URBANA, Ill. – Communicating analyses about policies for the upcoming farm bill, including risk and conservation management, international trade, and global agriculture, will be the primary focus of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. The Gardner Agriculture Policy Program is funded through the Leonard and Lila Gardner/Illinois Farm Bureau Family of Companies endowment.
“These are policy areas that we expect to be of the utmost importance to farmers in Illinois and key parts of the debate in Congress as they work through the next Farm Bill,” says Jonathan Coppess, U of I economist and director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program. “We want to focus where the interest is strongest and where it is likely to have an impact on the Farm Bill policy development.”
Coppess says the key output of the program will be in coordination with the farmdoc and farmdocdaily websites. He, along with Gary Schnitkey, Nick Paulson, and Kathy Baylis will create frequent policy posts in the Gardner Policy Series. In addition, an annual Gardner Agriculture Policy Lecture and Roundtable will be held on the U of I campus.
In terms of trade, Coppess says there are a lot of questions to be researched and answered. “The new administration has definitely magnified trade issues in a way that we hadn’t anticipated even a year ago. The biggest issue currently is uncertainty. We don’t know how the changes will impact exports for Illinois farmers. We’ll watch it closely and evaluate what those impacts might be.”
According to Coppess, one of the challenges is that even a discussion about a renegotiation of a trade agreement can have a ripple effect on a host of aspects of trade and export. “It isn’t just the details of the trade agreement, but a lot of the consequences of changes, how the countries interact with each other. We’re seeing it now with the discussions with Mexico and border taxes that have the potential to ripple through exports and impact farmers and commodity exports. We’re going to sort it out as we go and do our best to understand what those implications might be and what it might mean for policy.”
The new program will also integrate research findings into online tools that farmers can use. “We learned some valuable lessons from the last Farm Bill with the web-based educational tool development process,” Coppess says. “We’d like to be able to expand on that and integrate the research on policy that we’re doing here.”
The Gardner Agriculture Policy Program is dedicated to the memory of Leonard “Len” Gardner (1934-2010). Gardner was a leading voice on agricultural policy, politics, and related issues for Illinois farmers, including the 36 years he worked for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Gardner and his wife, Lila (1932-2017), met at and graduated from U of I. Their strong devotion to the university led them to donate a substantial portion of their net worth in the form of the family farmstead to endow a chair of agriculture policy in conjunction with the IFB Family of Companies.
“We’re excited and honored to have this opportunity. The history about how this has come about and the contribution Len Gardner made is an incredible reminder of what he did,” Coppess says. “We’re honored to build on the work that has been done and the important role that Illinois agriculture has played in policy-making development for a long time.”