State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) joined several Illinois legislators and county fair officials at the Illinois Capitol on Thursday to showcase the positive economic benefit county fairs bring to the state and urge the Governor to release $1.4 million in funding that was appropriated as part of the current fiscal year budget.
The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAAF) highlighted the results of a University of Illinois Extension Department of Community and Economic Development study, which revealed that county fairs bring $170 million annually to the state’s economy and support 1,000 non-fair related jobs.
County fairs are distinguished from other events in state statute because of their agricultural component, and Reick said the agricultural element of county fairs is an important part of agriculture education for the next generation of farmers. “In addition to the economic benefit of county fairs, I must emphasize the educational aspect,” said Reick. “The agricultural component of county fairs is part and parcel of a comprehensive agriculture education in Illinois. With agriculture being our state’s largest industry, it is necessary for us to continue bringing people into the industry. It is incumbent upon us to provide these students with a proper agriculture education.”
Reick went on to discuss the many benefits of the livestock auctions available at county fairs, saying, “I know in McHenry County, those who participate in FFA and 4-H look forward to the livestock auction every summer. These auctions offer our youth the opportunity to sell their agriculture products, and many use the money they make from their animals to help pay for college.”
The U of I economic study results show that of the $170 million spent in the state annually as a result of county fairs, $90 million is being spent within the actual fairgrounds and the other $80 million is spent in ancillary sales in local communities. “What is important about these numbers is that it shows that county fairs are economic engines in our state, especially in rural areas, many of which are economically disadvantaged and have limited employment opportunities,” said Marvin Perzee of the Iroquois County Fair.
“From a socioeconomic as well as agribusiness perspective, I think it is important to point out that county fairs are the backbone of our agricultural communities in the State of Illinois,” added State Senator Jil Tracey (R-Quincy). “The money the State has appropriated to them is an investment in our agricultural economy and needs to be released.”