Sep 28, 2011  |  Today's News

Last week, five Illinois agriculture groups jointly announced a more than $28,000 award to University of Illinois joint initiative between the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and the College of Media designed to address the growing need for effective communications in the fast-changing world of agriculture, food, feed, fiber, bio-energy and rural development.

“As the agriculture industry changes, it is important for Illinois commodity groups to be a leading voice for our farmers,” said ISA chairman Matt Hughes.  “We must reach out to new audiences and we need talented communicators who understand agriculture.”

The awards from Illinois Beef Association (IBA), Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB), the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB), Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and Illinois Soybean Associations (ISA) and will be applied towards the university’s $2 million goal for the James F. Evans Endowed Chair in Agricultural Communications.

“The number one priority of the IPPA Board of Directors is to effectively communicate the message about what pork producers do and this will be an important tool in helping to achieve that,” said Mike Haag, IPPA president form Emington, Ill.

“Illinois corn farmers want nonfarmers to understand who we are, what we do and why we do it.  With that priority in mind, it just makes sense that we would invest in educating quality communications professionals with a focus in agriculture to better tell our story,” said Bill Christ, ICMB chairman from Metamora, Ill. 

The university plans to enhance its joint agricultural communications program with a first-of-its-kind endowed chair in agricultural communications to support teaching and research in the field.  The university plans to have at least three teaching positions and include initiatives in consumer and environmental communications. 

“We need to attract the best and the brightest into agricultural communications.  IFB is excited about how the establishment of the Evans Chair will elevate presence for agricultural communications at the University of Illinois,” said IFB president Philip Nelson. 

“We are grateful for the Illinois agriculture associations’ willingness to support this important initiative that will benefit the university’s students in agricultural communications for years to come,” said Robert Hauser, dean of College of ACES.

“The time has never been more ideal for the Illinois Beef Association to support an initiative such as the Evans Endowed Chair for Ag Communications,” says Maralee Johnson, executive vice president of IBA.  “Great young communicators of agriculture and those who are interested specifically in beef are people who we hope this endowment program will benefit.  Jim’s impact on young ag communicators will never be matched, yet the opportunity to continue this and better equip future ag communications students with the tools they need to be successful will now be a reality.”

About the Illinois Beef Association

The IBA strives to serve and promote the many beef producers across Illinois and America.  IBA is dedicated to the advancement of all segments of the beef industry.  IBA promotes education about the entire beef industry from pasture to plate, from grade school students, to the general public.  IBA is a state affiliate of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

About the Illinois Corn Marketing Board

The ICMB is a group of 15 farmers elected from across the state.  The volunteer producer board has the mission to create opportunities for increasing Illinois corn value and utilization.  In order to fulfill their mission the organization administers the state checkoff program, identifies and invests in market development, research and commercialization activities; evaluates the impact each investment generates; cooperates with major commodity organizations on state, national, and international market development efforts; and disseminates timely information.  The ICMB serves the interests of and is accountable to all Illinois corn producers.

About the Illinois Farm Bureau

The IFB is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers.  Founded in 1916, IFB is a nonprofit membership organization controlled by farmers who join through their County Farm Bureau.  IFB has a total membership of more than 426,000 and a voting membership of 83,290.  IFB represents two out of three Illinois farmers. 

About the Illinois Pork Producers Association

The IPPA is an agricultural trade association representing more than 2,900 pork producers throughout Illinois.  IPPA is an affiliate of the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board.  IPPA provides producers with services that enhance profitability and preference for pork.

About the Illinois Soybean Association

The ISA is the statewide organization for Illinois soybean growers.  The farmers on its board administer soybean checkoff funds to support research, promotions and educational programs designed to increase demand for Illinois soybeans and administer legislation and membership programs. 

About the James F. Evans Endowed Chair

The University of Illinois Agricultural Communications Program is a dual program between the College of Media and College of ACES.  In recognition of Jim Evans’ many years of exemplary service and as a driving force behind the development of the Agricultural Communications Program, the endowed chair is being established in his name.  To achieve this goal, $2 million in funds are needed.  To make a gift to the fund, visit