Illinois farmers push for infrastructure investment in rural areas


You know the roads are bad when you hit a pothole in your vehicle and the blinker comes on.

Korbin Wagenbach, a Peoria County farmer, shared this story with U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, during a recent Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington trip to emphasize the need for road repairs in rural Illinois.

Flowing funds from the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to rural Illinois was a hot topic during the trip, which included nine IFB members who met with their respective congressional leaders March 8 and 9.

The group thanked U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Hoffman Estates, during virtual meetings, as well as U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, through her staff for their years-long efforts to secure $829 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to upgrade a pair of locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River.

IFB members reminded officials that rural Illinois is in need of additional infrastructure money for rural broadband, roads and bridges and additional lock and dam replacement and repairs that are vital for transporting farmers’ goods.

Wagenbach said roads in the vicinity of the grain storage facility he helps manage near Glasford are in horrible shape.

“I drive them every day and the potholes are getting bigger and bigger and don’t seem to be getting patched,” Wagenbach said. “The sides of the road are kind of gone. There’s no shoulders and steep dropoffs where you’re driving so when you’re in a big rig and you meet a tractor or another semi it doesn’t take much to hit that drop and then it just kind of sucks you in.”

Following his meeting with the IFB group, Durbin’s office issued a press release.

“The bipartisan infrastructure law will be a boon for our Illinois farmers who rely on our rail, rivers, and roads to move their goods to market,” Durbin, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said in a press release. “Now, as the Senate begins to consider the upcoming farm bill, I want to ensure — once again — that the needs of our Illinois farmers are met.”

Adam Nielsen, IFB’s director of national legislation and policy development, said he was encouraged by the group’s meeting with Duckworth and her offer to help rural areas.

“I thought Senator Duckworth’s offer to lead a letter on that subject was really something that we were looking for,” Nielsen said. “There are billions of dollars that were approved in the bipartisan infrastructure law and Illinois is getting a substantial sum of money, and it’s our belief that there are needs out in rural Illinois that need to be addressed. Please don’t spend all the money in Chicago and the suburbs.”

Trucking regulations coupled with labor shortages also creates a perfect storm for farmers relying on bulk load inputs and outputs that need delivery during specific timeframes. Between new commercial driver’s license requirements and a trucker shortage, members said they’re concerned about the resulting bottlenecks.

The group also stressed their opposition to the proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule.

Dean Campbell, a fifth-generation farmer from Randolph County who farms corn, soybeans and wheat, made the same request in all his meetings: “Please don’t change this.

“I want to be a good steward. But yet, I don’t want to have all the bureaucracy that could come about,” Campbell told FarmWeek. “We’re in a good position now, we can understand where we are with the current rules.”

This story was provided by