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August 17, 1999

Ryan Calls For Action To Help Illinois Farmers In Crisis

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today unveiled a statewide plan to help 79,000 farms in Illinois that face a sinking agriculture economy and called on the United States Congress and the federal Department of Agriculture to create an aid package that will help farm families overcome this crisis.

"I have a message of hope on behalf of families across Illinois who find their livelihoods withering," Ryan said. "We're here today to call for action - action to save our farm heritage and families throughout Illinois who are facing a real crisis as the harvest approaches. "

Ryan noted that farming is the state's number one industry, and the livelihood of nearly 79,000 farms in Illinois. "We're number one nationally in the production of ethanol, number two nationally in the production of corn and soybeans, third nationally in agricultural exports and number four in the production of hogs," he added. "That's something to be very, very proud of."

At an Agriculture Day rally at the Illinois State Fair, Ryan said he will work to implement a new state law that creates a "value added" program for farms. Under this bill, farmers will receive grants for their crops that encourage them to have those crops processed into other products here in Illinois - adding value to those commodities.

With many family farms reeling, Ryan said the state must take steps now to keep farmers in business. The agricultural industry is dealing with problems that stem from depressed commodity prices. Three years ago, farmers were getting $3.70 for a bushel of corn, but today, the price for a bushel of corn is around $2.

"Three years ago, a bushel of soybeans brought in $7.40, and now that price is around $4.70. And three years ago, hogs prices were set at about $53 per hundredweight. Today, the price is about $30," the governor noted.

Ryan outlined the state's plan to help the farm industry, which is responsible for sending $3.7 billion worth of our crops to market every year. In his message, the Governor:

  • Urged Congress to end partisan bickering and pass an aid package that will help keep family farms afloat. Congress is considering a farm aid package that could total anywhere from $6.7 billion to $10.8 billion over the next several years.

  • Ordered State Agriculture Director Joe Hampton to continue to working with Illinois' congressional delegation, farm leaders throughout the Midwest and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a federal action plan that includes increased federal subsidies for land conservation efforts and crop insurance.

  • Redouble Illinois' efforts to expand the production and the use of ethanol in this state and across the country. Illinois leads the nation in the production of ethanol with 1.56 billion gallons of ethanol, which translates into 600 million bushels of Illinois corn.

  • Work with the General Assembly this fall to expand a number of initiatives that will ease the burden on farm families and prepare a contingency plan: Free or low-cost legal services for farmers to help them with the technical process of restructuring their debt or dealing with other financial matters.

  • Expand the existing Farm Resource Center Hotline that helps steer farmers in need to services and programs; enact a tuition waiver for displaced farmers who learn new skills and trades through the Job Training Partnership Act.

    "These new initiatives come on top of more than $38 million in expanded agriculture programs passed this spring by the General Assembly," Ryan said.

    The state also will use $15 million to fully-fund food research through the C-FAR program, $10 million for the 76 cooperative extension service offices across Illinois and more than $7 million for 500 soil and water conservation grants for farmers.

    "It's my hope that with these initiatives, we will be able to minimize the affect of this crisis on family farms throughout our great state," he said.

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