Senate Committee votes favorably of making Phil Nelson Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture

State Senator Sue Rezin testified before the Senate Executive Appointments Committee in Chicago on February 10th. Senator Rezin spoke in support of Phil Nelson to lead the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The Committee then unanimously approved his nomination.


“One the biggest reasons Phil will succeed as the leader of the Illinois Department of Agriculture is because he’s a fourth generation farmer,” Rezin said. “Phil has decades of experience in the fields, harvesting his crop, and delivering his yield to the elevator. That, combined with his proven track record of success as the leader of the Illinois Farm Bureau, means Phil will take Illinois agriculture to the next level.”


Nelson was selected by Governor Bruce Rauner to lead the Illinois Department of Agriculture last month. Nelson served as the Illinois Farm Bureau President from 2003-2013. He also served in roles at the Illinois Soybean Association and LaSalle County Farm Bureau and was Vice President of the American Soybean Association.


“I am proud to call Phil a friend and neighbor, as he lives down the road in Seneca,” Rezin said. “He will represent our farming and energy industries wonderfully because he not only understands the importance of these industries, he lives them.”


Now that the Executive Appointments Committee voted for Nelson’s appointment, the full Senate has to give the go-ahead before Nelson is officially the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.


“I am looking forward to working with Phil to advance Illinois’ agriculture industry,” Rezin said. “I am confident under his leadership, our state will grow our exports, feed more people around the world, and he will make sure famers and energy providers have the support they need from Springfield.”


Senator Rezin (right) speaks to the Senate Appointments Committee in support of Phil Nelson (left)

Facts about Illinois Agriculture (source: Illinois Department of Agriculture)

What agricultural goods are produced in Illinois?

–          Illinois is a leading producer of soybeans, corn and swine.

How does agriculture benefit Illinois’ economy?

–          Agriculture is the number one employer and number one driver of the state’s economy.

–          Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion annually.

–          Corn accounts for 54 percent of that total.

–          Marketing of soybeans contributes 27 percent.

–          The combined marketing of livestock, dairy and poultry generates 13 percent.

–          The balance comes from sales of wheat and other crops, including fruits and vegetables.

–          Billions more dollars flow into the state’s economy from ag-related industries, such as farm machinery manufacturing, agricultural real estate, and production and sale of value-added food products.

–          Rural Illinois benefits principally from agricultural production, while agricultural processing and manufacturing strengthen urban economies.

What are the characteristics of a typical Illinois farm?

–          Illinois’ 74,300 farms cover nearly 27 million acres — about 75 percent of the state’s total land area.

–          The average size of an Illinois farm, including hobby farms, is 358 acres.

–          Most farm acreage is devoted to grain, mainly corn and soybeans. Nearly 10 percent of Illinois farms have swine.

–          Beef cows are found on about 23 percent of farms, while about 3 percent have dairy cows.

–          Some farms produce specialty crops and livestock, including alfalfa, canola, nursery products, emus and fish.

–          Many farming operations also support recreational activities such as hunting and fishing.

How are Illinois’ agricultural commodities used?

–          With 2,640 food manufacturing companies, Illinois is well-equipped to turn the state’s crops and livestock into food and industrial products.

–          In fact, the state ranks first in the nation with $180 billion in processed food sales.

–          Most of these companies are located in the Chicago metropolitan area, which contains one of the largest concentrations of food-related businesses in the world.

–          Illinois’ agricultural commodities also provide the base for such products as animal feed, ink, paint, adhesives, clothing, soap, wax, cosmetics, medicines, furniture, paper and lumber.

–          Each year, 274 million bushels of Illinois corn are used to produce more ethanol than any other state — about 678 million gallons.

–          Illinois also markets other renewable fuels, including soybean-based biodiesel.

Who farms?

–          Although Illinois’ food and fiber industry employs nearly 1 million people, there are only 75,087 farm operators, down from 164,000 in 1959.

–          During the same time period, the average farm size more than doubled as sophisticated technology made many aspects of the industry less labor-intensive.

–          Illinois farmers are generally more than 50 years old.

–          49% hold jobs off the farm and consider farming their secondary occupation.

–          Family farms still dominate, though some of these have incorporated.

What are other reasons for Illinois’ agricultural success?

–          Illinois has a competitive edge over many other states due to its central location and superior transportation system.

–          More than 2,000 miles of interstate highway and 34,500 miles of other state highway make trucking of goods fast and efficient.

–          Chicago is home to the largest rail gateway in the nation, connecting eastern and western United States.

–          The state boasts some 1,100 airports, landing areas and heliports, including Chicago’s O’Hare International, through which more than 65 million travelers pass annually.

–          Illinois’ 1,118 miles of navigable waterways, including the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, make barge traffic an excellent option for shipment of grain to the Gulf of Mexico.

Are many of Illinois’ agricultural products exported to other nations?

–          Illinois ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries.

–          Exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports.

–          Illinois is the nation’s second leading exporter of both soybeans and feed grains and related products.

–          Approximately 44 percent of grain produced in Illinois is sold for export.

–          The Illinois Department of Agriculture promotes items produced, processed or packaged in Illinois through international and domestic marketing exhibits, trade missions, industry tours, publications, the Illinois Product Logo program and an electronic database for trade leads.

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