October 16, 2012
By Rich Miller
Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will present a strategic plan Wednesday to the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council during its quarterly meeting. The Vision for Rural Illinois strategic plan contains a series of recommendations to improve state services for rural residents and builds on the Council’s work to strengthen the local food system in Illinois.
“We have taken a comprehensive look at the priorities of rural residents in our state and are outlining ways to better ensure that all Illinoisans have access to services, regardless of geographic location,” said Simon, chairwoman of the Rural Affairs Council. “Moving forward, we have identified key issues that must be addressed to promote a higher quality of life for our rural residents.”
The strategic plan was compiled and developed by Simon’s office and the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs using surveys to rural residents and stakeholders along with a series of rural listening posts hosted by Simon. The plan recommends that strategies be developed to enhance access to services in rural areas, empower rural Illinois for the future and strengthen access to rural emergency medical services. The strategies could include ensuring a greater emphasis is placed on determining impact to rural areas that new laws and regulations will have and working with the Illinois House EMS Task Force to make legislative recommendations that will ensure rural residents have access to necessary emergency medical services.
The Vision for Rural Illinois builds on the Council’s reputation as an advocacy group for local food systems. In the past two years, the Council has advocated for a new law that removes barriers to food entrepreneurship, such as the requirement that vendors can only sell foods made in commercial kitchens.
In addition, two Council member agencies joined to launch the Illinois EBT Wireless Project. The program will provide $1,200 grants to farmers’ markets across Illinois to purchase wireless electronic benefits transfer machines that accept Link, debit and credit cards. The project is jointly administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Human Services with assistance from Simon’s office.