Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
Cook County Farm Bureau® is a grassroots organization, which means that our policies, resolutions, and decisions begin with our members. Specific to resolutions, Farm Bureau conducts the Viewpoint Survey, an annual survey sent at the beginning of the year to farmer members requesting their opinions on priority issues. This year’s survey included questions on local government consolidation, health care reform, immigration reform, and government regulations.
This year’s Viewpoint Survey was followed by a Telli-Town Hall Meeting, which is basically a large conference call. Members discussed trade, tariffs, and farm programs. Both programs seek to engage members in conversations about the issues impacting their farm or small business.
As a result of these conversations, the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Farm Bureau is working on resolutions to numerous topics, including:
Illinois rules allow staff to contact Electronic Benefits (EBT) recipients only after four requests for a replacement card in a 12-month period. Seventy percent of members believe that Illinois should implement a program like Arizona. In which the state can contact SNAP recipients who request a replacement (EBT) card more than twice in a 12-month period.
Kelo v. New London is the landmark eminent domain case. After the Supreme Court ruled against Kelo 5-4 more than 20 states significantly changed their eminent domain laws to make eminent domain more difficult. Kelo v. New London was ultimately over New London authorizing the use of eminent domain on a little pink house overlooking the Thames River in 1997. The area was going to be revitalized after Pfizer’ invested in the area; in 2009 the project fell through. The land where Kelo’s “little pink house” once stood is now empty. Ninety-seven percent of members believe that in situations when eminent domain is used to acquire property, but that property is not used and is resold, that the original owner should have the first right of purchase at the original price.
Next, farmers wishing to market their products as “organic” should undergo a rigorous certification process including: adopting specific management practices, an extensive application process, document inspection, and site inspection by a USDA-accredited certifying agent. Only the agent can issue the organic certification.
The organic certification process is rigorous, time consuming, and expensive. Annual certification costs vary widely depending on the certifying agent, size, type, and complexity of the farm. Certification costs may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Typically, there is an application fee, annual renewal fee, assessment on annual production or sales, and inspection fees. Farm Bureau members believe that farmers selling organic producer should be required to display the USDA certified logo and their certification number. There have been instances in the county of growers selling produce as “privately certified” at farmers markets. By displaying the USDA Certified Organic logo and their certification number, the integrity of the organic certification program is ensured.
The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released an analysis of U.S. food date labeling. The report illustrates that date labels are poorly regulated and give little measure of food safety.
Farm Bureau members support standardized and consistent meanings for terms such as “sell by,” “use by,” and “best before.”
Next, farmers responding to the Viewpoint Survey believe that like schools, municipalities should have uniform budgeting, accounting, and fiscal years. The Illinois Municipal Code provides the appropriation and budget process for municipalities. Provisions are especially specific regarding levying for property taxes. Under the Code, municipalities fiscal years start with the date of the last regular municipal election, but municipalities can change their fiscal year, which makes comparisons difficult. The Code is also mute on accounting practices and budgeting methods with exception of designated funds.
The final resolution supports requiring multi-township assessors checking their assessments for fairness and accuracy. The International Association of Assessing Officers, an international professional organization that develops assessment guidelines and standards, requires that assessors check their assessments- known as sales ratio studies- for fairness and accuracy. A result home values that are “outside the target range” of industry standards is regressivity- the tendency to over value lower-priced homes and undervalue more expensive properties.