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Congress returned from its month-long recess this week, and members immediately entered into a contentious debate over the Iran nuclear agreement. The next few weeks will be a whirlwind on Capitol Hill as Congress needs to pass a budget deal before the end of the fiscal year, which falls on September 30. 

Back in Illinois, the University of Illinois has been engaging federal officials both on and off its campuses, including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of the Illinois Congressional delegation.

Photo via Associated Press 

In yesterday's special election, Darin LaHood, Republican state senator and son of former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, beat Democrat opponent Rob Mellon in securing the seat for Illinois' 18th Congressional District. Previously represented by Aaron Schock, the 18th district spans 19 counties across central and western Illinois.

LaHood is expected to be officially sworn in next week.

USDA Secretary Vilsack Visits Urbana

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, spent a full day at Urbana yesterday. While on campus, he toured sites like the 320-acre Energy Farm, met with students and faculty, and announced state finalists—including Illinois—for funding under USDA's Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership.

However, the centerpiece of the Secretary's visit involved delivering a lecture on the role of public research universities in addressing international food security. The lecture was sponsored by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI). Roughly 400 people attended, including Congressional staff. Alex Winter-Nelson, Director of ACES Office of International Programs, kicked off the program with welcoming remarks and ACES Dean Robert Hauser introduced Secretary Vilsack. During his speech, Secretary Vilsack commended Urbana for its efforts to build better systems for global food security, as well as its research strenghts in irrigation, soy, and dairy cattle.

Before departing campus, Secretary Vilsack sat down to meet with UI President Tim Killeen, UI Board of Trustees Chairman Edward McMillan, and Urbana Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson.

Bustos Visits the University's Regional Campus in Rockford

Rep. Cheri Bustos stopped by the University of Illinois' Rockford regional campus last week. During her visit, she toured the campus' medical facilities and met with students and leadership from its colleges of medicine, pharmacy, and nursing to learn more about the colleges and their initiatives in health sciences.


In addition to representatives from UI Extension and Urbana's Prairie Research Institute, UI President Tim Killeen and ACES Dean Bob Hauser recently attended an agriculture policy forum hosted by Rep. Rodney Davis, Rep. Mike Bost, and Rep. John Shimkus. Staff from the House Agriculture Committee also participated in the forum, which provided a platform to discuss agriculture, energy, and other issues impacting rural America.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was successful in its Phase 1 large scale pilot application to the Department of Energy (DOE) to retrofit UI's Abbott Power Plant for carbon capture. The DOE-NETL grant is in the amount of $1 million. Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk, Rep. Rodney Davis, and Rep. John Shimkus signed support letters on behalf of the proposal. Congrats to Urbana's Prairie Research Institute, who led the proposal!


Thank you,

Melissa Haas | Acting Director | OGR Federal Relations