Agriculture took center stage in Illinois this week as part of the recognition of National Agriculture Day. Senator Weaver and members of his local ag advisory committee toured a national ag research facility.
Governor Bruce Rauner announced plans to explore construction of a new veterans’ facility on the Quincy-based campus recently under scrutiny for a Legionnaires Disease outbreak.
In other news, a recent comparison ranked Illinois as having the worst tax burden in the nation, underscoring the need to mitigate the burden on Illinois’ taxpayers.
Meanwhile, March 20 was declared National Agriculture Day in Illinois, celebrating the great agricultural industry in Illinois. March is also Poison Prevention Month, as part of a campaign to educate the public about poisoning prevention.
March 20 declared National Agriculture Day in Illinois
Recognizing the importance of Illinois’ agriculture industry to the economy of this state, Governor Bruce Rauner declared March 20 National Agriculture Day. The day celebrated the 72,200 farms that call Illinois home and the hardworking people throughout in the ag community who continue to make agriculture the number one industry in the state.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmlands span across approximately 75 percent of the state’s total land area, generating more than $19 billion for Illinois’ economy and holding the role as a leading producer of soybeans, corn and swine. Last year, a state-record corn yield was harvested by Illinois farmers, averaging 201 bushels per acre, and farmers produced 10.5 million acres of soybeans.
With farmers gearing up for the start of another planting season, National Agriculture Day is a great reminder for everyone to celebrate Illinois’ rich agriculture industry, recognize the hardworking individuals involved in the agricultural community and remember the critical role the industry plays in Illinois’ economy.
Senator Weaver's Ag Advisory Committee tours ag lab
Illinois houses a national center for agricultural study in Peoria, the USDA's National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. On Thursday, Senator Weaver toured the important facility along with the members of his Agriculture Advisory Committee.
The Peoria lab is the largest of the USDA Agriculture Research Service centers. The facility has made major contributions to agriculture and the sciences since it was set up in 1938, including developing one of the first industrialized production techniques for penicillin. Weaver's committee was able to learn about ongoing research programs housed at the lab, including crop bio-protection, mycotoxin prevention, and bio-oils.
Weaver's advisory committee is made up of ag professionals and leaders from within the 37th Senate District. They meet regularly to discuss issues related to government and agriculture, as well as to advise Senator Weaver on government policy and legislation.
“Agriculture is one of our biggest economic drivers. When farms and ag businesses are doing well, Illinois is doing well,” said Senator Weaver. “I rely on my advisory committee to help me as a Senator to protect and encourage growth in this vital industry.”
Weaver also works with other similar panels that he has assembled, including comittees made up of veterans, education professionals, and students.
Weaver advances apprenticeship legislation aimed at bridging skills gap
Senate Bill 3226, filed by Senator Weaver, creates a registered apprenticeship program to help students learn occupational skills that will give them a head start on their careers. The program, based on standards approved by the United States Department of Labor, would allow all students age 16 years and older to take part. Students would be able to earn credit for their participation by substituting the program experience for high school courses and non-academic graduation requirements.
“Right now there are businesses in Illinois that are unable to fill good-paying jobs because applicants haven’t been given the proper knowledge or skillsets for the particular field,” said Senator Weaver. “This program aims to help eliminate that skills gap, so that we can best prepare our students for successful careers and lives.”
Illinois’ tax burden ranked worst in nation
A recent comparison from the personal financial website WalletHub ranked Illinois as having the worst tax burden in the nation. Claiming a total state and local tax rate median of nearly 15 percent, Illinois falls dead last in the ranking. That figure is more than double of that in Alaska, which has the lowest tax burden of approximately 6 percent.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia were compared using four factors including, real-estate tax, vehicle property tax, income tax and sales and excise tax.
This ranking comes months after Illinois taxpayers were strapped with the largest permanent income tax hike in Illinois’ history, raising the rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent this past July. Senator Weaver voted "no" to the tax increase.
Quincy Veterans’ Home sees movement for new facility
As part of the response to Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Quincy-based Illinois Veterans’ Home, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently announced plans to explore building a new facility on the Quincy campus.
On March 15, the Administration announced it is seeking a Master Planner to research possible development of a new state-of-the-art facility for the Quincy Veterans’ Home residents. This project would incorporate the final recommendations issued by the Infrastructure Task Force, which is to present final suggestions to the General Assembly by May 31.
The Administration said it is also looking to partner with Illinois’ US Senate and Congressional delegation to secure additional funding for the project. As such, the state will submit an application to the US Department of Veterans Affairs for a grant covering up to 65 percent of building costs for the new facility.
The state also announced plans to purchase a vacant nursing home facility close to the Quincy campus and intends to renovate the facility for temporary housing, creating a place to move residents in the event of future Legionella exposure. Similarly, the administration is exploring the use of modular buildings on the grounds, which could serve as temporary house solutions in the event residents need to be moved.
Steps continue to be taken to prevent future exposure to Legionella, including the re-sanitization of the HVAC system on campus, ongoing water testing, the installation of a monitoring system for disinfection levels and the installation of more than 750 new faucets with special micron filters across the campus.
Poison Prevention Month
Each year, more than four million calls are made to poison centers across the nation each year, with more than 80,000 of those calls being placed into the Illinois Poison Center. To help bring awareness to the dangers of poisoning exposure and to educate the public about poisoning prevention, March is National Poison Prevention Month in Illinois.
According to the Illinois Poison Center (IPC), more hospitalizations can be attributed to poisoning than from motor vehicle crashes or firearm injuries combined.
The IPC has a confidential helpline that can be reached at 1-800-222-1222 and can be contacted if you or someone you know is suspected of being exposed to a poisonous substance. The American Red Cross also offers information on poisoning safety and first aid, including the importance of keeping medicines and chemicals secured and reading medication instructions closely.