|By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Illinois operating budget plan for 2007, unveiled in Springfield last week, includes spending for both agricultural education and the Center for Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR).
Blagojevich proposed an ag education line item of $2.381 million and $3.5 million for Springfield-based C-FAR.
The ag education line item was welcome news for State Rep. Don Moffitt and other legislators who fought to keep ag education a priority in the state budget.
“The wealth of Illinois lies in her comprehensive agriculture industry,” Moffitt said recently, “and future strength lies in agricultural youth leadership development.”
Moffitt was satisfied with the appropriation amount. “In tough economic times like these, just to be able to preserve a line item amount is a win,” he said.
The appropriation for C-FAR remained constant with 2006’s amount, after the governor had proposed eliminating the organization’s funding entirely in 2005. C-FAR board chairman Alan Puzey was described as “disturbed and disappointed” upon hearing of the proposed budget for the organization.
“The support the state is providing for publicly-funded research for our state’s top economic engine is woefully inadequate,” Puzey said.
“Every Midwestern state, with the exception of Missouri, makes a greater investment in their food and agricultural industries than does Illinois. Illinois’ ability to foster advancements is in dire jeopardy with the appropriation that is proposed.”
C-FAR was granted $15 million by the state for food and agricultural research from 2000-2002, before Blagojevich inherited a state budget deficit said to be as high as $450 million upon his inauguration. Blagojevich initiated drastic, across-the-board cuts for many departments and agencies, including C-FAR.
The new proposed appropriations were part of an approximately $45.4 billion total operating budget plan for fiscal year 2007. The centerpiece of the governor’s budget plan is making Illinois the only state in the country to provide access to pre-school for all three- and four-year-old children.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture budget increased 1 percent from its 2006 budget to $102.6 million. Though state funding for the department is being slashed by $900,000, the cut will be more than offset due to an additional $1.2 million to be provided by the federal government in 2007.
Other ag-related budget items proposed by Blagojevich included:
•$2.6 million for Soil and Water Conservation Districts
•$12.3 million in funding for Extension and County Match programs
•$20 million for a Renewable Fuels Development program through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities
•$400 million increase in K-12 education spending, plus an additional $500 million capital program for school construction
For a complete draft of the governor’s budget address, see the state’s website at www.illinois.gov
This farm news was published in the February 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.