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Illinois farmers qualify for new drought funds
Illinois Correspondent

CHICAGO, Ill. — With the fall harvest finished and most tillage complete, Illinois’ summer drought is a memory for many. For those farmers dramatically affected by the reduction in yields, though, they are reeling from the economic losses incurred by the relatively low prices and skyrocketing fuel and nitrogen costs.

To help, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has announced funding in the way of a $250,000 grant. The grant has been allocated to the Farm Resource Center, a not-for-profit community group. Funds will be used to provide vital job training, business development and referral services to at least 200 farm families in 20 Illinois counties.

“A series of uncontrollable environmental factors have combined to put an especially heavy economic burden on many farmers across Illinois,” said Farm Resource Center Executive Director Roger Hannan. “Often, this financial hardship takes a major toll on their morale as well as their pocketbooks. The goal of the Farm Resource Center is to offer a spectrum of services that will empower our farmers and their families to find the means to push through this tough period.

“Partnerships like this one with Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns program are key to making that happen, and this funding will allow us to extend the reach of our services so that we can make a positive impact on more of their lives.”

Other services offer access to second-job opportunities that may assist farmers in being able to hold onto their farms with a little additional funding. The Farm Resource Center will provide access to employment and training programs as well as help pay tuition cost for training when necessary.

Along with this, the FRC will also offer small business development and training services in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and Small Business Development Centers.

“Illinois farmers are the unsung heroes of our economy, producing goods for markets all over the world and feeding us all, said DCEO Director Jack Lavin. “Gov. Blagojevich’s economic development strategy is based in the belief that we can make the greatest impact by working with grassroots, local organizations that understand the needs of their communities the best, and this grant to the Farm Resource Center is a great example of that strategy in action.”

Blagojevich explained the importance on placing farmers back on their feet.

“Illinois’ greatness was built on the backs of our farmers, and they continue to make us proud today,” he said. “While most of us have jobs with the security of a regular paycheck, our farmers’ livelihoods are subject to the unpredictability of nature. Last summer’s drought caused many farmers great economic hardship, which was only intensified by the increase in the price of gas, fertilizer and other farm supplies.

“While we can’t reverse the fortunes of a harsh summer, providing this support will ease the burden on our farmers this winter by enabling them to tap into new opportunities.”

State Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) added his support, “Gov. Blagojevich and I believe that we need to step up to the plate to help our farmers through a very difficult time. There is no cure for all the economic hardship they are experiencing, but this funding will help many farmers better their situation so they can continue providing for their families and meet their daily needs.”

State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville), Chairperson, Committees on Agriculture & Conservation, said, “After this difficult summer for our farmers, Gov. Blagojevich and I knew that more needed to be done to help them and their families deal with the economic and emotional toll caused by the drought. By partnering with the Farm Resource Center, we are providing more support to help them make it through the winter and beyond.”

State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) said, “In times of trouble, we must always rally around those who feed our state, our country and our world. With winter approaching and our farmers still reeling from the harsh summer, Gov. Blagojevich and I understood that we had to continue to reach out and offer the direct support and assistance that will help them and their families move forward.”

These feelings were seconded by State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) who said, “This is grassroots, community-based economic development at its finest. Farmers across Illinois have been forced to deal with a number of devastating blows and greatly need our help.

“Through Gov. Blagojevich’s leadership and this important funding, the Farm Resource Center will be able to send out service providers to sit down in the living rooms of 200 more farmers this year and provide the hands-on, direct assistance they need to get back on their feet.”

This effort administered by the Illinois DCEO will add four new outreach workers to the Farm Resource Center staff. The workers will cover a five-county area, and will enable the organization to serve families in 20 additional counties.

For details about this project, contact Andrew Ross, Director of Communications Opportunity Returns at 312-814-8193.

This Illinois farm news was published in the November 16, 2005 issue of Farm World.