SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich is assembling a team to advise him on farms and farm families and to help the state's agriculture industry remain competitive.
"The well-being of our farmers and rural communities is vitally important to Illinois' economy," Blagojevich said. "Despite urban development, about 80 percent of Illinois' land – or 28 million acres – still is devoted to production agriculture. And our 78,000 farms provide the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that employs nearly one of every four Illinois workers."
Illinois is the second-largest corn and soybean producing state, and produces more pork than all but three other states in the country, according to the governor's office.
Blagojevich named Bob Easter, dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, to the new council on Tuesday.
"Certainly it is an important thing to do," Easter said. "Agriculture is important to the economy of Illinois, and it is also important to our college, which has a role in helping to support agriculture today and creating future opportunities for farmers, farm families and rural communities. It is also important to note that a lot of agriculture goes on in urban cities as well, and the governor has representatives from that sector."
The new panel includes: Jim Slama, an alternative agriculture market specialist from Chicago; Leon Corzine, a representative of the Illinois Corn Growers Association from Assumption; David Erickson of Altona, who will represent the American Soybean Association; Jill Appell of Altona, from the Illinois Pork Producers Association; and Maralee Johnson, an Illinois Beef Association representative from Springfield.
Steve Scates, a farmer from Shawneetown; Glen Bauman, a farmer from Mulkeytown; Mike Campbell, a farmer from Edwardsville; and LaDonna Redmond, an urban farmer from Chicago, were also named to the council, along with Paul Schuman of the Illinois Farm Bureau and Joe Alford from the Illinois Farmers Union.
Schuman will be serving as chairman of the council and Agriculture Director Charles Hartke will also be working with it.
"It's a real diverse group of people who are interested in agriculture, different aspects of agriculture," said Alford, who lives in Girard. "I'm not sure of the whole goal of it just yet."
The council plans to hold its first meeting Aug. 12, which is Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair.
"We'll know more about our total focus then," Alford said.
Topics expected to be tackled include maintaining the base of livestock production in Illinois, improving the markets and exports for Illinois farm products and encouraging growth of agribusiness.
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.