Illinois Leads Way in Agriculture

With National Agricultural Week taking place from March 17-23, 2024, the Illinois State Capitol was abuzz with activity during the Session Week before as agricultural advocates including local farm bureau groups, FFA students, and livestock and energy industry advocates took to their State Capitol to advocate for Illinois leading role in agricultural production of energy, food and fiber for the world.

  • Illinois is the #1 soybean producing state in the country.
  • 15% of all U.S. soybeans are produced in Illinois.
  • Illinois is the #2 corn producing state in the country.
  • 13% of our country’s supply of corn is grown on Illinois farms.
  • Crop land makes up 76% of Illinois.

Illinois agriculture goes far beyond corn and soybeans. Illinois has good soil and a favorable climate, among other factors, making the state a top grower of several specialty crops as well. Many people don’t realize that foods like pumpkins, peaches, apples, grapes, horseradish and melons are grown on Illinois farmland. In fact, more than 64 vegetables and 15 fruit and nut crops are grown in Illinois and produce nearly $500 million in sales for farmers. 

The importance of the agricultural sector of Illinois’ economy drove leaders of Illinois Farm Bureau, including IFB President Brian Duncan, to join representatives of nearly 50 diverse agriculture organizations to discuss key issues with lawmakers last week in Springfield. “This is our day to show our state’s elected officials that we are one and that we are an important voice on issues that are not only important for agriculture today, but for the future and for future generations,” said Duncan, who met with legislators on both sides of the aisle.

House Republicans working to keep family farms in families

For the past seven years, Leader McCombie has worked in the Illinois House of Representatives to address the estate tax–alongside several House Republican members who have pursued ways in which small businesses, farmers, and family businesses could see relief from the punitive nature of the state’s archaic tax system which “re-taxes” assets upon death of the owner.

This past Spring, McCombie provided subject matter testimony in the House Revenue Committee in support of legislation she sponsored to reduce the estate tax and protect family farms. McCombie was joined in the Capitol last March by members of the Farm Bureau and the National Federation of Independent Business who were supportive of her bill and provided key testimony in favor of the measure, which would prevent any double taxation of inherited farms and small businesses.

“Illinois’ estate tax hurts our farm families. House Republicans have consistently fought to increase the exclusion amount to account for rising farmland values. I’m proud to stand with the Illinois Farm Bureau and my colleagues in support of this critically needed change to our tax laws that will help family farmers pass their farmland on to the next generation, protecting our family farms from being sold off to large corporate or foreign interests,” said Norine Hammond (R-Macomb), Deputy House Republican Leader.

Wayne Rosenthal

“There is no doubt the estate tax is a barrier to protecting family farms in Illinois,” said Rep. Rosenthal. “If we want to continue being a leader in agriculture, we must eradicate the estate tax so families can keep their farms and continue the tradition of producing quality products.”

According to State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville), “The estate tax has devastated family farms for decades as these farms are often sold to pay the inheritance tax.”

Rep. Meier is not only a farmer but serves as the Republican Spokesperson on the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee. “Improving estate tax exemptions for farmers will help save family farms when the farm is passed down to each generation,” continued Meier. “Family farms treat their farmland like family as it helps provide for their family and produces the crops that help feed the world. Our country has the lowest food costs in the world, thanks to family farms.”

State Representative Jason R. Bunting (R-Emington) also echoed his support for the measure. “For far too long, Illinois’ estate tax system has threatened family farms – like mine and my neighbors – with the prospect of having to sell the farm if there is a death in the family,” said Bunting. “Families going through a difficult time should not have to make the tough decision about whether or not to sell the farm. This legislation moves us toward a better system which will help keep farms in the family hands which have worked for generations.”

Join the fight to keep family farms in families today by signing our Petition.

Know When They Grow – Crop Seasons in Illinois

Illinois encompasses over 55,000 square miles, and from Rockford south to Cairo, there are climate differences in various areas of the state year-round. Illinois is a top five state when it comes to agricultural receipts, and knowing the different growing seasons is key for residents planting small gardens to large scale crop fields and everything in between.

Typical outdoor growing seasons range from 160 days a year in the far north around Rockford, to 190 days in the far southern areas of the state. Southern Illinois’ longer growing season means that crops there can be started two weeks earlier than crops in Central Illinois, and they can typically harvest for two weeks longer. Northern Illinois has a shorter growing season, and crops there are often planted two weeks later than those in Central Illinois.

Planting dates are determined by the first and last frost dates where you grow, and how much time it takes for a crop to mature. Always check the plant tag, seed packet or seed bag instructions for the recommended date. Cool season vegetables grow and develop best in the temperatures of early spring or fall. Some cool season crops can withstand frost without being damaged, and some are even improved by experiencing a light frost. Examples of these types of vegetables are carrots, kale, turnips and radishes. Warm season vegetables do not grow well in lower temperatures and must be planted well after the average last frost date. Examples of these vegetables are tomatoes, squash and peppers.

In Southern Illinois, the average frost-free date is between April 1-10, and the first frost average is October 21-30. In Central Illinois, the average first frost-free date is between April 11-30, and the first frost range is October 11-20. And in Northern Illinois, the average first frost-free date is May 1-10, and the first frost is much earlier, from September 21-30. The University of Illinois Extension has some great online resources, including planting guides and tips here illinois_planting_guide_2022.02.02.pdf.

Eradicate The Illinois Estate Tax Now

The estate tax has devastated family farms for decades as these farms are often sold to pay the inheritance tax. It’s time to finally help family farmers pass their farmland on to the next generation, protecting our family farms from being sold off to large corporate or foreign interests.