The speakers at the Illinois Commodity Conference covered a variety of topics, including a discussion by the leaders of four Illinois commodity groups about an overview of U.S. meat exports and information about how farmers can connect with their elected officials.

The final presentation of the meeting focused on the impact of changing U.S. demographics. It was presented by George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the grandson of President George H.W. Bush.

The speaker, who is a cofounder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, talked about growing up in a family that is quite involved in politics. His first political memory occurred when he was 3 years old and his grandfather, George H.W. Bush, announced in Houston he was running for president of the U.S.

“The highest calling perhaps outside the military that one can take on is serving in public service,” he said.

Bush has worked on campaigns, including in 1994, 1998 and 2002, when his dad ran for governor of Florida.

“My first real political experience was in 1994 working in Little Havana reaching out to the Cuban community,” Bush said. “Although I’m Mexican descent, I learned about grassroots politics in South Florida.”

Bush noted that he also is an attorney, served in the military and is a lieutenant with the U.S. Navy Reserve.

“My crowning experience was serving in Afghanistan, where I learned about true leadership in the face of the enemy,” he said.

He said a major demographic change is occurring in the U.S.

“This is starting to create a racial dialog for the first time since the John F. Kennedy era,” he said.

“African-Americans and Asians are a piece of the pie, but Hispanics are going to be the overwhelming majority of minority growth until 2050,” he added.

Another important demographic trend is by 2030 baby boomers will be more than 65 years old.

“Anglos are having fewer children, and Hispanics are having many more children, which is creating a demographic change our country hasn’t seen before,” Bush said. “Hispanics are 15 percent of our country’s population, but over 50 percent of our country’s growth because they are having more children.”

One misconception is that the growth of the Hispanic population is occurring as a result of illegal immigration, Bush said.

“Sixty percent of the growth is coming from having children,” he said.

The speaker also highlighted the top issues identified by Hispanics in a 2008 poll.

“The top four issues in the Hispanic community have nothing to do with immigration,” he said. “The top four issues, I call kitchen-table issues, are education, cost of living, jobs and health care.”

These issues mirror the Anglo community, Bush said.

“Hispanic issues are American issues,” he said.

I enjoyed Bush’s interesting perspective on politics and the demographic changes that are occurring in the U.S. He is not really the type of speaker I normally expect to hear during an agricultural conference, but I think he provided several points that are important to all, including Illinois farmers.