Watch now: Q&A with Illinois Department of Agriculture director Jerry Costello II – The Pantagraph


Staff put together for the 2021 Farm Progress Current and starts August Thirty first in Progress Metropolis. 

Illinois Dehalfment of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II was identifyd to his place in February 2020, exactly on the eve of A worldwide pandemic and all Which might Embrace it.

Costello, the son of The earlier Democratic congressman of The identical identify, earlier thanhand served Greater than eight yrs Inside the Illinois House of Representatives and had A quick stint as director of regulation enforcement for the Illinois Dehalfment of Pure Resupplys earlier than Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed him to his present position.

Costello sat down with The Pantagraph for an interview about Illinois agriculture and its place On the earth. This is a transcript of that dialog, flippantly edited for size and readability:

Pantagraph: Your tenure as director started exactly days earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the American financial system and threatened to disrupt every side of life. The ag enterprise wasn’t immune. Almost a yr and a half later, how is Illinois doing?

Jerry Costello II: Tright here was A short-term time interval As a Outcome of of COVID publicity wright here meat processing was in all probability somewright here Inside the 50% ratio. That was A short-term time interval, in all probability Simply a few weeks. However, that was one factor that we as an agency utterly prioritized as We now have our meat and poultry look ation. I really feel (between the state of Illinois and) the Feds, we look at 469 completely different processing crops.

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We labored with native well being dehalfments, we labored with the Illinois Dehalfment of Public Health, we labored with Pretty A pair of the processors, each huge and small. After which we have been in a place additionally to safe some CARES grants for smaller processors, which performed a a lot huger position. 

Illinois Dehalfment of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II greets visitors On the Illinois State Truthful Preview Day in Springfield on Aug. 6. 

Pantagraph: Agriculture is Illinois’ prime enterprise When it Includes financial influence. Give us the overview of the agricultural merchandise that make it so.

JC: We’re No. 1 in soybean manufacturing Inside the nation, No. 2 in corn manufacturing and No. 4 in pork manufacturing. From a specialty crop facet, we’re No. 1 in pumpkin manufacturing in America, we’re No. 1 in horseradish manufacturing. So, tright here’s Pretty A pair of spaces wright here the state of Illinois does just an unimaginin a place job. I might additionally Inform you that McLean County led The complete nation in manufacturing of soybeans And that i think about corn as properly.

Pantagraph: What’s Illinois’ place On the earth In phrases of agriculture and what are some particular advantages that make it A spotlight Inside the U.S.?

JC: Clearly, the soil, particularly In the midst of the state, is second to none in America. I might additionally Inform you one factor That is terribly, terribly important To know is that We now have a river system, We now have a rail system, We now have O’Hare (Airport). So Everytime You are taking A look at imports/exports, The power that We now have right here Inside the Midwest to get crops to export to completely different nations and get them to market Usually exactly is second to none in America.

Pantagraph: You’ve converseed about that commodity prices are up at levels We now Have not seen in nearly a decade. But On The identical time, A lot of the tariffs imposed beneath former President Donald Trump stay in influence. What’s driving these prices?

JC: Clearly what’s driving commodity prices is present and demand. Tright here is Little question That you merely understand the demand in Asia and China has stayed terribly strong. It is Definitely one of many hugest export nations that We now have. Also one factor that occurred this previous yr is Brazil had the second-worst drought they’ve had in about 20 yrs. So as that they Appear to be An monumental soybean-producing nation And that i personally think about and assume Do You’d like to would converse to anyone, That is exactly helped bolster prices for U.S. soybeans.

Pantagraph: The climate seems to play such A huge problem Inside the enterprise, whether or not it’s what’s occurring right here or somewright here like Brazil. 

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JC: Tright here is not a doubt that Everytime You are taking A look at what farmers Bear, they in all probability, of any enterprise, take A few of The Most very important gambles because Mcompletely different Nature is one factor That’s so unpredictin a place. 

We have had a drought in 5 counties in Northern Illinois versus flooding that we’ve had in Southern Illinois. I really feel Do You’d like to Take A look at patterns, Definitely one of many factors that We have seen, particularly as of recently, is that A lot of temperature and climate patterns Appear to be at extremes versus one factor That is been regular By way of the yrs Prior to now.

