June 16, 2017
     
    State budget uncertainty, environmental regulatory issues now and in the future, specialty grower’s activities, a new staffer in GAC, and an extremely tragic event in our nation’s capital were but a few of the activities we dealt with this week. Let's look at these issues in more detail.
     
    Yesterday, Governor Bruce Rauner called for a special session of the Illinois General Assembly to commence on Wednesday, June 21
    st. In his statement, he wants the General Assembly to continuously be in session from the 21st to Friday, June 30th. The Governor can only call them into session, but he cannot control how long they are in that session or what they need to do. In his comments, the Governor indicated that this would be a “continuous special session” for 10 straight days. They only way he can do that is by issuing a separate special session for the next day.
     
    The last time this approach was taken was when ex-Governor Blagojevich called the General Assembly back for weeks. What is strange about this approach is that once a special session begins, it must carry through until it is adjourned in its totality. What will practically happen will be that each chamber will go into special session for each one created, do no procedural work and adjourn for the day. The real work, if any can be agreed upon, will be done in the regular session which was simply scheduled to return when called by the presiding officer of the chamber.
     
    What is interesting is that since the Governor called for a special session the members of the General Assembly will receive their per diem for attending. If the General Assembly would have called themselves back into special session they would not receive their per diem. 
     
    The Governor has indicated that he wants them to address the budget with property tax relief, job creation, worker’s compensation reform, local government consolidation, education, term limits, pension reform and spending limitations. He then said he supports the plan that the House and Senate Republicans laid out yesterday and would sign a budget that included all the portions that were laid out yesterday in their “Capitol Compromise.”
     
    The “Capitol Compromise” includes legislation that addresses FY 18 appropriations and revenue, education funding, worker’s compensation, property tax relief, local government consolidation, term limits, and pension reform.  As of this morning the actual appropriations bill has not been introduced. One thing is very clear with the “capitol compromise” and that is it has not been well received by some in the Democrat majorities, and there have even been a few negative comments from Republican lawmakers regarding specific parts of the proposal.
     
    One thing is for sure and that is the state’s fiscal crisis is causing real harm. Several social service programs have closed, the Illinois Department of Transportation has announced that without an approved budget it will shut down all state road construction programs, the multi-state Powerball lottery and Mega Millions games will not allow Illinois to participate on
    July 1, and the state’s Universities, Regional Transportation Authority, and Chicago Transit Authority have all seen their junk bond ratings drop again. There is also continuing news of the impact the severe reductions are having on the state’s higher education universities and community colleges. The news of the impact will only increase as the House continues to hold more committee hearings to hear from affected groups. 
     
    The question we are all asking ourselves is will this be the final battle to see this brought to a resolution? During the first few days of the Special Session we hope to be able to ascertain if there is a sincere and desiring mood to end the crisis, or if it is all for political posturing. If the past few days in the media is any example of what we are going to see, it is going to be a very interesting and sometimes downright ugly scene.
     
    Natural and Environmental Resources
    Last week, Natural and Environmental Resources staff Lauren Lurkins and Lyndsey Ramsey traveled to Pittsburgh, PA for AFBF’s legal and environmental policy conferences. These meetings are a valuable opportunity for IFB staff to connect with staff from AFBF and other state Farm Bureaus to discuss environmental regulatory, scientific and legal issues facing farmers. Our staff was able to hear updates from AFBF staff as to the federal dynamic of various issues, learn how other states have addressed similar issues, share our own stories to generate ideas for other states, and build programs to strategically address the issues. The list of issues is unfortunately fairly long, and includes familiar topics such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation issues, Drinking Water supplies and Waters of the United States. Although the list of issues is long, the efforts of IFB and many other states Farm Bureaus in combating the issues on behalf of farmers are overwhelmingly positive and effective. Lauren and Lyndsey left the meeting with many ideas that will soon manifest themselves into action at the IFB level.
     
    In other Natural Resource and Environmental news, this week, Lauren also attended a meeting of the state’s scientific surveys, now called the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), discussing “Building Resiliency in the Face of Risk.” The meeting featured sessions from scientists in the various surveys, and was attended by 24 federal and state agencies, universities, and membership associations. During the meeting, scientists presented data on a variety of climate related topics, including flooding, drought, extreme heat, and the impact those trends have on Illinois’ ecosystems, groundwater, surface water, pests/insects, agriculture and energy. PRI scientists revealed data about issues, risks and concerns for Illinois in the future. To access the presentation information, see
    https://publish.illinois.edu/buildingresiliency/.
      
    Hort Day
    The Illinois Specialty Growers Association (ISGA) helped sponsor the Illinois State Horticultural Society’s annual “Hort Day.” This year’s event was held at Christ Orchards in Elmwood (Peoria County) and hosted nearly 150 farmers, educators, and industry representatives. It was an opportunity to see in-field demonstrations of new machinery, and a high-density orchard using semi-dwarf apple trees on a wire trellis system. Charlene Blary and Jim Fraley attended the event which highlighted the benefits of an ISGA membership.

    ISGA at State FFA Convention
    The Illinois Specialty Growers Association presented a workshop at this week’s Illinois FFA Convention.  The focus of the workshop was to teach young people ways they could use specialty crop production as a means to enter a career in farming.  If they take time to learn their markets, they can grow crops that segment a specific cultural food, raise microgreens in their basement, or care for livestock and seek the “locally-farmed” aspect.
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     I would like to welcome our newest staffer to join the GAC team, Raghela Scavuzzo. Raghela is our new Local Foods Program Manager and comes to us by way of Alabama where she worked as an urban food project community engagement coordinator. Raghela brings some strong experience in connecting growers/producers with food retailers and others throughout the local and specialty food industry. She has hit the ground running by establishing connections and relationships not only in the Farm Bureau family but also the industry in Illinois. Welcome to the team Raghela!
     
    Tragic events throughout our country and the world are becoming way too common in our day-to-day world. The frequency of these events has caused us to become hardened and unfortunately in some ways too accepting of these happenings as a part of our world. 
     
    By now I am sure you are well aware of the shooting in D.C.
    on Wednesday morning that involved not only one of our Illinois Congressman, Rodney Davis, but also a number of other GOP congressman, staffers, and trade lobbyists. Fortunately, none of the victims shot in the attack were killed but a couple are still in serious condition. One of those individuals is Matt Mika, director of governmental affairs for Tyson Foods and a former staffer for the American Meat Institute. Please keep Matt and the others injured in the attack in your thoughts and prayers going forward. 
     
    It was refreshing to see Congress unify as one body and set partisanship aside as a result of this tragic event. Let's hope and pray that this unification can continue as Congress moves forward
    in addressing the tremendously important matters facing our nation and world. It should not take tragedy to cause partisan views to change in order to achieve the right way forward as it pertains to solutions that are the right thing to do for the good of our nation! 
     
    Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's living and deceased that have played such an important role for all of us throughout our lives. Enjoy the weekend and family time that the day brings! 
     
    As always thanks for reading and until next week, stay cool.