FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2013

AGRICULTURE DIRECTOR FLIDER ADDRESSES ST. LOUIS AGRBUSINESS CLUB; REFLECTS UPON FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Agriculture Director Bob Flider today reaffirmed his commitment to achieving Governor Quinn's goal of doubling Illinois exports by 2015 and assessed the status of the state's drought response efforts.

Flider told the St. Louis Agribusiness Club that exports are vital to Illinois agriculture.  He said Illinois sells almost 40 percent of its agricultural commodities overseas and currently ranks as the fourth-largest agricultural exporter in the United States.

"We are fortunate to have a governor who understands the economic vitality of Illinois depends upon its ability to cultivate global markets," Flider said.  "Governor Quinn has set an ambitious goal and created an Export Advisory Council to help achieve it.  The council, whose membership includes top Illinois business and association executives, will recommend strategies to the governor's office to increase trade and business investment."

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is one of two, cabinet-level agencies on the council and will play an instrumental role in creating markets for Illinois food and agricultural products.

"Nearly 25 percent of Illinois' workforce is employed in agriculture or an agriculture-related profession," Flider said.  "Considering the percentage of our agricultural production that is shipped to foreign markets, to a large extent each and every one of those paychecks is tied to foreign trade. Expanding exports, therefore, is good not only for agriculture, but also for our economy."

Flider appeared before the club with Missouri Agriculture Director Jon Hagler.  His remarks came on the anniversary of his appointment as agriculture director and he reflected upon the challenges of his first year in office, most notably a severe drought that withered crops and dried-up streams and rivers. 

"Part of our mission is to collaborate with state and federal partners to find ways to ensure rivers like the Mississippi continue to be navigable waterways," Flider said.  "Under the leadership of Governor Quinn and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, we continue to work with commodity groups, agribusinesses, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Congress to find every means possible to ensure the transportation of our products remains unimpeded."

Through a coordinated response to the drought, Flider said Illinois also:

  • Obtained a federal disaster declaration to assist drought-stricken farmers in all 102 Illinois counties.  The declaration qualified farmers for USDA assistance, including low-interest emergency loans, to help them recover from a combination of extremely hot and dry weather that stunted crop development across the state, especially in corn.
  • Successfully petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a waiver that temporarily allows the blending of corn containing aflatoxin, a fungus that thrives in drought-like conditions.  The relief was requested on behalf of the Illinois grain industry to help it market this year's crop and grants authority to legally mix contaminated corn in animal feed as long as the level of aflatoxin in the blended product still is within safe limits for consumption. 
  • And developed a plan to aid the state's economically-important pork industry as it coped with high feed prices, one of the many consequences of the drought.  Under the plan, Illinois will increase its purchases of pork for meals served in state facilities by 30 percent for a six month period. 

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