ILLINOIS (IRN) — Illinois farmers have faced the uncertainties of weather, tariffs, international trade agreements, competition from other countries, but while some things are out of their hand, what happens in Springfield doesn’t have to be.
That is why the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates for state laws and policies on their behalf, said Michael Doherty, senior economist and policy analyst for the organization.
“What we care about is the perspective of the farmer operator. That’s our primary member that’s who were advocating for – whoever is in the tractor seat,” Doherty said.
Doherty said that unlike other states, farmers in Illinois are a largely homogenous group — 97 percent of Illinois farms are family-owned and 80 percent grow the soybean-corn rotation that characterizes the state’s agriculture.
When it comes to attempting to influence public policy, the Illinois Farm Bureau – which is also a collection of grass-roots farmers in every county – there are commonalities.
Issues such as infrastructure and transportation affect farmers, Doherty said.
“We hold meetings cross-state with farmers every year because farming here in Illinois means transporting very large volumes of corn and soybeans somewhere off that farm,” Doherty said. “Eventually it’s got to be transported from the farm to either a river terminal, an ethanol plant, a processing plant or to a commercial or corporately owned elevator. So for that to happen somebody’s got to transport.”
Laws that affect farmers, which could be anything from environmental regulations to road funding, affect everyone, he said.
“We have over 100 counties in Illinois, so we’ve got all these county-level farm bureau organizations, and most people in a rural area are familiar with their county farm bureau office,” Doherty said. “The slate of policies have been agreed upon and represent the majority of the farmers.”