By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Illinois State FFA (from left) reporter Zach Becker, state president J.C. Campbell and state treasurer Cody Suddeth man the Illinois State FFA info booth during the Illinois Pork Expo on Feb. 1 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield. (Tim Alexander photo)

We bring you a very pork-centric roundup of ag news this week, with reports from the Illinois Pork Expo in Springfield and the month’s-end agricultural price report. In addition, we have the latest weather news from USDA-NASS and the Illinois State Climatologist office.

Illinois Pork Expo makes powerful statement

SPRINGFIELD — “The Power of Us” was the theme of the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo, held Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield and sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA). Hundreds of Illinois producers turned out for educational seminars, market updates, a youth showpig seminar, trade show, and legislative meet and greet.

The yearly gathering, held in Peoria for more than 30 years before moving to Springfield last year, also serves as the site of the IPPA annual meeting, with new officers elected and board members seated, and an awards luncheon. It was then that Jason Propst, a rural Cumberland County farmer and father of two youngsters, took over as IPPA president for 2017. Propst is a production manager for TLS Farmer Network, where he manages its wean to finish pig flow, and as a swine enterprise specialist for FS Total Livestock Services.

“Being president of IPPA provides me the opportunity to give back to the industry that has provided me with a career and opportunities for me to grow as a person,” said Propst, whose wife, Jen, is a teacher with the Eastern Illinois Special Education cooperative. “During my year as president I would like to reenergize our current members after the downturn in markets and increase membership by showing producers how IPPA can benefit them. Also, we need to continue to educate pork producers on market opportunities and work with our processing and retail partners to get product moving.”

Other 2017 IPPA officers elected for duty include Mike Haag of Emington as president-elect, Pam Janssen of Minonk as vice-president/treasurer and Dan Weitekamp of Raymond as secretary. Three new board members were also seated: Darren Sims of Adams County as District 6 director, Chad Leman of Woodford County as an at-large director, and Alan Hays of Christian County as allied industry representative. 

The Curt Zehr family of Washington, in Tazewell County, was honored as IPPA Family of the Year. After bouncing back from the November 2013 tornado that demolished their farmhouse and outbuildings, Zehr rebuilt his business, served as 2015 IPPA president and has done an outstanding job of promoting the pork industry and exemplifying leadership.

In addition, Eileen Urish, the daughter of Tim and Deborah Urish of Kilbourne, was named the 2017 IPPA Pork Ambassador and will work alongside the IPPA staff as the official youth representative for the association. Congratulations to all!

Contract growing opportunities increasing

SPRINGFIELD — A timely topic for presentations at the 2017 Illinois Pork Expo last week was direct contract growing of pigs for delivery to packing houses. Nic Anderson, project manager for the Illinois Livestock Development Group (ILDG), devoted the entire morning of Feb. 1 to that topic, bringing together a dozen industry experts to talk about opportunities for contract growers, lending requirements for contract production, and other facets of direct-to-market growing. Opportunities for contractual growing in Illinois exist through potential pork production partners such as Belstra Milling, Biddle Farms, Borgic Pork Partners, The Equity, JBS Live Pork, Keller Grain and Livestock, The Maschhoffs, Professional Swine Management and Tri-Oak Foods, producers learned by attending.
Anderson spent a portion of 2016 organizing seven open houses with families building new hog barns across the state, giving friends, neighbors and others an opportunity to walk through the barns and learn about the industry. The next ILDG-hosted open house is this Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Justin and Whitney McKeown farm in LaHarpe. The Western Illinois Pork Producers will provide a free pork chop sandwich lunch for those touring the family’s new, 2,500 head wean to finish barn in Hancock County between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Illinois Farm Fact:

The Pork Power: Partnering to Fight Hunger in Illinois campaign donated over 65,000 pounds of ground pork to Illinois food banks in 2016. (Ill. Pork Producers Assoc.)

Ag prices report looking up

SPRINGFIELD — Visitors to the Illinois Pork Expo learned from the Jan. 31 USDA-NASS Illinois Agricultural Prices report that hog prices rose more than $4/cwt in December 2016 over the previous month, from $39 to $43.10, and inched above the price paid for hogs in December 2015, which was $42.80. But the market price is still soft, making it a challenge for most producers to break even or profit after input costs.

Part of the reason pork production is remaining attractive is depressed grain prices. The price received for corn in Illinois in December 2016 was $3.47 per bushel, up 15 cents from November but down substantially from the $3.79 received in December 2015. Illinois soybeans rallied to fetch $9.96/bu., up 20 cents from the previous month and 97 cents from the $8.99 paid in December 2015.

Overall, the December Prices Received Index increased 5.7 percent from November 2016, the Crop Production Index increased 1.4 percent and the Livestock Production Index increased 9.4 percent, according to USDA-NASS.

Warm weather pattern to continue

URBANA — Illinoisans experienced a relatively warm and snowless January, with the statewide average temperature of 31.4 degrees coming in 5 degrees above normal and the 14th warmest January on record, according to Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist with the Illinois Water Survey. Interestingly, the January 30 USDA Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report states that the 31.4 degree average was 6.7 degrees above normal. Precipitation averaged either 2.16 or 2.15 inches, depending on the respective report, which was either 0.09 inches or 0.37 inches above normal.

No matter the nature of the discrepancy, the statewide temperature was above average and snowfall was below normal. The warm pattern is set to continue through February, Angel said Feb. 1, with an increased chance of above normal temps and rainfall.