Stratton to farmers: 'I stand with you, support you'

By Kay Shipman

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton set her sights on making consumers across the state, nation and world aware of Illinois’ diverse agriculture and farmers Wednesday morning in a video message to the Live Local Conference in East Peoria. However, Stratton delayed launching the Cultivating our Communities campaign for a few weeks.

The lieutenant governor was unable to attend the conference because she felt she needed to be available to lend her full support for the state response to COVID-19 and ensure all Illinoisans are safe, her staff told FarmWeek. Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for COVID-19 on Monday.

Stratton told conference participants that chairing the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council is a favorite duty, and she has been honored to tour farms and learn about agriculture. The lieutenant governor shared a few experiences from learning about dairy farming in Winnebago County to tasting shrimp at Perry County’s Tanglefoot Ranch, to seeing beef cattle technology at Sauk Valley Angus in Whiteside County and pumpkin crops at Shady Knolls in Rock Island County.

“What I’ve learned ... in so many ways is that agriculture connects us all,” Stratton said.

Beyond farm production, the lieutenant governor shared her wonder at the variety of foods and ag products made in the state, some of which she experienced at the recent Illinois Products Expo on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, where she tasted her first cheese curds.

To showcase Illinois agriculture diversity and food producers, Stratton said her campaign will promote the state’s farmers and “raise consumers’ awareness statewide, nationwide and globally of the foods raised, processed and sold in Illinois.” Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Specialty Growers Association support the campaign.

She noted the $420 million initiative to expand broadband access “will open doors for ag and rural business owners to market products on a global scale.”

Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan applauded Stratton for being a “genuine and enthusiastic supporter for agriculture in Illinois ... We are diverse.”

“Illinois Farm Bureau supports all aspects of agriculture,” Duncan continued, and wants “opportunities for one part of our membership ... Local foods is an important segment.”

Stratton thanked the state’s many communities for “making me feel like I was one of their own. I’ve made it a priority to be one of ag’s biggest cheerleaders and promoters in state government.”

Darlene “Dar” Knipe, co-founder of Food MarketMaker, said, “It’s a breath of fresh air to see a lieutenant governor get behind local food and recognize the intersection behind rural broadband and helping farmers. It feels we have a real strong advocate.”

Stratton assured farmers she understands how hard they work and that conditions can be difficult.

“Governor Pritzker and I stand with you, support you and will make sure we do everything we can to make sure you’re successful,” Stratton concluded.

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