Although the recipients were randomly selected, the 3,000 who receive the questionnaire are representative of the entire population of farmers across the state of Illinois -- including variables such as the size of the farm, region of the state and type of operation.
"The survey is the first of its kind and is made possible by a gift from the Illinois Bar Foundation," said Donald Uchtmann, University of Illinois professor of agricultural law. "The results will help identify the legal issues that farmers believe are the most important for their operations and for others in their region. The information will guide us as we create educational programs based on their needs and as continuing legal education programs are developed for practicing attorneys across Illinois." Uchtmann said that Illinois agriculture is in transition and farmers may identify contract issues, leases, liability related to new land uses like agritourism, or legal issues related to other niche marketing strategies as being most important in the future. "We will see what farmers actually say in the survey. If we know what farmers' needs are, we can develop programs, workshops, etc. that can address those needs, and the practicing bar can be more responsive."
The hope is that farmers will complete the survey and return it by February 20. "The four-page survey will probably take about 20 minutes to complete," said Anne Heinze Silvis, Extension specialist in program development at the U of I. "Obviously, the greater number of surveys we get back, the more accurate and specialized we can be about the educational programming we can develop and offer to farmers in the future."
The survey represents a unique partnership between the Illinois Bar Foundation, the University of Illinois, The Agricultural Law Section of the Illinois State Bar Association, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Prairie State Legal Services, and the Illinois office of the National Agricultural Statistics Services.