PONTIAC – Livingston County’s farming community received an update on issues at the county, state and federal levels during the annual Livingston County Farm Bureau Legislative Breakfast Friday.
Patrick Doggett, deputy director for U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, spoke on the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement which passed the House in December and was later signed by the president. USMCA has not yet been ratified as the involved parties are waiting on Canada.
“Hopefully, we are looking at the end of April,” Doggett said.
Phase one of the China trade deal has been signed and China is still supposedly sticking to the timeline. When it comes to ethanol, Rep. Kinzinger praised the Trump administration’s year-round sale of E-15 although there are concerns with EPA’s small refinery exemptions under the renewable fuel standard.
“There’s a lot that has come out on this issue in the last week.”
Doggett said Kinzinger commends the president for the farmer Market Facilitation Program authorization. It is still likely, but not certain, the administration will announced MFP 3.0.
Also, coronavirus legislation just passed almost unanimously by a vote of 415-2. This is emergency spending for state and local response efforts.
“When there’s an issue going on, Congress can come together,” Doggett said.
Livingston County Board Chair Kathy Arobgast also addressed the crowd, saying the Health and Education Building project has been on the board’s radar for some time as the current building is in poor shape. The full board is expected to soon vote on a second revised concept. Arbogast reported the total price for new construction is under $4.6 million.
“Our department heads worked diligently to be as conservative as possible,” Arbogast explained.
Arbogast noted there is wind farm interest from a couple of companies in the northern part of the county and zoning regulations have been adopted for cannabis. Two referendums will appear on the ballot regarding the Community Healthcare program.
State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-106) discussed a busy week in Springfield which include an agriculture legislative day with a number of FFA groups present.
“We have a new director of ag,” Bennett said. “Jerry Costello is going to do a great job.”
Bennett covered the industrial hemp program which is collecting and processing applications through an online system. This is something impacting the entire state.
“More is coming so stay tuned,” Bennett noted.
One bill Bennett is working on deals with perjury, which is a tool for fights against wrongful convictions. He is teaming up with the Vermilion County State’s attorney on the matter. The state representative is also backing legislation to help law-abiding citizens eliminate the red tape with FOID card issues.
“The money is not there – the money was taken and used in the overall budget.”
State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-53) admitted a heightened lack of civility in politics around the country has made the governing side tough.
“What we are seeing in politics is this aggressive mentality,” Barickman said.
Barickman discussed what he considers “radical” proposals such as a bill mandating gas stations to pump your gas, a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and proposals to restrict parental rights for deciding health choices for children.
The state senator feels Gov. J.B. Pritzker does not know how to say no as he has not demonstrated a willingness to live within his means. As lawmakers embark on this year’s budget process, Pritzker is not proposing to fund schools at the level required by law.
“We’ve got an incredibly tough year ahead with the budget,” Barickman concluded.