There was a buzz in the room as members of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club gathered for a monthly get-together. A number of members wondered aloud about the possibility of the city becoming the new headquarters of Archer Daniels Midland.

The agribusiness giant, long a fixture in Decatur, has its proverbial hand out, asking the state of Illinois for financial incentives. One may properly call it blackmail, but it’s not illegal, and ADM certainly isn’t the first company to engage in this dubious tactic.

The company is looking for $24 million in tax breaks to keep its headquarters in the state. ADM has made it clear it will be moving its headquarters — it’s just a matter of where.

Chicago is the most likely choice, though executives have hinted that if the company can’t get the incentives, it could move out of state. The two likeliest choices are Minneapolis or St. Louis.

This isn’t without precedent. Sears got tax relief in 2011 in order to keep its headquarters in suburban Chicago.

And ADM isn’t the first ag company with its hand out. CME Group — the corporation formed out of the former Chicago Board of Trade — also successfully lobbied for incentives that year. Peoria-based Caterpillar made noises last year about moving its headquarters out of the state.

A bill introduced by state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, would provide credits against ADM’s tax bill and would reduce electric rates if the company keeps its headquarters in the state.

There is some irony here. Bradley, like most legislators in deep southern Illinois, usually decries anything that favors Chicago.

Oh, well. Welcome to the upside-down world of modern political wrangling.

This is an interesting ongoing story, and two things jumped out at me when I read about it in the Chicago Tribune and Decatur Herald-Review. First, it is interesting that a state with a $90 billion pension shortfall and a comptroller who is forced to keep payments on bills in the air like a juggler is being asked to cough up money to a private company that is doing very well, thank you.

But that has been the new normal in recent years not only in Illinois, but in many states and communities desperate to keep precious jobs.

That brings me to the second interesting point. All this brouhaha is about 100 jobs — and executive jobs at that. The more than 4,000 other employees who work at ADM in Decatur would remain there.

Now in this economic environment, 100 jobs is nothing to sneeze at. But the sought-after incentives equal about a quarter-of-a-million dollars per job.

To be fair, ADM also claims it will create 100 technology jobs at its new headquarters. Still, the impact wouldn’t be great in the overall scheme of things.

It’s difficult to blame legislators for wanting to keep jobs here. A similar drama — minus the demand for incentives — unfolded a few years ago in St. Louis when Anheuser-Busch was being targeted for a hostile takeover by Dutch brewer InBev.

InBev prevailed in that case, but there has been little change — St. Louis still is the North American headquarters of the newly named Anheuser-Busch InBev, and it lost few jobs.

I believe another reason for the scramble to keep ADM here — and the previous moves with Sears and other companies — is pride. A city or state doesn’t want to lose the prestige of being the headquarters of great companies.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. That should be a factor in such negotiations.

Whether the price is right is a legitimate debate. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.