IFB delegates to consider marketing, pandemic, solar policy

BY KAY SHIPMAN AND ASHLEY RICE

After a long day of delving into pressing issues, Illinois Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee members completed IFB’s policy process work Wednesday evening.

“Our membership needs to know the Resolutions Committee did a deep dive and really vetted county submittals,” said State and Local Government Subcommittee Chairman Leon McClerren of Franklin County before starting a four-hour drive home. “I hope this gives the membership satisfaction.”

The Resolutions Committee followed COVID-19 statewide mitigation requirements while meeting at the IFB building in Bloomington. Unlike in August when all submittals were considered by the committee as a whole, the State and Local Government, Natural Resources, and Agricultural Production and National Issues subcommittees considered submittals in separate meetings. Afterward, the Resolutions Committee as a whole heard the subcommittees’ recommendations and debated all the submittals.

“What’s next?” asked Brian Duncan, IFB vice president. “We dealt with these policy submittals, and the next thing is the delegates have their say. This is all prepping for the day when the members really speak. So, the members provide these issues for us to deal with, they provide the language for the Resolutions Committee to look at. We vet them, we get all the answers to the questions we hope maybe would be asked on the delegate floor. Then once the delegates act on it, it goes in the policy book. Then it’s up to leadership and staff to execute on these.”

Pandemic issues surfaced in the State and Local Government Subcommittee with proposed insurance liability policy from White County Farm Bureau. Committee members discussed the need to protect businesses, including farms and agricultural ones, defined as essential businesses during the pandemic.

“We discussed the legal nightmare,” Subcommittee Vice Chairman Dave Isermann told Resolution Committee members.

The Resolutions Committee voted in favor of new policy to support legislation that will protect small businesses deemed essential, in compliance with federal and state regulations, from liability claims made by employees and customers related to the coronavirus or other similar pandemics.

IFB delegates also will consider new transportation policy related to township highway commissioners submitted by Lee County Farm Bureau. During lengthy debate, Resolutions Committee members discussed challenges along with county government differences regarding township road authority.

The Resolutions Committee voted to forward policy to support requiring the township highway commissioner to provide explanation if the highway commission denies a road access request of a landowner, and establishing a process for landowners to appeal a decision of a township highway commissioner.

The Natural Resources Subcommittee discussed at length several policy proposals related to commercial solar and wind energy facilities and crop protection application, education and recordkeeping.

IFB delegates will consider new policy, submitted by Lee County Farm Bureau, to support statewide regulations to require a notice of intent to construct commercial solar energy projects and a hearing prior to construction of a commercial solar energy project. Current IFB policy opposes both.

“On solar energy, we do a 180-degree turn and support” a notice of intent to construct and a hearing prior to construction of commercial solar projects," said Natural Resources Subcommittee Chairman Joe White of Kane County. “The times have changed.” White noted commercial solar energy projects have been proposed on 12,000 acres in Lee County.

“I think this policy development process really vets a lot of the concerns the members have,” White added.

The Resolutions Committee voted in favor of an amended crop protection policy proposal from Champaign County Farm Bureau. The policy would support establishment of an industry standard for voluntary field marking that displays the traits planted in a field.

During subcommittee discussion, Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of environmental policy, explained some states and the Extension Service, but not in Illinois, offer a field marking program that primarily uses field flags to denote what is planted in a field.

Subcommittee members supported a voluntary effort. Lurkins pointed out American Farm Bureau Federation policy opposes any requirement to notify all neighbors ahead of a pesticide or fertilizer application.

The Resolutions Committee also supported an amended policy proposal related to specialty crops from Union County Farm Bureau.

IFB delegates will consider new policy to support development of new crop protection technologies that benefit specialty growers and row crop farmers alike while minimizing the effects on other plant habitat and the environment.

The Resolutions Committee voted in favor of adding “specialty crop” to existing policy supporting continuation of state university ag department research programs that identify optimum application timing of herbicides for weed control while reducing any negative impact to “row crop and specialty crop” plant development.

The Agricultural Production/National Issues (APN) subcommittee discussed issues ranging from dairy marketing to government farm policies to contract production and marketing to food labeling.

“We covered a myriad of topics,” explained Keith Mussman, APN committee chairman and Kankakee County Farm Bureau president. “For a corn and soybean and chicken farmer, I found it interesting that the submittal our committee needed the most education on was in regards to milk pricing. And that’s the beauty of Farm Bureau. We have grassroots issues. We have problems in a segment of agriculture that some of us don’t know about but we’re willing to try to learn about it.”

Both submittals on dairy marketing, one concerning Class 1 milk pricing and the other addressing Federal Milk Market Order reforms to depooling rules, were approved.

The subcommittee did not include a policy submittal that would have removed IFB’s opposition to government supply or acreage reduction programs. The subcommittee and full committee felt this would be a major shift in IFB policy and that production would be moved away from U.S. producers.

A Recommendation to the Board was received by the District 2 Livestock Working Group involving pricing, transparency and profitability issues for livestock producers. Through the recommendation, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureaus are encouraging the board to actively pursue solutions which align with IFB policy concerning livestock pricing and marketing.

Subcommittee vice chairmen include:

  • Keith Poole, Ogle County, State and Local Government
  • Dennis Smith, Vermilion County, Agricultural Production and National Issues
  • Dave Isermann, LaSalle County, Natural Resources

This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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