Gov. Bruce Rauner today addressed the importance of agriculture to Illinois’ economy before an audience of hundreds of Illinois farmers and agribusiness leaders gathered at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago.
He arrived mid-morning at the general delegate session of the Illinois Farm Bureau’s four-day annual meeting, which concludes Tuesday, Dec. 5. The governor commended the bureau’s work on nutrient loss strategy, congratulated members on the organization’s recent centennial and talked about a task force formed to address a shortage in agriculture education, among other topics.
“Thanks for advocating for our farm families. Farm families are what America is all about – faith, family, hard work, love of God, love of country, giving back to the community,” Rauner said. “I’m all for you. Your success is Illinois’ success.”
Illinois is home to 72,200 farms on 27 million acres. Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion annually, with corn accounting for 54 percent of that total. Illinois’ food and fiber industry employs nearly 1 million people. The state ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities, with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
The governor said he was honored to assist Illinois’ agriculture community by signing a harvest emergency Nov. 5 for the first time in state history. Under a new law Rauner signed Aug. 11, the declaration permits drivers of trucks carrying agricultural commodities over state highways to obtain a free permit to exceed gross vehicle weight limits by 10 percent. More than 1,500 permits have been issued since the declaration.
The emergency provision is in effect through mid-December and was enacted to help speed crop transport after weather-related delays affected planting and harvest during the 2017 season.
Rauner also told the gathering he is committed to renovating and reopening the State Fair’s Coliseum. The popular, historic structure first opened in 1901 and was the location of horse shows and other livestock competitions.
He also talked about job creation, in agriculture and in all sectors.
“You watch me,” Rauner said. “I will bring companies here on a massive scale once we’re freed up and we’re competitive in our regulations.”
Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. thanked the governor for his remarks.
“As our county farm bureau leaders develop the policies of our organization through our grassroots process, we appreciate the opportunity to hear from the leaders of our state,” he said.
Also attending the event Monday were bureau Vice President David Erickson, Director of State Legislation Kevin Semlow and Director of Governmental Affairs and Commodities Mark Gebhards.
The Illinois Farm Bureau, also known as the Illinois Agricultural Association, was formed in 1916. The nonprofit member organization fosters agricultural education and advocates for farm-friendly legislative policy.