation programs and the 2018 farm bill. To start the business session Monday, delegates voted on and passed comprehensive policy to guide the organization in both the legislative and regulatory arena as more solar farms are installed in the state.
“Solar farms are a new policy for us, a new area,” Gebhards said. “The new policy will help landowners with some of the property rights issues, the assessment of these units for tax purposes, and how they will be decommissioned when their useful life is over.”
The delegates also spent time discussing the Endangered Species Act as it applies to the Monarch butterfly, strengthening policy position by outlining provisions for the organization moving forward.
Touching on herbicide use and management, delegates discussed policy which emphasized the importance of facilitating and coordinating new training and record keeping for certain herbicides, including dicamba.
Delegates also discussed conservation programs and the 2018 farm bill, putting policy in place which ensures there is opportunity for new acreage to enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and that funding is maintained for crop insurance.
“There was extensive policy rewording and additions with respect to the 2018 farm bill, focusing on making sure that crop insurance remains our top priority, as well as conservation issues,” Gebhards said. “The battle is going to be the funding side of this issue and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure any costs savings don’t come out of those programs.”
To finish the delegate business, the delegates re-elected President Richard Guebert, Jr., of Ellis Grove in Randolph County. They also elected a new vice president in Brian Duncan of Polo in Ogle County.
Finally, delegates confirmed the election of Robert Klemm, of Waynesville in DeWitt County, to a two-year term to serve District 11 on the IFB Board. Directors in districts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15 and 17 were re-elected by their districts and also confirmed by the delegate body.