Farm Bureau delegates debate pipeline safety, education, other local issues

Safety concerns stemming from shallow pipelines spur spirited discussion among delegates.

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NICOR personnel repair a 24-inch transfer line, installed in 1959, that crosses Stephenson County Farm Bureau member Ron Fluegel’s farms near Lena. Multiple steps were needed to repair the “anomaly” the utility discovered last spring. County Farm Bureau members approved policy that addresses safety issues with shallow pipelines. (Photo by Ron Fluegel)

By Kay Shipman

County Farm Bureau delegates updated policy related to underground pipelines and collegiate recognition of agricultural education classes among state and local issues during this week’s Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Safety issues stemming from shallow pipelines spurred a spirited discussion as delegates sought to realistically address some concerns.

Stephenson County Farm Bureau delegate Ron Fluegel described repairs to a 24-inch Nicor transfer line of multiple fuels. Repaired just two weeks ago, the three-eighth-inch “anomaly” took five days to fix the solid steel pipe installed in 1959, Fluegel said.

Nicor discovered the problem last spring in the pipeline Fluegel estimated is 32 to 36 inches below the surface and passes through three of his farms, his cow yard and 500 yards from some farm buildings.

While the issue was repaired, “it is not realistic to think the pipeline would be pulled and reset,” 5 feet below grade surface as some delegates wanted, Fluegel added.

Related: Click here for more from the IFB Annual Meeting.

In Christian County, a Farm Bureau member’s son ruptured a pipeline only 12 to 14 inches below the surface with a chisel plow, delegate Pat Wolf told fellow delegates. Farmers coping with shallow pipelines “can’t run an auger cart and can’t work over it,” Wolf said. “Our members look to Illinois Farm Bureau for support and dealing with this problem.”

Knox County Farm Bureau delegate Grant Strom raised a need for policy seeking one-on-one resolution between utility companies and landowners to deal with specific problems.

Delegates approved policy to support regulations requiring all pipeline companies to manage existing pipelines shallower than 2 feet and to maintain a minimum of 5 feet of cover within one year of discovery (of an issue) and at the landowner’s discretion.

Delegates also debated a need for high school students to take agriculture classes to receive due consideration from colleges and universities.

Livingston County Farm Bureau delegate Jason Bunting raised the issue of admission officials considering the value of high school students’ agriculture courses on students’ applications. “We want admission people to look at ag courses and give consideration,” Bunting said.

Brad Daugherty, Clark County Farm Bureau delegate, noted students in his area simultaneously earn high school and college credits for some high school ag classes: “If you can get credit as a student, that’s what you’re after.”

Delegates passed policy supporting colleges and universities giving significant weight, recognition and credits where available to agricultural courses within their admission processes.

Earlier that day, Gov. Bruce Rauner raised the shortage of high school agriculture teachers in his remarks to delegates. “We need more ag teachers,” the governor said. He mentioned a state task force is studying the issue and suggested flexibility of Illinois teacher licensure might increase the number of teachers.

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