CHICAGO — Next year, Richard Guebert Jr. will turn over the reins of Illinois Farm Bureau to the next president.
But as he started his 10th and final year as president of the organization, Guebert offered some food for thought to IFB members on politics and farming.
“Farmers need support from both sides of the aisles,” he said.
The 2022 midterm elections saw two stalwart agriculture-friendly members of Illinois’ congressional delegation depart.
Rodney Davis, who represented the 13th District, was defeated in the Republican primary by Mary Miller in June. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat representing the 17th District, announced her retirement in April 2021.
Both Davis and Bustos were senior members of the House Agriculture Committee and Davis was slated to become a subcommittee chair in the 118th Congress.
“For many years I have heard that agriculture policy is one of the few areas in Springfield and Washington, D.C., that is bipartisan. Members of both parties recognize the merit of good farm and food policy. I hope this continues to be the case,” Guebert said.
He blamed leadership of both political parties, along with special interest and “dark money” groups, for punishing lawmakers who seek bipartisanship and compromise.
“I’m concerned that party leadership, on both sides of the aisle, is forcing members to vote exclusively along party lines. Large donors from outside the district and special interest groups seek to punish any representatives that stray from the party positions and vote for a bipartisan compromise, even if it is in the best interests of their constituents,” he said.
With the incoming 118th Congress being a divided one, with Republicans having a majority in the U.S. House and Democrats having the majority in the U.S. Senate, farm bill negotiations — and farmers and ag industries — may need that spirit of bipartisanship and compromise to make a comeback in both chambers.
“Being bipartisan has served Farm Bureau well. Farmers need support from both sides of the aisles. This will continue to be true in the coming year as we negotiate a new farm bill, advocate for international trade agreements and promote biofuels in our energy policy,” Guebert said.
He highlighted IFB’s ACTIVATOR Political Action Committee’s success in financially supporting candidates.
“ACTIVATOR, Illinois Farm Bureau’s political action committee, helps us elect candidates who work for our interests in Washington and Springfield. ACTIVATOR builds strong relationships with legislators and helps us achieve our legislative priorities. We endorse local candidates, both Democrat and Republican. And we make an impact. Over the last four election cycles, 93% of ACTIVATOR-endorsed candidates have won their elections,” he said.
The Friend of Agriculture award that is presented to politicians at the state and federal levels is another program that helps guide IFB voters.
“Legislators covet receiving Farm Bureau’s Friend of Agriculture award. Recipients are selected based on voting records on ag issues and their accessibility to Farm Bureau members. We have a structured process and formula. It is not based on partisan politics,” Guebert said.
The next big political hurdle for IFB and for U.S. farmers will be negotiations and writing the farm bill. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.
Guebert outlined the IFB’s priorities for that bill.
“Farm Bureau believes the next farm bill must continue to be WTO-compliant, provide price and revenue protection for farmers and link nutrition and commodity programs. The bill must continue to give farmers a choice between programs based on revenue or price — and encourage stewardship decisions that maintain public support. Finally, we support conservation programs that will help farmers achieve state nutrient loss reduction goals,” he said.