“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.” Written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington, this quote is as relevant today as it was in the 1700s. Agriculture and all of its related industries are hugely important to the economic health of Tazewell County.
According to the most recent available data, there are nearly 1,000 farms in Tazewell County covering more than 329,000 acres. In 2013 alone, 155,500 acres of corn were harvested, yielding 27.5 million bushels, and nearly 110,000 acres of soybeans were harvested, producing almost 5.9 million bushels. Now, assuming corn is selling for $4.80 per bushel and soybeans are bringing $14.70 per bushel, the 2013 harvest in Tazewell County will generate approximately $220 million in income.
These dollars are then reinvested into the local economy, buying fertilizer, seed and farm equipment, as well as services from grain elevators and trucking and barge companies. In addition, local grocery stores, car dealers and many retail outlets benefit from the local farm economy.
But our county’s agriculture industry produces more than just corn and soybeans; significant acres of farmland are used in the production of specialty crops as well. Green beans and sweet corn are grown here and sent to canning factories throughout the Midwest. The Village of Morton is the “pumpkin capital of the world,” packing over 80 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin. Enough pumpkin is processed each season to make more than 90 million pumpkin pies.
When you think of pumpkin pie, you also think of Thanksgiving and the turkey we consume. Our county is home to at least three significant turkey farms. Livestock, including cattle, hogs and dairy cows, are another key component to our farm economy.
Tazewell County is also home to Precision Planting, recently acquired by Monsanto Company, which elected to invest an additional $25 million in a new warehouse in Morton and a research and development facility near Tremont. The jobs created and retained by this high-tech agribusiness enterprise pay well above the median wage in central Illinois and help farmers worldwide to be much more efficient in their operations.
The ethanol industry is another major employer, based primarily in Pekin. This agriculture-related industry supports many employees, along with farmers and the transportation industry (trucking, rail services and barge traffic).
Agriculture is very important to the Tazewell County economy; it is therefore important to protect it against things that could weaken it. Commodity prices can fluctuate dramatically, and the federal government is increasingly trying to overregulate farming (EPA, OSHA, etc.) Negative forces against agriculture can have negative impacts for all county residents.
Thomas Jefferson was right when he wrote of the many virtues of a strong agriculture base. We are all proud of the farming community in Tazewell County and committed to putting policies in place to protect and strengthen all of our farm-related programs. iBi