BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Drafting policy and voting from a distance, Illinois Farm Bureau delegates approved policies that could move the organization to take a closer look at boosting the use of biodiesel in the state, livestock pricing transparency, and protecting small business from potential liability due to COVID-19.
While the setting may have been different, Mark Gebhards, director of governmental affairs and commodities for Illinois Farm Bureau, said that members and delegates still managed to introduce, discuss and vote on the policies that direct the actions of the state’s largest farmer member organization.
“Our members and our voting delegates still had an opportunity to have a voice in this organization,” Gebhards said.
Gebhards outlined some of the highlights of the annual meeting and the policies and recommendations either passed or introduced.
The IFB delegates passed a policy that supports a statewide biodiesel blending standard for blends of B20 or higher.
“I know the Illinois Soybean Association, along with Illinois Corn Growers Association, has put a huge priority on this renewable fuels area. Our voting delegates were able to emphasize the fact that we would be supportive of that as well,” Gebhards said.
Livestock Working Group
Gebhards said the delegates made a recommendation to the Illinois Agricultural Association board of directors to create a livestock working group. Illinois Agricultural Association is the legal name of Illinois Farm Bureau.
The working group would look at pricing and pricing transparency within the livestock industry, focusing on the beef industry, but also including pork.
While the action is a recommendation and not a policy, Gebhards said it indicates support among members for the creation of such a group.
“It will be up to the IAA board of directors, how they decide to proceed with this. It is not policy. It’s a recommendation that this working group should be created. If they decide to create it, then we will decide how we want to implement that working group and how we will go forward in working,” Gebhards said.
Gebhards said the American Farm Bureau Federation recently released a report from a similar working group, looking at livestock market pricing and transparency.
“I think what our delegates are saying is they appreciate what AFBF did, they’d like to continue to work on this issue and kind of go another step, looking at the contractual nature of the industry,” Gebhards said. “Is there transparency in the contracting side of the livestock industry?”
COVID-19 Liability Protection
The delegates passed a policy that supports protecting small business deemed essential, including agriculture, from liability claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s trying to make sure that if it’s an essential business, those workers are there conducting whatever it is they are charged with doing and their business responsibilities, that they are protected from unwarranted liability,” Gebhards said.
Gebhards emphasized that one of the core principles of IFB policy is property rights and protecting those.
Policies that the delegates passed this year offered support for current state regulations regarding public hearings for and siting of utility projects, including renewable energy projects like solar installations and wind turbines.
“We’ve been very involved in the wind farm issues and other utility projects, pipelines and so forth, throughout the past several years so the delegate body just reiterated the importance of property rights,” Gebhards sad.