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Big Shake Up in Illinois Agriculture

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Phil Nelson
Phil Nelson

Both the head of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the director of the Illinois State Fair submitted their resignations Thursday, a month after they announced attendance at the annual event was down by half. Agriculture Director Phil Nelson will remain on the job for a month while Gov. Bruce Rauner looks for a permanent replacement. Nelson is the former president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, and Rauner picked him to lead the agency because of his experience as a fourth-generation farmer.

There was no word about an immediate replacement for fair director Patrick Buchen, who was named by Rauner in May. Buchen formerly worked as the executive director of the Indiana State Fair.

Last month, Buchen’s office released figures for the 11-day State Fair in Springfield clocking attendance at 411,547 — down from 844,649 the year before. He contended past numbers were inflated, pointing to gate and parking revenues that were down just $55,000 from 2014.

Rauner took some heat for holding the state fair despite the ongoing budget impasse, and he made it a point to visit the grounds every day. Rauner’s office would not comment beyond announcing the departures.