McLean County Farm Bureau hosts U.S. senator visit with Illinois farmers

Durbin hears about importance of trade, crop insurance.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, meets with Illinois farmers recently in McLean County. Durbin said he plans to hold similar meetings throughout the state. (Photo courtesy of McLean County Farm Bureau)

By Deana Stroisch

A group of McLean County farmers met with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin recently to discuss a wide range of issues affecting agriculture – from trade and the farm bill to technology and conservation practices.

The roundtable discussion, held at the McLean County Farm Bureau, was the first of many listening sessions the senator said he plans to hold. Durbin, D-Springfield, serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry during the 116th Congress.

“I leave this meeting with an appreciation of the complexity of agriculture today, the challenges they face and the increasing costs,” Durbin told reporters after the meeting. “I’ll continue these visits downstate and around the state to make sure I take the message back to Washington.”

Pat Bane, a pig farmer from Arrowsmith, explained to the senator how trade disputes and tariffs have affected pork producers like himself.

“The retaliation from Mexico and China to the steel and aluminum duties aren’t helping us,” Bane said. “In fact, they’re costing us a lot of money. … We strongly encourage a resolution as soon as possible. We need exports to survive.”

Durbin agreed the “sooner they get this resolved, the better.” Asked about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Durbin told reporters that lawmakers have yet to see the finalized trilateral deal. A hearing before the Senate finance committee could be held in April. Durbin acknowledged agriculture’s support of USMCA.

“I have to look at it not just from the ag perspective, but how it affects our businesses in Illinois and workers in those businesses,” Durbin said. “I’m going to withhold any final judgement until I get a chance to look at it.”

In addition to trade, the group of nine farmers discussed the benefits of the 2018 farm bill, which, among other things, preserves crop insurance.

“We typically are payers of crop insurance, not collectors, but we need it from a risk-management standpoint,” said Carl Neubauer, a farmer from Downs. He described McLean County as “the garden spot of the world.”

Asked about immigration, Bane stressed the importance of migrant workers for the livestock industry.

“I strongly believe they don’t cost Americans jobs, they make Americans jobs,” he said. “The ultimate fear is that some of our food would have to be raised in countries where there can be labor to do it.”

David Meiss, IFB District 7 Director, thanked Durbin for taking time to visit with McLean County farmers. Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau director of national issues and policy development, invited Durbin to visit a farm during the growing season.