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U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Secretary visits Joliet

Vilsack praises grain facility for its key role in trade imbalance solution

3/30/2014, 9:11 p.m.
It’s not too often that a member of a sitting U.S. president’s cabinet visits Joliet. That’s just what happened Friday ...
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at a press conference Friday at DeLong, an agriculture loading facility at CenterPoint in Joliet. Photo by Rex Robinson

It’s not too often that a member of a sitting U.S. president’s cabinet visits Joliet.

That’s just what happened Friday morning when U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the DeLong Agriculture loading facility at CenterPoint Intermodal in Joliet.

The company exports refined grain to Pacific Rim countries. For many years, China, for example, was shipping all kinds of products to the U.S. and those canisters were then going back empty.

DeLong is playing a major role in changing that trade imbalance by sending containers filled with that refined grain back to China, according to Brandon Bickham, grain division export sales manager for DeLong.

Joining Vilsack for a press conference at the DeLong facility were Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Robert Flider, Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., Will County Board Speaker Herb Brooks (D-Joliet), Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante, state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., (D-Elwood), Will County Center for Economic Development President and CEO John Greuling, area farmers and agricultural leaders and other officials.

Agriculture is big business for Illinois and that, according to Filder, is by design and has been part of an ongoing effort by Gov. Pat Quinn.

“We are one of the top food processing states in the nation,” Filder said, adding that Illinois is the sixth in the nation for exporting agricultural products, including a particular high protein food additive that is in high demand by a variety of countries throughout the world.

Foster, in introducing Vilsack, talked briefly about the key role the secretary played in the creation of a new farm bill that was recently passed.

Vilsack commended Foster in working to get the farm bill passed. He said he is excited about implementing the new legislation.

“I know folks in farm country and rural America are excited about it and frankly all of America should be excited about it, because it is a bill that impacts and affects the lives of every single American, every single day,” Vilsack said.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Visits Joliet

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Joliet to discuss implementation of the new farm bill and the role companies like DeLong at CenterPoint are playing in the larger global agricultural picture.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Joliet to discuss implementation of the new farm bill and the role companies like DeLong at CenterPoint are playing in the larger global agricultural picture.

Agriculture and food processing is 5 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product. One out of every 12 jobs is connected in some way, shape or form to agriculture and food processing, according to Vilsack.

The last five years have been the best in agricultural exports in the history of the country and that’s due to facilities such as DeLong, Vilsack said.

“Because they have grown and increased to record levels, we now support nearly a million jobs,” he said.

The goal with the new farm bill, he added, is to expand trade promotion into other areas of agriculture including biofuel which could also help to improve the environment and cut down on pollution in other countries.

America, he said, is fortunate because it is “food secure.”

“We rely really on no other country for our food,” Vilsack said. “Hardly anybody in the world can say that, but we in the United States can.”

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secy. Tom Vilsack Joliet Press Conference/John Greuling

Will County Center for Economic Development President and CEO John Greuling discusses the significance of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visiting Joliet on March 28.

Will County Center for Economic Development President and CEO John Greuling discusses the significance of U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visiting Joliet on March 28.

Greuling said Vilsack’s visit to CenterPoint, right in the heartland of logistics and agri-business, is “very significant.”

“He understands what we are trying to accomplish here,” Greuling said.