The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released results of its 2017 census of every farm in the country. That includes the 72,651 farms in Illinois, which generated $17 billion in revenue that year, a $3 billion increase from 2012, the last time the once-every-five-years census was conducted.
That report concludes that the agricultural sector is the most lucrative industry in the state.
Acting Agriculture Director John Sullivan points to a variety of factors that contribute to the success: Illinois is the No. 1 producer of soybeans and No. 2 producer of corn in the country, farmers get a high bushel yield per acre, commodity prices have been “decent” and there’s an increase in the amount of livestock.
In addition, the report includes processing that goes on in the state, including turning soy and corn into livestock feed, and growing and processing the livestock in Illinois, as well as keeping production of ethanol in Illinois.
“The census validates what many people have been saying for many years and that is that agriculture is the No. 1 industry in this state,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got the numbers here to justify it – $17 billion of agricultural products in Illinois. That certainly is a number that I hope would get people’s attention and the recognition that I think that agriculture deserves.”
Agriculture is a notoriously difficult industry. Sullivan said he sees Illinois facing the same challenge as everyone else: Urban sprawl that diverts farmland to developments and industrial use. He also notes that some farmers are converting marginal land back to its original state for conservation purposes.
It’s a move he approves of but that would decrease the amount of land available for farming.
There is a potential new opportunity, however. Sullivan and Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced regulations for industrial hemp farming, which could open up a new market for Illinois agriculture.