Kennedy challenges Illinois to cultivate statewide ag plan


            Illinois possesses the keys to assume global leadership in food and agriculture in Chris Kennedy’s view. The chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees shared his vision with state ag leaders last week.

            In a high-energy presentation during the Illinois Food and Agriculture Summit, Kennedy stressed the benefits of industry, government and academia collaboration on a statewide agriculture plan.

            “Illinois should be the reference point for thought leaders around the world,” he said. The Vision for Illinois Agriculture hosted the summit at the U of I Chicago Forum.

            Kennedy illustrated his points with a flurry of hundreds of images, including FarmWeek articles. He drew comparisons to Boston’s economic rebirth through the collaboration of leaders in government, academia and the private sector.

            “Agriculture can’t be seen in isolation. It touches every part of our economy,” Kennedy said.

            Kennedy emphasized the unique role research universities, such as the U of I, play. Researchers produce new knowledge, which leads to new products, which leads to new jobs, he noted. He highlighted the technology and other scientific advances created at the U of I.

            Universities also provide the foundation for “sound science-based government policy,” Kennedy noted.

            Kennedy encouraged agriculture to help consumers better understand modern agriculture technology. “Educate the public about the truth of technology used in agriculture,” he said. “People don’t like what they don’t understand and they don’t understand technology of big agriculture.”

            In summary, Kennedy offered his wish list to develop a statewide strategic plan with broad goals.

            Bring stakeholders together and encourage not-for-profit organizations to fund that effort. Involve government and have the state’s best consulting firms provide services at no cost. The state’s universities need to add their creative talent.

            “There is no place in the world with assets better than ours –- let’s put them together,” he concluded.