Farmers voice concerns at Agribusiness Summit

By WEEK Producer

December 5, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 11:12 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- Bart Bittner is a fifth generation McLean County farmer. He was eager to share his perspective Wednesday during an agribusiness summit in Normal.

"It provides me an opportunity to let people know what we do and how we do it," explained Bittner, "and when we ask for regulations to be drafted a certain way that they understand why we want it done that way."

Bittner served on a panel with other area farmers. They addressed local leaders and the owners of businesses that support agriculture.

The summit was organized by the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area and the McLean County Chamber of Commerce in preparation for a trip to Washington in March to connect with lawmakers.

"In the long run, we use the information from this issues summit to inform us for our One Voice trip in March to Washington, D.C.", said Marty Vanags, the CEO of the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area. "Our focus on the trip will be agriculture."

Several of the farmers attending Wednesday's summit talked about their fear of uncertainty. Without knowing what taxes will be going forward and still no farm bill, they say it's very difficult for a farmer to plan ahead.

"A lot of times, our policy makers are somewhat removed from the farm," said Farmer Brad Dearing. "They may not have grown up on a farm or understand the whole process of growing our food and sometimes they can make regulation that can hinder or be a burden for the local producer."

And there are other issues farmers are anxious to see resolved.

"Things like the estate tax and other issues not being addressed or possibly changed in a non-advantageous way," said Bittner. "(Also the issue of) passing on the farm generationally. Those are probably my biggest concerns. I hope that we can get a farm bill in place."

And they hope is they were sowing some of the seeds for that Wednesday.