The roots of the Illinois Department of Agriculture go back to 1819, when the Illinois Agricultural Association was formed just months after Illinois became a state.
Agriculture is the number one industry in Illinois in terms of economic impact, contributing more than $8.85 billion to the state’s economy annually. About 1.5 million Illinois workers are employed in the food and fiber system, ranking it as one of the top states in dependency on agriculture. The state’s 72,500 farms utilize 75 percent of Illinois land, including some of the most fertile soil in the world. To sustain its vast production, the Illinois Department of Agriculture works to implement a variety of conservation programs that protect the nearly 1,500 types of soil found within the state.
From the types of crops grown to the different conservation practices utilized throughout the state, Illinois agriculture is very diverse. In fact, the state is the largest producer of both horseradishes and pumpkins. Located in the Midwest, Illinois also annually ranks either first or second in the nation in both corn and soybean production, and is the fourth largest pork producer. Generally it is one of the top five states in cash income, crop cash receipts, and total value of farm real estate.
The abundance and variety of agricultural products grown in Illinois make it one of the leading states in terms of the number of food and agricultural companies and helps to make the state a place that international buyers seek out when selecting new suppliers.
In addition to farming, Illinois is a leading state in agricultural related industries, such as soybean processing, meat packing, dairy manufacturing, feed milling, vegetable processing, machinery manufacturing, foreign exports, and service industries.