Guebert: Remain vigilant trade advocates

President Richard Guebert Jr. called 2018 a "wake-up call for agriculture" during his address at IFB's Annual Meeting in Chicago.

IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. delivers his annual address Saturday during IFB's 104th Annual Meeting in Chicago. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. called on Farm Bureau leaders Saturday to remain vigilant in advocating for international trade.

“We cannot allow the leaders of our country to enter an era of isolation and protectionism,” he said. “This trend must be reversed.”

Guebert, speaking during his address at IFB’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, recalled past trade embargoes and outlined five trade-related actions that must occur.

- Approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement in 2019. “I’m asking our Illinois congressional delegation to support this agreement,” Guebert said. “This includes those legislators that criticized the president this past year for his stance on trade. Now is your chance to step up and show your support for free trade.”

- Elimination of tariffs on steel and aluminum.

- Re-engagement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership or negotiation of bi-lateral agreements with those 11 countries. “Enough talk,” Guebert said. “Let’s see some progress.”

- Continue negotiations with China. “They are our largest customer,” Guebert said. “Successful businesses figure out a way to keep their largest customers.”

- Push beyond the 10 percent ethanol blend wall. “Building a market for year-round sales of E15 is a good start,” Guebert said. “We must honor the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) and consider extending the agreement, which is due to expire in 2022.”

Calling 2018 a “wake-up call” for agriculture, Guebert announced plans for a summit next year to examine the future of food and ag demand. The summit will be hosted by IFB, Illinois commodity groups and FARM Illinois.

“In this constantly evolving world, we must look into the future – and help shape our future,” he said.

Guebert thanked more than 50 Farm Bureau leaders for conveying the importance of trade to international, national, regional and local media. He also thanked Vice President Brian Duncan for his interviews with national news outlets such as CNN, Fox News and CNBC.

“Illinois Farm Bureau’s visible leadership on trade was noticed,” he said, pointing to two meetings he had with Vice President Mike Pence.

“It wasn’t my good looks or my great wit that allowed me the chance to meet with our nation’s leaders,” he said. “These invitations came because of the reputation Illinois Farm Bureau and its members have established in Washington, D.C.”

Guebert citied other examples of member engagement that will help the organization succeed, including:

- Cook County Farm Bureau President Janet McCabe and District 5 proposing a Sense of the Delegate Body Resolution requesting the board investigate options to address the rising cost of health insurance. In September, the board approved a list of recommendations from the Health Care Working Group, including investigating the viability of an association health plan.

- The Saturated Buffer Partnership and IFB’s work with about 40 researchers across the state. IFB has conducted more than 230 field days, workshops, webinars and presentations to educate approximately 39,000 farmers, landowners, educators and agricultural partners about the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. IFB was awarded the 2018 Sustainability Award. “This is quite an achievement,” Guebert said. “Something we can all be proud of.”

- Andy Bolsen, Kim Curry, Mark Eddleman, Gale Koelling, Michael Zecher and Dan Ziller all served on the County Farm Bureau of the Future Committee. The committee’s recommendations provide a valuable roadmap for county Farm Bureaus to consider as they look to the future, Guebert said.

Video: Watch Guebert's full speech.

He said IFB looks forward to meeting with Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker and new legislators to discuss its agenda to grow Illinois agriculture. Priorities include, among other things, growing the state’s livestock industry, year-round E15, and a tax policy that continues sales tax exemptions on equipment and inputs and maintains the farmland assessments.

“There are often dark storm clouds just before the sky clears and the sun shines,” Guebert said. “I believe that is where we stand today. With perseverance, a vision and by working together we can shape a prosperous future.”

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