Harvest Desk
8:42 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Harvest Blog: State Lawmakers Munch (Free?) Lunches

a-tisket, a-tasket, a policy-shaping basket?
Credit openclipart.org

When the "lobbyist" armed with a free basket of treats is a smiling farm kid, what state lawmaker could say no to the gift? 

That was the scene at Ag Lobby Day in the Illinois State Capitol, its rotunda invaded by a veritable army of bushel basket-toting FFA members.

The FFA lunch hour food distribution lent some younger voices to the chorus of voices advocating on behalf of Illinois agribusiness.

But if anyone knows there's "no such thing as a free lunch", it's farmers.

So what do lobbyists want from state lawmakers in exchange for that basket of goodies?  Actually,  it's a lot more like what they don't want to happen in Springfield.

At least that's the impression I get speaking with Illinois Farm Bureau's head lobbyist, Kevin Semlow. 

Interview with IFB State Legislation Director Kevin Semlow

  1. NO to Governor Quinn's proposal to increase the state's minimum wage 
  2. NO to Senator Dave Koehler's idea to label genetically engineered food 
  3. NO cuts to Illinois Department of Agriculture funding

Political winds are shifting on the first two items on that list, and this reporter won't pretend to be a seasoned policy prognosticator.

On the third point, however - the dollars for Dept. of Ag programs, including regulation of the industry - it appears quite possible farmers won't get their way.

The rollback of Illinois' income tax increase in 2015 means Department heads, including Bob Flider, have to make their case and "fight for dollars" as budget season approaches. If Flider can't convince his former colleagues in the General Assembly - a task he calls "Job Number One" - IDOA might face a budgetary haircut as it has in years past. 

Interview with IDOA Dir. Bob Flider

Talk of dollars and cents didn't seem to dampen Flider's mood on Ag Lobby Day.  He did, after all, have a few hundred FFA kids cheerleading for his cause. 

Riffing on Roosevelt's ideas about diplomacy, perhaps when lobbying in Illinois it's best to "talk softly and carry a big... basket of food".