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New Illinois laws empower high school students interested in agricultural careers

Pritzker Ag signing

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois is expanding educational opportunities for students interested in agriculture. Gov. JB Pritzker signed two bills into law during Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair Tuesday.

These laws add agricultural science and ag education as options to fulfill coursework required for admission to state universities. Pritzker says Illinois should support young learners who want to bring their agricultural backgrounds to higher education and into their careers.

Members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) joined teachers and others students to advocate for the change earlier this year. Sen. Doris Turner says the laws highlight the importance of agricultural science across the state. She also feels they can create a great way for high school students to gain interest in agriculture before pursuing college.

"A combination of classroom instruction and applied agricultural experiences outside of the classroom build a foundation for educated consumers and agriculturists," Turner said.

The Springfield Democrat says excluding agricultural studies as an option for science credits for graduation was a disservice for students. Sponsors say students should feel confident and passionate about their career choices when looking into multiple areas of science.

Creating opportunities for young Illinoisans

"It's about creating opportunities, about creating pathways for young people," said Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). "It's about allowing individuals to reimagine the direction that they're going to go."

The laws also allow students to recognize agriculture as a driving force of the Illinois economy. Rep. Lance Yednock says many new students now come from non-farming families. He notes agribusiness and agriscience are much more than traditional farming. The Ottawa Democrat says students could help make future scientific discoveries.

"We need to do everything we can to encourage future leaders to take the next steps to higher education with the focus on an agriscience degree. We also need future leaders, managers, and company owners to have the same opportunities for education as others," said Yednock.

Official State Microbe

Did you know penicillin has ties to Peoria? A new law designates Penicillium Rubens as the official state microbe of Illinois.

The bacteria was founded by Mary Hunt in 1941. Hunt became the unsung hero of penicillin, even though many called her "Moldy Mary."

Her discovery at the Northern Regional Research Library, now known as the Ag Lab, helped save thousands of lives during World War II. Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) brought the actual Penicillium mold to the bill signing ceremony in Springfield.

"The Peoria Penicillium strain is still being used to produce penicillin in this country," Koehler said. "In fact, our strain is used to produce penicillin commercially in Illinois by Baxter Pharmaceuticals in Chicago."

Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) says this designation is a reminder that Illinois is a place for discovery and implementation. He also announced Peoria is launching a comprehensive effort to return biomanufacturing and pharmaceutical mass production to Central Illinois. As a result, Spain says this can help create manufacturing jobs of the future in the Heart of Illinois.

"I am confident that the Peoria Bio-Made initiative will transform economic development in downstate Illinois," Spain said. "It will pave the way to the next great Peoria discovery, just like this one that we're talking about today, that will go on to change the world."

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Mike Miletich

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