We had 32 in attendance at our meeting with Representative Dave Severin and Senator Dale Fowler last week. They both discussed the main issues that they are working on right now and were very grateful for the opportunity to have them come to our office and meet with the farmers and listen to what we feel is important. Of course, the most important issue right now is the budget and how to finally get one in place in Illinois. They both indicated this was one of their main priorities as well. We look forward to having a close working relationship with both of them.
Last week, NASS released county yields for the 2016 crop year, helping the U of I’s Gardner Agriculture Policy Program create accurate estimates of the 2016 ARC-CO payments. Check out FarmDocDaily.com for maps showing estimated payments per base acre for soybeans, corn, and wheat, as well as maps giving 2016 county yields relative to benchmark yields, and estimated payments per Illinois county.
Action to pass Illinois Farm Bureau state legislative priorities set by the IFB Board moves to the Capitol and legislative committees.
Property rights influenced a priority related to utility projects. Through HB 3207, sponsored by Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, and SB 777, sponsored by Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, IFB seeks to amend the state’s expedited review process of large, complex utility projects.
Some recent utility companies in the state used expedited review procedures for projects that went before the Illinois Commerce Commission.
“The use of expedited review for complicated projects that impact many landowners has created significant concerns and hardships for landowners in the project’s potential path,” said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation. “Often, impacted landowners do not have enough time to consider their options and participate in the review process. The proposed changes to the expedited review procedures will help landowners better protect their property rights.”
IFB also seeks to address transportation challenges during a harvest emergency. Under HB 2580, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, and SB 1576, sponsored by Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, the governor would gain the authority to increase gross vehicle weight limits by 10 percent for divisible loads of agriculture commodities during a declared harvest emergency.
“This will allow farmers to transport agricultural commodities from fields to local grain bins more efficiently, reducing overhead costs, saving time and allowing a more expedient harvest during an emergency,” said Russell Orrill, IFB assistant director of state legislation. Neighboring states, including Iowa, have similar provisions, Orrill noted.
Another IFB priority bill focuses on traffic and conviction surcharges on truck overweight fines. HB 3343, sponsored by Rep. Elgie Sims Jr., D-Chicago, and SB 1581, sponsored by Sen. Anderson, would reduce the surcharges that create a significant burden on farmers and truckers in Illinois.
Bodine explained 2015 legislation created a funding mechanism for police body cameras by raising the surcharge for traffic violations and criminal convictions. Truck overweight fines are considered traffic violations.
Under the law, a speeding ticket with a $120 fine would come with a $45 surcharge, a $15 increase compared to the previous amount. A driver of a truck that is 5,000 pounds overweight would receive a $950 fine and a $356 surcharge, an increase of $118.
“As the truck increases in weight, so does the fine. This leads to even more substantial increases in overweight fine surcharges,” Bodine said.
IFB also plans to again oppose legislation that would allow landowners’ property to be taken without just compensation.
HB 2557, sponsored by Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester, and SB 1388, sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, would allow telecommunications companies to install their equipment in road rights-of-way without negotiating an easement with the underlying landowner. Currently, telecommunication companies are required to obtain an easement from landowners before installing cable or equipment in these road rights-of-way.
Remember we are farmers working together. If we can help let us know.