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Reflections: Illinois Director of Agriculture Raymond PoeReflections: Illinois Director of Agriculture Raymond Poe

IDOA Director Poe looks back on 175 years of agricultural history, and how the Department of Agriculture and Prairie Farmer played into it all.

October 31, 2016

3 Min Read

In 1841, the first practical grain drill was patented, land-buying rights were expanded, thousands of miles of railroad track were being laid, and U.S. agricultural export totals were about $90 million a year. That same year, Prairie Farmer was born.

Our forefathers might not recognize the sophisticated farm machinery and production techniques used today, but the raw ingredients remain the same. It is because of these advancements that almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, including the fuel we put in our cars, is provided by agriculture. It was true then, and it is true today: Illinois is an agricultural state.


At the Illinois Department of Agriculture, our mission is to be an advocate for Illinois’ agricultural industry and provide the necessary regulatory functions to benefit consumers, the agricultural industry and our natural resources. We also strive to promote agribusiness in Illinois and across the globe.

Illinois ranks among the top five in the nation for the number of jobs supported by exports. Illinois ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities, with $9.3 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries in 2014, according to statistics from USDA.

The foundation of this industry is the farmer, but the impact of agriculture stretches beyond our rural fields. Illinois is home to more than 2,640 food manufacturing companies, making us an industry leader in processed food sales with over $180 billion annually. As you can see from these statistics, Illinois agriculture is crucial to who we are and what we do in every corner of the state.


The next generation of Illinois agriculture will inherit a multibillion-dollar industry, and the crown jewel of our state’s economy. Here at the Department of Agriculture, we hope to grow this industry, and continue on a path that will make Illinois agriculture something we can be proud of for generations to come. To do that, we must invest in the next generation. From veterinary pathologists to local farmers, Illinois agriculture will have many open workforce opportunities. An aging workforce will soon retire, and those years of experience will leave a void in our industry. Investing in job training today will help preserve our state’s No. 1 industry for generations to come.

Just as Illinois agriculture has become more efficient and productive, so will the Illinois Department of Agriculture. With a renewed focus on reducing overly burdensome regulations to modernizing applications and licenses renewals, we are working toward big changes in this mostly regulatory agency. When these changes are complete, we hope to share the news with Prairie Farmer readers.

Congratulations to Prairie Farmer on 175 years of educating and informing the farmers, ranchers and producers in our state. Here’s to another great 175 years.

Poe is director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

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