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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2008

Governor Blagojevich Announces Grants to Increase Exports of Illinois Food Products
Funds will enable Illinois food companies to expand their advertising and promotion budget in overseas markets

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the availability of federal matching funds to help Illinois food companies promote their products in foreign markets. 
 
The Branded Program reimburses participants for up to half of their international marketing and promotional expenses including the cost of foreign trade shows, international travel, advertising, product demonstrations, point-of-sale materials, and package and label modifications to meet foreign import requirements.
 
“Every food item we sell overseas creates demand for Illinois crops and supports jobs here at home,” said Governor Blagojevich.  “International trade is vital to the well-being of our agriculture industry and these funds will help Illinois food companies build name recognition in foreign markets and increase their export sales.”
 
Illinois is the fourth-largest exporter of agricultural commodities in the United States and relies upon foreign trade for nearly 40 percent of its agricultural income. Overall, Illinois companies exported a record $48.7 billion in products in 2007, a 16 percent increase from 2006.  Since 2002, Illinois exports have grown by more than $23.13 billion.  Illinois is now the fifth-largest exporting state in the country, which is its highest ranking on record.
 
The Food Export Association of the Midwest, a non-profit association of Midwestern state agricultural promotion agencies, administers the Branded Program.  Funding comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service through its Market Access Program.
 
Program participants must fit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a “small company” and be incorporated in the United States.  In addition, at least half of their products must be made with domestic ingredients.  Agriculture cooperatives and export agents that work on behalf of U.S. food companies also are eligible for assistance, provided they meet program requirements.
 
Questions about Branded Program qualifications, eligible reimbursements and the application process can be directed to IDOA Marketing Representative Kim Hamilton at (217) 782-5809 or The Food Export Association of the Midwest at (312) 334-9200.  Additional information about the program and a “pre-qualification” worksheet that can help companies assess their eligibility for funding are available online at www.brandedprogram.org.
 
Funds are for international marketing activities in the 2009 calendar year.  About $6 million in reimbursements typically is distributed to program participants in the Midwest every year.


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