IFB leaders meet with legislators on Capitol Hill


Following a flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill last week, Illinois Farm Bureau President Brian Duncan said the face time with Illinois’ congressional delegation was invaluable for building relationships and getting the organization’s priorities in front of lawmakers.

Duncan, as well as Kevin Semlow, IFB executive director of governmental affairs and commodities, visited with members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, advocating on three main issues: a farm bill with a Proposition 12 fix, labor issues and the Greenhouse Gasses, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model.

As a new president, Duncan said the one-on-one meetings with members of Congress and their staff was invaluable, and he was pleased with the conversations.

“Farm Bureau carries great respect when we walk in the room,” Duncan said during an interview with FarmWeek and RFD Radio. “They’re eager to see us and visit with us. As a new president, everybody was very welcoming and looking forward to building on these relationships.”

One of IFB’s national legislative priorities is gaining passage of a farm bill before the current extended legislation expires in September.

“I left cautiously optimistic, but also realistic,” Duncan said of the farm bill discussions, adding it’s possible the House will be marking up a farm bill in the next couple weeks.

Finding a fix within the farm bill for California’s Proposition 12, which places housing restrictions on farms that ship pork to the state and has major implications on pork prices, costs to farmers and interstate commerce, also has gained traction amongst legislators.

“I sense a recognition of the need to do something,” Duncan said. “Six months ago when we started talking about this, after the Supreme Court upheld Prop 12, there was a tendency amongst the senators and representatives that I talked to, to not intervene in this. I think the needle has moved on this issue.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also has been adamant that if Congress doesn’t act, there will be “chaos” in the marketplace, which he testified about during a House Agriculture Committee meeting last month.

“That was a pretty big cue that I think a lot of congressional delegates sat up and took notice of,” Duncan said.

Touching on labor needs in the ag sector, Duncan said unfortunately, immigration issues also become entangled with labor needs, and the two must be separated. Specifically, Farm Bureau is advocating for freezing the H-2A rates and a rollback of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), which is the required wage that farm employers must pay H-2A workers. The AEWR has more than doubled since 2005, adding to labor costs and threatening profitability and sustainability of farms at a time when farmers are struggling to find reliable help.

“Once we were able to pivot the discussion from immigration to labor ... there’s a real recognition,” Duncan said, adding Farm Bureau members have done a great job reaching out to their respective congressional representatives to explain the issue.

And as awareness heightens on the Hill, the next step is to find a legislative vehicle to move forward the initiatives.

Conversations with lawmakers also turned to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) tax credits, specifically in relation to the Biden administration’s delayed deadline to modify the emissions model known as the Greenhouse Gasses, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model. GREET is backed by the agriculture, biofuels and aviation industries and is critical in determining eligibility for the Inflation Reduction Act’s SAF tax credit.

Vilsack announced on March 1 the announcement would be delayed “a few more weeks” to “get the model right.”

“The GREET model is very important for renewable fuels that we produce here in Illinois, the corn-based, the soy-based renewables, because it scores our land use more correctly and accurately from a carbon scoring standpoint,” Duncan said. “So we wanted to emphasize to our senators to contact the Biden administration, because they seem to be wavering a little bit on this and implementing the GREET model as a carbon score for sustainable aviation fuel.”

During the visit, Duncan met with Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, as well as Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap; Jonathan Jackson, D-Chicago; and staff of Eric Sorensen, D-Moline. Semlow was also able to meet with the staffs of Reps. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, and Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.

Duncan said the visit to Washington, D.C. was a privilege — one he doesn’t take for granted. Duncan, who also attended an American Farm Bureau Federation board meeting as a newly-elected member, is also appreciative of the access he was granted to lawmakers and the relationships that were built.

“They just kept asking questions and wanted to talk,” Duncan said. “And I took advantage of the opportunity to tell the stories of our members and what we’re faced with on the farm in these areas."


Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.