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Workshop, federal grants help Illinois producers with exports
By CINDY LADAGE
Illinois Correspondent

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — On Oct. 11, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich said federal matching grants are available to help Illinois food companies increase export sales.

“Illinois is the third-largest exporter of agricultural commodities in the United States and relies upon foreign trade for nearly 40 percent of its agricultural income,” Blagojevich said.

“The Branded Program offers a cost-effective opportunity for Illinois food companies to build name recognition in global markets, increase export sales that are so essential to the well-being of our agriculture industry and help put more people to work.”

Data from the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research (WISER), which compiles its information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division indicate that since 2002 Illinois exports have grown by more than $10 billion, a 40 percent increase. This increase resulted - in 2005 - an estimated 485,600 Illinois jobs supported by exports.

Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia are Illinois’ key export partners. Machinery, chemicals, computer/electronic products, transportation equipment, electrical items and food are the most-shipped products.

Illinois businesses interested in the grants should attend a free workshop for application assistance.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) workshop will also cover the reimbursement process. The workshop will be Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 9-11 a.m. at the Hilton Suites in Oakbrook Terrace.

The Branded Program works by reimbursing participants for up to half of their international marketing and promotional expenses. Costs include the cost of foreign trade shows, international travel, advertising, product demonstrations, point-of-sale materials and package and label modifications to meet.

To qualify, a company must be considered “small” by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition. A company must also be incorporated in the United States.

IDOA also outlined that the company must have at least half of its products made with domestic ingredients.

Agriculture cooperatives and export agents that work on behalf of U.S. food companies also are eligible for assistance, provided they meet program requirements.

The Food Export Assoc. of the Midwest, a nonprofit group comprised of state agricultural promotion agencies, is administering the Branded Program. Funding for the Branded Program comes from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service through its Market Access Program.

“This cost-share assistance is intended to spur growth in an industry that includes more than 1,500 companies and employs about 85,000 Illinoisans,” said IDOA Director Chuck Hartke.

“It’s an important investment in the prosperity not only of our food processing industry, but also our state economy.”

For registration details, call Sarah Potter, Bureau of Marketing and Promotion, at 217-782-2581.

Interested companies that cannot attend the free workshop still can apply for matching funds by completing an online application.

The Branded Program Pre-Qualification Worksheet is at www.brandedprogram.org

The available funds will reimburse international marketing activities between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2007.

Blagojevich recently announced that Illinois’ export figures continue to show significant growth with more than $20.5 billion in exports reported for the first half of 2006, a 16.5 percent increase from the first half of 2005.

Earlier this year, Blagojevich celebrated Illinois’ third consecutive year of increased exports and the greatest one-year increase in more than 10 years.

This farm news was published in the Oct. 18, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

10/18/2006