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Agriculture

  • Downstate Senate Democrats applaud $5 million in grants for livestock farmers, small meat and poultry plants

    cows 100220SPRINGFIELD – Downstate Senate Democrats are encouraging livestock producers and small meat and poultry plants suffering interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for $5 million in business recovery funding through the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  

    “Farmers have continued to put food on store shelves and on families’ tables during these tough times,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “I’m confident these funds will help benefit producers, consumers and rural communities that have been impacted by COVID-19 disruptions.”

  • Bennett announces $5 million in grants for livestock farmers, small meat plants

    livestock 100220CHAMPAIGN – Senate Agriculture Chair Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced $5 million in financial assistance will be available to livestock producers and small meat and poultry plants hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic through the Illinois Department of Agriculture. 

    “Farmers have continued to put food on store shelves and on families’ tables during these tough times,” Bennett said. “I’m confident these funds will help benefit producers, consumers and rural communities that have been impacted by COVID-19 disruptions.”

    The COVID-19 pandemic drastically slowed livestock processing throughout the state, which forced farmers to hold animals for longer periods of time, resulting in higher input costs and cancelled, delayed or reduced sales.

    Financial assistance is available through three programs administered by the Department of Agriculture. Individuals and businesses are only eligible to apply for one program, and applicants located in a disproportionately impacted area (DIA) will receive a 10% increase in funding. A list of DIA’s can be found here.

    Online applications are available at agr.state.il.us. Applications will close on Oct. 31, 2020. Questions about this funding can be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Koehler: Our wellbeing depends on the success of our farmers

    cattle 100220New grant program available for ag businesses hit by COVID-19

    PEORIA – $5 million in financial assistance will be available to livestock producers and small meat and poultry plants hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic via the Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) announced Thursday. 

    Koehler, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, advocated on behalf of this initiative during last spring’s budget negotiations.

    “The economic wellbeing of our state depends so heavily of the success of our farmers,” Koehler said. “It’s our job to ensure our farmers with the financial resources they need to continue putting food on the table of all Illinoisans.”

    The COVID-19 pandemic drastically reduced the processing of livestock throughout the state, which led to farmers holding animals for a longer period of time with further input costs and cancelled, delayed or reduced sales.

    Financial assistance is available through three programs administered by the Dept. of Ag. Individuals and businesses are only eligible to apply for one program, and applicants located in a disproportionately impacted area will receive a 10% increase in funding. A list of DIA’s can be found on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website.

    Online applications are available at agr.state.il.us. Applications will close on Oct. 31, 2020. Questions about this funding can be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Manar joins Meridian High School administrators, advocates to discuss the future of agricultural technology training for students

    ag tech 092530MACON –State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) met with Meridian High School administrators and advocates Thursday to discuss a proposed state-of-the-art agricultural education facility for the district. 

    Manar, who sits on both the Senate Agriculture and Education Committees, has long advocated to increase opportunities for students wishing to explore careers in agriculture. 

    “A healthy agriculture industry is essential to the economic wellbeing of Downstate, and we need to invest in the future leaders of this industry,” Manar said. “Facilities like the agricultural education center at Meridian High School will allow for the adequate training of the next generation of farmers, cementing our status as an agricultural standard bearer for decades to come.”

    Upon completion, the 4,800 square-foot classroom, shop, and greenhouse would build upon an already firm foundation in Meridian Community Unit School District by providing the capacity for technologically based agricultural education. The space would allow students to learn agriculture mechanics, agriculture welding, and veterinary practices for livestock.

    “I’d like to thank former Senator Duane Noland for bringing this project to my attention and shining a light on the efforts of Superintendent Andy Pygott, Mr. Jerry Brockett, and members of the Meridian Ag Foundation, who are providing the steady leadership a project like this one requires,” Manar said.

  • Joyce invites local farmers to apply for cover crop discount program

    cover crop2 090220PARK FOREST –State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) is encouraging area farmers to apply to the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s “Fall Covers for Spring Savings” cover crop program to receive a discounted crop insurance rate in spring 2021.

