Prairie Rivers began researching Illinois Farm Bureau policies after finding itself at odds with that organization’s representatives on a host of water quality issues in recent years. The organization was surprised to learn that the Illinois Farm Bureau takes positions that delay progress on water quality problems created by the agriculture industry, and published the report hoping to create a public dialogue on water quality issues and the agriculture industry.

Prairie Rivers Network, an Illinois-based river conservation group, recently released Dirty Water, Dirty Business, a critical report discussing the number one water pollution source in the state of Illinois — polluted agricultural runoff. The report also details the water quality positions of the largest representative of the agriculture industry, the Illinois Farm Bureau.

From Field to Stream: Water Pollution in Illinois

Over the last 27 years, Illinois has generally seen some of its most heavily polluted streams improve. Waterways that were devoid of aquatic life and unsafe for recreation once again support fishing and swimming.

These water quality improvements can be traced to the implementation of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the public’s insistence that water pollution be cleaned up.

Since 1972 most efforts to clean up Illinois’ waters have focused on the easiest to identify “point sources” such as industries and municipal sewage plants that release pollutants directly into rivers. There has been a large amount of progress in addressing these sources, but little progress in checking the effects of polluted runoff, particularly from agricultural lands.

In examining national water quality trends over the past 25 years, the U.S. Geological Survey stated, “Four times as many streams deteriorated as improved. This trend is consistent with increased polluted runoff from agriculture” (D.P. Lettenmaier et al., “Trends in Stream Quality in the Continental United States, 1978-1987,” as quoted in Adler, The Clean Water Act 20 Years Later).

Polluted runoff comes from a variety of sources — stormwater from roads and parking lots, treated lawns and golf courses, and agricultural lands.

Polluted agricultural runoff includes the excess nutrients from fertilizers, siltation from soil erosion, animal wastes, herbicides and pesticides applied to fields such as atrazine and alachlor. In Illinois and across the nation, agriculture is by far the largest contributor of polluted runoff.

Polluted agricultural runoff and the associated problems

  • According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), over 85 percent of the impaired river miles in Illinois are polluted by agricultural runoff.
  • Extensive use of chemical fertilizers has plagued Illinois’ water supplies with nitrates and nitrites. Virtually every drinking water supply in central Illinois fails to meet nitrate/nitrite drinking water standards at some time during the course of the year. Occurrences increase in fall and spring, when most agricultural chemicals are applied.
  • Excessive nitrates and nitrites in drinking water can cause “blue baby syndrome,” a condition which results from the decreased oxygen carrying capacity in an infant’s bloodstream.
  • The widespread use of chemical fertilizers in the Midwest is leading to excessive levels of nutrients in our waters, creating conditions for enormous algae blooms. Algae can be toxic and cause oxygen levels to drop below that necessary to support marine life. In the Mississippi River Basin, excess nutrients have created an algae bloom responsible for a 6,000 square mile “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Herbicide and pesticide use has increased substantially since the early 1960s. By the early 1990s, “more than 96 percent of all cropland in Illinois was treated for weeds at least once a year” (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, “CTAP Summary”). Drinking water samples from around the state occasionally contain pesticides like atrazine and alachlor.
  • In addition to excessive nutrients and other agricultural chemicals, our rivers are choked with sediment due to soil erosion from farm lands. The product of the first Governor’s Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System in 1987, the Illinois River Action Plan, ranked “soil erosion and siltation” as the top-priority item for the Illinois River and stated that “sedimentation, today’s major pollutant of our nation’s agricultural waterways, is the primary obstacle in preserving some semblance of the historic Illinois River for future generations.”
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that, over the past 35 years, it has dredged more than 14 million cubic yards of sediment from the Illinois River alone. That is enough to cover 138 square miles of land with one inch of valuable topsoil.
  • Lakes in Illinois are slowly filling in with the soil that erodes from farm lands, resulting in a significant loss of water storage capacity. Some lakes in central Illinois, like Lake Decatur, have lost as much as 30 percent of their original storage capacity. Such losses diminish the amount of water available in times of drought and reduce the capacity of reservoirs to contain flood waters.

