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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 1999

GOVERNOR OBSERVES EARTH DAY AT GRAIN FARM, ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR FEDERAL CONSERVATION EFFORTS

PEKIN -- Governor George H. Ryan kicked off Earth Day observances during a visit to a grain farm in Tazewell County and announced his support for supplemental federal funding to keep the Natural Resource Conservation Service from shutting down.

And to further promote and coordinate the relationship between conservationists, agriculture and agri-business, Ryan announced the creation of the Environment and Natural Resources Leadership Cabinet within his office.

During his tour of the Mike Sauder farm south of Pekin, Ryan saw firsthand the efforts that farmers take throughout the year to conserve resources, deter soil erosion and maintain wildlife habitats and water quality.

Ryan voiced his concern about the looming funding shortfall at the NRCS, which could lead to the furlough of federal employees in Illinois. The NRCS program, which provides technical assistance for farm conservation improvements, could face a month-long shutdown, hampering local resource conservation efforts.

"Since that first Earth Day observance in 1970, we have gained a greater awareness of our importance as trustees of our natural resources, and we know the importance of having a partnership between farmers and conservationists," Ryan said.

"Nonetheless, we all have to maintain a constant watch for threats to our environment. If these federal conservation offices are closed, Illinois farmers will be denied a vital resource for improving their land. What's more, federal payments for conservation efforts could be delayed at a time when Illinois farmers already face tight finances," the governor added.

Ryan urged the state's congressional delegation to fight for a supplemental appropriation bill now pending in Washington, D.C. that would end the threat of layoffs.

In Illinois, the NRCS faces a $2.2 million budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 1999. A furlough of all NRCS employees in Illinois would be needed for at least 30 days to meet the shortfall. Congress is currently considering a $28 million supplemental funding bill to resolve the short-term NRCS budget shortfall.

"It is important that these county conservationists are still available through NRCS," said Illinois Agriculture Director Joe Hampton. Hampton urged the state's congressional delegation to also seek a long-term funding solution for the NRCS.

"Farmers rely on these people to make environmentally responsive improvements to their land and to receive help seeking participation in federal conservation programs," he said. "A shutdown by NRCS would place an incredible burden on our county Soil and Water Conservation Districts which share offices with NRCS."

The Environment and Natural Resources Leadership Cabinet will be headed by Renee Cipriano, senior advisor to the Governor on Environment and Natural Resources.

In Executive Order 10, Ryan outlined the objectives of the cabinet, which include maximizing state and federal resources; pursuing public and private partnerships; and providing leadership with a commitment to public service.

"We will coordinate the programs and polices that are currently in place, which will lead to better decision-making, and to the establishment of long-range goals for the state," Ryan added. "Ultimately, we hope to duplicate the kind of partnerships that led to the farming successes here on Sauder's farm."


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