By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Outgoing U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson was honored with Illinois agriculture’s most prestigious award during the Illinois Commodity Conference Nov. 20 in Bloomington.
The 2012 Friend of Agriculture Award, presented by Illinois’ state beef, corn, milk, pork, soybean and wheat associations, was given to Johnson – a Republican who did not seek a seventh election to his 15th Illinois District seat – because of his “unflagging efforts on behalf of Illinois and American agriculture.”
“Johnson has been an active voice for farmers in Washington, D.C., for more than a decade,” said Bill Wykes, chair of the Illinois Soybean Assoc., at an awards luncheon feting Johnson. “Serving on both the House Agriculture and Transportation committees, he has consistently supported policies that help protect farmers. We wish him the best in his retirement.”
Johnson spoke briefly to the farmers, 4H-ers and others in attendance, thanking constituents of the 15th District (which covers portions of Normal and Bloomington as well as Champaign-Urbana), especially its farmers. He praised the district’s and state’s agricultural groups as being among the most educated, prepared and professional voting bases he worked with during his 12 years in Congress.
Some of Johnson’s remarks echoed what he said on the floor of the House in support of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, during the week prior to this annual commodity conference.
“Farmers in the 15th District of Illinois are some of the most productive and efficient in the world,” the lame-duck representative told the House. “I meet with them regularly and my office has been inundated with calls from them.
“It is not just farmers we are hearing from. It’s conservation groups, agribusiness, rural banks, livestock producers and specialty crop growers. (Farm bill) inaction has broad ripple effects throughout our economy. They speak with one voice in pleading for action now.”
Johnson warned his fellow representatives “without enactment of a new (federal crop insurance) safety net, producers in my district and across the country are facing uncertainty and possibly dire consequences.”
He only half-joked during the conference luncheon that he was fairly sure he was the only House member to clamor for farm bill passage that week. It’s that kind of dedication to the health and welfare of Illinois and U.S. agriculture that 15th District voters will sorely miss with Johnson’s departure, said Jeff Scates, Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. president.
“Congressman Tim Johnson has been a constant support to Illinois agriculture. I hope receiving this award expresses our sincere gratitude for his service, for his leadership and for his tireless care of the farmers in his district,” Scates said.