State plan alligns with ongoing U of I research

By Debra Levey Larson
U of I News Bureau

URBANA – The Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois (FARM Illinois), which was recently released, outlines strategic recommendations that will position Illinois as a global leader for innovation in food and agricultural systems. The state will set national and international standards for how food and agriculture systems can improve health, contribute to the economy, create jobs, employ new technologies, preserve the environment, adapt to a changing climate, and help underserved communities. The plan is the first coordinated, system-wide effort to bring together Illinois’s food and agriculture networks with the broader business and civic community in Chicago.

The plan drew expertise from more than 150 stakeholders and experts representing different aspects of food and agriculture systems – from policy to advocacy, research to industry, and production to consumption. Based on the work of the Vision for Illinois Agriculture, bridges were built with influential interests of Illinois’s broader economy to tackle the challenges faced across the entire food and agriculture value chain. The plan, which is available at www.farmillinois.org, includes a rigorous analysis of the region’s strengths and weaknesses.

Robert Easter, president emeritus of the University of Illinois, served as chairman of the FARM Illinois Leadership Council.  He said that the 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.

The new food and agriculture road map presents 23 strategic recommendations in six areas—many of which the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the U of I is uniquely qualified to address, according to Robert Hauser, dean of the College of ACES.

The six areas are: leadership for innovation; business development and entrepreneurship; workforce and education; resource management; infrastructure; and branding and market development.

“The College of ACES must be a principal driver for progress in every one of the strategic areas identified. We prepare not only the next generation of growers, plant pathologists, and weed scientists, but also the leaders of innovation in many food and agriculture-related careers,” Hauser said. “We contribute knowledge to advance globally competitive food systems, based here in Illinois.

ACES graduates and faculty are informing policy changes on the national and international stage, while researching the best use of the state’s natural resources—to protect and manage Illinois’s water, wildlife population, and rich soil. Food insecurity is a major concern in Illinois’s rural communities, urban food deserts, and around the globe. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of a global population projected to reach nine billion or more by 2050 is a high priority for the College of ACES’ research and extension efforts. We are poised to not only address these pressing issues, but to find solutions.”

Hauser also commented on the appropriate agricultural emphasis in both the state and in the College of ACES. “With this state consisting of over 75 percent farmland and the vast resources of Chicago, it makes sense that Illinois is a key player in issues of food and agriculture,” he said, “and it is paramount that our partners in Chicago and the broader Illinois economy come together to help overcome constraints that will be facing future leaders at the local, national, and international levels.”

Hauser closed, “In addition to the research and education capacity at our Urbana-Champaign campus, the College of ACES has research and extension capabilities from northern Illinois to far southern Illinois, finding answers to critical food and agricultural questions and educating the public through University of Illinois Extension.”

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