Grassroots Advocacy in Action: IL Corn Farmer Leaders Influence Policy in DC

Lindsay Croke

Mar 19, 2024  |  Today's News |  ICGA |  Legislation & Regulation

Last week, eleven farmer leaders of IL Corn visited Washington, DC to build relationships with the Illinois congressional delegation, engage in conversations about issues impacting Illinois corn farmers, and help new corn farmers learn how grassroots advocacy benefits Illinois farmers. 


The visit to our nation’s capital began with meetings at agencies and non-governmental offices (NGOs). Altogether, farmer leaders conducted more than 30 meetings in the first day and a half, breaking into smaller teams and focusing in on issues like conservation, ethanol, or trade. For some, the small groups were meeting with partners on important programs – like industry partners on the Next Generation Fuels Act – to strengthen support of our priorities. For other groups, the meetings were an opportunity to explain IL Corn’s position on an issue, or help others understand how Illinois agriculture is different with unique needs from other states or regions.


Information gained in these initial meetings fueled important conversations the rest of the week.


The following day was spent on The Hill, connecting with the Illinois congressional delegation. Farmer leaders visited the offices of all 17 Illinois representatives and both senators. In each meeting, IL Corn’s top federal priorities were reviewed: passing the Next Generation Fuels Act to drive ethanol demand, passing a permanent farm bill that protects crop insurance and invests in trade promotion, and continuing to fund construction of new locks and dams according to the priority established in the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program. 

Washington DC collage


New this year, five corn farmers in Illinois that are not members of either IL Corn board of directors joined the farmer leaders to learn more about the work of ICGA and how to participate in grassroots advocacy. Through the new pilot program GROW – Grassroots Orientation to Washington, DC – these farmers from Christian County, Macon County, Kane County and Knox County got an in-depth look at the work of their association.

GROW Participants

In addition to this ambitious schedule, the group of farmers also heard from former Congresswoman Cheri Bustos who shared her insight on how to best conduct a congressional meeting, as well as former Senate Ag Committee staff director Joe Shultz with predictions for the passage of a 2024 Farm Bill. 


The relationships maintained during visits to Washington, DC and the information gleaned will yield fruit for IL Corn and all corn farmers in Illinois for years to come.