Guest Column: Stop taking farmers and farmland for granted

Do you like to eat?

Americans enjoy many freedoms and luxuries. We can be generous with our excesses while treating others fairly.

Farmers fund 38 percent of Illinois’ education; today, they are less than 2 percent of the population; they are an over-taxed, under-represented minority!

Despite dwindling numbers, agriculture is 25 percent of Illinois’ economy; it is in Illinois’ interest to protect farmers’ “right to farm” and Illinois’ prime farmland.

In recent decades, Illinois’ population and tax base remained virtually unchanged while development consumed twice the land.

As land, equipment and energy costs rise, farmers’ income and profits fall. When development encroaches on farms, land prices and taxes escalate. Often, farmers must sell some land and get off-farm jobs to pay bills or go out of business; yet, we expect cheap food.

Farmers should not have to use their limited resources to protect their “right to farm”—that’s government’s job—to protect minorities, not to bulldoze their rights and their property.

Public resources are not for speculating about private projects. Policies favoring developers and big business over productive farmland are shortsighted and lack vision. Prime farmland should never be converted to manufacturing—there are better options.

Historically, the coasts have been considered “progressive” with land-use planning. However, after their “urban sprawl” of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the coasts realized that such development had huge costs; now their policies and programs encourage redevelopment of improved areas.

In retrospect, perhaps the Midwest has been the real “leader” of responsible and cost-effective land use.

If we become dependent on others for food, we could see trends with food prices as with energy prices.

We should stop taking farmers and farmland for granted; they are infinite resources.

The majority of us go to bed with full bellies. We can live without boats and vacations, we can even live without cars, but we can’t live without food and water.

We need farmers, and farmers need land—it’s that simple!

This fall, elect people who will be good stewards of the people’s rights and resources.

Marianne L. Garvens is a Contributing Writer for The Rock River Times and is a Freeport resident.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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