For Immediate Release
March 18, 2008

ISBE and Department of Agriculture team up to celebrate state’s largest employer – agriculture

Agriculture Week – March 16 – 22
Highlights importance of agriculture and agriculture education

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture are joining students, farmers, producers and agricultural associations from across the state in celebrating the importance of agriculture and agriculture education in Illinois during National Agriculture Week, March 16 – 22. National Agriculture Day falls on Thursday, March 20, the first day of spring.

“Our cities and towns may seem far removed from the farm fields of rural Illinois, but the fact is agriculture affects us all,” acting Agriculture Director Tom Jennings said. “The abundant crops grown on our farms fill grocery store shelves and provide us a safe and inexpensive food supply. They also help make a variety of industrial products that we use every day – everything from diapers to motor fuel. Farming itself is the foundation of a diverse industry that employs about one of every four Illinoisans, and not just in rural areas. Illinois is home to 15-hundred food companies, many of which are located near Chicago. I encourage you to take a moment this week and reflect upon the importance of agriculture to our state and our daily lives.”

Celebrated by the Agriculture Council of America, National Agriculture Day and Week highlights American agriculture and draws attention to the work of agricultural professionals in a variety of fields. It also focuses on educating students about the numerous career opportunities available in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industry.

“Today, more and more students are being exposed to numerous career possibilities within the agriculture industry. Small animal labs, greenhouses, nurseries and agri-science labs are just some of the areas of study available to our high school students,” said Christopher A. Koch, State Superintendent of Education. “These learning environments reinforce and allow students to apply what they learn in science, math, language arts and social sciences to real world situations.”

Only a small percentage of those people working in the agricultural industry are involved in production agriculture, the rest work in agribusiness, communications, science, government, education, processing and distribution, marketing and sales, as well as other occupations that serve the farmer or the total agricultural industry. Major areas of instruction in secondary agricultural education include: Agricultural Business, Agricultural Mechanics & Technology, Horticulture, Agricultural Sciences and Environmental/Natural Sciences.

The Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ILCAE) reports that less than 2 percent of the United States population is directly involved in the production of food, yet 25 percent of the civilian workforce in Illinois is employed in agriculture related careers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 48,000 jobs are available each year in agriculture and more than300 agricultural careers are available globally.

Illinois agriculture education and agriculture facts: