Delegates adjust state policy ahead of potential capital program

Changes to the organization's motor fuel tax policy leave room for negotiations with new governor's administration.

One out of every 3 miles of highways and other roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to research. IFB supports a moderate increase to the state fuel tax to generate revenue to make improvements. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Kay Shipman

County Farm Bureau delegates approved subtle policy changes to position the organization for possible negotiations with the Illinois General Assembly and new Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration.

During the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, delegates changed highway finance policy to support a moderate increase in the state motor fuel tax that continued IFB’s support for an increase but removed a specific per-gallon amount.

Moultrie County Farm Bureau President Andy Bolsen pointed out the state’s gas tax hadn’t increased in many years and recommended delegates approve language for a “moderate increase” to give the IFB Board latitude to negotiate.

Negotiations could start in the next legislation session. During the midterm elections, several candidates, including Gov.-elect Pritzker, made a statewide capital program a priority. The last major state capital program passed in 2009.

About 9 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, and 1 mile out of every 3 miles of highway and major urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to a national transportation research group.

During policy debate, some delegates questioned a nonspecific increase; however, IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. explained each bill is analyzed by IFB staff, reviewed by IFB Illinois Government Committee members who recommend a position, and forwarded to the IFB Board.

“I like the idea of giving the IAA Board a little flexibility,” Mercer County Farm Bureau President Michael Zecher said, speaking in support of the policy change. “They’re peers and farmers. Let’s leave it up to their judgment.”

Other state policy action included:

- Support for the use of a “design-build” project delivery method for construction projects. Such a method requires a designer and contractor to work together and provide unified recommendations, reducing construction time and cost.

- Opposition to the creation of a statewide vehicle mileage tax that would tax individuals based on miles driven annually.

- Support efforts to enhance the 8-1-1 internet-based location service to accommodate whole field utility location services, using whole field boundaries.

- Support for development of regional food hubs, a business or organization that actively manages aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products from local and regional producers.

- Support for standardized statewide regulations governing refrigeration, freezer and handwashing stations for farmers’ markets and other direct food sales opportunities.

- Support for consideration of Illinois Department of Agriculture pesticide misuse complaint findings when determining liability for pesticide damage.

- Support for amending current private pesticide application license procedure to create a five-year license. Any new training requirements added during the license term would be considered endorsements and should not trigger testing for an overall new license.

- Support the continuation and development of research at state university ag departments to identify optimum timing of herbicide applications to achieve greatest weed control while reducing any potential negative impact to crop plant development.