SPRINGFIELD – A Senate committee advanced legislation Thursday to make sweet corn the official state vegetable, but not before giving the sponsor a tough time.
State Sen. Sam McCann, a Republican from Plainview, introduced the proposal after being contacted by fourth-grade students in Chatham.
State Sen. Andy Manar, D- Bunker Hill, was among those razzing McCann.
“I’m curious if the sponsor was aware that Illinois was the No. 1 pumpkin producing state in the country,” Manar said.
McCann said the legislation is for sweet corn because Chatham hosts a sweet corn festival each summer.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Rock Island, was accompanied at committee by his son, Steel.
“Just to give my colleague a little bit of a hard time, my son is in fourth grade. Steel, is corn a vegetable?” Anderson asked.
“No,” Steel replied.
“Is it a grain?” Anderson asked.
“Yes,” Steel replied.
Illinois already has 18 other official symbols, from the state seal, the current one adopted in 1868, to the official state reptile and amphibian, both of those were adopted in 2005. Popcorn is the official state snack food.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the United States plants about 80 million acres of corn each year, with most of it going to livestock feed. Feed corn also is used in the production of ethanol fuel and alcohol.
Corn is the main feed grain in the United States, and only Iowa produces more than Illinois. About 6 percent of Illinois’ corn is sweet corn.
The National Corn Growers Association reported the average American eats about 25 pounds of corn each year.
Chatham will hold its 42nd annual Sweet Corn Festival on July 17 and 18 in Chatham Community Park.
The legislation is Senate Bill 800.