April 14, 2024

Lawmaker switches roles at Ag Legislative Day

State Rep. Jason Bunting (left) meets with FFA members of the Dwight Township High School and Prairie Central High School, Fairbury, during Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day on March 13. His daughter, Isabella, is next to him.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Over the past two decades, a Livingston County farmer traveled to the capitol to meet with legislators and advocate for agriculture.

State Rep. Jason Bunting, R-Emington, was on the other side of the desk during Illinois Agricultural Legislative Day on March 13 with representatives from farm groups, FFA and 4-H meeting with him in his Stratton Building office.

“Back in January of 2023 when I interviewed for this position, I said to the folks who were going to make the appointment decision, I think I’m going to fit well in Springfield for the simple fact that I’ve advocated for ag issues and the rural lifestyle for two decades now,” Bunting said.

He was appointed 106th House District representative in February 2023 to fill the post of Rep. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, after he was appointed to the Illinois Senate. The district covers parts of Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, La Salle, Livingston, McLean and Will counties.

Bunting is a graduate of Dwight Township High School and received an associate’s degree from Joliet Junior College.

He resides on his family farm near Emington with his wife, Tasha, and their three children.

Along with the family’s crop and livestock production, he also has a trucking business and co-owns a seed business in northeastern Livingston County.

Before his role as a legislator, he served as the Broughton Township highway commissioner, Livingston County Board member, Livingston County Farm Bureau president and Illinois Corn Growers Association director.

Special Day

FFA and 4-H has always been an important part of the Bunting family, making the March 13 event more special.

“These are the good days when we have the blue and gold and the green walking the halls of the Stratton Building and the capitol. We really enjoy it,” Bunting said.

“The agricultural industry in the state of Illinois is strong. We need more advocates for agriculture in the state legislature. That’s why I decided to run 13 months ago and I enjoy these opportunities and these days.

“These 4-H students and FFA students are going to be next generation of leaders in this state and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

Bunting said he enjoys meeting with students as they present their case on issues, or just to talk about what’s happening at their schools, and can relate to them due to his own farm background.

“I think it was the second group of students that we met today they were extremely nervous. The minute I explained to them who I was and that I farmed and live that rural lifestyle, I think they settled in,” Bunting said.

“Being nervous is good. Obviously, when you sit on the House floor, you have that opportunity to speak about issues that are important to you, you get nervous, as well. So, the day the nervousness is gone is the day that I’m going to probably hang it up.

“Listening to the young kids talking about their school, talking about their family and their farming operations at home, I know we’re in good hands for the next generation to come.”

There has been an alarming number of students who leave for careers outside of Illinois.

“Unfortunately, our biggest export in the state of Illinois seems to be the people. So, these kids that are deciding what they want to do for a career, I urge them to stay in Illinois, to stay in the 106th District, and grow this, because in order for us to do a great job as a legislature, we need to promote business, we need to promote families and schools, we need to make Illinois strong again, and I think these young kids will help us do that.”

Family

The Bunting family was well represented over a couple weeks in March. One of his daughters, Isabella, along with her fellow Dwight FFA member Katy Parker, and adviser Sid Krople, met with Bunting and other lawmakers on Agricultural Legislative Day.

His wife, Tasha, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of commodities and livestock programs, was a participant, as well.

“I love the opportunity to meet with these groups like we’ve had in today. Last week, my daughter Samantha’s Thomas Metcalf School was here. We had 87 seventh- and eighth-graders come in and we gave them the Springfield experience,” he said.

His parents, Lee and Marie Bunting, advocates for Soil and Water Conservation Districts for over four decades, were at the capitol during the recent Soil Health Week the previous week, as well.

Open Door

With fewer farmers in the General Assembly, Bunting knows the importance of advocating for agriculture and keeping urban legislators informed.

“I think there are six active farmers in the 118 House of Representative districts in the 103rd General Assembly. All six are on the Republican side, but what maybe separates us from the rest of them is how close we are off of Interstate 55,” he said.

“My colleagues know that I have an open door policy on our farm to show them our operation if they want to swing in and take a look at our farm as they’re traveling from Chicago to Springfield for a session or for meetings.

“The important thing is I truly believe, whether it be the 40 Republicans or the 78 Democrats, everybody has what they feel is the best interest for their constituents at heart. If we can just educate and inform our more urban friends on the importance of agriculture and how it kind of runs the state of Illinois, we’d love the opportunity to have them stop by the farm.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor