University News

Agriculture Coalition Investigates Value-Added Agricultural Opportunities for the Region

January 3, 2002

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MACOMB, IL -- For agriculture producers to survive in the 21st century they cannot rely on a ‘business as usual’ approach to farming. They must begin to take a more innovative approach to raising and marketing their products – this includes becoming involved in value-added agricultural initiatives.

One way to do this is to join the efforts of the Southern Seven Agriculture Planning Coalition, said Mary Holmes, manager of the Illinois Value-Added Research Development Center (IVARDC) program for the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University. An objective of the coalition is to identify ways to integrate agriculture into rural economic development opportunities, thus bringing benefits to both individual producers and to the region, she added. An Agricultural Community Action Planning Program will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 24, Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and Feb. 28 at the Johnson County Extension Office in Vienna. Lunch will be provided at no cost to participants.

"This regional effort was initiated as a result of Governor RyanÂ’s Work Force Advantage Program that has targeted this area," Holmes explained. "The purpose of the Workforce Advantage Program is to coordinate the efforts of state agencies to improve the social and economic well being of designated regions and communities throughout the state."

The targeted area in southern Illinois includes the counties of Alexander, Union, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Hardin and Pulaski. Several committees have been formed to investigate and develop potential ideas that might benefit the region. The agriculture committee formed from representatives of these counties is working closely with the IVARDC at Western, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the county farm bureaus, the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, University of Illinois Extension, Southern Illinois University College of Agriculture and the Illinois Council For Food and Agriculture Research (C-FAR) Rural Community Development SRI.

"During the community action program sessions, local agriculture producers and economic development professionals examine trends regarding local agriculture economic development issues," Holmes added. "The objective of these sessions is to build relationships among agriculture producers, agribusiness leaders and economic development professionals to create new economic development through value-added agribusiness opportunities."

With input from participants, the Illinois Value-Added Rural Development Center and University of Illinois Extension intend to examine the regionÂ’s capacities and assets for developing new value added/cooperative enterprises to increase on-farm incomes and bring economic development to the region; and define the mission and scope of work for the next three to five years.

For more information regarding the sessions contact Mary Holmes at 800-526-9943 or John Pike at 618-453-5563. Information about the Illinois Value-Added Rural Development Center and its programs is also available at

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing