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March 14, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich Announces $270,000 In Sustainable Agriculture Grants To Encourage Enviromentally-Friendly Agricultural Innovation

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced $270,000 in grants to promote the development of innovative farming practices that are profitable and conserve natural resources.  The grants, which are part of the Governor’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy, will be distributed through the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program.

“Illinois farmers are among the most productive and efficient producers in the world because of the care they take to protect their land,” Gov. Blagojevich said.  “These grants will help ensure they continue to practice the most modern production techniques and our natural resources are conserved for generations of farmers to come.”

The grants will fund seven on-the-farm or university research projects and nine educational outreach programs.  Topics to be studied include the energy potential of biomass crops such as Miscanthus and switchgrass, the use of lake sediment as a soil amendment and the use of cover crops to sustain pumpkin production in northern Illinois.

“Illinois’ rich, fertile farmland is arguably its greatest natural resource,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said.  “The crops this land grows are the foundation of a multi-billion industry that employs nearly a quarter of the state’s workforce.  So, it’s important this valuable resource isn’t squandered.  The research these grants fund will help spur the development of new, environmentally-responsible farming techniques and make sure that doesn’t happen.” 

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

The grant awards follow the Governor’s announcement of his energy independence plan to replace 50 percent of the state’s current supply of imported oil with renewable, homegrown biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel.  The Governor proposes investing $100 million over the next 5 years to build up to 20 new ethanol plants across Illinois.  The additional ethanol production would generate an estimated $1.7 billion in business investment.  The Governor also proposes investing an additional $100 million over the next ten years to build four plants in downstate Illinois using new technology to create ethanol made from plant waste materials like corn husks and wood pulp – or “cellulosic ethanol.”  This means boosting the state’s annual ethanol production by more than 200 percent and meeting 50 percent of gasoline needs by 2017.  And, the Governor’s plan would invest $25 million to help build five new biodiesel plants, boosting the state’s production by 200 percent to 400 million gallons per year or the equivalent to 25 percent of the state’s annual diesel fuel needs by 2017.  This additional biodiesel production will generate another $225 million in business investment in Illinois.  This plan would create almost 20,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs.

The complete list of grant recipients is listed below. For additional information, contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Land and Water Resources, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, Ill., 62794, or call (217) 782-6297.

FY ’07 Sustainable Agriculture Grants
Recipient Project Amount

Growing Home, Inc., Chicago Four Seasons Food Growing Project 25,000

Omni Ventures, Inc., Virden Evaluation of biomass crops for use in sustainable agriculture programs 25,000

University of Illinois Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Champaign A Research-Based Program to Sustain Illinois Organic and Alternative Farms 24,948

Illinois Forage and Grassland Council, Shelbyville Heart of America Grazing Conference 2,000

Shelby County Farm Bureau, Shelbyville Heartland Graziers:  A Network of Resources Among Producers 1,000

Prairie Rivers Resource Conservation & Development, Henry Peoria County Chapter of Initiative for the Development of Entrepreneurs in Agriculture (IDEA) 17,875

University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana Demonstration of a farming system that integrates beef cattle and grain crops 7,200

Illinois Ag in the Classroom, Bloomington Sustainable Agriculture 101 24,450

Earth Partners, Champaign Sustainable Agriculture:  Making a Positive Impact on Our Environment and Lives Workshop for K – 12 grade teachers 10,555

CSA Learning Center, Caledonia Illinois Farm Beginnings:  Preparing Farmers for a New Illinois Food System 25,000

University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana Transition to Organic Systems:  How to improve the use of Winter Cover Crops to enhance nitrogen cycling and reduce nitrate leaching 24,880

University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana Bio-control of Internal Discoloration of Horseradish Root 25,000

University of Illinois Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Champaign Using Compost and Lake Sediment as a Soil Amendment 4,602

University of Illinois Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Champaign The performance of wheat, soybean, tomato and pumpkin in conventional, best management and organic cultural systems 24,818

University of Illinois Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Administration, Champaign Investigating the biological basis of soil fertility:  the effect of sustainable management practices on microbial populations that contribute to efficient nutrient cycling 13,750

Kane County Extension Cover Crops for Sustainable Pumpkin Production in Northern Illinois 15,715

Total  271,793


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