    “This is a very exciting program that can benefit soil health and protect water quality on and around our farms,” Joyce said. “I strongly encourage local farmers to take this program into consideration when making their fall planting decisions.”

    The program allows eligible applicants to receive a $5 per acre premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and verified in the program.

    The goal of the program is to encourage farmers to plant additional acres of cover crops that are not covered by other state or federal incentives.

    “Cover crops are a great way to keep soil anchored, salvage nitrogen, capture carbon and create weed suppression,” said Jerry Costello II, Acting Director of Agriculture. “In the long run, cover crops will help Illinois farmers reduce the need for fertilizer and reach the goals of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.”

    Any farmer with coverage through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency crop insurance program is eligible to apply.

    Applications will be available in December on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. For questions or additional information, contact the department at (217) 782-6297.

  • Bennett promotes cover crop discount program for local farmers

    cover crop 090120CHAMPAIGN –Senate Agriculture Chairman Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is inviting area farmers to apply to the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s “Fall Covers for Spring Savings” cover crop program to receive a discounted crop insurance rate in spring 2021.

    “I’m thrilled to see this program return after seeing a lot of success in its inaugural season,” Bennett said. “This program serves as an important tool to help farmers as they increase cover crop acres beyond what might be eligible for other state and federal programs.”

    Bennett worked closely with the Department of Agriculture last year to develop the program, which allows eligible applicants to receive a $5 per acre premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and verified in the program.

    The goal of the program is to encourage farmers to plant additional acres of cover crops that are not covered by other state or federal incentives.

    “Cover crops are a great way to keep soil anchored, salvage nitrogen, capture carbon and create weed suppression,” said Jerry Costello II, Acting Director of Agriculture. “In the long run, cover crops will help Illinois farmers reduce the need for fertilizer and reach the goals of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.”

    Any farmer with coverage through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency crop insurance program is eligible to apply.

    Applications will be available in December on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. For questions or additional information, contact the department at (217) 782-6297.

  • Glowiak Hilton passes plan to curb food waste

    Sen. Suzy Glowiak HiltonSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs) advanced a bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow state agencies that purchase food through a contract to donate leftovers.

    “Millions of Americans struggle with hunger while billions of pounds of food are wasted,” Glowiak Hilton said. “The state needs to lead by example and do all it can to curb food waste and ensure that the most vulnerable of us are fed.”

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40 percent of the total food supply is wasted each year. Most food waste occurs at the retail and consumer levels.

  • Manar, Sullivan, Taylorville FFA stress importance of ag education

    Manar TvilleFFA 03192019SPRINGFIELD – The Taylorville FFA students who are Scotland-bound after acing a national competition this winter are a shining example of what comes from investing in agriculture education in Illinois schools, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.

    The five students who comprise the Taylorville FFA Livestock Judging Team won the National Western Roundup in Denver in January. Their victory earned them a trip to Scotland for the international livestock tour this summer, during which they will have a chance to compete again and judge breeds that are less familiar to them.

  • Senators welcome FFA Day visitors

    Senators welcome FFA Day visitors

    SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Illinois State Senate met with FFA students from around the state today to have conversations about the importance of agriculture and the need for quality agriculture education in Illinois.

    More than 1,000 FFA students and their vocational-agriculture teachers came to Springfield for the 49th annual Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day. Initiated in the 1920s, FFA's primary activities center on agriculture education including scholarships and leadership and personal development.

    “For decades, FFA has been fundamental to agricultural education in Illinois and across the country,” said State Senator Scott Bennett, the Senate’s Agriculture chairman. “Today’s FFA not only trains future farmers, it also helps prepare the next generation of scientists, veterinarians and businesses. It is always a pleasure to meet these bright and talented young men and women.”

    This annual advocacy day brings FFA students, farm, agricultural commodity organizations and other agricultural interest groups to Springfield to meet state lawmakers, share the agricultural community’s priorities for the year and offer feedback about policies concerning agriculture, business, conservation, education and more.

