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Rural Council to focus on local food and emergency services 

Illinois Farm Bureau
July 15, 2011

A reorganized Governor’s Rural Affairs Council will focus on two of the many issues facing rural Illinois, newly appointed members learned this week.

Locally grown food and emergency medical services surfaced as two issues that will be studied by the council and two new subcommittees, said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who chaired her first council meeting since she was elected to the statewide office.

Illinois Farm Bureau Director Steve Hosselton of Louisville represents IFB on the council.

“I want to make sure the voice of rural Illinois is not lost in the shuffle of government,” Simon told council members who met this week at Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield.

Demands for emergency medical services are straining local budgets and resources in rural Illinois, said Jack Fleeharty, chief of emergency medical systems for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Today we can do (medical) care in the field that was unheard of before, but that brings additional expense and training,” Fleeharty said.

While rural communities usually can raise enough money to buy and even supply an ambulance, those same towns struggle to contribute $200,000 to $500,000 annually to sustain ambulance services, he said.

“We’re on the frontline. We see the patients who do not have enough money to buy food and medicine,” Dottie Miles, director of the Jackson County Ambulance, told FarmWeek. Miles noted diabetic patients have even called for an ambulance crew to check their blood sugar levels.

Fleeharty urged the council to support a state emergency medical service initiative and to help find sources of funding for those services.

Exploring opportunities for local food production also will be high on the council’s agenda. Illinois Agriculture Director Tom Jennings, a council member, said the local food efforts need to include organic, conventional, and genetically engineered crops.
“We can’t be exclusive; all can have access to the marketplace,” Jennings told council members.

Those efforts include projects and initiatives by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), said Tim Lindsey with DCEO. Lindsey also reported on IFB meetings with farmers and produce buyers.