'Boots on the ground' key to farmer, adopted lawmaker mutual understanding

After being open to farmers' views on property rights issues, suburban state senator agrees to sponsor legislation related to rights-of-way landownership.

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State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, third from left, combined corn when visiting Sangamon County Farm Bureau, his adopted county. Others pictured include, from left, county Farm Bureau leaders Larry and Diana Beaty, Hastings, county Farm Bureau President Phil Sidles, Illinois Farm Bureau Associate Director of State Legislation Bill Bodine and Connor McDermitt, a member of Hasting’s legislative staff. (Photo by Arika Mason, Sangamon County Farm Bureau)

By Kay Shipman

Suburban Sen. Michael Hastings jumped into Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adopt-A-Legislator® program when his first farm experience was artificially inseminating a sow on a Sangamon County hog farm.

In the six years since the Tinley Park Democrat was adopted, he’s shared many experiences with his “farmers,” including trading stories about sleep loss with fellow new dad, Phil Sidles, while combining on the Sangamon County Farm Bureau president’s Mechanicsburg farm. 

Hastings applied his military experience of learning about the Iraqi culture by “going on the ground and seeing it” to learning about Illinois agriculture. “This is boots on the ground,” the senator said of the Adopt-A-Legislator program.

Last week, Sidles paused calving duties to call the senator, who discussed issues and heard about the woes of calving in rainy weather. “We’ve been blessed to have a legislator who sees the value (of the Adopt-A-Legislator program) – and seeks the value,” Sidles said.

Hastings said he sought information about seed technology and tiling to learn about those subjects. He’s been impressed by farm equipment and technology – and realized farming happens in his district. 

The senator also learned about farmers’ views on property rights issues and agreed to sponsor legislation related to rights-of-way landownership.

“I’m proud of my relationship with farmers,” Hastings said. “They need good representation whether they’re in northern or southern Illinois.” 

“It’s a two-way street,” Sidles added. “We go into it knowing we may not be 100 percent in agreement in our discussion, but we walk away learning from each other.”

Related: Bill would require easements from landowners on road rights-of-way telecommunications, utility projects. Read more here.

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