Outside of Chicago, Illinois has a long stretch of agricultural and as people drive into the state, from any direction, the most farm land to be seen will either be corn or soybeans.
But there's more to farming in Illinois that just these two products — yes, they may be the larger percentage, but farmers are making other revenues, not just from corn and soybeans.
Illinois is first in the nation for pumpkin and horseradish production, second in corn and soybean production and fourth in hog production, according to statistics provided by the University of Illinois Extension office.
In addition to leading the nation in certain items like pumpkins, Illinois farmers are also lead producers of cattle, wheat, oats, sorghum, hay, sheep, poultry, fruits and vegetables — partly because of the state's climate and varied soil types enable Illinois also produces several specialty crops, such as buckwheat, horseradish, ostriches, fish and Christmas trees, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
How does agriculture benefit the state?
With 2,640 food manufacturing companies, Illinois is equipped to turn the state's crops and livestock into food and industrial products. The state ranks first in the nation with $180 billion in processed food sales. Most of these companies are located in the Chicago metropolitan area, which contains one of the largest concentrations of food-related businesses in the world.
Illinois' agricultural commodities also provide the base for such products as animal feed, ink, paint, adhesives, clothing, soap, wax, cosmetics, medicines, furniture, paper and lumber.
Each year, 274 million bushels of Illinois corn are used to produce more ethanol than any other state — about 678 million gallons. Illinois also markets other renewable fuels, including soybean-based biodiesel.
Illinois doesn't just feed back into Illinois, according to the agriculture department, Illinois ranks third in the nation in the export of agricultural commodities with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries.
Exports from Illinois account for 6% of all U.S. agricultural exports and Illinois is the nation's second leading exporter of both soybeans, feed grains and related products.
About 44% of grain produced in Illinois is sold for export.
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