PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The presidents of the Pike County and Scott County farm bureaus recently issued an open letter to membership describing the possibility of a merger.
The letter, which is signed by Pike County Farm Bureau President Kim Curry and Scott County Farm Bureau President Wayne Brown, said the boards of directors of both associations have engaged in "preliminary discussions" regarding merging the two. The letter emphasizes that the two organizations are strong and the potential merger is a way of retaining that strength in the future.
The boards have appointed the executive committees of both farm bureaus to serve as a merger committee. The merger committee first met on Dec. 20.
"We are coming up with ideas of how to keep our organizations viable and relevant," said Blake Roderick, executive director of both farm bureaus. "We want to be transparent with our members."
The farm bureau has not been immune to issues plaguing rural Illinois organizations -- declining participation and an aging membership.
Roderick said the merger is a natural evolution because the two organizations have had a "culture of cooperation" for decades, since they signed a joint management arrangement in 1987. The two farm bureaus already share the Two Rivers Farm Bureau Foundation and jointly operate many programs. The two counties are in the same congressional district and share the same legislators.
"From my seat, members wouldn't see a difference," Roderick said, emphasizing that his opinion is largely speculative at this point. "We would still have meetings in Winchester and in Pittsfield and would still work with county governments in the two counties."
Should the conversation progress into action, the farm bureaus will face some issues in consolidating. Pike County is a township-based government, while Scott County has a commission.
"Our board members will have to take a look at the issue and see if it makes sense legally, financially, and if it's good for the members," Roderick said.
The merger committee will meet at the end of the month to discuss the logistics of merging finances. Roderick hopes to have a better idea by the end of the winter whether the merger will happen and what the process will look like.
"I know of two other counties in Illinois that are having these conversations," he said. "I would speculate that you'll see several more. We all need to be talking about these kinds of things while we're strong."