November 10, 2017

Harvest Season Permit declaration, federal tax reform bills, an LMFA subject matter hearing, veto session, Corps of Engineers navigation meeting, Illinois Soil, Food, and Water Composting Summit, Local and Regional Food Conference, and the IAA Resolutions Committee in session made for a busy work week.

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing to discuss the LMFA and regulation of livestock farms. A panel representing agriculture, made up of three farmers and an environmental engineer, provided testimony to the subcommittee. Genny Six, a pig farmer from Chapin, IL; Ron Lawfer, a dairy farmer from Kent, IL; and Mike Martz, a cattle farmer from Maple Park, IL explained their experiences going through the LMFA for approval of their farms. They also explained how they had been inspected by either the US EPA or IEPA to ensure their farms were operated properly. The final member of the panel was Chris West, President of Frank & West Environmental Engineers, who helps farmers design their farms and work through the LMFA approval process. Chris also explained the amount of time and work that is necessary to develop manure management plans.

Two additional panels also testified. One was made up of representatives from the Dept. of Agriculture and IEPA. They explained the LMFA process and the environmental regulations implemented once a livestock farm begins operations. The other panel was made up of activists critical of livestock production and seeking changes to the LMFA.

President Guebert submitted written testimony in support of livestock production from the Illinois Farm Bureau. Other organizations submitting written testimony were the Illinois Pork Producers, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Milk Producers, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association, and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The panel of farmers did an outstanding job representing the livestock industry and made clear that the LMFA strikes the right balance between protecting the environment and allowing them to raise livestock on their farms. All farmers, those raising livestock and those raising crops, must continue to work together in support of livestock production to keep the activists from being successful in creating harmful and unnecessary regulations.

The mood at the State House was interesting to say the least. There was a lot of focus on the reaction to allegations of sexual harassment in the State House and the legislation being moved through to establish sexual harassment standards for legislators, legislative staffs, lobbyists, and others who work in and around the State House. The Governor’s veto messages were dealt with and a few other issues arose. Please see the attached version of QuickView for details on these issues.

A strong response to our Wednesday-Thursday action request resulted late yesterday in what were the final changes to the Republican tax bill. The House Ways and Means Committee reported the bill on a partisan vote. The tax bill will go to the House floor next week. Leadership will not permit any floor amendments, so this week was our last chance to help “fine tune” the bill in committee so it would not increase taxes for farmers.

Thanks in part to your strong response, Farm Bureau successfully inserted language in the bill test that would prevent any increase in self-employment taxes -- an issue that received a got a lot of play this week in ag media. There was a concern that without the legislative clarification, the bill would open the door to taxing farm rental income at 15.3 percent and result in a tax increase.

We were also successful in getting language included clarifying that rates for business income will be graduated just as they are for individual income.

Again, this week represented our only opportunity to improve the House bill. We had to move quickly with other state Farm Bureaus to get the message to Chairman Brady, Congressman Roskam, and our allies on the Ways and Means Committee. Several members of our delegation were helpful in transmitting our message. Thank you for your effort.

Based on some of the questions we’re getting, there remains confusion among some of our members about how the House bill treats state and local taxes (SALT). Farmers will be able to deduct the full amount of state and local taxes on their Schedule F. There are no limitations. The House bill limits individual SALT deductions to $10,000 per year in property taxes. Again, farmers may expense ALL state and local taxes paid in the House bill.

The Senate Finance Committee released its version of tax reform yesterday. Unlike the House bill, which doubles the exemption and repeals the estate tax in 2024, the Senate version simply doubles the estate tax exemption (and indexes it to inflation). The Senate version does not repeal the “death tax.”

The Senate draft delays implementation of corporate tax deductions until 2019. There are more tax brackets. Details of the Senate bill are attached. It would improve Section 179, increasing the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense to $1 million and increasing the phase out threshold to $2.5 million.

Navigation Infrastructure
Staff met with the Corps of Engineers and others at the LaGrange Lock & Dam on Wednesday of this week to discuss navigation infrastructure improvements. The new (as of September) Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division commander, Major General Richard Kaiser, was on tour of the upper Mississippi River Corps facilities. He has begun what is expected to be a three-year term at the helm of both the Mississippi Valley Division and as head of the presidentially-appointed Mississippi River Commission. The planned summer of 2020 coordinated 90‑day shutdown of the three lower locks on the Illinois River drew the most attention. And it provided a good reminder that shippers will need to plan accordingly. Though major in scope, those projects are only interim to the eventual addition of 1,200-foot locks at the lower two locations. The LaGrange lock—last on the Illinois River and built in 1938—is viewed as the nation’s highest priority lock among those due for repair.

Local Government Training
The Think LINK program marked the milestone eight-month point for the second wave of participants learning the ins and outs of local government. Staff conducted a regional seminar in Effingham for those participating county managers this week. This group now moves into the final five months of the program.

UCR
We’re still awaiting action on the part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the UCR Governing Board to establish fees for the 2018 UCR program. We’ll let you know when those are finalized.

