While most farmers spent early January prepping equipment or planning for 2012 planting, more than 450 Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) leaders and members sat down with farmers from across the country to develop agriculture policy for the coming year during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting.
Farm Bureau members from across the country gathered in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the annual meeting, taking part in Young Farm and Rancher competitions, general sessions and the delegate business session, in which members set policy for the coming year.
Representing Illinois in the Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award, Kirk and Stephanie Liefer, of Randolph County, not only advanced to the top ten, but were named runners-up in the national competition, receiving a Case IH Farmall 65A, courtesy of Case IH, a $5,000 Savings Bond and a STIHL Farm Boss, courtesy of STIHL.
Katie Pratt, of Lee County, competed in the Discussion Meet. She advanced to final four and was named a national runner-up, receiving a Case IH Farmall 55A, courtesy of Case IH, a $5,000 Savings Bond and a STIHL Farm Boss, courtesy of STIHL. Alan Chesnut, of Vermilion County, also competed in the Excellence in Agriculture competition.
However, Illinois Young Leaders weren't the only ones to leave Hawaii with awards and honors. IFB received Awards for Excellence in Agriculture Education and Promotion, Leadership Development, Member Services, Policy Implementation and Public Relations and Information.
While the general and breakout sessions provided a wealth of useful information for attendees, the business end of the annual meeting was conducted during the delegate business session, on Jan. 10. Delegates from across the country gathered to discuss and set AFBF policy for the coming year.
According to IFB President Philip Nelson, the delegate business session was a success for Illinois farmers - especially when it came to the farm bill debate.
"We're pleased where we ended up," Nelson says. "Number one, we wanted to make sure crop insurance remained a high priority and it did. At the end of the day, our delegates recognized that we need to be realistic in our expectations, especially looking at it from a fiscal responsibility standpoint. We know that we're going to have to make sure that we have our priorities in line as we write the farm bill in order to have the offsets that are going to be affixed to agriculture."
Additionally, Illinois brought forward and passed the sense of the delegate body resolution regarding the need to for the nation to become more fiscally responsible.
"We're very concerned as we look to the future and see the storm clouds that are on the horizon as we eclipse the $15 trillion mark," Nelson adds. "That's $48,000 in debt for every man, woman and child, so we really need to get that fiscal house in order if we're going to have a vibrant economy in the very near future."
Nelson believes discussions surrounding concerns about the Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency and national standards proposed by the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers were fruitful, creating well-crafted policy to work off of in the coming year.
In addition to setting policy, delegates also chose leaders for the coming year, re-electing Bob Stallman, of Texas, as the American Farm Bureau Federation president and Barry Bushue, of Oregon as vice-president. IFB President Philip Nelson was re-elected to the AFBF board of directors for the Midwest region.
In the end, the annual meeting proved to be an exciting and beneficial meeting for the IFB and Illinois farmers.
"I believe that we acknowledged some of the concerns that we're having with the Department of Labor guidelines and other issues," Nelson says. "We also tightened the screws a bit about our concerns as they relate to the regulatory framework of the EPA. At the end of the day, I think we've got good policy to march forward this next year."