IFB, IDOA leaders share info, concerns, challenges

By Kay Shipman

Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) Monday discussed COVID-19 impacts and potential implications for Illinois agriculture. To limit possible contamination, the leaders spoke via conference call.

“Acting Director (Jerry) Costello was open and listened to our concerns,” IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. told FarmWeek.

Jerry Costello, acting director of IDOA, said: “Agriculture is essential to keeping food on our shelves and the economy moving in the state of Illinois. During this time of uncertainty, you can be certain that we will be in constant communication with the Illinois Farm Bureau to make sure our state’s number one industry continues to move forward.”

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted, “Illinois’ food supply chain is among the nation’s strongest and steadiest. I’m committed to keeping it that way as things evolve.”

Guebert said he emphasized to Costello the continued need for state government to recognize “agriculture as a critical piece of the food supply chain and what we, as producers, have is perishable and that needs to be considered — whatever actions they take.”

Guebert pointed out most dairy farmers have on-farm storage capacity for one and a half days of milk production. “We need to get product off the farm and onto shelves,” he added.

IFB Vice President Brian Duncan shared the importance of keeping supply chains open and operating so animals are fed and crops are planted.

Costello is acutely aware of Illinois’ importance to the nation’s food production. On Ag Legislative Day, he pointed out Illinois leads the nation in food processing with more than 2,600 processors.

Guebert also emphasized the critical need to keep various facilities open from packing plants to dairy processors to ethanol plants. The ethanol plants, especially, provide a needed market for farmers with grain quality issues, he added.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, IFB and IDOA leaders agreed “to have open communications and share challenges,” Guebert said. “We will discuss how we can work collaboratively.”

In other news, IDOA and the University of Illinois Extension canceled all remaining Pesticide Applicator Training and Testing Clinics. Impacted clinic locations include Peoria, Champaign, Moline, Matteson, Collinsville, Springfield, Alsip, Carterville, Skokie, Des Plaines and St. Charles locations. Test-only sessions in DeKalb and Springfield were also canceled.

IDOA is extending pesticide applicator licenses that expired Dec. 31, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020. Training and testing opportunities will be available for individuals who currently are not licensed applicators.

Visit www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr for the latest information.

This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.