  • Bennett calls for hands-on agricultural teacher training program

    bennett 041218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) introduced legislation this week to create a hands-on agriculture teacher training program in Illinois high schools for those interested in studying to become agriculture teachers in college.

    “Agriculture is more than just our state’s leading industry. It’s also central to our economy and our way of life,” said Bennett, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Creating a pre-service teacher training program to give prospective agriculture students the fundamentals they need to succeed will help to ensure the next generation of family farmers will keep the industry strong for years to come.”

    The proposed legislation would also provide grants to students who qualify and attend a university or community college that offer an agricultural education teacher course.

    The proposed pre-service teaching program would include a 12-week course that would provide hands-on experience through partnerships with Illinois agricultural companies, focusing on the five career clusters of agricultural education: agricultural business management, agricultural mechanics and technology, horticulture services, agricultural sciences, and natural resources conservation management.

    Senate Bill 1498 passed out of the Senate Education Committee and is scheduled for consideration before the full Senate.

  • Hunter law expands urban agriculture in Illinois, overrides veto of measure to support urban farmers

    hunter 112818SPRINGFIELD – A new law passed by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) will help provide opportunities for small farmers and community organizers to create urban agriculture zones where communities can grow food for themselves and combat food deserts.

    The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 3418 today, which allows counties or municipalities to create urban agriculture zones composed of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products, raise or process livestock or poultry or whose stock is a minimum of 75 percent locally grown.

  • Scott Bennett expresses concerns over state budget cuts on agricultural programs

    bennett 052517CHAMPAIGN – Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Office of Management and Budget outlined more than $200 million in suggested cuts to Illinois’ 2018 budget, including reducing funding to several agriculture programs.

    “The governor’s cuts would slash funding for key agricultural research and conservation, undermining the ability of our famers to sustain their land and their livelihoods,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture. “I am all for helping Illinois achieve long-term fiscal stability, but I wonder how much more funding to agricultural programs can be reduced without causing harm.”

    The governor’s proposed cuts are expected to reduce the budget for the Department of Agriculture by about $21 million. This will affect operations, promotions, export marketing and contractual staff.

    Under the plan, funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts remains at $5 million, equal to the previous year; however, the $2.5 million of cost-share funds was reduced, and an additional $6 million in new appropriations will not be funded.

    “I definitely support a balanced budget and spending within your means,” Bennett said. “At the same time, I will continue to advocate for efficient levels of funding for these essential programs because agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy, and we need to do whatever we can to keep Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

  • Shortage of agriculture education teachers to be studied: Bennett

    bennett 052517SPRINGFIELD – A shortage of trained teachers for agricultural classes in schools may soon have a solution under legislation signed by the governor today. The governor signed the bill at the Illinois State Fair’s annual Agriculture Day.

    Despite the fact that 25 percent of jobs in Illinois are related to agriculture, there is a shortage of trained agriculture teachers.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored Senate Bill 1991 to try and address this problem.

    “Agriculture and downstate Illinois are inseparable,” Bennett said. “We must recruit and retain qualified educators who want to teach agriculture programs for future generations.”

    SB 1991 creates the Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force, which will make recommendations on recruiting and retaining agriculture education teachers and making reforms to current licensure and testing requirements.

    The final report will be released no later than January 1, 2019. Members of the task force will serve voluntarily and will not be compensated with taxpayer money.

  • Harris: Time for contingency plans, tough decisions

    harris 030917SPRINGFIELD — After two years of holding the Illinois budget hostage for political gain, Gov. Bruce Rauner now is faced with cutting an astounding $5 billion worth of state programs and services to balance the budget he presented to taxpayers last month.

    “We live in the real world where we have to be realistic. We need to think about contingency plans and moving forward,” said Senator Napoleon Harris III, a Harvey Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee. “From day one I have said we must work together to fix these issues. It’s going to take tough decisions by all to get this done.”

    Gov. Rauner has proposed a budget that is unbalanced by nearly $5 billion – a figure that was reinforced this week when the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accounting released an analysis that suggests the state’s revenues are $329 million lower than the governor’s February budget estimate, pushing his budget proposal further into the red.

