By TIM ALEXANDER
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illinois state legislature lost one of its greatest proponents for agriculture when Senator Scott Bennett (D-52nd) died unexpectedly on Friday, December 9 at the age of 45.
Bennett was well known to those in the Illinois agriculture community for his advocacy of farmer mental health initiatives, agricultural education, FFA and 4-H. He passed away from complications arising from a brain tumor at Carle Foundation Hospital, where he was hospitalized for a brief time prior to his death.
“Scott lived a life full of service and constantly looked for ways to lend his time and energy to helping our community and state. He worked tirelessly to find solutions to society’s most pressing issues by finding common ground and compromise. To say he will be greatly missed is an understatement,” said Bennett’s wife, Stacy, in a statement posted to Bennett’s website.
“We appreciate the amazing care he received at Carle Foundation Hospital and thank all of the doctors, nurses, and staff who provided Scott with excellent care and support for his family. We are also grateful for the outpouring of love and support. Scott’s impact on our community is very evident.”
Bennett represented the 52nd Senate District in Champaign and Vermilion counties. He had previously served as Champaign County assistant state’s attorney prior to running for the state legislature.
Raised in Gibson City, Bennett was a fifth-generation farmer. He was an Illinois State University graduate who obtained his law degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Bennett served on the Illinois Senate Agriculture Committee, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and vice-chairman of the Senate State Government Committee during his years in office.
Governor JB Pritzker also commented on Bennett’s death, saying: “Today, the state of Illinois mourns the loss of a dedicated public servant and devoted father. Senator Scott Bennett was a good man who always operated with the best interest of his constituents in mind. Throughout his time in Springfield, he fiercely advocated for the institutions that shaped his life, from his upbringing on a Gibson City farm, all the way to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The entire state is a better place thanks to his service.”
Pritzker named Bennett to his 22-member agriculture transition team after winning his first term as governor in 2018. He also served as chair of the Senate Ag Committee
Bennett was the primary sponsor of the Farm Family Resource Initiative (FFRI), established to address the mental health needs of Illinois farming and agricultural communities. In 2021, Pritzker announced at the Farm Progress Show that the initiative — which began in just six counties— would be expanded into all 102 Illinois counties. Bennett was also instrumental in securing $10 million in appropriations to sustain operations at Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District offices under Gov. Bruce Rauner in May of 2018.
In addition to his wife, Bennett is survived by the couple’s two young children.