How has the agricultural industry become the primary polluter of Illinois waters?
Initially, the environmental protection agencies and the public focused on industrial and municipal pollution. The Clean Water Act empowered states to address polluted runoff, but these provisions were largely ignored. Illinois has relied instead on programs that encourage voluntary participation tied to financial incentives to reduce polluted agricultural runoff. These measures have no method of ensuring accountability from polluters.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on voluntary programs to address polluted agricultural runoff, but the problems continue. While pollution from municipalities and traditional industries has largely decreased, polluted runoff from the agriculture industry has increased.

One reason for this is the far-reaching power of the Illinois Farm Bureau. The Illinois Farm Bureau has used tactics to stall progress and divert attention away from polluted agricultural runoff. Illinois Farm Bureau has also fought measures that would hold the agricultural industry accountable for polluted agricultural runoff, resisted enforcement of current laws, and undermined existing clean water policy.

It is the purpose of these fact sheets to bring to light the policies and activities of the Illinois Farm Bureau, to invite unbiased scrutiny of these policies and activities, and to encourage public debate of the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Meet the Illinois Farm Bureau

The Illinois Farm Bureau, also known as the Illinois Agricultural Association, speaks of itself as the “voice of agriculture.” Most people assume the Illinois Farm Bureau represents farmers and farm families, but few know that a majority of Farm Bureau members are not farmers. In fact, its constituency includes a number of large and powerful agribusiness, insurance, and financial corporations.

A few facts about the Illinois Farm Bureau:

  • The Illinois Farm Bureau claims over 345,000 members, but Illinois has only 79,000 farm operations according to the 1998 Illinois Agriculture Statistics Annual Summary. The Department of Agriculture defines a farm operation as any operation that sold or could have sold $1,000 worth of agricultural products in a year. Even by this liberal estimate, farmers account for only 22.9% of total members in the Farm Bureau — assuming all of Illinois’ farm operators are members.
  • The majority of the Illinois Farm Bureau’s non-farmer “members” are holders of Country Companies Insurance. Illinois Farm Bureau owns Country Companies and requires membership to purchase insurance.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports 300 full-time employees, including 97 county managers who administer county Farm Bureaus (IFB, “A Family of Companies”).
  • Illinois Farm Bureau and its subsidiaries employ 57 registered lobbyists, 42 of whom work directly for the Illinois Farm Bureau (Illinois Secretary of State, Index Dept.).
  • Illinois Farm Bureau owns, in full or in part, 18 separate corporations. These include agricultural chemical companies, insurance companies, and companies concerned with seed and feed, livestock production, dairy production, accounting, commodities, mutual funds, financial trusts, fuel oil and refining, and communications (IFB, “A Family of Companies”).
  • The Illinois Farm Bureau is a not-for-profit organization, enjoying a special tax exempt status that places it in a group similar to churches, charities, educational and other traditional, public service non-profit groups. The Farm Bureau also enjoys special tax status in the form of the “Unrelated Business Income Tax” (UBIT) exemption.
  • In a recent audit of Illinois and other state Farm Bureaus, the IRS found that less than five percent of “associate members had joined for agricultural-related purposes.” In 1994, the IRS issued a memorandum (Technical Advice Memorandum 9416002) that eliminated the UBIT tax exemption on non-farmer, or associate, Farm Bureau membership dues.
  • According to documents from a 1996 court case involving the IRS, the Illinois Farm Bureau’s total revenue that year was almost $29 million, and its total assets $25 million. The Illinois Agricultural Holding Company, 94 percent owned by Illinois Farm Bureau, earned over $51 million and had year-end assets of over $291 million.
  • At the urging of national and state Farm Bureaus, Congress passed the Small Business Jobs Protection Act of 1996 that gave the exemptions lost in court back to the Farm Bureaus, and gave the Farm Bureau additional tax relief.

Not just your family farmers…

Illinois Farm Bureau has built a large web of companies to profit from the services and goods they provide. The special tax status gives Illinois Farm Bureau special power in the marketplace over competitors and producers. That and its claim of “over 300,000 members” give the Farm Bureau power to push legislation resulting in increased Illinois Farm Bureau profits.

