Leader Calls for Renaissance of Illinois Ag, Business

Leader Calls for Renaissance of Illinois Ag, Business

By Jeannine Otto, Field Editor, AgriNews
Monday, December 22, 2014

CHICAGO – As the Illinois Farm Bureau approaches its centennial anniversary, a new leader of the organization called on members to look forward.

With a new governor-elect on his way to the Palmer House Hilton to address the delegate body, President Richard Guebert Jr. also called for a renaissance of Illinois as a strong agriculture- and business-friendly state.

“It’s a great time to reflect on our proud history. It’s also an opportunity to think about how Farm Bureau is going to carry out its mission in the next 100 years, improving the economic well being of agriculture and enriching the quality of farm family life,” Guebert said.

He took the reins of the organization at the annual meeting last year from outgoing president Philip Nelson, who was in the audience this year as past president and IFB member. Nelson was honored with the Charles B. Shuman Distinguished Service Award for his service to Illinois and U.S. agriculture.

Guebert reminded the delegates that in two years, the Illinois farm organization, that claims close to half a million members in the state, will mark its 100 th anniversary.

He outlined four areas in which he would like to see Illinois Farm Bureau focus for the next 100 years, including member involvement, continuing to be a voice advocating for Illinois agriculture and farmers and continuing to grow trust between farmers and consumers.

The fourth area is one that Guebert discussed at length early on in his first address as president.

“I see a Farm Bureau helping to lead our state to solve our fiscal problems, to invest in agriculture and to reach our full potential as a global center for food and agriculture,” he said.

As governor-elect Bruce Rauner would do in a few minutes, in his address to the membership gathered in Chicago, Guebert warned that the path to fiscal stability would not be easy on any sector.

“We all recognize the state will need to address its fiscal situation. Reduce expenses and identifying revenue will be on the table. I expect there will be some very tough decisions made in the years ahead, and Illinois Farm Bureau will work closely with our new governor and our new general assembly,” Guebert said.

He also warned, as Rauner also would do, that agriculture won’t be exempt from the tough fiscal decisions ahead.

“We have to work to protect our priorities. We cannot say no to every proposal and tough decisions will have to be made,” Guebert said.

Early in his speech, Guebert pointed out that farmers, while they might be able to live out of state in order to escape the state’s taxes, can’t move their base of operations, the farmland and farmsteads.

“Some businesses can relocate, but we farmers are truly committed to doing business in our state. Many of our families have been in the farms for five or six generations. We cannot move our land,” he said.

Guebert said he would like the state to become known for its agriculture, as opposed to the current reputation for imprisoned state leaders, political corruption and fiscal chaos.

Guebert alluded to FARM Illinois, the Food and Agricultural Road Map for Illinois, a new partnership between the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust. The partnership was announced earlier this year.

It will bring together leaders from the agricultural, business and economic sectors in the state to develop a plan to position the state as a leader in global food security.

“With all the bad news coming out of Chicago and what we hear on the news and the TV, I believe the Food and Agricultural Road Map will be a breath of fresh air, a positive story on how we can grow in the future,” Guebert said.

He spoke of doing a Google search for “Illinois” and noted that corruption, Chicago gangsters and voter fraud often appear at the top of that search. He said he hopes that the FARM Illinois effort will change those search results.

“If we’re successful, I envision when agriculture will be listed at the top of any Google search of Illinois,” he said.