Pantagraph: Wouldn’t It is fair to say that local climate change is influenceing Illinois farmers proper now? And what do you foresee the influence being Finally?

JC: It is one factor That’s On A daily basis on the agency’s radar. It is truthfully on the radar of anyone who’s in agriculture. From rainfall to extreme warmth, whether or not you’re in an El Nino or La Nina-type pattern, these factors are On A daily basis on the forefront of farmers’ minds, particularly Based mostly on wright here You are Inside the nation. 

Pantagraph: As you said, Illinois has A lot of The proper circumstances for being such a prime agriculture state. Does that change The subsequent few many yrs Counting on how warmth or how moist It’d get?

JC: The one factor that I really feel we do revenue from to A diploma is being Inside The center of the nation versus the coast, wright here factors even Appear to be Barely bit at extra extremes.

Pantagraph: In late May, The Pantagraph did A 3-half collection on nutrient runoff from farms into native waterways. This yr, we noticed key packages acquire full And even elevated funding. However it’s solely devoted for this fiscal yr. A few of that advocated for multi-yr funding commitments To these packages. Is that one factor thOn the AG is advocating for from the state legislature?

JC: The Nutrient Loss Discount Method is one factor That is terribly important to us. It is one factor that we’re working with our halfners very shutly on. If You are taking A look at our cowl crops program, Do You’d like to Return two yrs in the past, it took us 12 days to fill 50,000 acres. And If You’d like To take a Take A look at this yr, it took us just over 12 hours to fill 50,000 acres. And we truly had 186,000 acres that have been utilized for. We primarytain all of these identifys Of mom and father that utilized. We have that in a knowledgebase. Funding For cowl crops this yr has doubled, so, it’s one factor to wright here We anticipate thOn tright here’s The power to make An unrestricted influence. 

The primary yr, I really feel we had about 80 % of candidates for first-time cowl crop clients. This yr, it was about 41 % of candidates. So not solely are you serving to with runoff tright here, but cowl crops Are additionally A critical supply of carbon seize.

Pantagraph: Might we see an enlargement of these cowl crop packages?

JC: The demand Might be very extreme. Like I said, the Pritzker Administration Collectively with The general Meeting doubled the funding For cowl crops this final yr. Tright here’s additionally federal funding That’s being launched. So tright here’s large demand And that i do think about That’s an space wright here We will see progress.

What I exactly like about it is it’s one factor that brings everyone together. It is A very bihalfisan state of affairs to wright here you’ve acquired individuals from an environmental performance and an ag performance working together To make sure that we’re Taking Fantastic care of the land and our water resupplys.

Pantagraph: Let’s short-termly converse hashish and hemp. The dehalfment just problemd 32 preliminary hashish craft develop licenses, 28 infuser licenses and 9 transporter licenses. And hemp has been authorized to develop since 2018. How huge could these merchandise be for Illinois ag? 

JC: If You are taking A look at hashish gross sales Inside the state, They’ve been rising as of recently. It is important To know that That Is usually a extremely regulated enterprise. So, from a progress facet, It is not one factor wright here anyone can just start into it at any Time restrict.

Definitely one of the factors that I do assume is worth talking about is the hemp enterprise. Down the road, I personally think about that hemp has The power to be Definitely one of many prime 5 money crops Inside the state of Illinois. It is such A versatile product. It Might be Utilized in so Many numerous factors that I think about We’ll see Inside the not-so-distant future An exact progress Inside the hemp enterprise.

5 factors To Search out out about new Illinois masks, vaccine guidelines


“Wright hereas face cowlings Aren’t required outsides, maskss are strongly inspired in crowded outside settings like festivals and live shows As properly as to for actions that require shut contact with People who discover themselves not vaccinated,” the governor’s office


All well being care workers, together with workers at Private and non-private nursing homes, should get vaccinated. The vaccine has been out tright here for well being care and nursing home workers since Dec.15.


​Teachers and staff at pre-kindergarten-12 schools As properly as to personnel and students at extremeer education institutions are required to get the vaccine. They Have to get the first dose of a two-dose vaccination collection or a single-dose vaccination by Sept. 5. Second doses of the vaccine Have to be acquired by 30 days after the first dose. The COVID-19 vaccine has been open to teveryers since Jan. 25.

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