BY ERIN M. HENKEL
As lawmakers gather in Springfield for the first week of spring session, the Illinois Farm Bureau state team is ready to advocate for the 2024 state legislative priorities approved by the IFB Board of Directors.
Spring session of the 103rd General Assembly begins Jan. 16 and is anticipated to adjourn May 24, but could go longer depending on the legislative process.
“The 2024 spring session will kick off to a very slow start in January and February and will begin in earnest following the March primary election, and race to a frenzied finish by the end of May,” said Chris Davis, IFB director of state legislation. “What to expect from session depends on what happens in March.”
IFB will seek to reform the Illinois Estate and Generation Transfer Tax Act to reflect modern farm estate evaluations and protect typical farm incomes from the tax.
An estate in Illinois is only eligible for an exemption if the gross value is less than $4 million. If the estate is worth more than $4 million after inclusion of taxable gifts, a tax amount is calculated through a complex formula and is subject to a graduated state estate tax, with the entire estate being taxed.
Illinois is one of a dozen states with an estate tax different than the federal amount, joining states such as New York and Connecticut.
Reforming the estate tax would help allow families to retain and continue farming their land.
After IFB’s Annual Meeting in December, where delegates voted to include a submittal supporting legislation to prohibit the use of eminent domain for carbon dioxide pipelines, IFB will be advocating to repeal eminent domain authority allowed for CO2 pipelines.
Currently, if a pipeline project is approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), that approval grants eminent domain authority to the project.
IFB will also work to ensure eminent domain authority does not expand to include wind, solar and energy developers.
IFB will continue advocating for protecting private property rights when infrastructure projects impact farmland, especially as demand for renewable energy and carbon capture projects increase.
IFB will also continue to advocate for private property protection on navigable waters.
Current state law prohibits a landowner with property adjacent to a non-navigable river or stream from using that waterway to cross the property of another riparian owner without their permission, according to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling in June 2022.
During the case, when deciding whether to expand riparian rights for non-navigable rivers and recreational uses, the high court ruled the “General Assembly is better equipped to address” the issue.
If the current state law were to be changed, farmers would be forced to allow people access to non-navigable waterways on their land without compensation and producers could face civil and criminal liabilities.
IFB will advocate against legislation that grants public access to private waters and argues doing so is a violation of private property rights and an unlawful taking of property.
Another priority for spring session is to extend the Agritourism Liability Insurance Tax Credit Program launched by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) for taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022, and ending on or before Dec. 31, 2023.
The tax credit was meant to offset the high costs associated with liability insurance premiums that could make up 20% to 30% of an agritourism operation’s costs.
Illinois is one of the few Midwest states that does not offer limited liability protection, meaning agritourism operators are vulnerable to serious legal penalties if someone gets hurt at their business.
The high cost of liability premiums and the threat of serious legal action can serve as a deterrent to those interested in entering the agritourism industry.
Under the program, agritourism operators can apply for a tax credit equal to 100% of the premium they paid during the tax year, up to $1,000.
The program was funded at $1 million for tax years 2022 and 2023, meaning up to 1,000 individual operations could receive the full credit each year.
Eligible agritourism businesses included those providing historic, cultural and on-site educational programs, tours, animal exhibitions and petting zoos, crop mazes, U-pick harvesting, horse rides, hayrides and sleigh rides.
IFB is advocating for the state to extend the agritourism tax credit to reduce the financial burden on producers in the agritourism industry and to make it less daunting for prospective producers to join.
Last session, the General Assembly passed a measure that amends the sales tax act to provide a 10% state sales tax exemption for E15, a 20% tax exemption for mid-range ethanol, or fuel containing 20% to 50% ethanol and a 100% tax exemption for E85. All three exemptions are for sales made Jan. 1, 2024, through Dec. 31, 2028.
Those tax incentives are aimed at boosting the use of gasoline mixed with ethanol.
IFB will continue to engage in conversations promoting the use of biofuels as a mechanism to reduce the transportation sector’s carbon footprint.
As negotiations start for this year’s budget, IFB will be working to maintain adequate state funding for key IDOA programs such as meat, poultry and egg inspectors, environmental programs such as those supporting the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, warehouse oversight and veterinarian programs.
IFB will continue advocating for a balanced process through the Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA), to protect the environment and farmers’ ability to raise livestock.
LMFA protects farmers by ensuring regulations are not overly burdensome and ensures livestock farms are properly designed and sited.
IFB will be advocating reforming the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ deer management policies to allow farmers the ability to better manage nuisance deer causing damage to their farming operations.
Nuisance deer can cause extreme property damage for farmers, including decimating crops.
Property owners seeking to remove nuisance deer must have a valid nuisance animal removal permit (NARP) issued by IDNR.
Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.