was built on the backs of our farmers, and they continue to make
us proud today," Blagojevich 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 that will help them weather the storm until
better harvests ahead."
The Farm Resource Center is taking
specific steps to deal with these problems:
- Provide counseling and referral services for those farm
families affected, including preparing for re-entry to the
work force, dealing with issues related to loss of a farm,
resume writing, interviewing skills, access to child care,
financial planning and budgeting, resource identification,
and job search techniques.
- Provide access to employment and training programs for
farmers who will need a second job to weather the storm.
This will include helping pay tuition costs for training
- Provide small-business development and training services
in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and
Economic Opportunity and Small Business Development Centers.
"Governor Blagojevich and I believe that we need to step up
to the plate to help our farmers through a very difficult time,"
said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. "There is no cure-all for
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
"After this difficult summer for our farmers, Governor
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," said state Sen. John Sullivan,
D-Rushville, chair of the committees on Agriculture and
Conservation. "By partnering with the Farm Resource Center, we
are providing more support to help them make it through the
winter and beyond."
"In times of trouble, we must always rally around those who
feed our state, our country and our world," said state Rep.
Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. "With winter approaching and our
farmers still reeling from the harsh summer, Governor
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."
"This is grass-roots, community-based economic development at
its finest," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.
"Farmers across Illinois have been forced to deal with a number
of devastating blows and greatly need our help. Through Governor
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
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The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will
administer the grant to the Farm Resource Center. The funding will
allow the center to hire four new outreach workers and serve 200
additional farm families this year. Because each outreach worker
covers a five-county area, the grant will enable the organization to
serve families in 20 additional counties. While the program is
currently focused in northern, west-central and southern Illinois,
it will now expand its service area to include Henry, Bureau, Knox,
Stark, Peoria, Putnam, Marshall, Woodford, Livingston, Fulton,
Mason, McLean, Menard, Logan, Tazewell, Williamson, Saline,
Gallatin, Hamilton and White counties.
"A series of ucontrollable environmental factors have combined to
put an especially heavy economic burden on many farmers across
Illinois," said Roger Hannan, executive director of the Farm
Resource Center. "Oftentimes, 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
"Illinois farmers are the unsung heroes of our economy, producing
goods for markets all over the world and feeding us all," said Jack
Lavin, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity. "Governor Blagojevich's economic development strategy
is based in the belief that we can make the greatest impact by
working with grass-roots 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."
This funding is just one in a series of efforts Blagojevich has
made to help farmers suffering from the effects of this year's
drought. In July, the governor activated the Illinois Drought
Response Task Force, and on July 25, he requested federal disaster
assistance for drought-stricken Illinois farmers who sustained
substantial crop losses. As a result of that request, U.S.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns declared nearly
every county in the state a disaster area, making the farmers
eligible for low-interest loans to pay their bills and prepare for
About Opportunity Returns
The Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy
is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs
in Illinois' history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic
development just doesn't work, the governor has divided the state
into 10 regions, each with a regional team that is empowered and
expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.
Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make
each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial
and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills
of the local work force, increasing the access to capital, opening
new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining
jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with
companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of
Illinois reach its economic potential.
[News release from the
University of Illinois College
of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences]