Illinois farmers in D.C.: 'We need trade'

Tariff war especially concerning for younger farmers, IFB member group tells officials during meetings on Capitol Hill.

Thirteen Illinois Farm Bureau members pause between meetings during last week’s Leaders to Washington trip. Participants discussed trade and other farm policy issues with national officials and legislators. (Photo by Deana Stroisch)

By Deana Stroisch

Across the nation’s capital last week, a group of Illinois farmers advocated for trade.

The 13 farmers, participants of Illinois Farm Bureau’s Leaders to Washington trip, met with members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, China’s ag attache, the Ag Secretary’s trade counsel and House Ways and Means Committee staff.

“As a young farmer, I don’t have the pocketbook or built-up assets that I can rely on to weather a prolonged tariff fight that has depressed the markets,” said Wayne Gehrke, who farms with his family in Kane and Stevenson counties. “I feel like my rope is a little shorter than some of the people who have been in business for a long time. That being said, I’m not sounding the alarms just yet, but it is a very real concern.”

Related: Guebert shares impact of tariffs on Illinois farmers directly with Trump, other top officialsRead more here.

John Stotts, who serves on the DuPage County Farm Bureau Board, told lawmakers they could help provide some certainty to farmers by passing a new farm bill before the current one expires Sept. 30.

“We hope they heard that message and can get something done,” Stotts told FarmWeek.

Related: Willingness exists for on-time farm bill passage. Read more here.

The group also called on lawmakers to support a revised “waters of the U.S. rule” that doesn’t hurt agriculture. Farmers also explained the need for additional – and affordable – health care options.

Nancy Strunk of Champaign County said farmers must continue telling agriculture’s story.

“I think the public out there doesn’t see what we’re facing as a farming community,” she said. “We need to get the word out. I also encourage people to attend this Leaders to Washington trip – especially younger members – to get involved.”

Video: IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. says a new farm bill would provide certainty during a down farm economy. (Video courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Federation)

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