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Legislative issues outlined at breakfast

State Rep. Dennis Tipsword, right, visits with Livingston County Farm Bureau members on Friday.

PONTIAC – Various issues at the federal, state and county levels were mentioned Friday during the annual Legislative Breakfast from the Livingston County Farm Bureau, held at the Precision Planting PTI Farm.

U.S. Representative Robin Kelly, of the second district, introduced herself to the group. Her district is much bigger than before – stretching from Chicago all the way down to Danville. There is some farming history in Kelly’s family.

“My grandparents owned a tiny farm in New Jersey,” she said.

Kelly has introduced a bill which encourages rural changes to satellite policies in order to help precision agriculture. Last year she helped pass a lower food cost bill and Kelly noted the Inflation Reduction Act includes plenty of “wins” for Illinois farmers. She pointed to the allocation of funds for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Illinois agricultural conservation.

“We’ve tried to do a lot in the rural ag space.”

Kelly does an ag tour in the summer holding town hall style meetings listening to the farming community.

“It’s an honor to represent you,” Kelly added.

The Congresswoman plans to have pop-up offices near Pontiac and Dwight.

“We’ll work together to make sure you have what you need.”

State Sen. Tom Bennett of the 53rd District spoke of his connection to ag as his brother operates the family farm at Gibson City. The former high school science teacher at Melvin-Sibley High School worked for State Farm and served eight years as a State Representative in Springfield.

“I’m very honored and proud to serve you now as your State Senator,” Bennett said.

Bennett admitted the Senate can be quieter than the House but he has enjoyed serving so far in one of the largest Senate districts in Illinois.

“Agriculture is a big part of that,” noted Bennett.

According to Bennett, the Senate ag budget was flat along with ag education. Funding for Soil and Water Conservation saw a big drop compared to last year. The Senator expects more conversations to surround the issue.

State Rep. Dennis Tipsword of the 105th District is a Woodford County resident. He has been a police officer for several years, currently serving as chief deputy for Woodford County.

“Public safety is very important to me,” said Tipsword.

Tipsword feels the state’s business climate is not friendly and pointed to a “mass exodus” from the state. He notes Illinois is high on many lists it should be on the bottom of.

“We are literally hemorrhaging people,” Tipsword stated.

Though he is a couple of generations removed from the farm, Tipsword’s family is originally from the Southern Illinois area and he grew up around the industry.

“I fully understand farming. I grew up in the middle of a farming area.”

Jason Bunting, 106th district State Representative, shared his experiences so far while serving in Springfield. He counted over 600 bills introduced to the floor of the House with 71 of those Republican bills. He had the chance to vote on a bill recently.

“They will grab something and try to slam it through right away,” Bunting explained.

Bunting said the state has to do what is best for constituents and that includes reaching across the aisle and working together.

“Even after 42 days, I still open the wrong door on occasion,” Bunting joked.

The experience has been described as a whirlwind and Bunting expects the next several months to be the same way. He is looking for a district director to work out of his Watseka office.

“I am truly excited to represent the folks of this district.”

Livingston County Board vice-chair Steven Lovell said the county is well into the construction phase of its new highway and maintenance building which should be completed by June 1. This will provide space for equipment and items for the maintenance department.

The county will also complete a new parking lot at the Health and Education Building.

“In the same area, we are also working on a possible drive-thru for the Health and Education Building,” Lovell explained.

Lovell believes the most contentious issue currently is the implementation of Illinois House Bill 4412 which sets statewide renewable energy project siting standards. According to Lovell, the state is trying to tie the county’s hands when it comes to wind and solar.

“I’m afraid it’s here to stay.”

Livingston County signed a resolution to send to Springfield and just passed an ordinance to get in compliance with the state.

In an effort to be more transparent, the county has launched its first social media platform on Facebook. County Board meetings are also being streamed.

“Show up at the meetings,” added Lovell. “We welcome input.”

L to R: Matt Kilgus, Robin Kelly & Jason Bunting at the LCFB Legislative Breakfast Friday.


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