September 15, 2017
     
    Fall brings not only harvest but our annual Leaders to Washington trip, as well as the need to be current on trucking regulations, continued work on the nutrient loss reduction strategy, and it is time to start thinking about the races ahead. No not the baseball playoffs although that is on my mind as we begin a key three game series with the Cubs. The races I refer to here are the upcoming primary and general elections in 2018. All this and more is included in this issue. 
     
    Illinois Farm Bureau's Leaders to Washington advanced Farm Bureau priorities this week in meetings at the White House, USDA, EPA, and on Capitol Hill. The 16-member group met with special presidential ag advisor Ray Starling and Richard Chalkey of the White House Council of Economic Advisors to discuss the administration's trade policy and the President's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The trade discussion came on the heels of more than 1,000 contacts from IFB members into the White House urging President Trump to keep the U.S. in the five-year-old South Korea Free Trade Agreement that has boosted ag exports to South Korea to nearly $7 billion this year. Starling said the administration got the message and that President Trump is committed to staying in the agreement and increasing agricultural exports. Chalkey said the administration is fine tuning the President's infrastructure plan which takes into account everything from roads and bridges to lock modernization and broadband access. He said state governments will be critical in developing project priority lists in their states.  
     
    The group talked CRP rental rates, the pollinator program and the slow pace of NRCS evaluations of wetland determinations with the acting chief of NRCS and with the acting administrator of FSA. Career staff in the two agencies seemed energized by the opportunity to work more cooperatively under one undersecretary. Farm Bureau members discussed a number of Farm Bureau's farm bill priorities, including our proposed "3-in-1" marketing assistance loan concept and "one and done" farm bill sign up with USDA officials and Republican House Agriculture Committee Staff.
     
    On Capitol Hill, Farm Bureau members discussed the state of the Illinois farm economy and importance of crop insurance in their operations and other farm bill priorities. Leaders also emphasized the need for maintaining the deduction for business interest and for low effective tax rates for farmers in any new tax reform. It was interesting that Democratic offices were skeptical that Republican leadership could make the case for the first big tax reform effort in 30 years over the next 60 days.
     
    The group's visit concluded at EPA with a discussion of WOTUS and the value of dicamba to farmers and the agency's approach to re-registering the product.
     
    It’s here! – Campaign 2018. The window was opened on September 5th when candidates running for the General Primary election on March 20, 2018 could start to circulate petitions for election. So those individuals who want to run for Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, State Senator (in 39 of the 59 Districts), State Representative, and on the local level County Clerks, Treasurers, Sheriffs, Assessors, and a handful of other local offices have until the filing deadline to get their petitions signed. Candidates can file their completed petitions starting on November 27th and no later than the close of business on December 4th.
     
    Many see the signature petition process as a formality, but it does several things. It makes those who may want to gain office really work to show their true desire to run. Gathering signatures is a labor-intensive process and must be done correctly. The petition process also shows if a candidate and his supporters are serious by how many signatures they gather. For instance, candidates running for established parties for Governor need 5,000, but no more than 10,000 signatures of valid registered voters.  You may ask yourself why you would get more than the minimum number of signatures. More than the minimum shows how strong a candidate’s organization is and there are always signatures that may not meet the correct formatting or be registered voters that can surface if someone would challenge the validity of the signatures.
     
    One thing that has jumped out already is the number of General Assembly members who have voluntarily chosen to announce they are not seeking re-election. The number that have done this seems higher than usual in a non-redistricting year and we attribute a lot of this to the toll taken due to the continuing crisis mode the General Assembly has been in over the past several years. The announcements we have picked up on are below and we expect the number to increase well into the signature petition gathering process. 
     
    Illinois SenateIllinois House
    Sen. Tim Bivins (45th – R)Rep. Bill Mitchell (110th - R)
    Sen. Pam Althoff (32nd – R)Rep. Bob Pritchard (70th – R)
    Sen. Kyle McCarter (54th – R)Rep. Dan Beiser (111th – D)
    Sen. Donnie Trotter (17th – D)Rep. Patty Bellock (47th – R)
    Sen. Bill Haine (56th – D)Rep. Elaine Nekritz (57th – D)
     Rep. Chad Hays (104th – R)
     Rep. Barb Wheeler (64th – R)
     Rep. Sara Jimenez (99th – R)
     Rep. Brandon Phelps (118th – D) **
     Rep. Scott Drury (58th – D)
     Rep. Carol Sente (59th – D)
      
     ** Member has officially resigned from the 100th General Assembly.
     
    We are also hearing a lot of scuttlebutt of new individuals who are showing an interest in running against seated incumbent legislators.  As you hear of any individual seeking election please drop us an email.  We attempt to keep up on these things to help the ACTIVATOR® Political Involvement Fund farmer trustees be prepared for the decisions they will be faced with. Also, our federal and state legislative teams are political junkies and like to keep up with all of this.
     
