Guebert: 'When we fight, we need to go all out'


When the families of Illinois’ oldest farms set out 200 years ago to establish their legacies, they likely couldn’t imagine their ventures surviving widespread natural disasters, the coronavirus pandemic or an unstable global economy.

But they have — and farmers across the state continue to tread through similar realities.

And while that shared heritage has lived on, it also is at risk, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. said Dec. 4 during his address at the 2021 IFB Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“Our Farm Bureau philosophy is in stark contrast to the progressive movement in this country that wants to tax and spend at the expense of successful family businesses, and that includes you, farmers,” Guebert said, noting the 2022 midterm elections will be a watershed moment for U.S. agriculture policy.

“Farm Bureau has the greatest ability to influence agriculture issues. However, the further we move from ag, the less influence we have,” Guebert said. “When we fight, we need to go all out.”

County Farm Bureaus did just that in 2019, defeating a proposed statewide progressive income tax. And in 2021, Guebert noted, IFB successfully fought to protect state sales tax exemptions for inputs, seed and equipment.

Members and staff also joined forces to eliminate stepped-up basis and to remove lower estate tax exemptions from the federal bipartisan infrastructure law.

“But we need to remain vigilant,” Guebert said. “Efforts to tax successful family businesses will continue to be a target. We must continue to build relationships with our urban neighbors and tell our story.”

That story is framed by other victories in 2021, when IFB:

  • Developed a HACCP training program to assist small local meat processors maintain and expand their workforce, keeping animals moving through the local supply chain.
  • Outlined steps for a more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers and worked with the AFBF Pork Working Group to craft delegate policy to improve price discovery and transparency.
  • Advocated with Illinois’ congressional delegation that import tariffs be addressed to reduce rising fertilizer prices, leading to Senate hearings.
  • Joined an amicus brief challenging Proposition 12 on the grounds it restricts interstate trade.
  • Opposed allowing private companies the right of eminent domain, a measure later included in the energy bill, which will be challenged.
  • Gathered input from over 200 members at 17 farm bill listening sessions and hosted 12 Nutrient Stewardship Field Days.
  • Facilitated meetings on wind and solar energy projects, helping members and landowners become more informed.
  • Held a webinar for County Farmland Assessment Review Committee members to better understand annual certified values.

During the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, IFB also utilized technology in new ways to engage members and learned new and different ways to conduct business, Guebert said.

“The pandemic has re-enforced the need for relationships, working together, and helping others,” he said. “I believe small communities; farm families and Farm Bureau are especially good at coming together to help one another.”

The balance of tradition and transition, Guebert added, will continue to guide IFB through 2022 as it advocates for incentives, individual responsibility, initiative, freedom and the right to work without governmental dependence.

“I vow to do everything in my power as your president to fight for farmers across this state to enable us to prosper. And to keep what our hard work has earned,” Guebert said. “Farm Bureau has a great reputation for staying true to our principles. That is our tradition. And we possess a great future with the ability to transition and grow the industry of agriculture for the next generation.”

VIDEO EXTRA: Watch Guebert’s entire speech here. 

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