A Much Needed Force

Mar 15, 2023  |  Today's News |  Public Outreach

The farmers that power Illinois' economy


Agriculture is a driving force behind Illinois’s economy, with 75 percent of Illinois’ land area being managed by Illinois farmers.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reports in 1900, forty-one percent of America’s workforce was employed in agriculture.


In 2021, 1.3 percent of the population worked directly on a farm.  


“I feel honored,” said Illinois corn farmer Marty Marr of New Berlin, IL. “I get to be a part of a small group of people making a huge impact.”

The state’s economic value begins in corn and soybean fields but reaches far beyond rural communities. One out of every ten dollars generated in Illinois originates from agriculture, impacting every person throughout the state.


The latest agricultural census reported more than $137 billion in Illinois’s economic activity is generated from production agriculture related industries. Additionally, Illinois food and agricultural businesses accounts for more than $356 billion in economic output for the state.

Cook County alone, derives $17.8 million in economic activity from agriculture and connected industries.


“Agricultural powerhouses like Illinois and other Midwestern states have much to offer our country's economy,” Jim Reed, a DeLand farmer said. “The jobs that support the food, fuel, fiber and capital this industry creates cannot go without notice. We are a much-needed economic force.” 


Illinois agriculture is impressive, ranking nationally as the largest producer of soybeans, the second largest producer of corn, and the fourth leading pork producer. Illinois is also home to the third most farmers markets in the United States.


With an industry this large, it is important policies and communications efforts support the best interests of the sector and the people of Illinois. Agribusiness and food marketing is one of six industries Illinois’s Department of Commerce highlights as a key industry it would like to see continue to grow. Illinois’s overall economy has the fifth highest Gross Domestic Product in the United States.


Swanson Family PhotoAgriculture also creates a high demand for employment. One in 17 jobs in Illinois are within agriculture and its associated industries, accounting for over 482,000 positions. Additionally, 1.7 million jobs are supported by Illinois agriculture.


Although the overall population has fewer ties to farming today than in our state’s history, families are still at the core of Illinois’s agricultural production.


A remarkable 96 percent of farmers in Illinois are family-owned.


“The importance of our industry is understated in Illinois and the United States,” said Chris Gould, a farmer in Elburn. “We help drive the economy and bring people together. We grow their food! But we do it quietly sometimes, and we make it too easy to forget about how important our job is.”