November 29, 2021

A Year in the Life of a Farmer: Farm visits insightful for lawmaker

Follow the Kindred family throughout the entire year. Each month, look for updates about the family members and the decisions they make on their farm.

ATLANTA, Ill. — U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood followed the “life of a soybean” on the Kindred family farm this past growing season, making his third and final visit with harvest underway.

The Illinois Soybean Association-organized visits began in May with Ron Kindred discussing planting with LaHood and was followed with an August visit that highlighted the soybeans’ development.

The visits not only provided soybean production insights for the legislator, but also included discussions about infrastructure, trade and biofuels.

LaHood, of Dunlap, Illinois, serves on the Subcommittee on Trade for the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade and tariff laws among other issues.

Kindred is an ISA board member and Government Relations Committee chairman and farms with his wife, Jayne, and their son, Jay.

LaHood and Darin Kindred spoke with AgriNews about these farm visits.

What are your impressions during your third visit to the Kindred farm?

LaHood: “I appreciate the Kindred family and Ron having me out here. We see the end product all the time, but to be here to see the entire process and to hear from Ron just gives you a different perspective on the hard work that goes into farming and how important it is to do it the right way, and then the end product, which is why Illinois leads the country in soybean production. It’s been instructive to me and I’ve had a good helper in Ron teach me along the way.”

What are some of the surprising takeaways that you’ve learned during your visits?

LaHood: “Just from the very beginning in looking at the precision that goes into the planting process and the work that goes on in the off-season, getting their fertilizer ready, getting their seed, getting the planter ready and all of those things, and how much work in the off-season goes into this.

“Secondly, after things get planted how beautiful these plants come up and how they grow in our rich soil that we have here in central Illinois.

“Also, the importance of good infrastructure, making sure we have good roads and bridges, but also I talked to Ron a lot about our inland waterway system and how much product gets put on the Illinois River and goes down to New Orleans, gets offloaded and goes all around the world. It’s important for us to invest in our inland waterway system to get products to market.

“We also talked about the Renewable Fuel Standard and looking at policies that we have in place and how important those are, and good trade policy. It’s amazing to think how much the product goes all around the world, whether that’s China, whether that’s the European markets, and that gets back to good trade policy.”

Producing crops sustainably is important to the Kindreds.

LaHood: “It reinforces that farmers are the best stewards of the land. Their institutional knowledge on how to take care of their land and how they are looking out for the environment all the time, and to see the conservation methods that Ron and his wife have put into place here are very apparent, and how much they care about the land. Whether that’s the rotation of crops and other things that they’ve done to make sure they’re doing things the right way.

“Working with the Soil and Water Conservation District to make sure that they’re getting the best use of the land throughout the year and the investment they’ve made, whether that’s tiling or other things they’re doing to help protect the land.”

Representatives from the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and other ag groups have expressed concerns over the past decade that there are fewer and fewer state and national legislators that are farmers.

LaHood: “I didn’t come from a farming background, but being out here with Ron and then representing one of the largest ag districts in the country I learn every day in this job. It becomes very important because there are less and less members of Congress that come from rural America and come from ag backgrounds. I think we’re down to roughly about 74, 75 members of Congress with ag backgrounds. That’s the lowest in history.

“So, what I learn on visits like this is when we go back to Washington, D.C., and we’re discussing crop insurance, we’re discussing the RFS, we’re discussing good trade agreements, we’re discussing the inland waterway system and our locks and dams, I work with a lot of smart, bright colleagues, but many of them don’t understand ag. So, it’s incumbent upon me to educate and advocate for agriculture and I wouldn’t have that knowledge base if it wasn’t for Ron and a lot of other people in my district that I learn from every single day.

“People forget that the No. 1 industry in Illinois is agriculture. I remind my friends from Chicago that all the time. We tend to forget about that. My district is the eighth largest ag district in the country in terms of corn and soybean production. We want to continue to have that market share and those customers. We produce the best products anywhere in the world, but we’re only 4.5% of the world’s population.

“Serving on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all trade agreements, we have to continue to look at how we have market access, how we can continue to send our products all around the world so that helps Ron and other farmers in central and west-central Illinois.”

Ron, you opened up your farm to the congressman so that he could learn more of the insights of farming. What are your thoughts about the importance of these visits?

Kindred: “We understand the importance of having a voice out in Washington, D.C., and we need a spokesperson to convey our message to other legislators and that’s what this is all about.

“It’s to develop more of a relationship with Darin so if he has any questions he can come to me or come to the Illinois Soybean Association and we can get him an answer. Or, if I have question for him I can contact him and get an answer from. It’s all about getting our message heard in Washington, D.C., and how important the different aspects are to us — market access, the inland waterway system.

“We export 60% of our soybeans, so it’s very important that we can do that in the most economical way possible to stay competitive in the world marketplace. There are just a lot of issues out there, crop insurance being among them. We haven’t even talked about the farm bill, but we’re starting to work in the next farm bill in 2023 already and we’re going to have a lot of communication with Darin on that.

“It’s great to have him out here and that he’s interested enough to come out here and wants to learn from us. We think it’s just a great relationship to have.”

Tom Doran

Tom Doran

Field Editor