Farmers 'fly-in' to Washington to discuss planting, trade

IFB's president, four board directors and several staff members joined more than 150 other state Farm Bureau representatives in a series of sessions.

IFB farmer leaders meet with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Duckworth office)

By Joanie Stiers

Illinois Farm Bureau’s farmer leaders stepped away from their planters for 48 hours to give Washington lawmakers a real-time account of the planting situation and discuss pressing issues impacting their profitability.

Trade, trade mitigation payments, crop insurance, rural broadband access and planting challenges dominated the conversations at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy Fly-In to Washington, D.C., last week.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr., four board directors and several staff members joined more than 150 other state Farm Bureau representatives in a series of sessions on policy and the political climate. Illinois’ delegation also met with the Risk Management Agency, multiple members of Congress, and U.S. Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Illinois Farm Bureau District 8 Director David Serven shakes the hand of U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood. (Photo by Chris Magnuson, IFB executive director of operations, news and communications)

Illinois Farm Bureau District 8 Director David Serven returned to his Knox County farm most concerned about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“I feel USMCA is going to take a Herculean effort from the White House to get this passed,” he said. “The politics are there that don’t want to give Trump what they deem as a victory. It looks like it is going to be a hard issue to get passed.”

During the short trip, Guebert frequently told lawmakers that agriculture needed a “quick win” with ratification of USMCA, said Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau director of national legislation.

“I don’t know how quick it’s going to be,” Nielsen said. “There is a lot caught up in politics right now, but we’re going to keep talking about USMCA until it passes, or they say it’s not going to be considered.”

In addition to a push for USMCA, Farm Bureau representatives made frequent asks to extend the crop insurance premium payment deadline from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1. Guebert found agency representatives and lawmakers receptive, as IFB directors explained how spring’s planting challenges will carry into fall harvest.

“As late as this planting season has been, most of the state is not going to be into harvest until maybe the first of October,” Guebert said. “These payments are pretty good-sized checks. If we can harvest some of the crop, we can have access to cash to make payments the first of December.”

District 14 Director Ken Cripe’s family in Fayette County handled planting soybeans while he attended his first Advocacy Fly-In as IFB’s newest director. Cripe talked to lawmakers about the toughest spring in his 40-plus-year farming career and expressed a need for farmers to know details of the new Market Facilitation Program soon.

“The fly-in was very good, very well organized and all the people who were there that we talked to were very helpful, and they all got our message,” Cripe said. “We’re hoping that they do everything we talked to them about, but it’s still down to politics. That was the indication that we got.”