IFB Board sets national priorities

5 issues the organization will focus on in 2018.

Ifb _board _sets _national _priorities _1_636494569954855463

IFB Director of National Legislation and Policy Development Adam Nielsen, center, said Congress will need to get to work on a new farm bill early in the new year for a new program to be finished in 2018. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors have set the organization’s federal legislative agenda for 2018.

The five priorities include:

1. Defend and remain in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Korean Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), work to expand trade opportunities for farmers and increase demand for Illinois agriculture products.

Defending NAFTA ranked among the top priorities for IFB in 2017. NAFTA negotiations continue, and President Donald Trump’s administration has threatened to withdraw from the agreement if a better deal isn’t reached.

“There’s no question agriculture is unified over the need to stay in NAFTA,” said Adam Nielsen, IFB’s director of national legislation and policy development. “Our members recognize trade is our biggest demand driver and that pulling out of NAFTA would come at an enormous cost at the worst possible time.”

Nielsen said IFB will continue to closely monitor NAFTA talks and weigh in with the administration and Congress when necessary.

2. Enact a farm bill that protects crop insurance and includes as many other IFB priorities as possible.

County Farm Bureau delegates endorsed the organization’s farm bill priorities during IFB’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. The farm bill priorities were developed by members during farm bill work sessions held across the state earlier this year.

“If 2018 is truly the year for a new farm bill, Congress will have to move early next year,” Nielsen said. “Whenever the debate begins, Farm Bureau will be prepared to strongly defend crop insurance and will continue our efforts started months ago to get other top member-driven priorities included in the next farm bill.”

3. Address the excessive, unwarranted expansion of Clean Water Act jurisdiction over Illinois farms, reform the Endangered Species Act and enact regulatory reform legislation that increases transparency and science-based rulemaking.

Nielsen said Farm Bureau will continue to call attention to Illinois cases where federal agencies assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over normal conservation practices and work to find regulatory and/or legislative solutions.

“Farmers should not be penalized for doing the right thing,” he said.

4. Work for greater federal investment in rural infrastructure to improve broadband access; upgrade roads, bridges and freight rail service; expand ag research; reinforce levees; and finally begin modernizing our inland waterways.

On the campaign trail, and in recent months, Trump has highlighted the need for improvements to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But so far, funding hasn’t increased.

“Farm Bureau and our many allies will be ready to move if and when President Trump rolls out his infrastructure program,” Nielsen said. “We know there will be dollars set aside for rural America, and our job is to work with Congress to get long overdue projects funded.”

5. Prepare Illinois Farm Bureau to enter the health care reform debate and work to address escalating health insurance premiums that burden farm families.

“It’s not a traditional Farm Bureau issue, but health insurance premiums are clearly a burden for many Illinois farm families,” Nielsen said. “Farm Bureau will spend the next several months surveying members, looking carefully at our policy and identifying possible solutions.”

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