Farmer perspective needed on local government boards

Two years into his tenure as a member of the county government board, McLean County farmer Gerald Thompson sees enormous value in serving and encourages other farmers to consider a run for local government office.

Thompson serves as one of 20 members on the McLean County Board and one of only two farmers. Seven of the districts that make up the county lie within Bloomington or Normal, while the other three are outside the twin cities. Two board members serve each of the 10 districts.

Besides a monthly board meeting, he serves on two committees and meets with both each month. Related events occasionally require additional time.

The corn and soybean grower said even in a mostly rural county like his, the need to represent farmers on local decisions has never been greater.

“It’s not that often that an issue directly impacts agriculture, but when it does, it’s going to be a pretty big impact,” Thompson said. “And it’s hard to predict when that’s going to be. We’re governed by those who show up.”

Thompson has been part of debates on a variety of issues affecting farmers, including wind and solar installations, manure management, road control, zoning and rural ambulance service.

The farmer perspective isn’t always inherent for his fellow board members, Thompson said.

“There’s always a need to bring a level of understanding to an issue,” he said. “I think it’s important to have a voice there.”

Farming comprises a huge part of the McLean County economy. But even there, Thompson said more and more of his colleagues have only a basic understanding of agriculture and are open to hearing what farmers have to say.

This article appeared in the latest edition of LINK.