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FARM Illinois moves ahead on Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture
Last week, the leadership council for the FARM Illinois project met at McCormick Place in Chicago. Chaired by U of I President-Emeritus Robert Easter, the council grappled with next steps following the statewide rollout of the plan this past summer. FARM Illinois (Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois) is intended to advance economic development in the food and agriculture sector of Illinois, strategically positioning Illinois and Chicago as the global hub of markets and investment.
The Rauner administration has voiced support for the plan, as have important business and civic leaders in Chicago and downstate. Governor Rauner and Commerce Director Schultz joined the discussion to gain input on the state’s potential role in the process. The Governor emphasized the essential contribution of the agriculture and food sector to the growth and success of Illinois and the need to take these industries to the next level, despite the political impasse in Springfield. He implored the leadership council to take specific actions to drive specific results.
The leadership council endorsed the recommendation to establish the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture. The Chicago Community Trust, the primary funder of the project, agreed to provide additional seed money to set up the new organization. A goal was recommended to secure sustainable funding by the end of the year.
As it gains momentum, the University of Illinois has large potential roles for leadership, particularly in areas related to innovation and education. The strategic recommendations of FARM Illinois fall into six categories, all of which should involve the University of Illinois to some degree.