As president of the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, Jean Payne, 45, wears a lot of hats. She’s a lobbyist for agribusiness in a farm state while serving as an information source for farmers about the many regulations affecting the use of chemicals. Payne also works with government agencies on the latest changes in environmental regulations.

As president of the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, Jean Payne, 45, wears a lot of hats. She’s a lobbyist for agribusiness in a farm state while serving as an information source for farmers about the many regulations affecting the use of chemicals. Payne also works with government agencies on the latest changes in environmental regulations.


Q: How would you describe your association?


Payne: We represent the supply end of the agriculture industry. We’re involved with supply, service and stewardship. We represent the manufacturers of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides), fertilizer, seed and machinery that make up a $6 billion business in Illinois.


Q: What kind of things do you lobby for?


Most recently, I’ve been in Springfield (the state capital) to see that the fertilizer research program gets funded. That’s money that farmers put in when they purchase fertilizer but, last year, the state took $1 million out of the fund. We think we’ve got a bill that will stop those fund transfers.


Q: We hear about environmental problems like the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico (where an overload of nutrients, largely nitrogen that runs off Midwestern farm fields and washes downstream into the Gulf, creating an area void of sea life). What’s your position?


Agriculture has a seat at this table in solving this problem. Our philosophy is that every pound of fertilizer we keep on the farm field not only helps agriculture but the environment. Pressures continue to mount on doing a better and better job of being efficient.


Q: Are you worried that a product that’s been so successful like Roundup Ready is showing signs of herbicide resistance? Won’t that lead to more herbicides being applied to farm fields?


We’re a little behind in the development of new products, but there are still plenty of tools out there (to fight weeds). People don’t realize that technology in agriculture has come a long way. We have precision planting, precision applications and specialized tank mixes.


Q: What concerns you right now?


Urban sprawl. In McLean County, Ill., we have arguably some of the best growing soil in North America, yet prime farmland is being converted to commercial development on a regular basis. People don’t think about the loss of farmland.