In other words, the Illinois Farm Bureau is Big Business. Like most other businesses, it’s interested mainly in increasing and protecting earnings. This interest is sometimes detrimental to the interests of small farmers, water quality, and the environment in Illinois.

Sound Science: The Deafening Cry of Stall Tactics

Time and again the agriculture industry is identified as the largest contributor to water quality impairment in Illinois, chiefly through polluted agricultural runoff. Yet, spokespeople for the Illinois Farm Bureau often call for “sound science” that would link polluted agricultural runoff to downstream water quality problems, ignoring the volumes of data that exist on polluted runoff.

Polluted runoff includes siltation and sedimentation, excessive nutrients in water from fertilizers, animal wastes and agricultural chemicals.

By continually calling for “sound science” the Illinois Farm Bureau implies that the mountain of scientific studies linking agriculture to water quality problems is not sound. This charge is a tactic that delays the implementation of solutions, including enforcement of existing laws. It also shifts the burden of proof away from the polluter and onto the taxpayers.

A case in point
The Farm Bureau continues to call for further studies concerning the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone,” a 6,000 square mile area where marine life is virtually non-existent. Oxygen levels in the water have dropped below that necessary to support marine life because of excess nutrients transported from the Mississippi River Basin. The Farm Bureau refuses to accept that polluted agricultural runoff is the cause.

Though scientific studies already have linked agricultural fertilizers to the problem, the Farm Bureau states, doggedly, “We believe that any policies made regarding the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia area must be backed by sound, scientific research” (1999 IFB Policy Resolutions, Section 16).

The organization adds, “Illinois Farm Bureau and its allies should use all means at their disposal to address the issue in a way that gives proper consideration to the impacts it has on agricultural production” (Section16).

Can the Farm Bureau turn down the volume on the scientific community?

  • The call for further studies ignores the volumes of scientific studies performed by reputable researchers and subjected to peer review before publication. Many studies point to agriculture as the major cause of water quality impairment.
  • Illinois EPA (IEPA) reported in 1998 that over 85 percent of all river and stream miles impaired by pollution in Illinois are impaired by agricultural runoff.
  • In a separate report on water resources, IEPA noted that “increasing amounts of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrite/nitrate have been identified in some rivers that are likely the result of nonpoint source pollution (mainly from agricultural activities)” (IEPA, Condition of Illinois Water Resources).
  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has stated “a highly significant trend is toward increased concentrations of substances in common agricultural use such as phosphorous and nitrate nitrogen” (Critical Trends Assessment Project ­ Summary Report, 1994).
  • In the Lake Decatur area, the Upper Sangamon River Watershed Committee has viewed or funded a large number of studies and monitoring reports indicating that agriculture is the source of the watershed’s water quality problems. At least six studies have been done on nitrates alone.
  • At an IEPA meeting on drinking water contamination, Illinois Farm Bureau and Growmark were asked to provide fertilizer sales information, which would help scientists more accurately gauge the impacts of agricultural runoff. Growmark representative Jean Trobec objected, saying the figures were not public information.

The public can turn to a number of websites that offer reliable information on agricultural runoff and its impacts:

Many studies and many researchers have concluded that agricultural pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems. Science already proves this to be true.

If science were a goal of Illinois Farm Bureau, we already would have arrived at a remedy for water quality impairment. But the Farm Bureau will likely continue its calls for further research – in an effort to forestall any attempt at a real solution.

Illinois’ Biggest Polluter: The Farm Bureau Fights Accountability

The Illinois Farm Bureau consistently resists accountability for agricultural runoff while advocating voluntary, incentive-based approaches to water quality problems. Voluntary programs can be effective if properly implemented, but they would be more effective if the programs would include a measure of accountability.

Voluntary conservation programs cannot reverse the trend toward increased water quality problems from polluted runoff. Concrete water quality goals with some measure of accountability are necessary, but the Illinois Farm Bureau has successfully resisted efforts to accomplish this.

