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Band-aid budget funds K-12 education, bails out Chicago schools…and funds agencies like IDOA. Here’s what it has to do with a bull that can’t breed.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

July 1, 2016

2 Min Read

Coincidentally, I was on the phone Thursday afternoon with Becky Clark, head of communications for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She was busy answering my questions about the Illinois State Fair when all of a sudden she gasped: “The House just passed a budget!”

Her relief was palpable over the phone. Even a stopgap budget spreads a little money around. For IDOA, that means:

  • * $5 million for Soil & Water Conservation District operations, conservation cost-share practices

  • * $13 million-plus for University of Illinois Cooperative Extension

  • * Secures FY17 funding for Galesburg Animal Disease lab (animal disease testing and meat inspection)

  • * $2.6 million to continue regulatory functions of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program 

The bill also secures funding at the FY2015 level for county fairs. Broken out, it looks like this:

  • * $1.3 million for county fair rehab

  • * $1.8 million for county fair premiums

  • * $900,000 for fairs & expositions

  • * $786,000 for ag extension

  • * $325,000 for vo ag fairs

But here’s the thing: none of this fixes anything. The Illinois legislative body has waited over a year to pluck the lowest hanging fruit and is presenting it to us as a bumper crop.

illinois_budget_like_bull_cant_breed_1_636029788590024399.jpg

Buildings will continue in disrepair, county fairs will continue to struggle, buildings remain closed at the Illinois State Fair. Schools get by…for a while. Agencies that protect land and water will continue to be underfunded. Businesses will continue to leave Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will continue to bleed (our) money.

Because nothing was fixed.

It’s like this: a couple weeks ago, we discovered our new young bull had a (brace yourself here) broken penis. An unfortunate pasture accident, to be certain. As of this writing, he’s receiving veterinary care and resting in the barn.

Metaphorically speaking, however, if this bull with the broken penis were the Illinois budget, it is as if the Illinois General Assembly got him in, washed him and clipped him up nice, and then sent him back out to pasture with a slap on his back and, “Good luck, buddy! Next year’s calf crop better be a good one!”

We should feel equally disheartened by this band-aid budget. Our legislators just sent us back out to the pasture to do a job we are wholly unequipped to do.

We should expect more, and they should deliver it. No excuses.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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