By Kay Shipman and Deana Stroisch
Capping off a yearlong policy process, county Farm Bureau delegates this week endorsed a new solar energy policy, the organization’s farm bill priorities and strengthened policies related to conservation programs.
Illinois Farm Bureau’s new solar policy, originally proposed by White County, addresses property tax assessment, property rights and decommissioning, among other things. In the last two years alone, nearly 30 solar companies have solicited farmers in 83 Illinois counties.
“What the delegates did was put a very comprehensive policy in place that will guide us both in the legislative arena and regulatory arena as we go forward with these solar farms,” said Mark Gebhards, Illinois Farm Bureau’s executive director of governmental affairs and commodities.
The policy will be submitted to American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration during its resolution process this week.
Related: Click here for more from the IFB Annual Meeting.
In all, 346 delegates representing 75,725 voting members were eligible to vote during IFB’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. Other highlights of delegate policy session include:
– Adopted IFB’s farm bill priorities. Delegates approved language detailing Farm Bureau’s priorities for the next farm bill. Under the policy, IFB supports a farm bill that gives farmers a commodity program choice – revenue or price protection – and links nutrition and commodity programs. IFB also supports “robust conservation programs,” which help farmers achieve state nutrient loss reduction goals. Crop insurance will remain IFB’s top priority. More than 400 members attending work sessions helped develop the list of priorities, which IFB’s Board of Directors adopted in June.
– Approved a refined, incentive-based Endangered Species Act policy. The Conservation and Natural Resources Strength with Advisory Team submitted proposals following in-depth study.
– Passed support for any increase to the Conservation Reserve Program acreage cap tied to continuous signup to prioritize the most environmentally sensitive ground. Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau delegate Steve Turner emphasized the goal is to gain “more bang for the dollar.”
– Approved support for public safety protocols requiring railroads to give local residents and governments a minimum of two weeks’ advance notice of intended construction and before temporary rail crossing closures.