July policy submittals included the use of public land for energy and environmental purposes, and issues related to animal health and food safety.
Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan, seated left, chairman of the IFB Resolutions Committee, meets with subcommittee chairmen; Effingham County Farm Bureau President Kent Mellendorf, left, Natural Resources chair; Mercer County Farm Bureau President Michael Zecher, center, State and Local Government chair; and Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau President Bob Fecht, right, Agricultural Production and National Issues chair. (Photo by Kay Shipman)
By Kay Shipman
Illinois Farm Bureau’s Resolutions Committee discussed a wide range of policy proposals from county Farm Bureaus in preparation for IFB Annual Meeting policy debate Wednesday.
Vice President Brian Duncan, who chairs the Resolutions Committee, emphasized the importance of the discussions: “What we do here and present to the delegates guides this organization for the next year.”
“This is not a wish list,” Duncan continued, pointing to an IFB policy book. “This is instruction to the (IFB) Board what the delegates want. ... These policies matter.”
Duncan noted common overall themes in the July policy submittals. These included the use of public land for energy and environmental purposes, and issues related to animal health and food safety.
Several environmental topics, including solar energy, sparked debate in the Natural Resources Subcommittee. Members discussed the potential for solar energy panels on state property to generate energy and potentially reduce costs, said Effingham County Farm Bureau President Kent Mellendorf, chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee.
“Solar panels, if located in the right areas, will be a benefit as long as they do not distract drivers,” Mellendorf said.
Resolutions Committee members learned about the Illinois research projects exploring solar panel use along roadways.
Natural Resources Subcommittee members also discussed a proposal to increase pollinator habitat on certain types of government land, such as rest areas. “But safety and visibility are priorities,” Mellendorf emphasized.
The Resolutions Committee supported the subcommittee’s recommendation to support planting and maintenance of pollinator habitat in areas that will not create a public safety hazard and uses methods that will not cause problems for production agriculture.
Agricultural Production and National Issues Subcommittee members discussed animal identification using birth records and seeking uniform acreage reporting deadlines for the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency. Following lengthy debate, the Resolutions Committee voted to hold a farm policy payment proposal for more input and discussion at its Nov. 6 meeting.
“We’ve had great feedback from individuals who provided background from the county Farm Bureaus and from IFB staff,” said Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau President Bob Fecht, chairman of the Agricultural Production and National Issues Subcommittee.
Fecht complimented county Farm Bureaus’ work submitting their proposals. “They’ve done well giving their reasons and communicating to us,” he said.
The State and Local Government Subcommittee discussed “tax reform and a good mix of public policy proposals,” said Mercer County Farm Bureau President Michael Zecher, State and Local Government Subcommittee chair.
The subcommittee tackled a wide range of proposals and recommended new health care policy supporting patient access to critical access hospitals in rural and underserved areas and exemptions to new USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer rules that would allow seasonal and on-farm businesses to accept SNAP benefits.
Following his first term on the Resolutions Committee, Zecher said the experience put “another perspective on policy development. We take ideas from county Farm Bureaus, talk about them, try to find consensus and move them forward. It’s really interesting.”
This year’s Resolution Committee members include those with experience and others, like Zecher, who are new. “We had a lot of great discussion and spent a lot of time reviewing current policy,” Duncan noted.
The vice president encouraged county Farm Bureau members to consider submitting policy proposals: “If there are issues lurking or not in our policy, or if there is policy you don’t agree with, submit a proposal. The deadline is Oct. 11 for November submittals.”
The Resolutions Committee will meet Nov. 6 to consider other policy submittals that will be presented to delegates at the IFB Annual Meeting.