By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Sandy Creek Lane sow farm in Marshall County welcomed the community to an Open House on April 26. The farm, which consists of three barns, sits on five acres of land Northwest of Wenona and will be home to 5,600 sows. Once the farm is in full swing, it will provide for 21 full time employees.

This week’s roundup of news bits for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers features info on Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s efforts to secure funding for worn-out locks and dams on the Illinois River. We also have news on last week’s Marshall County sow farm tour, which drew 500 visitors. Also: a popular Midwest fuel retailer will add E15 and E85 pumps to their locations, providing a boost to this state’s corn growers. For more on these and other rural happenings, please read on …

NGFA seeking trade expansion

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With legislators nearly ready to consider appropriations for fiscal year 2018 projects and programs (barring government shutdown, of course), the National Grain and Feed Association is urging the Trump Administration to expand, not restrict, trade opportunities for U.S. farmers and shippers.

“We are focusing both on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific region,” said Bobby Frederick, a Champaign native who serves as director of legislative affairs for NGFA, during a phone call. “The Trump Administration’s announced intention of withdrawing from NAFTA certainly drew the attention of agriculture. We just want to continue to point out that NAFTA, for agriculture, has been a complete bonanza. It’s a four-times force multiplier for U.S. agricultural exports, which have increased four times since NAFTA was enacted.”

NGFA is also supportive of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but Trump has threatened to withdraw from negotiations for TPP as well. “We at NGFA will never stop talking about the importance of trade,” said Frederick, who served as top aide to former Illinois District 17 Rep. Bobby Schilling before working with NGFA. Frederick added that NGFA is optimistic President Trump will receive solid advice on trade from newly-appointed U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Duckworth supports lock and dam rehab

BLOOMINGTON — First-term Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) indicated last week she is fully supportive of investments in the inland waterways system, especially locks and dams on the Illinois and upper Mississippi rivers. Duckworth indicated her support after visiting the Melvin Price lock and dam in Alton, saying that an investment in rehabilitating the decaying facility will spur future economic movement.

“Investing in Illinois’ outdated locks and dams … will help ensure that Illinois companies remain competitive and will make it easier for businesses and farmers to move their products across the nation,” said Duckworth, who defeated Republican Mark Kirk in last November’s elections. Her remarks earned the immediate praise of Justin Durdan, a Utica farmer and president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “The river system in Illinois adds value to the Illinois corn crop. But just as easily as the value can be added, it can be lost if the waterways become unreliable or unusable,” said Durdan, in an ICGA news release.

The topic of America’s crumbling locks and dams– many of which have far exceeded their 50-year life expectancy — has been thrust back into the public eye since President Donald Trump’s announcement he would seek $1 trillion in funding for infrastructure repair, including waterways. “We are hopeful that President Trump will include locks and dams on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers in his administration’s infrastructure plan,” Durdan added.

“Sen. Duckworth’s continued public support of the issue helps raise the visibility and encourages a bipartisan approach, which totally makes sense for something as basic as waterways infrastructure movements.”

Illinois Farm Fact:

Around 17 million pounds of feed will be consumed by hogs per year at Sandy Creek Lane Farm near Wenona, accounting for more than $1 million locally grown corn and soybeans. (IPPA)

500 attend Sandy Creek open house

WENONA — Around 500 people came to view the three-barn, Sandy Creek Lane sow farm open house on five acres of land northwest of Wenona (Marshall County) on April 26. The future home to 5,600 sows and up to 21 full-time employees was hotly contested by environmental groups including a local grassroots group called “Save our Sandy,” whose members cited the risk of accidental manure discharges from barns as reason to prohibit construction of the buildings, among other considerations.

The open house served as an opportunity to showcase the innovative technologies featured within the barns, which increase security and comfort for the pigs. Manure produced by the pigs is collected and controlled under the pig barns in 8-10-foot deep concrete pits, which are reinforced with steel to allow zero discharge. The manure will be tested for nutrient value before being applied to crop fields, utilizing precision ag technology to control application rates and greatly reduce the likelihood of runoff.

Construction of the farm involved around 40 businesses and supplied work for more than 200 people. The farm will contribute more than $2 million to the local economy by supporting other local businesses, providing a market for local commodities, and increasing tax revenue to the county and local school district, according to a news release from the Ill. Pork Producers Association.

Casey’s to expand ethanol pump stations

BLOOMINGTON — A partnership between Casey’s General Stores and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board will result in the addition of E15 and E85 ethanol fueling pumps at multiple retail locations across Illinois, Iowa and Kansas. While exact numbers were not provided in an ICMB news release issued April 26, the expansion of ethanol fueling pumps capable of handling higher blends was met with enthusiasm by Jim Raben, a Ridgway farmer and ICMB chairman.

“We’ve been working for years to get higher ethanol blends available across Illinois and things are really coming together with this opportunity with Casey’s General Stores,” said Raben. “This is a brand that is highly recognizable in rural and more populated areas and will go a long way to enhancing visibility for ethanol choices at the pump.” Along with the Illinois Renewable Fuels Association, the ICMB has also worked to add expanded ethanol fueling options with retailers Qik-n-EZ, Speedway, Thorntons, Citgo, Power Energy Corp. and select FS FastStop stations.