|By CINDY LADAGE
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — To keep the growth of organic production in place, on July 19, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced a $45,000 grant has been approved to help fund a feasibility study to build a distribution center for the largest privately owned organic distributor in the nation.
According to the Natural Foods Merchandiser’s 2005 Market Overview, the Midwest is where the organic boom is taking place, and Illinois is raking in the economic benefits with sales of organic food ranging from $470-$627 million.
Natural Foods Merchandiser concluded that Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa and Missouri make up 15 percent of the U.S. market for natural and organic food.
“Illinois is an agricultural leader and to ensure continued growth in the industry we must make the proper tools and resources available to all sectors of the industry,” Blogojevich said. “The demand for organic products is increasing annually, and this is an opportunity for local businesses and growers to help supply that need.”
Goodness Greeness, a Chicago-based company, will receive $45,000 to help underwrite the feasibility phase of a 100,000-square-foot distribution center. Funds will be used to help cover the cost of consulting and productivity services including final design and cost estimates, site selection and finalizing the project business plan.
Goodness Greeness operates a 25,000-square-foot distribution warehouse, but believes a larger facility will be necessary to accommodate expected growth.
With grain farmers wondering about the cost of putting in a crop these days, some producers have been turning to organics, which for the past 15 years have been the fastest growing sector of the food industry, posting 20 percent annual growth.
The USDA estimated in 1990 that the organic sector sold about $1 billion in food.
The Organic Trade Assoc. estimates that $14.4 billion in organic food was sold in 2005.
Chances for expansion are available for Illinois’ farmers, ranchers and other entrepreneurs to enter the organic market with new products or to expand existing lines.
By expanding Illinois’ warehouse space, the Illinois Department of Agriculture said Goodness Greeness will have the capacity to take on new products and keep the regional organic market headquartered in the Midwest.