Lawmaker tapped as Illinois ag director
Jeannine Otto, Field Editor
Saturday, November 14, 2015 5:00 PM
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — State Rep. Raymond Poe didn’t have long to pack.
“I told them, it’s better packing and going to the Department of Agriculture than it would be packing and going home,” said the Illinois agency’s new director.
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Poe’s appointment Nov. 13. He takes over from acting Director Warren Goetsch.
“First of all, we’ve got to go in there and look at it, make sure there are not any big fires to put out. A lot of it is going to be looking, listening and seeing how we can improve on things,” said Poe, R-Springfield.
Poe emphasized the need to promote Illinois agriculture.
“I think we need to always point out, every chance we get, whenever we’re out there talking that it’s the most important industry, the largest industry in Illinois and how we’re doing our part. We have to keep bragging about that because there are a lot of people who go to the grocery store and think a truck is how food gets there,” he said.
The Sangamon County grain farmer takes over an agency that has seen its share of strife.
Philip Nelson, former director and past president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, resigned abruptly at the end of September, followed almost immediately by the resignation of Patrick Buchen, Illinois State Fair manager.
While Nelson has not commented publicly on the reason for his departure, Buchen blamed Rauner’s aides for forcing Nelson out.
Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. referenced the department’s state of affairs in his statement on the Poe appointment.
“Based on the past relationship with Representative Poe, we are confident that his door will be open to discussing the many difficult challenges that face agriculture and the Illinois Department of Agriculture,” he said.
Guebert said the appointment continues Rauner’s commitment to putting a farmer as head of the department.
“The announcement by Governor Rauner to appoint state Rep. Raymond Poe as the next director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture continues the governor’s commitment to keep the department a viable and relevant agency. Representative Poe has proven his support of agriculture throughout his career,” he said.
The agency is operating under the constrictions caused by the ongoing state budget impasse between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“Everything is sort of bare bones,” said Poe, who is confident that department employees can keep things operating until the state has a budget.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have worked here for anywhere from 10 to 30 years, and they know how we can make things work until we get a budget passed,” he said.
Poe has farmed in Sangamon County since 1967. He has been in the Illinois General Assembly since 1995 and serves on the agriculture and conservation, appropriations-higher education, personnel and pensions, and business occupational licenses committees.
“I live five minutes from the state fairgrounds. We farm out there,” he said.
His son, Lance, now heads up the family farming operation and has a cow-calf herd, Poe said.
Poe is a former president of the Sangamon County Farm Bureau and Lincoln Land Farm Supply.
Allen Entwhistle, a grain and cow/calf farmer from Riverton, is past president of the Sangamon County Farm Bureau and chairs its governmental affairs committee.
“I’ve known Raymond for years. I knew him when he was farming and was president of our board of FS when I worked there. At least he knows some ag issues and hopefully he’ll be able to help us in the ag field,” he said.
Entwhistle said he’d like Poe to continue advocating for agriculture at the state and national level.
“I hope he keeps on looking at that water deal, WOTUS, and the EPA and the interests of the livestock, chemical and fertilizer industry. Hopefully, he will look at those issues as a farmer and help us continue to grow our commodities,” he said