Some facts:

  • Even with over 77 percent of the land in Illinois used for agricultural purposes, the agricultural industry is not held accountable for the pollution that ends up in our rivers and streams. This means that poor land-use practices, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can be applied to almost 28 million acres of Illinois land without any liability for the silt and chemicals that wash off the land and into our waterways.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports only voluntary measures, economic incentives, and education as a means to reduce water quality impacts from agricultural pollution. While voluntary efforts do help, the problem is too pervasive to rely on volunteers alone. The Farm Bureau opposes any other solutions that would hold the agriculture industry accountable for water quality problems, as other industries are.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau often insists that financial incentives must be attached to voluntary measures. “We support soil conservation programs using education, voluntary compliance, financial incentives, and other non-punitive means to encourage compliance” (1999 IFB Policy Resolutions, Section 37). This makes agriculture the only industry that is paid not to pollute our waters.
  • Among the Farm Bureau’s 1999 statements is a policy resolution opposing “any attempt to mandate low-input methods of farming,” despite the fact that many rural communities spend millions to treat drinking water proven to be polluted by agricultural runoff. In such cases enforceable controls would help solve the problem.
  • Virtually every town in Central Illinois — including Decatur, Springfield, Mattoon, and Danville — has problems with agricultural runoff affecting their drinking water supplies. State and local governments have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to pay for problems caused by the agricultural industry. For example, Decatur plans to spend an estimated $7.5 million, while Georgetown spent $3.5 million.
  • The Illinois Farm Bureau encourages local governments “to utilize all practical means to control non-farm soil erosion” (1999 Illinois Farm Bureau Policy Resolutions, Section 37). However, the Farm Bureau opposed similar measures for agricultural lands, most notably in a letter from Illinois Farm Bureau President Ron Warfield to then Lt. Gov. Kustra stating, “We have reservations with county ordinances to address water quality issues” (Illinois River Strategy Team, “Illinois River Watershed Plan,” p.20).
  • Illinois Farm Bureau policy resolutions call for County Soil and Water Conservation Districts to address urban wetland and stormwater management problems, while at the same time opposing similar management authority over farmland drainage (1999 IFB Policy Resolutions Section 20).

Summary

The Illinois Farm Bureau has repeatedly fought efforts to make the agricultural industry accountable for water quality issues. With almost 28 million acres in Illinois used for agricultural purposes, lack of accountability for polluted runoff has a serious effect. Without accountability, Illinois will continue to see rising trends in phosphorous and nitrate/nitrite nitrogen, excessive sedimentation, and impaired river miles.

Above the Law: Fighting Water Policy Enforcement

We have seen how the Illinois Farm Bureau fights accountability for the agriculture industry’s water pollution. But the Farm Bureau also opposes enforcement of existing laws and policies for clean water.

The Illinois Farm Bureau’s non-enforcement message contradicts its own policy resolution, which states, “We deplore irresponsible acts of defiance and lack of respect for laws enacted by our elected governmental representatives at all levels.”

Some facts:

  • The Illinois Farm Bureau wants the agriculture industry exempted from cleaning up our rivers. The federal Clean Water Act requires the establishment of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), which are planning tools for restoring polluted rivers. Essentially, a TMDL is a study that identifies and quantifies all sources of water pollution in a watershed and establishes future water quality goals. Yet the Farm Bureau’s 1999 policy resolution includes this statement: “We oppose using regulations to address agricultural, non-point source issues related to Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) of pollutants in streams.”
  • Illinois Farm Bureau does not want the agriculture industry to have accountability for meeting water quality standards required under state and federal law. If agriculture does not play a significant role, industries and municipalities alone must carry the burden for reducing water pollution.
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse in our courts. The Farm Bureau’s recent policy resolutions state, “The IEPA should be required to prove intent to violate as part of prosecution.” This language is an attempt to circumvent prosecution of agricultural polluters.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau pledged legal support and assistance to the repeat polluter that operates the Alan Durkee Swine Farm near Stronghurst, in Henderson County (IAA March Board Meeting Executive Summary, March 18-20, 1998). This polluter faced eight counts of air and eight counts of water violations for his consistent mismanagement of hog manure.
  • Most industries make arrangements for secondary containment of pollutants, to minimize the risk of accidental spills. The Farm Bureau, on the other hand, proposes that “direct discharges [to water] due to natural causes should be exempt from civil and punitive penalties and damages.” In other words, if a livestock producer builds a manure lagoon that will blow out in a rain, he will not be liable for any damages.
  • While the nation as a whole begins to realize the importance of wetlands, the Illinois Farm Bureau has fought to weaken policies aimed at protecting these valuable ecosystems. Farm Bureau supports:
    • Exemptions. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Swampbuster of prior converted cropland and any land that has been cropped in at least six of the last ten years (1999 IFB Policy Materials, section 43).• A weaker definition of wetlands, requiring “the presence of hydric soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and standing water.” This despite the fact that Illinois has already lost more than 90 percent of its original wetlands (section 43).
    • Paying landowners to obey laws. The Farm Bureau calls for “compensation to property owners when their ability to make management decisions is restricted by laws or regulation aimed at protecting wetlands.” In other words, governments would be required to pay landowners to obey the law (section 43).

