SPRINGFIELD – Just over three weeks into his new role as acting director for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Jerry Costello has his work cut out for him.
“We live in interesting times but are doing everything we can to make sure the ag economy in the State of Illinois is moving along as it should,” Costello told The Central Illinois Farm Network this week.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, IDOA has extended pesticide licenses which were coming due. The move is expected to help people in a time of uncertainty and when business-as-usual has been difficult to maintain.
“Anything we can do at the Department of Agriculture, to make sure farmers are able to meet the deadlines they have to, we are trying to do.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has deemed agriculture an essential industry for the state’s economy and Costello does not feel COVID-19 will impact agriculture like it will other areas.
“From a planting perspective, I am more concerned about flooding,” Costello admitted.
Following a bad weather year in 2019, growers are starting this season off with a high water table in many parts of Illinois. Due to health concerns surrounding coronavirus, IDOA had to scale down to essential personnel while making sure critical needs are still met.
A number of individuals in the department are working from home while others are still doing their jobs like before such as inspectors.
“We are very conscious of making sure farm-to-fork is something that we are absolutely adhering to and making sure from a supply aspect that the grocery stores are full.”
The state legislature has not met last week or this week as it was supposed to due to the virus scare. State leaders are trying to figure out what this all means for the upcoming spring legislative session and how things may be impacted in Springfield.
Costello grew up spending every other weekend on his grandfather’s farm and said some of his best memories involve agriculture. He currently raises 35 head of cattle. Costello was a state representative for eight years – spending over five years as chairman of the Ag and Conservation Committee and two years as vice-chairman.
“I’ve worked with numerous ag stakeholders over the years and really have a passion for the industry,” he said.