RICHARD GUEBERT JR., Guest Columnist: Illinois State Fair, roundtable discussions rally groups around agriculture – Effingham Daily News

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Some of my favorite memories from the Illinois State Fair go back to the years I spent in high school showing dairy cattle owned by family friends. I remember the nervous excitement and feeling of anticipation as I entered the ring, praying the Holstein I was leading would cooperate.

Flash forward to the 2022 fair and I’ve now become a spectator in the stands, watching youth exhibitors show in the same arena I had when I was their age. I’m reminded of how special the experience is for those in the show ring and for the friends and families cheering them on from the sidelines.

I’m also reminded of the many ways agriculture brings people together.

Agriculture celebrations

Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair is an annual event that brings together some of the best and brightest in the farm and food sectors. This year’s celebration took place on Aug. 16 and included events to help connect people living in suburban and urban areas to where their food comes from.

From the Master Showmanship Contest and other youth livestock shows, to fresh produce sold by the Illinois Specialty Growers Association and pork chop or brisket sandwiches offered in the commodity pavilion, agriculture was literally around every corner and on every table.

In addition to fairgoer activities, commodity group leaders also had the chance to work collaboratively on issues that affect rural communities. I was proud to see so many farmers meeting with elected officials and representatives from universities and government entities to talk about programs that can benefit Illinois agriculture.

2023 farm bill

Illinois farmers and other ag business leaders at the Illinois State Fair had a unique opportunity to participate in a farm bill discussion this year. The panel discussion, hosted by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and Illinois state Sen. Patrick Joyce, allowed us to talk about pressing concerns facing agriculture ahead of the 2023 farm bill, which lawmakers have already begun working on.

As a speaker on the panel, the main points I shared are areas of concern Illinois farmers have expressed to me in the past. The first is the need to protect crop insurance as an essential risk-management tool in farmers’ toolboxes. The second is the need to maintain voluntary conservation efforts, rather than imposing mandates on farmers who are already doing their best to preserve farmland for the next generation.

My hope is that as this next farm bill is written, we will see overwhelming support from both sides of the political aisle. Bipartisan support for legislation like this can bring people together over issues that impact us all, from commodity prices to supplemental nutrition assistance programs.

Building on state fair conversations

Just eight days after Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair, more than 100 ag industry leaders met to conduct the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable (IALR) Candidate Forum in rural Lexington. Candidates for Illinois governor and U.S. Senate talked about issues they would address if elected. The IALR does not endorse statewide candidates, nor does Illinois Farm Bureau, so this candidate forum offered an excellent venue to hear from candidates about their plans for supporting Illinois agriculture.

Discussion topics included 2023 farm bill priorities, along with issues facing the general farm economy, livestock sector and biofuels industry. Candidates also addressed transportation and infrastructure projects needed in rural areas. To watch each candidate’s presentation at the roundtable forum, visit farmweeknow.com/vote2022.

As the November election approaches, I urge Illinois residents to learn more about candidates running for office and take into consideration the tremendous commitment public officials make to serving constituents with a broad range of expectations.

While recent discussions between farmers, ag leaders and elected officials is important, there is still a lot of work to do. But one thing is certain – agriculture will continue to bring people together to find common solutions.

Richard Guebert Jr. is the Illinois Farm Bureau President. This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.

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August 31, 2022 at 07:03AM

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