R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: ISA: Infrastructure bill will improve efficiency

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media


Dennis Schlagel, executive director for the Lexington-based Fellowship of Christian Farmers, says the need is ongoing for volunteers in hurricane-ravaged rural Louisiana. He is seeking Illinois farmers and ranchers willing to make the trip. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

In this week’s column dedicated to Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, we have a report on reaction to Congress’ recent passage of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act. We also have news for high school seniors in search of ag and conservation-related grant awards, and information about how farmers, ranchers and skilled tradespersons can volunteer to repair hurricane-damaged farms in Louisiana.


ISA: Infrastructure bill will improve efficiency

BLOOMINGTON — When the House passed the historic, bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act last week — which President Biden was due to sign at press time for this column — Illinois agricultural leaders queued up to congratulate Congress. According to Steve Pitstick, Illinois Soybean Association board chairman, the $1.2 trillion bill will rebuild the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, fund new climate resilience and broadband initiatives, and enhance the competitiveness of soy and other agricultural products for years to come.

“Infrastructure sits at the core of agriculture’s long-term success and our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Pitstick, in an ISA news release. “Improved locks, dams and supply chains across the state of Illinois will enable soy’s timely exports and increased efficiencies.”

The legislation will provide $17 billion for Illinois to upgrade its infrastructure over the next five years, according to U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-17th. “Our farmers will be able to get more engaged in precision agriculture and climate smart farming,” Bustos said. “They’re going to be able to reduce inputs, mitigate climate outputs, increase yield and grow their bottom lines.”

Of the money allocated for Illinois, $2.5 billion will be invested in inland waterways funding for expansion of key locks and dams to create larger, 1,200-foot locking chambers.

“This legislation proves that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around solutions that meet the needs of our country and our industry,” said Mike Levin, ISA senior director of government affairs. “This is what it looks like when our voices are heard, and our people are given the tools they need to succeed into the next generation.”


Specialty Conference going live in 2022

BLOOMINGTON — After an in-person hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 Illinois Specialty Crop Conference and Trade Show will return in a live-hybrid format during its Jan. 5-7 run at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. In order to provide an array of opportunities for Illinois specialty growers to meet for education, information and networking opportunities, the 2022 conference will be offered in-person or remotely.

“This conference event is a strong start to the year for specialty growers. Each day of the conference brings a new workshop series, not to mention the exhibit hall filled with over 50 vendors promoting their products and services. Familiar faces and new attendees are sure to enjoy the workshop lineup, cider contest, keynotes, and, of course, the food,” said Raghela Scavuzzo, executive director of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association.

During the conference Craig Tanner, from Tanner’s Orchard of Speer (Peoria County), will be defending his family’s Apple Cider Contest title during the 32nd annual tasting contest. Also on tap is the 19th annual Hard Cider Contest. Awards will be presented to contest winners at a Jan. 6 dinner banquet.

“This conference really is all about education and connection. Every grower, whether they’re brand new to the industry or more seasoned professionals, will leave with invaluable information to help grow their business and expertise,” said Scavuzzo.

Virtual registration will remain open throughout the conference at www.specialtygrowers.org/ISCC2022. (Illinois Farm Bureau news)


Conservation Achievement Scholarships open

KANKAKEE — The chairman of the Illinois Senate Agriculture Committee is urging Illinois high school seniors to apply for four scholarships valued at $2,000 each through the Conservation Achievement Scholarship program. “This scholarship program awards our best and brightest students for their hard work and dedication to conservation stewardship,” said Joyce, D-Essex, in an Illinois Senate Democrats news release. “I encourage all eligible high school seniors to take advantage of this opportunity and apply.”

The scholarship is open to seniors who demonstrate long-term dedication to the preservation and protection of the state’s natural resources. The funds, which are mailed directly to the students’ future schools, may be used for tuition, college or university fees, textbooks, or room and board.

The contest is sponsored by the Illinois Conservation Foundation, whose mission is to preserve and enhance natural and cultural heritage by fostering and supporting ecological, educational, and outdoor recreational programs. In carrying out this mission, the Illinois Conservation Foundation inspires today’s youth — tomorrow’s leaders — by providing quality outdoor and conservation education programs that instill a life-long interest in conservation, outdoor recreation and sustainability, according to the organization’s website.

For more information on the scholarship, contact the Illinois Conservation Foundation at 217-785-2003 or info@ilconservation.org.


FCFI seeking Louisiana fence-builders

LEXINGTON — Central Illinois-based Fellowship of Christian Farmers International has a base camp for disaster relief set up in Lake Charles (Calcasieu Parish), Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida recently caused damage and flooding. Teams of volunteer farmers, ranchers and skilled laborers are needed in Lake Charles, according to FCFI executive director Dennis Schlagel. Jobs include fence building, flood restoration and general cleanup and repair. For more info, Schlagel can be contacted at 309-530-7004 or by email at dennis@fcfi.org.


Illinois Farm Fact:

There are currently around 228,000 Illinois households without access to high-speed broadband. (Illinois Farm Bureau)