    Hang on, and remember that elections empower us. President Abraham Lincoln said; “Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” So, let’s not be with the group with blisters on their behinds!
     
    Lock 52 Closure
    We got a glimpse of what a total river navigation shutdown might look like this week. Lock 52 on the Ohio River had been closed on September 6—just as fall harvest is getting underway.  It is projected to remain closed until sometime this weekend. High velocity flows had prevented the Corps from making repairs to the 89-year-old wicket dam at that location, so the pool behind the dam could not be maintained at a navigable depth. By Tuesday of this week, more than 23 tows were in queue with still more tethered to the shores. On Wednesday, flows diminished enough to allow the Corps to plug some of the gaps in the dam and the pool level is now rising. It’ll take a number of days for the water to rise sufficiently and then even more for that backlog of tows to be cleared. When the economics of this relatively short shutdown are analyzed, it should prove instructive for policymakers considering funding of long-overdue lock and dam repairs and modernization.
     
    Road Safety
    This week saw the last of the summer informational seminars on trucking regulations conducted by our staff (in DeKalb County.) That series will pick up again this winter, covering the newest and most misunderstood of the myriad of regulations affecting farm operations. A couple of reminders I want to offer in this regard as you head into harvest. First, you’ve heard about the legislation extending the allowable bumper-to-bumper length of trucks on local roads from 55’ to 65’. But you won’t be able to take advantage of that for this harvest; that law is not effective until January 1 of next year. Secondly, I want to remind you to make the time to keep your equipment road-worthy this fall. It’s safety first, both in the field and on the road. You can find information on farm trucking regulations at:  http://www.ilfb.org/policy-issues/current-issues/transportation-infrastructure.aspx
     
    Harvest Season Emergency
    We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this newly-enacted legislation. Just remember that it’s not available until and unless the Governor first declares a harvest emergency. Even then, it will require you to get a permit from your local road jurisdiction(s). Check here for details:  http://www.ilfb.org/media/2964163/harvest-season-emergency-permit-2017-08.pdf.
       
    Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
    This week, Lauren Lurkins traveled to St. Louis to attend the first Mississippi River Legislative Caucus for the purpose of speaking to a group of state lawmakers from Mississippi River states about our success story from Illinois showcasing agriculture’s progress toward the goals of the NLRS. Lawmakers from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana were present for the discussion. The MRLC was created to better coordinate state legislators throughout the river corridor on issues related to the Mississippi River, with a large focus on water quality. Lauren spoke on the panel to explain the Illinois process and how Illinois Farm Bureau has worked hard and made significant investments in resources to educate and mobilize its farmer members on best management practices to reduce nutrient loss in the state. The discussion also served as a good opportunity to educate the lawmakers about the Farm Bureau system, including how we set policy and priorities.
      
    SIU School of Medicine, Office of Population Science and Policy
    Recent meetings with a newly established office at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has shed some light on new research and opportunities to help improve public health policy that could have some positive impact in rural areas. The Office of Population Science and Policy is a research and policy organization looking at how population factors can provide clues into certain health risks. With this information, they hope to identify health care needs among defined population groups, including rural sectors, and develop policy that targets treatment options.
      
    Ameren Eminent Domain Case
    Landowners in Edgar County won a circuit court case involving Ameren Transmission Company's use of the state's expedited review process through the Illinois Commerce Commission. The case was related to a section of Ameren’s 375-mile-long Illinois Rivers Transmission line project, which is under construction on other areas of the route. The question before the court was whether proper notice was provided to landowners through the expedited process provided by law. Without proper notice, were the land owners denied their due process rights?  The Court held that the statute failed to require personal notice by registered mail which would ensure notice to any landowner whose property may be considered for a route proposed throughout the hearing process before the ICC. The ruling effectively stops Ameren from proceeding with any activity across land owned by those involved in the case. 
     
    Ameren is expected to file for re-hearing in the circuit court. Beyond that, the trial court’s order includes a finding that this case is directly appealable to the Illinois Supreme Court, which Ameren is expected to do.
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    As I mentioned, earlier this weekend will be key as the Cardinals and Cubs battle it out in Wrigley. Whoever comes out on top could position themselves well for the stretch run as we close out the 2017 season. The two clubs will still have four games remaining in St. Louis during the last week of the month. No predictions from me but let's just say that Wrigley has not been kind to the Redbirds this year so I am hoping that changes over the next three days. Enjoy the games! 

    Safe harvest and as always thanks for reading. Let's work on making it a great week ahead!