- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Thirty years ago, Steve Fourez left his agricultural teaching job and returned to farm his family’s land in southwestern Vermilion County.

That first year planting corn and soybeans in drought conditions was a challenge for him and his wife, Melinda, who grew up on a farm in central Indiana. But Fourez said he embraces change, and one of his favorite things about farming is not always knowing what to expect.

“No two years are the same,” he said. “There’s always a different challenge.”

Even now, after three decades of farming mostly corn and beans in the Fairmount area - and a 16-year stint raising livestock - the 1977 Purdue graduate said he spends time each year thinking about what he can do differently in his operation.

The big adjustment for Fourez in 2017 will be stepping away - at times - from his 500-acre farming operation. He’ll entrust day-to-day operations to his wife while he fulfills his new duties as a director on the Illinois Farm Bureau board.

Elected to a two-year term, Fourez represents District 12, which encompasses Champaign, Vermilion, Douglas and Edgar counties. Fourez succeeds Chris Hausman, a Champaign County farmer who served 10 years as District 12 director.

“It’s something I’m looking forward to getting more involved in and serving this organization at this level,” said Fourez, who’s been a Vermilion County Board member since 2006, served as president of the Vermilion County Farm Bureau board from 2001 to 2006 and has been a member of the Illinois Farm Bureau Rural Issues Grass-roots Team and a member of the Farm Profitability Task Force.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s next farm bill could be one of the biggest policy issues the state farm bureau board will tackle in these next two years, Fourez said.

The primary policy-setting vehicle for the agricultural industry, the last farm bill was enacted in early 2014, and Fourez said the state farm board has been surveying its membership seeking guidance in preparation for possible changes in that policy. He said that issue is “up in the air” now, so the bureau will be watching that issue closely.

Another issue during his two-year term, he said, will likely be how Illinois’ fiscal challenges are affecting farming. For example, he said the UI Extension service, which is important to the farming community, is seriously underfunded, and for the counties he represents that are in the UI’s back yard, the impact might not be as serious as it is in other counties across the state.

Although the new role will pull him away from the farm, Fourez said he doesn’t anticipate the burden being too much, and he’ll make it work.

“I’ve always had the attitude that if I’m going to ask people to support me, when it’s time to go, I park the tractor and go take care of those responsibilities,” said Fourez, who spent about 10 years after college in the ag teaching and ag business but has never regretted returning to the family farm.

He said he always knew if the opportunity came along, under the right conditions, he preferred farming, and that opportunity came along in 1988.

“Once we got back here and I got up on the tractor, I knew then we were going to figure out how to make it work one way or the other,” Fourez said. “I came close to ceremoniously cutting up all my ties.”

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Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/2hx7sEu

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Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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