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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2001

Governor Announces Plans for 2001 Illinois Ag Assembly

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan is inviting Illinois agriculture producers and other stakeholders in the state's food and fiber industry to attend one of six regional meetings as part of the 2001 Ag Assembly to continue developing the relationship between local communities and state government.

"Agriculture is a large, multi-billion industry that employs nearly a quarter of the state's workforce," Ryan said. "The Ag Assembly brings together the industry's diverse interests, providing an opportunity to address today's issues and formulate a vision for tomorrow. I invite those involved in agriculture to attend one of the regional meetings."

The Ag Assembly was launched last year following discussions with Illinois Director of Agriculture Joe Hampton about the challenge of positioning state agriculture for the future while maintaining the industry's market leadership. Both agreed a unified plan was needed and its development should include all sectors of agriculture - agriculture producers, food processors, representatives of agribusiness, ag educators and research scientists, and soil and water conservationists.

The first Ag Assembly reached consensus on nine issue groups, chief among them a recommendation to provide state funding for value-added projects that raise farmers' share of profits from the processing of their raw commodities. The recommendation resulted in the creation of Governor Ryan's AgriFIRST initiative, which received legislative approval in the new state budget.

"The entire industry came together and said in a unified voice that value-added initiatives are needed to ensure a viable future for Illinois agriculture," Agriculture Director Hampton said. "Governor Ryan, through his budget, demonstrated state support for these value added initiatives by creating AgriFIRST, a $3 million grant program designed to identify and develop value-added business opportunities and increase profitability of the state's food and fiber industry."

This year's Ag Assembly will focus on Identifying Opportunities and Strategies for Building Community Partnerships, Hampton said. "We believe it is critical that the Ag Assembly remain a visionary group. By focusing the Ag Assembly regional meetings, we will be able to encourage participants to develop that vision by thinking about the types of programs, projects and activities ongoing, or on the drawing board at the local level that may provide opportunities to partner - or develop cooperatively -- with the state.."

The regional meetings are scheduled July 10 at Oakley Lindsay Civic Center in Quincy, July 11 at Lakeland College in Mattoon, and July 12 at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Subsequent meetings will be held July 16 at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, July 17 at Rock Valley College in Rockford, and July 18 at the Illinois Center for Food Safety and Technology in Summit Argo.

Each meeting will run from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., except the July 18 meeting in Summit Argo, which will be held from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served one hour before each meeting.

Those interested in attending a regional meeting are asked to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture by visiting the department's website , calling 1-800-273-4763, or by writing to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Attention Ag Assembly, Springfield, Ill., 62794-9281 to request a registration form.


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