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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2004

Governor’s budget for Agriculture designed to ensure food safety through increased testing, inspections
Proposed budget will boost number of frontline meat inspectors, feed inspections and consolidate operations

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s budget proposal unveiled today will enable the Illinois Department of Agriculture to focus more sharply on its’ main mission to safeguard public health and ensure public confidence in Illinois’ food supply.
 
The Governor’s budget for the Department of Agriculture in Fiscal Year 2005 follows his mission of fiscal discipline while maintaining services critical to safeguarding Illinois’ food supply. The department’s introduced budget is $78.3 million, down from $84.7 million the previous fiscal year. 
 
“This gives us a great opportunity not only to help make the Department of Agriculture more efficient but also to make it more effective in carrying out its main mission to keep the food supply safe for consumers,” said Illinois Department of Agriculture Director, Chuck Hartke. “Particularly at a time when the specters of Mad Cow disease and Avian Flu have reared their heads in the United States and when acts of agro-terrorism are a more likely threat to the food supply, this is a budget that will ensure public confidence in the food supply.”
 
Key initiatives in the Governor’s budget proposal for the Department of Agriculture include:
  • Funding to hire 10 additional meat inspectors over the next two years and three additional veterinarians, including two supervisory veterinarians and one additional Customer Safety Officer.
  • Increasing feed inspections and sampling by doubling the number of inspections at the 16 feed facilities that regularly handle ruminant protein and by tripling sampling at the remaining 20 feed retail outlets to ensure manufacturer compliance and product safety.
  • Implementing additional livestock feed testing as another firewall to safeguard against Mad Cow disease and strengthen consumer confidence in the safety of Illinois’ beef industry.
  • Complying with recently announced federal agriculture policy changes relating to a ban on the slaughter of all “downer” cattle, or those cattle that cannot walk. 
Director Hartke said another key element of budget is transferring the Land and Water Resources division to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the movement of all environmental programs to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). 
 
“IEPA and DNR are much better suited to administer these programs,” said Director Hartke.  “I commend the Governor for taking this innovative and creative approach and for having the vision to follow through with an initiative that has been discussed for a long time. It not only makes our agency more efficient, but it also helps us more squarely focus on our primary mission.”
 
The agency’s overall proposed headcount for FY05 stands at 466 employees, representing a reduction of 5 employees from the previous fiscal year. Director Hartke said the administrative reductions are part of an overall effort to make the department leaner and more effective. 
 
“As with all other state agencies we are going to live within our means and make sure the
Department continues to fight for farmers and farm families and for Illinois consumers,” Hartke said. “This budget will make us leaner, yet more effective.”


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