Summary

Our environmental laws and policies were created to protect people from pollution and safeguard our natural resources for future generations. They were intended to make clean water a right, rather than a privilege.

Through laws and policies designed at the local, state, and federal level, we have created a system that recognizes the importance of conservation. It is a system in which polluters are held accountable for their actions. Only through the fair enforcement of these laws and policies can all Illinoisians enjoy the benefits of clean water and healthy rivers.

But the Illinois Farm Bureau has consistently taken positions which are at odds with the goals of these policies. It has repeatedly tried to weaken many of the policies that protect our rivers, keep our drinking water clean, and protect the public’s interests. In some cases it has successfully exempted the agriculture industry from responsibilities that individuals, municipalities, and other industries must regularly uphold.

Although there are laws in existence now that would begin to address issues of accountability, the Illinois Farm Bureau actively resists their implementation and further contributes to the slow degradation of Illinois’ streams. As long as the agricultural industry can pollute with little risk of being held responsible, water quality degradation at the hand of the agricultural industry will continue.

Wetlands to Farmland: Causing a Flood of ProblemsThe practices of local drainage districts and levee districts are detrimental to water quality and to the environment in general. Illinois Farm Bureau champions the rights of these local organizations while deterring any other local efforts to mitigate their negative impacts.

riverbefore.jpg
riverafter.jpg
Before and after pictures of Drainage District stream “improvements” on the Salt Fork River. Such improvements increase downstream flooding, increase the transportation of sediment and agricultural chemicals, and stream bank erosion. The effects on wildlife habitat are also tremendous.


Drainage districts straighten once-meandering streams and construct elaborate networks of ditches for transporting stormwater from farmlands, increasing runoff and washing soil and farm chemicals downstream.

Levee districts maintain levees that constrain the river to a narrow channel, cutting off wetlands and backwater lakes, which damages wildlife habitat and makes flood events more common.

Illinois Farm Bureau has resisted measures that would hold drainage and levee districts responsible for downstream impacts like drinking water contamination, habitat impairment and property damages due to flooding from channelization and increased stream flows.

Some facts:

  • Farm Bureau will “seek uniform interpretation of regulations to allow stream and drainage ditch maintenance without the requirement of a permit” (1999 IFB Policy Resolutions, Section 20).
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports “legislation which will deter unwarranted interference with drainage work” (Section 20).
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports “drainage districts as independent units of local government and their right to retain control” (Section 20).
  • The Farm Bureau “believes adequate funds should be made available to the Corps of Engineers and Natural Resource Conservation Service to assist in the repair of levees on the main rivers and their tributaries” (Section 27).
  • The Bureau supports efforts “to secure federal and state funds for constructing certified levees and associated systems on major rivers” (Section 27).

Not only does the Illinois Farm Bureau support drainage and levee districts, but it issues policy statements that would increase these districts’ autonomy, hold others accountable for downstream impacts, and continue to exempt the agriculture industry from taking responsibility for its actions.

Illinois Farm Bureau supports:

  • Legislation to enable local governmental units to unite to solve stormwater problems stemming from impervious surfaces in watersheds within their jurisdictions so long as the power and authority of drainage districts are not forcibly usurped or diminished. For purposes of storm-water management, farmland would not be considered an impervious surface (Section 20).
  • A requirement for all municipalities to institute projects such as water retention basins and dry dams that would collect water runoff and release it at a slower rate (Section 20).
  • Legislation to make the creation of River Conservancy Districts more difficult (Section 34). Under Illinois law these districts have the authority to curtail agricultural runoff and protect water quality.

