URBANA — Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson said the farming community must be creative and determined to remain successful despite threats from outside.
Speaking at the Champaign County Farm Bureau's annual meeting Monday at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, Nelson warned that lobbyists representing groups outside agriculture are having an oversized impact on agriculture.
He cited the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Humane Society, Right to Life and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals among the groups trying to "dictate" what agriculture can do.
Possible restrictions range from the hours farmers can operate equipment in fields near suburban areas to the allowable amount of dust raised by that equipment.
Nelson contended that 78 percent of news content is "negative," and he said that could give farmers "a kind of cloudy attitude about agriculture."
He cited recent reports on crop insurance, labeling of factory-raised poultry and point-source pollution from chemicals and fertilizers as examples of that.
Nelson encouraged farmers to "push back against the 'anti' crowd" and tell their own story of what agriculture involves.
Nelson reminded the crowd that each U.S. farmer, on average, feeds 156 people. He said many farmers elsewhere — including a palm oil farmer he met in Colombia — admire U.S. agriculture and wish they had the freedom and opportunities that U.S. farmers have.
Nelson, who operates a fourth-generation grain and livestock farm near Seneca, was elected president of the Illinois Farm Bureau in December 2003. The following year, he was elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation board of directors.
Nelson said the Champaign County Farm Bureau was one of eight county farm bureaus in Illinois to mark 100 years last year. But, he said, it was the only one that had a yearlong celebration.
Earlier in the evening, Nancy Strunk received the Urban Farm Leader of the Year Award, partly for chairing the centennial celebration.
The local organization also recognized Harold Guither — author of the group's centennial history — and his wife, Lois, for receiving the Illinois Farm Bureau's Charles B. Shuman Distinguished Service Award for his work in agricultural economics.
Also winning recognition from the state organization were Champaign County Young Ag Leader Chairman Brad Zwilling and his wife, Paula, who won the state Excellence in Ag Award.
Champaign County Farm Bureau President Lin Warfel presented Sheriff's Deputy Jim Golaszewski with the Deputy of the Year Award for locating a suicidal woman in a remote cemetery and taking a knife from her.
Reports given Monday showed the Champaign County Farm Bureau gained 678 new members in the past year, for a total of 10,625 members.
The organization recorded a net profit of $41,000 during the past year, with $15,000 of that profit coming from the 100-year celebration.