RUSHVILLE, Ill. -- John Sullivan will be director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture under governor-elect J.B. Pritzker's administration.
"For a while I'm sure it will be like drinking from a fire hose" getting up to speed on all that the Department of Agriculture does, Sullivan said.
The announcement was made Thursday morning by the Pritzker transition team.
Sullivan, 59, was state senator for the 47th District from 2003 to January 2017. At one time he was the only active farmer in the Senate. He became chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee and was point person on many farm-related issues during his tenure.
"One of my biggest challenges will be learning about all the Department of Agriculture does," Sullivan said.
Illinois ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities, with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries. The state ranks second in the export of soybeans and feed grains.
Illinois also is a diverse state with cotton grown in the southern part of the state. Dairy production is more prevalent in the northern counties and specialty crops -- such as pumpkins -- make for a wide variety of farm issues.
As a regulatory agency, Sullivan said he'll need to learn about federal as well as state agricultural laws.
Sullivan said the Department of Agriculture has nearly 350 employees, down from a head count of about 600 several years ago.
Sullivan said Raymond Poe, the current director of agriculture, and some former directors have offered to help him get ready for his duties.
The annual salary for the Illinois director of agriculture is listed at $133,300.
In recent months, Sullivan was co-chairman of the Pritzker transition team for agriculture.
Since retiring from the Illinois Senate, Sullivan has worked with Sullivan Auctioneers, the family's auction and real estate business. Now he's working to wrap up some projects before his appointment becomes official in mid-January.
After graduating from Quincy College Sullivan was an agricultural loan officer.
Living on a farm north of Rushville, Sullivan and his wife, Joan, have three sons, one daughter and four grandchildren.