• Farmer involvement begins with the project proposal
  • Draft environmental assessment releasedKankakee Co. board, Soil & Water Conservation District, and Chamber of Commerce announce opposition to the refugeFarm Bureau delivers 1,000 letters and a petition with 1,465 signatures to FWS office in MinnesotaKankakee County Farm Bureau opposes the refuge
  • Decision document signed, refuge authorized to proceed
  • With huge opposition at the local level, the US Fish & Wildlife Service changed course and decided to focus on projects in other states.
  • FWS returns to the Kankakee area and begins working on the refuge
  • FWS holds a ribbon-cutting. Congresswoman Robin Kelly issues a letter opposing the refugeKankakee County Board vote 20 to 0 to reaffirm opposition to the refugeRepresentatives from Kankakee and Iroquois Counties toured the Cypress Creek US Fish & Wildlife Service refuge
  • The City of Momence passes a resolution opposing the refugeIllinois Farm Bureau begins facilitating conference calls between the staff of the FWS, county Farm Bureaus, and elected official officesFarm Bureau petition of opposition garners 1,400+ signatures
  • State Senator Toi Hutchinson issues a letter opposing the refugeState Representative Lindsay Parkhurst issues a letter opposing the refugeFarm Bureau focus group held with members


Farm Bureau involvement with the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge

Farmer involvement with the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge began with the proposal for the project in 1996. In 1998, a draft environmental assessment was released, the same year that the Kankakee County Board adopted a resolution opposing the refuge based on multiple concerns raised by local citizens. In 2000, a decision document was signed, signaling that the refuge was authorized to proceed. Despite opposition at the local level, the US Fish & Wildlife Service did not change course until 2001, when they decided to focus on projects in other states.

In May 2015, US Fish & Wildlife Service returned to the Kankakee area and began working on the refuge with significant changes in the focus area, both removing Indiana from the project completely, and changing to a refuge and conservation area, with different land ownership prospects. At that time, the Service had received a donation of 66-acres to establish the refuge officially. The Service also commenced with a ribbon cutting event on October 15, 2016, despite continued and fervent concerns about the refuge project.

Staff at Farm Bureau got involved when the project returned and worked with the Kankakee County and Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureaus to educate farmer members about the process and public input opportunities.

With hopes of stopping or slowing the establishment of the refuge until landowner concerns were addressed, Farm Bureau assisted the local Farm Bureaus with organizing a petition of opposition, of which more than 1,400 farmers and landowners signed. In addition, US senators and house representatives were brought into the conversation. Farm Bureau began facilitating conference calls between staff members of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, county Farm Bureaus, and elected official offices in July 2017.

Following much consideration, the following actions were taken:

  • On October 28, 2016, Congresswoman Robin Kelly issued a letter opposing the refuge plans
  • On November 9, 2016, the Kankakee County Board voted 20 to 0 to reaffirm their opposition to the refuge
  • The City of Momence passed a resolution opposing the refuge on February 6, 2017.
  • State Senator Toi Hutchinson issued a letter opposing the refuge plans on February 9, 2018.
  • State Representative Lindsay Parkhurst issued a letter opposing the refuge plans on March 14, 2018.

The opposition to the project by these leaders speaks loudly that our community and our local stakeholders have grave concerns about the direction of this refuge.

After a staffing change at US Fish & Wildlife Service, the local Farm Bureaus were invited to participate in the development of a Land Protection Plan for the Kankakee Refuge & Conservation Area. Farm Bureau proposed hosting and facilitating a focus group of farmers to outline their concerns and expectations for the future. To do that, Farm Bureau worked with a Rural Sociology graduate student at Illinois State University. A focus group was held on July 10, 2018. Twenty-five farmers were in attendance, and their comments form the basis of our report.


Illinois Farm Bureau Policy and Our Policy Development Process

Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy development process provides members the opportunity to express thoughts and ideas on important issues impacting agriculture. When properly supported through the grassroots policy development process, these concerns are considered and may be adopted by more than 300 voting delegates representing 94 Farm Bureaus in the state, at the organization’s annual meeting each December.

Policies approved at the annual meeting direct Farm Bureau’s legislative priorities and programming. It is from this grassroots input and direction that Farm Bureau realizes its strength as an organization to serve the needs of the members. Adopted policies become the public policy positions of Farm Bureau, and are re-affirmed or modified and approved every year.

Farm Bureau policies that are national in scope are forwarded to the American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration during its policy-development process. Policies adopted at the AFBF annual meeting become both AFBF’s and Illinois’ public policy positions on national and international issues.

Current Farm Bureau policy speaks to many relevant issues regarding conservation, wildlife, government programs, and private property rights. Relevant policy statements are highlighted throughout.

Policy 1: Philosophy of Illinois Farm Bureau

We believe in the sanctity of private property and individual rights as provided by the U.S. Constitution, as the basis of American freedom and progress.