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May 24, 2024

Tazewell County-owned Farm –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On October 29, 2023

Tazewell County, Ill. (ECWd) –

We surveyed the various counties purporting to lease county-owned farm ground, which were named in a newspaper article written about the Shelby County Farm. Each county listed in that article received a Freedom of Information Act request from us asking for information on their county-owned farm ground and the leasing of the ground.

As with any public body where you start looking into any given matter, there is always a rabbit hole turning up more problems.

Read the Tazewell County FOIA responses linked below.

Tazewell County farmland leases are unique from others in our research, here is what the public records reveal:

  • Lease option for a solar farm on part of one parcel consisting of 15 acres (see a map of the entire parcel) – The leaseholder pays any real estate taxes.
    • The Illinois Counties Code does not grant permission for a county to own or operate a solar farm in any capacity. By contrast, Counties are authorized under Section 5-24000 of the county code to operate a Wind Farm under specific conditions.
    • We attempted, during the drafting of the House and Senate amendments to the recently passed county farm bill, to insert a provision permitting counties to own and operate Solar Farms (with language similar to the Wind Farm Section), but it was summarily rejected by the house primary sponsor.
  • Cash Rent Lease of 26 acres to the Tremont Future Farmers of America (“FFA”) – This is a non-for-profit education organization, youth development – agricultural, whose proceeds are put towards the youth organization for preparing members for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture.
    • This is an excellent example of a “public purpose.”
    • This 26-acre parcel encompasses the unauthorized 15-acre solar farm lease option mentioned above.
    • This lease contains an evergreen clause, which is not authorized under the Illinois Automatic Contract Renewal Act.

We suggest the county board reconsider this solar farm lease option, cancel it, and reimburse any monies received. If the legislature had wanted a county to own and operate a solar farm, it would have granted them the powers to do so similar to the powers granted for a wind farm, but it did not.

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3 Comments
  • Bruce Bigelow
    Posted at 20:59h, 29 October Reply

    I have a problem with the language you use relating to the state and their powers over the counties. You make it sound as though anything that the county does with its own land has to first get the permission of the state to do so. It’s my understanding that according to the Constitution the state doesn’t Grant any powers but has a right to deny certain powers if it’s in the interest of the people or the state. Did the county have to ask the state to put up the statue of Lincoln in front of our courthouse? I don’t think the state specifically gave us the power to put a statue in front! This idea that the county can’t do anything without specific powers given to it given to it by the state is a little off kilter if he ask me. The same goes for the idea of putting solar panels on land owned by the county. It makes sense to me that if the state doesn’t specifically legislate that they can’t they should have the power to do so if they feel is in their best interest. In closing I think that the watchdog should spend more time helping solve real problems facing our state then the closing of county farms, which hurts no one and helps to generate a little income for the smaller, poorer counties.

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