McGuire promises to remain an advocate for farmers
Brandi McGuire, Republican candidate for House District 72, recently toured a farm located near Buffalo Prairie.
While there, she met with leaders of the agriculture industry to discuss issues that affect farming in Illinois.
“Growing up and living next to farms in Rock Island County, the view of cornfields next to my home reminds me that agriculture is a vital part of this district’s and our state’s economy," McGuire said. "The district is home to John Deere and over 700 farms -- that is why I am meeting with local farmers in Buffalo Prairie to hear what is important to their business, industry and families."
Agriculture is Illinois' top industry. It brings in more than $19 billion for agricultural commodities and another $180 billion in processed food sales per year. Other agriculture-related industries, such as manufacturing farm machinery, real estate sales and ethanol production, add to the industry's total contribution to the Illinois economy.
Rural Illinois benefits directly from farming activities, while urban areas benefit from the agricultural processing and manufacturing industries. Illinois hosts approximately 2,640 food manufacturing companies that use crops and livestock to produce food and industrial products. More than 1 million people are employed in agriculture and related industries.
While agricultural industries depend on farming, farmers face many challenges. Weather, environmental concerns and government regulations are continuing concerns. To that end, McGuire reiterated her support for farmers, saying she will be a "strong advocate for farmers and the agriculture industry."
The number of farms in Illinois dropped from 164,000 in 1959 to the current number of 75,087, with an average size of 358 acres. Approximately 75 percent of the state is farmland; 89 percent of that is considered prime farmland.
One of the issues the agricultural industry faces is an aging population of farmers. In general, Illinois farmers are more than 50 years old. A majority of Illinois farms are still family farms, so the Illinois death tax is a concern when the farm is passed down to the next generation.
Government regulations affect farming practices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has restricted the use of many herbicides and pesticides. Currently, the EPA is seeking restrictions on the use of atrazine, an herbicide, which is used against resistant weeds. While the majority of studies show it is safe, the EPA wants farmers to reduce its use.
Water quality and nitrates are also an issue. Common farming practices include fall nitrogen applications and leaving the fields fallow through the winter. The nitrogen in the fertilizer leeches from the soil and drains into waterways. These streams and rivers eventually lead to the Gulf of Mexico, where the nitrates encourage an overgrowth of algae. Algae grows and dies and as it decomposes, removing oxygen from the water and causing a dead zone.
Midwestern farmers are encouraged to test their water for nitrates and reduce the amount of fertilizer flowing into streams and rivers. Reducing the overall amount of fertilizer applied to the fields, delaying fertilizing until spring and planting cover crops to fix the nitrogen in the soil reduces the flow of nitrates from farmland to the Gulf. By taking voluntary measures to resolve environmental issues, farmers can try to avoid additional regulations on farming practices while continuing to produce crops for Illinois' food-related industries.
Illinois' agricultural industry has an advantage over other states. With more than 2,000 miles of interstate highways and 34,500 miles of state highways, a railroad system that connects the eastern and western U.S. and 1,118 miles of navigable waterways, farm produce and agricultural products are quickly transported to vendors and ports in the Gulf of Mexico. A strong infrastructure keeps Illinois' products moving across the country.
Illinois exports $8.2 billion in agricultural commodities to other countries. It is ranked third in agricultural commodities and second in both soybean and feed grains exports.
McGuire vowed to keep farmers' interests and concerns in the forefront of any legislation that would affect farms and the agricultural industry.
“I will look to local farmers for knowledge, advice and input on agricultural issues -- my door will always be open to them, and my voice will speak their concerns,” she said.