Harvest Season Permit (HSE)
This has been the first week ever that farmers have experienced the benefits/limitations of this permit. With the declaration by Governor Rauner on Sunday the 5th, the program went into effect immediately and is slated to remain in effect through December 19. Not only are farmers feeling their way through this permitting process, but so are road jurisdictions at all levels. From IDOT and its highly automated permitting system, to counties, municipalities and road districts—it’s new to everyone. We’re still looking for answers to newly-discovered questions about the law and the Governor’s declaration. Many local jurisdictions are developing internal policies on the fly. We want to remind you to check locally to see whether local road permits are offered under HSE, and if so, under what conditions. You can refer to the attachment for more information.

November Resolutions Committee Meeting
This week the Resolutions Committee met to review the November submittals. 28 submittals came from across the state suggesting policy on new issues such as solar energy, and changing policy in areas such as conservation and farm policy. The Resolutions Committee used the new electronic system to review all submittals and completed their work within one day. This is encouraging technology which will allow the process to be more efficient and require less time commitment from our county Farm Bureau Presidents. I want to thank all the counties and leaders that submitted resolutions, and the county Farm Bureau presidents that served on this year’s Resolutions Committee. I look forward to a healthy debate at this year’s annual meeting.

Next week, counties will receive an email which includes the draft “Preliminary Resolutions.” This document will be used during your district meetings and the annual meeting delegate session.

Illinois Soil, Food, Water and Composting Summit
Our local foods and environmental staff attended the Illinois Soil, Food, Water and Composting Summit last week in Chicago, which was an environmental non-profit event focusing on collaboration around food recovery, local and sustainable agriculture, water quality protection and food scrap composting. Lauren Lurkins had the opportunity to present on a panel regarding the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, along with Amy Walkenbach of Illinois EPA and Carol Hays of Prairie Rivers Network. To put it mildly, production agriculture and our use of manure and commercial fertilizer to grow crops, is under scrutiny in these crowds and even on this panel. Having the ability to share the proactive work of IFB and our farmer members to address nutrient loss from both row crop and livestock operations was a privilege. Over the past several years, IFB has made significant investments in programs to educate farmers about various water quality issues and implement practices. It is because of that proactive work that many environmentalists in the crowd expressed their positive views around what we had to say.

EPA’s Groundwater Advisory Council
Environmental staff also serves as the agriculture representative on Illinois EPA’s Groundwater Advisory Council, which meets quarterly throughout the year. This week, Lauren Lurkins attended a stakeholder input session to develop proposed amendments to Illinois EPA’s groundwater rules. This was just the beginning of the discussion of the changes, as it moves toward being proposed in a rulemaking before the Illinois Pollution Control Board sometime next year. While most of the proposed changes do not impact agriculture directly, there are proposed changes regarding the groundwater quality standards for atrazine and metabolites to reflect World Health Organization findings that show the total of the parent material and the metabolites is important. IFB staff will continue to be an active participant in these discussions. It is important to note that many other industries were also represented at the meeting, including drinking water and several coal companies, as well as environmental groups.

Dicamba Use in Illinois in 2018
IFB and other Illinois ag associations met this week with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the University of Illinois to discuss dicamba training required for 2018 dicamba application. By way of reminder, EPA recently declared the three dicamba-based herbicides (XtendiMax, FEXAPAN, and Engenia) Restricted Use Products. This means that these products may only be purchased and used by certified applicators (private applicators and commercial applicators, and operators working under their direct supervision). Next week, watch for the launch of the Illinois Dicamba Training website, which will contain a training schedule for free dicamba training for farmers and other applicators at various venues around the state. In addition to frequently updating that training schedule, the website will also serve as the registration point for the free training and other informational materials on these products (product labels, EPA announcement and requirements, guidelines or rules from Illinois Department of Agriculture, etc.) For more information, contact Tamara Nelsen at tnelsen@ilfb.org.

Local and Regional Food Conference
This week, GAC hosted over 200 people around the state for a 2-day Local and Regional Food Conference. Participants included farmers, processors, distributors, food hubs, farmers markets, government agencies, schools, buyers, and nonprofits.

Participants were able to choose from 4 different full-day workshops on day one, including produce safety training, to satisfy the FSMA Produce Rule or a Farm to Fork Tour that made 8 different stops touching on all the different pieces of the local value chain.

Day two kicked off with two different national local food experts discussing the impact and growth of local food both nationally and locally. The morning finished with a panel discussion with local value chain members. After an entirely local lunch, 16 different breakout sessions discussing marketing, technology, financing, and market opportunities were offered.

We decided to focus on business aspects for this conference as many felt this was the missing link. People walked away with new business tools and many new relationships. GAC is looking forward to an even bigger conference next year.
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College visits, a high school football playoff game, and some bow hunting in addition to fall work will make this a busy weekend as well. Our high school, Pleasant Plains, has advanced to the quarter final round in football so I plan to come out of the deer stand and cheer them on. They face Carlinville who was in the state playoff game last year, so it will be a tough game. They have pulled off two upsets so far. We will see if they have a third in them!

I am amazed that the youngest of my four children is already a senior. Thus, deciding where she continues her education is the focal point. If anyone knows of some extra scholarship money, please point me in the right direction!

Be safe finishing up harvest and doing fall fieldwork and as always thanks for reading.