A new plan shows Illinois and Chicago have the potential to be a regional, national and global hub for food and agriculture innovation and addressing global and local food insecurity by 2025. The Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois (FARM Illinois), released this week, outlines strategic recommendations that will set the national and international standard for how the food and agriculture system can improve health, contribute to the economy, create jobs, employ new technologies, preserve the environment, adapt to a changing climate, and help underserved communities. Lead funding for the initiative was provided by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, in collaboration with the Illinois Farm Bureau and with additional financial support from organizations and businesses around the state.
“FARM Illinois is the first coordinated, system-wide effort to bring together Illinois’ food, agriculture, and business networks,” said Dr. Robert Easter, president emeritus of University of Illinois and chairman of the FARM Illinois Leadership Council. “The FARM Illinois plan lays out a comprehensive set of recommendations that will position Illinois and Chicago as the epicenter of the global, national, regional, and local food and agriculture systems for generations to come.”
Among other recommendations, FARM Illinois calls for the establishment of the Illinois Council for Food and Agriculture to spearhead ongoing strategic development and implementation of FARM Illinois in the future.
Since September 2014, more than 150 stakeholders and experts representing different aspects of the food and agriculture system—from policy to advocacy, research to industry, and production to consumption—contributed to a rigorous analysis of the region’s strengths and weaknesses and developed 23 strategic recommendations in six key areas:
- Leadership for innovation
- Business development and entrepreneurship
- Workforce and education
- Resource management
- Branding and market development
“FARM Illinois leverages the state’s considerable assets in an effort to secure and strengthen its food and agriculture sector for the future,” said Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust and advisor to FARM Illinois. “By making the food and agriculture sector a priority, we will ensure Illinois remains competitive in the global marketplace, nurtures its local and regional food and agriculture systems, and preserves a proud and industrious heritage. Even more important, Illinois can and must play a key role to meet the food and nutrition needs of a global population growing to 9 billion or more by midcentury. The FARM Illinois plan provides the tools to make that happen.”
The food and agriculture system brings together the strengths of the state - 75.8 percent of which is farmland - with the resources of Chicago as a global city to enable Illinois to be a uniquely strong player in the space, from production through consumption. The sector constitutes 1 of every 17 jobs and, according to a report released earlier this year by Decision Innovation Solutions, the sector accounts for nearly 10 percent of the state’s economic output, totaling $120.9 billion in 2012.
“Agriculture is a major driver in Illinois’ economy today and can play an even bigger role in turning the state’s economy around,” said Philip Nelson, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
“Illinois, the United States, and the world face significant challenges, and there are tremendous opportunities for Illinois’ agriculture as global population and incomes rise,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and a member of the FARM Illinois Leadership Council. “FARM Illinois provides a roadmap to strengthen the agriculture and food sector, create jobs, and solidify Illinois’ position in the global agriculture and food marketplace for decades.”
Central to the FARM Illinois plan is the core principle that innovation, entrepreneurship and research will help spur business growth and investment by making Illinois the preferred destination for food and agriculture companies of all sizes.