IFB board gets younger outlook with recent vote

IFB board gets younger outlook with recent vote

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They are 32 and 30, respectively. One lives on a farm near Gardner. He milks black and white Holstein cows as well as some red and white milking shorthorns with his cousin, Mike.

The operation, which includes corn and soybean production, involves his dad, Frank, and his brother, Chris.

The other raises pork, beef and grain with his parents near Findlay. He's an Illinois State University ag economics graduate.

Both graduated from the Illinois Farm Bureau Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow program. Both served as chairmen of IFB's Young Leader Committee. And both have just started serving their first term as directors on the IFB Board.

In fact, the duo represents some of the youngest IFB members ever elected to the board of the state's largest farmer organization.

More than that, Scott Halpin and Troy Uphoff represent the face not only of IFB's future but also the future of Illinois agriculture.

What's all the hoopla about age? Hard facts like those in the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture point to an aging industry.

In Illinois, more than 70 percent of farmers are 45 years or older. Only 6,250 of 99,419 Illinois farmers were age 25 to 34.

"A lot of people are excited about younger members on the board, but I see it more like an opportunity," said Halpin, 32. "A lot of younger farmers have other jobs and income sources. I'm fortunate to be able to get away from the farm to serve on the board."

Uphoff took a similar, modest view of the recent board election. Like Halpin, the board director in Uphoff's district retired, presenting an opportunity to other members to serve on the board. Uphoff succeeded retiring Paul Shuman, while Halpin succeeded Jim Schillinger.

"I love to farm more than anything. I am very grateful to have been elected," said Uphoff, 30. "I want young people to come back to the farm. And I want to build the livestock industry in Illinois. But I'm representing both young and experienced farmers. You put your personal interests aside to represent all the people who elected you."

Uphoff represents fellow members in DeWitt, Piatt, Macon, Moultrie, Christian and Shelby counties. Halpin represents Cook, DuPage, Will, Kendall and Grundy counties.

IFB President Phil Nelson, 48, points to the duo as renewing hope in the organization and the agricultural industry. But the good news for IFB represented by its two newest board members goes beyond age.

"A change is taking place. It's positive, but this also shows our young leader programs do the right job. Another good thing that happened is we had contested races for the board. That's not the case for many other organizations," said Nelson, in his early 40s when elected to the board.

Nelson noted IFB and agriculture have bright futures, but the organization must be able to get ahead of issues as well as react quicker to pressing matters, such as writing the 2007 farm bill and world trade negotiations.

Halpin and Uphoff appear well qualified for the task. As Young Leader Committee chairmen, they've already served on the IFB board and attended American Farm Bureau Federation annual meetings as voting delegates.

Halpin, who has two children with his wife, Sarah, has been an officer on the Grundy County Soil & Water Conservation District Board. He now serves on the Illinois Holstein Association Board. He earned an associate's degree in agricultural production from Joliet Junior College.

Uphoff enjoyed a unique experience as an intern for retired Illinois Sen. John Maitland, R-Bloomington. He considers Maitland, who served as McLean County Farm Bureau president, his mentor.

"He told me that whenever I went home to farm that what goes on outside of the operation would affect me most. As an individual, he said you can't make a difference, but you can through an organization. I have always enjoyed being involved and making a difference in agriculture," said Uphoff.

Pantagraph Farm Editor Chris Anderson writes about agriculture every Wednesday. Contact her at candersonyayaypantagraph .

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