Illinois Farm Bureau delegates on Tuesday overwhelmingly re-elected Richard Guebert as president of the organization at its annual meeting in Chicago. Guebert has served as president for the past four years and was challenged by David Erickson, who has served as vice president for four years, as well.
“I have to compliment David. He’s done a tremendous job as vice president,” Guebert said following the election. “He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do and did it all very well. He led some tough task forces, where he gave everyone a voice. That’s important in this Illinois Farm Bureau.”
Guebert, who farms in Randolph County, said he encouraged Erickson, a Knox County farmer, to stay engaged with the organization. “He’s a strong leader, he speaks well, he knows the issues and he listens. That’s important.”
And while Guebert won by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, he doesn’t see it as a mandate. “I look at it as a vote of confidence. Stay focused on the issues that are important.”
The contested election was humbling and made Guebert rethink and re-engage in his service. “It gives you a different perspective and raises the bar,” he added.
In his nomination of Guebert, Livingston County farmer and former Young Leader Chairman Jason Bunting compared farm leadership to growing crops. “Just as a farmer would plant a seed and nurture the crop in order to reap its reward, a true leader must do exactly the same. Through [Guebert’s] leadership, the voice of the Illinois Farm Bureau member has been strengthened at a time when we needed it most.”
New vice president
Delegates also elected a new vice president, choosing Ogle County farmer Brian Duncan. Duncan operates a diversified grain and hog operation with his family near Polo. He defeated Gardner farmer Scott Halpin and Jacksonville farmer Dale Hadden. Both Halpin and Hadden have previously served as directors on the Illinois Agricultural Association board.
“I just want to listen and serve and work hard,” Duncan said following the election, adding that he intends to be a “servant leader.” Duncan has spent the past 14 years as Ogle County Farm Bureau president.
“I’m not here to pursue Brian Duncan’s agenda,” he said, when asked whether he might direct more attention to livestock issues. “But I bring boots-on-the-ground experience, and those issues are very real to me in a personal sense.”
TEAMWORK: Re-elected IFB President Rich Guebert (right) congratulates newly elected Vice President Brian Duncan.
Guebert and Duncan have worked together over the years, and not always on the same side of issues. Years ago, they served together on a cooperative task force looking at FS member companies offering custom-farming services. “We had some knock-down, drag-out conversations, but at the end of the day, we were able to come together, find a compromise, make it work, then in the evening, went out to eat together,” Guebert recalled. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Keeping it clean
Each candidate professed his interest in keeping the campaign and election professional and friendly. Guebert recalled the years of contested Farm Bureau elections with midnight runs, boardroom divisions and uneasiness among the staff.
“When David came in to talk to me last March and said he wasn’t running for vice president but wasn’t sure if he’d challenge me, I made the decision then that I was not going to do that. I was going to stick to what Farm Bureau is noted for — for our principals, for integrity and doing it right,” Guebert said.
“I compliment all the candidates. They’ve done that. And that’s what makes an organization strong.”
Guebert and Erickson built a strong working relationship during their tenure together, and Guebert said he’ll miss him — and might even be a little disappointed they won’t be working together anymore. “We worked well together. Every time I called David, we talked about the issues, and I’d ask for his reassurance — ‘Is this what you’re hearing?’ We always worked well in tandem.”
APPLAUSE: IFB delegates react to the re-election of Rich Guebert, who says farm issues weigh heavily these days. “I worry where these conversations are going and the rhetoric by our legislators and in Washington, D.C. I was proud to hear Sen. [Dick] Durbin’s comments and that he supports NAFTA.”
Regardless, both Guebert and Duncan are preparing for the future and the issues Illinois Farm Bureau delegates brought forward during resolution sessions.
“We’ve got a lot of tough issues on our plate,” Guebert said. “With commodity prices below cost of production, the heavy issues — NAFTA and trade agreements, getting ready to write a farm bill, input costs, you name it — and then throw on top the fiscal issues here in Illinois. Tough, tough times. We have to be more united than we’ve ever been before. I look forward to leading that charge.”