The Illinois Farm Bureau opposes…

  • Legislation that would grant any stormwater management authority the power to regulate farmland drainage (Section 20).
  • The involuntary dissolution of agricultural drainage districts and their administration and taxing levy being assumed by the county stormwater commission (Section 20).

Enough is enough

Drainage districts were created long ago to turn the marshy prairies of Illinois into productive farm ground. Drainage districts have served their purpose, and it could be argued that the archaic statutes that created these entities need to be overhauled, if not eliminated.

The activities of drainage and levee districts supported by the Illinois Farm Bureau already have caused a tremendous amount of environmental damage.

In 1993, Illinoisians were reminded by the Mississippi River that constraining the river’s flow can have disastrous consequences. Levees throughout the floodplain pushed the floodwaters to ever higher stages.

Illinois Farm Bureau advocates more money be spent to fortify these levees when the sensible measure would be to create and restore wetlands to help minimize the chance that such a flood would occur again.

The Company Store: The Corporate Takeover of Agriculture

News concerning mergers and monopolies frighten and anger independent farmers, but their “family farmer advocate” may not be the place to turn for help. Often, it’s the same corporate agribusiness that sells them seed, chemicals, fuel, and technical advice. Being a family farmer advocate and a player in the competitive agribusiness industry are not always compatible.

Illinois Farm Bureau’s policies benefit big business

  • Some Illinois Farm Bureau policies, published in yearly “Policy Resolutions” and carried to Washington and Springfield by Farm Bureau lobbyists, may seem to be motivated by corporate interests over family farmers and have detrimental consequences for the environment. Among them are the following from the 1999 Farm Bureau

Policy Resolutions:

  • “We oppose any attempt to mandate low-input methods of farming” (Section 22). Low-input means low sales of agricultural chemicals, including fertilizer, and fuel oil. Farmers would reduce overhead costs, water quality would improve, and Illinois Farm Bureau profits would suffer.
  • “Legislation, regulations, and programs dealing with sources of potential agricultural pollution should recognize economic benefits posed by production or use of potential pollutants” (Section 16). Illinois Farm Bureau produces, sells and profits from pollutants that impair our rivers and our drinking water.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau advocates increasing the number of fuel oil tanks per farm so that one farmer could “receive a transport load of each specific fuel” (Section 15). This would result in higher sales, decreased handling and transportation costs for Growmark and Farm Services — and an increased risk of oil spills and stormwater contamination.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports: restricted use of pesticide recordkeeping, and congress providing a delay in the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) implementation” (Section 33). Recordkeeping encourages less chemical use, and, therefore, lower amounts of pollutants in Illinois waters

Remember who owns the store. Illinois Farm Bureau’s interests in corporate ownership
Illinois Farm Bureau has a great deal of power, both politically and in the marketplace. The Farm Bureau is an active participant in the concentration of the agricultural business community. As the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates agricultural issues, one should remember that they are not simply an organization of farmers. Illinois Farm Bureau is also an organization of agricultural corporations.

  • Illinois Farm Bureau has ownership in at least 18 separate corporations that sell, market, or produce agricultural chemicals, fuel and oil refining and distribution, seed and feed, livestock production, dairy, accounting, commodities, insurance, mutual funds, financial trusts, lawn and garden chemicals, and communications.
  • A list of Illinois Farm Bureau’s major holdings and ownership has been provided with this packet. Some corporations included in these holdings are:
    • Country Companies Insurance
    • Growmark, Inc.
    • Farm Services (FS)
    • Prairie Farms Dairy
  • Growmark alone is a behemoth in the Midwest. In addition to selling seed, feed, and agricultural chemicals-including fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, lawn and garden chemicals – the corporation refines and distributes fuel oil and other production supplies and services. Some facts about Growmark, Inc., from its website:
    • 1998 sales: $1 billion.
    • Net income: $300 million.
    • Assets: $65 million.
  • Growmark also purchases 1 billion bushels of grain annually, making Growmark the largest grain cooperative in the Midwest.
  • ADM/Growmark, a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland, markets grain in domestic and oversees markets. According to Feedstuffs, “The Growmark and Countrymark joint ventures . . . give ADM access to 50 percent of the corn and soybean market region and 75 percent of Canada’s corn and soybean market region.”
  • In the U.S. more than 450 million gallons of petroleum products are delivered each year. On average, a semi truck of petroleum is delivered by Growmark every 10 seconds.

