Lawmakers must find a bipartisan way forward

Richard Guebert Jr.

For many years, I have heard that agriculture policy is one of the few areas in Springfield and in Washington, D.C., that is truly bipartisan. Members of both political parties recognize the need for good farm and food policy. It is my hope this continues, but I am increasingly disappointed by the lack of civility and level of disrespect occurring in today’s politics.

I’m concerned that party leadership, on both sides of the aisle, is forcing lawmakers to vote exclusively along party lines. Large donors and special interest groups also seek to punish any representatives who stray from the party positions and vote for a bipartisan compromise – even if it’s in the best interests of their constituents.

I don’t believe this benefits farmers or our country.

Lawmakers must find a bipartisan way forward. Stop the political infighting and work together to better serve all Americans.

Bipartisanship has served Illinois farmers well. As a grassroots, membership-driven organization, Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) has forged strong relationships with our local government officials and state legislators, who in turn help us achieve our farm policy priorities. 

IFB’s Adopt-A-Legislator program has fostered mutual respect and understanding between farmers and Chicago-area lawmakers. More than 50 Illinois county governing bodies approved pro-agriculture resolutions, solidifying their support for the state’s economy’s largest industry. These are just a few of the bipartisan efforts our members take to share agriculture’s story and how our local, state and federal lawmakers can support our farmers.

I believe elected officials, agency representatives and regulators appreciate the integrity with which IFB operates. We might not always agree on issues, but we are going to be forthright in explaining our position. We listen and show respect to others, even those with opposing points of view. 

Our elected officials have an obligation to work together to find responsible solutions for policy issues. With the expiration of the 2018 farm bill at the end of September, we need our lawmakers more than ever to find ways to work together. In my conversations with fellow farmers, the question I hear the most is “What happens next?”

The farm bill guides U.S. agriculture and food policy over a period of five years and is traditionally rooted in bipartisanship. Congress has passed 18 iterations of the farm bill since its inception in 1933, and the farm bill expired Sept. 30.   

Farm organizations have worked collectively for months on a new farm bill, and IFB continues meeting with Illinois House and Senate ag committee members to pass a farm bill that meets the needs of all sectors of agriculture.  

Failure to take any farm bill action before year’s end would cause serious disruptions: cutting off enrollment in important safety net and conservation programs; pausing research; and reverting back to 1930s farm policy.

IFB understands the realities of the legislative calendar and recognizes that an extension might be needed to avoid serious disruptions, but we also urge Congress to move forward with a new farm bill. The farm bill has a long tradition of bipartisan support and now, more than ever, it’s important for lawmakers to work together to ensure America’s farmers can continue to provide the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.

I’m confident that our legislators from Illinois understand the importance of the farm bill and are committed to getting the legislation across the president’s desk.  

Richard Guebert Jr. is the president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit