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October 3, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich Announces Opportunity Returns Grants to Encourage Agricultural Innovation
Grants will fund research into new, sustainable methods of farm production

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the availability of $287,500 in sustainable agriculture grants to promote the development of new, profitable farming practices that preserve Illinois’ natural resources.  The grants, which are part of Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns economic development strategy, will be distributed through the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program.

“The smart use of natural resources has enabled Illinois farmers to become world leaders in the production of food and agricultural products,” Gov. Blagojevich said.  “These grants will help ensure they continue to practice the most modern farming techniques, and that our state’s rich, fertile soils remain productive for generations of farmers to come.”

The grants are competitive and will fund on-farm and university research projects, as well as outreach and education programs.

“This program was started to spur innovation in production agriculture,” Illinois Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “The quality and diversity of projects that have been funded are quite impressive, and I look forward to announcing the recipients of this year’s grants.”

The Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program was established in 1996 as part of the Conservation 2000 program to research and implement methods of production that protect natural resources without sacrificing farm profitability.

The deadline to apply for a grant this fiscal year is Oct. 26, 2006.  Applications can be obtained, along with program rules and eligibility criteria, by writing to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land and Water Resources, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, Ill., 62794-9281.  Application information also can be obtained by visiting the Department’s website at www.agr.state.il.us/C2000 or by calling the Bureau of Land and Water Resources at (217) 782-6297.

Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.  Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.  It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs.  Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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