    Yet during a series of Senate committee hearing this week, agency directors under the Rauner administration were unable or unwilling to identify cuts to personnel or programs that could enable the governor to bridge the gap. That includes representatives of the Illinois Department of Natural of Resources and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, both of whom appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

    “We posed a simple question to these agencies: Where in your agency’s budget can you cut to help fill this $5 billion hole in the governor’s proposed statewide budget?” Harris said. “They were stonewalling, or they’ve never given it a thought. Either way, it’s a problem for the people of Illinois who deserve answers.”

  • New program to support agricultural educators signed into law

    holmes 120715SPRINGFIELD — The state will extend additional funding to the teachers who educate the next generation of Illinois farmers thanks to a new law signed today. State Sen. Linda Holmes was chief co-sponsor of the legislation.

    “Illinois farmers feed the world, and we need to ensure there are aids and incentives in place for the educators who are going to teach them how to do it,” Holmes said. “This program acknowledges that need and focuses resources to meeting it. I’m glad to see it passed into law today.”

    The new law establishes an agricultural education teacher grant program to fund personal services costs for agricultural education teachers in school districts. The legislation also officially recognizes agricultural education as a course of study with staff shortages, a designation which can give those seeking to become teachers consideration for certain scholarships.

    The legislation was Senate Bill 2975. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

  • New law prioritizes agriculture education in Illinois schools

    soybeansCHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett, the new Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, is excited to announce that Illinois has a new measure to prioritize agriculture education in schools across the state.  

    Bennett’s legislation that will create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for agriculture education teachers, Senate Bill 2975, was signed into law today. 

    “Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy,” Bennett said. “We need to do whatever we can to train our future farmers and prioritize agriculture curriculum in schools across our communities.”

    Under Senate Bill 2975, if a school district creates a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth years.

    “Education is essential,” Bennett said. “When students are exploring different career paths, they need to know agricultural sciences is a possibility.”

    This law will also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education.

    Currently, only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “Let’s work together to train our future farmers,” Bennett said. “Programs like this are essential to keeping Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

  • Cunningham: Illinois continues to lead in agriculture education

    ag ed 0816 16

  • Cunningham fights for making agriculture education a priority

    cunningham ag edSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate prioritizing agriculture education in the state.

    Senate Bill 2975, subject to appropriation, would create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for an agriculture education teacher. If a school district is creating a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth year.

    “We need to prioritize agriculture in our schools. Our economy is driven by agriculture and yet so many students throughout the state have very little opportunity to learn about it,” Cunningham said. “This legislation would allow schools like the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences to easily maintain or create agriculture education programs.”

    The legislation would also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education. Only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “We need to emphasize the careers agriculture offers, and one of those is teaching the next generation about those opportunities,” Cunningham said.

    The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

  • Cullerton: We need to invest in essential industries

    TC farmbureauIllinois' 74,300 farms cover nearly 27 million acres -- about 75 percent of the state's total land area.

    To better understand agribusiness in Illinois, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is an active participant in the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adopt-A-Legislator program.

    “Agribusiness is vital to our economy,” Cullerton said. “The investments we make into agriculture not only help grow our economy but also puts food on our tables.”

    The Illinois Farm Bureau Adopt-A-Legislator Program was created in 2001 to build long-term relationships between urban state legislators and farmers throughout the state. The goal of the program is to create a cultural connection between urban legislators and farm bureau members.

  • Cunningham wants agriculture education funded

    cunningham ag edStudents looking to get into agriculture could be without the necessary educational opportunities to spring them forward in the industry.

    In the most recent budget proposal from the governor’s office, agriculture education in Illinois is set to be cut completely out of the budget. In past years, agriculture education has received nearly $2 million.

    Senator Bill Cunningham has proposed legislation that puts a priority on agriculture education instead of slashing it to zero.

    “We need to be prioritizing the industries that make Illinois great. Agriculture is one of those industries,” said Senator Cunningham. “We need to continue to invest in agriculture education, not just end it.”