Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 30, 2013

Legislators hear concerns from local businesses

Bill Grimes
Daily News

---- — Like other area farmers, Kenny Brummer of the Bishop Creek community west of Dieterich is a keen observer of how the Illinois General Assembly handles farm-related issues.

Monday, Brummer got a chance to tell some of those legislators about his operation and how its dynamics have changed over the years.

Brummer was among several area businesses visited by a group that included several state legislators during the first annual Effingham County Legislative Day. He told the group, which also included a number of state and municipal officials, that farming has become increasingly more complicated over the years.

“Farmers have a lot of things to think about,” he said. “We wear a lot of hats in a day’s time.”

Brummer told the group that increasing environmental regulations are making it tough for family farms to compete with corporate entities.

“EPA rules and regulations are making it tough on livestock farmers, in particular,” he said. “Those regulations are one of the first things that will shut down a family farm.”

Many of those environmental regulations govern how farmers manage the waste from their animals. State Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, encouraged Brummer to visit Springfield and air his concerns.

“You need to come to Springfield and let us know about those issues,” Cavaletto said.

While a couple of Chicago-area legislators expected to attend Monday’s gathering were no-shows, the only out-of-area legislator — state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Gifford — represents a district demographically similar to the Effingham area, at least in its rural portions.

Frerichs said farmers deal with a number of issues, including an aging population coupled with barriers to entering the field that didn’t exist 50 years ago.

“You need more technical knowledge than you once did,” the senator said. “The costs alone make today’s family farm different than it was 50 years ago.”

Brummer said profit margins have been steadily shrinking for at least a generation, forcing the modern farmer to increase the scale of his operation.

“You used to be able to make a living with 50 steers,” he said. “Now, you need 1,000.”

Sean Sherrod of Vita Plus, who joined the legislative group at the Brummer farm, said many of his customers are concerned about how to pass their land onto future generations. Effingham-based Vita Plus manufactures livestock feed.

“These guys have taken a risk,” Sherrod said. “They have borrowed money to allow more family members to get involved in the operation. But sometimes a new law is passed in the middle of the game that throws everything off.”

Sherrod said farmers are increasingly dealing with homeowners who build their dream houses downwind from farming operations.

Legislators were also scheduled to visit John Boos & Co., as well as J&J Ventures.

Effingham city commissioner Brian Milleville said it’s important for municipal officials to establish rapport with state officials.

“Much of what they do on the state level affects us locally,” Milleville said. “But we can show what can happen when you have a pro-business environment.”

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.