Where else can a farmer shop? Effects of consolidation in agriculture

  • Dr. William Heffernan, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, recently published a report finding that a small number of firms own and control U.S. food production, squeezing out small farmers, and “threatening America’s system of independent family farms and ranches.”
  • The consolidations give the large companies a market advantage and power to pay farmers less for commodities. Agrinews reported in January of 1999 that the top four firms in grain marketing and processing control 59 percent of port facilities, 62 percent of flour milling, 74 percent of wet corn milling and 76 percent of soybean crushing.
  • Steve Barwick, vice president of corporate marketing and operations for Illinois Farm Bureau’s Growmark, Inc. declared, in an interview reported in Agrinews, “in every industry, the most efficient are the survivors. A lot has to come in production and that means fewer people producing more” (Agrinews 1/22/99).
  • At a meeting with federal anti-trust officials one farmer remarked, “while the Justice Department is suing computer software companies for anti-trust [violations] American farmers are being crushed by market-manipulating global corporations.”

Bigger Than You Think: Illinois Farm Bureau’s Holdings and Associations

Companies, holdings and associations

This list does not include possible ownership of stock in other businesses.

  1. Illinois Agricultural Association — otherwise known as the Illinois Farm Bureau
  2. Growmark, Inc. — 29.4% (Farm Services (FS), Inc. Illinois Grain Corporation)
  3. All Illinois County Farm Bureaus
  4. ADM/Growmark, Inc.
  5. Interstate Producers Livestock Association – 38.5%
  6. Illinois Milk Producers Association — 45.5%
  7. Prairie Farms Dairy — 31.2%
  8. Illinois Agriculture Auditing Association — 49.1%
  9. Country Mutual Insurance Company — IAA has proxy control
  10. Country Casualty Insurance — owned 100% by Country Mutual Insurance Company
  11. Country Preferred Insurance — owned 100% by Country Mutual Insurance Co.
  12. Northwest Farm Bureau Insurance Company — owned 100% by Country Mutual Insurance Company
  13. CC Services (Country Companies), Inc. — 71.4% by IAA, 11% by Country Life, 17% by Country Mutual Insurance
  14. Illinois Agricultural Holding Company – 94%
  15. Country Life Insurance Company — owned 100% by Illinois Agricultural Holding Co.
  16. Illinois Agricultural Association (IAA) Trust Company — owned 100% by Illinois Agricultural Holding Co.
  17. Illinois Agricultural Service Company — owned 100% by Illinois Agricultural Holding Co.
  18. AgriVisor Services, Inc. — owned 100% by Illinois Agricultural Holding Co.
  19. Illinois Agricultural Association (IAA) Communications Company — owned 100% by Illinois Agricultural Holding Co.
  20. Country Capital Management Company — owned by Country Life Insurance Co.
  21. Country Investors Life Assurance Company — owned by Country Life Insurance Co.

Associations with “management agreements” to IAA

  1. Association of Illinois Agricultural Associations
  2. IAA Foundation (Illinois Agricultural Association)
  3. IAA Federal Credit Union
  4. IAA Recreation Association
  5. Illinois Corn Growers Association
  6. Illinois Corn Marketing Board
  7. Illinois Soybean Program Operating Board
  8. Land of Lincoln Soybean Association

Prairie Rivers Network is a not-for-profit organization that works on river conservation issues in Illinois. It is the only statewide organization focused solely on the protection and preservation of Illinois’ rivers and streams. Prairie Rivers is a clean water advocate involved in the creation, implementation, and enforcement of water policies.
How to contact Prairie Rivers Network:

Phone: 217-344-2371
Fax: 217-344-2381
Web: http://prairierivers.org
E-mail: info@prairierivers.org
Mail: 809 South Fifth Street, Champaign, IL 61820