I’m a fifth-generation farmer growing soybeans on the same ground my family established in 1875. I’ve farmed for quite some time, continuing a legacy started well before me. In that time, I’ve also seen how the agricultural industry has changed.
A changing landscape
According to the USDA, less than 2 percent of our population is made up of farmers. Most of today’s consumers are three to four generations removed from the farm. We farmers must acknowledge this reality, unite and deliver a coordinated message to those who affect our business – especially elected officials in Springfield and Washington, D.C.
I’ve seen firsthand the impact of farmer advocacy. A multiyear effort by the EPA to define stream and wetland protection under WOTUS was ultimately postponed in early 2018. Benefits have accrued from the 2014 Farm Bill, and the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, which has remained a voluntary program.
Soybeans are America’s leading agricultural export, with sales of $27 billion in 2017. Some 51 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is exported annually. While it may not be obvious, soybeans – and more broadly agriculture – play a critical role in our national economy and global competitiveness. So it’s also our responsibility as farmers to ensure the state and federal government and regulatory bodies know how legislation and regulation could impact us, positively or negatively.
Act now, act fast
Farmers are busy and, as I noted above, we’re a small demographic. When advocacy opportunities arise, we need a quick, easy way to reach our decision makers. The Voice for Soy legislative action network provides that. It’s a simple way to instantly send letters or make phone calls to our president, senators, representatives, governmental agencies and so on.
I, and many farmers like me, have a multigenerational legacy to protect and continue to build. Advocacy is essential to that success.
Jered Hooker is a fifth-generation soybean farmer in central Illinois. He is a member of the DeWitt County Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers and Chicago Farmers. Jered earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.