By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Nic Anderson of the ILDG (left) assists as the Clark family (from left) Dianne Trimble, Carl’s sister, Jody Clark, sons Caleb and Lucas, and Carl Clark, cuts the ribbon symbolizing the opening of their two new hog barns.

This week: Despite legislation introduced in the Illinois State Senate that would tighten regulations for large swine operations, the state’s livestock industry took another step forward in its expansion last week with an open house for two new pig barns in Rossville. In addition, USDA-NASS has begun issuing its weekly crop progress reports; we’ll look at the latest planting conditions. We also have info on a free water quality testing program for farmers.

New CAFO laws coming to Illinois?

PEORIA — State Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria) introduced a legislative package that would tighten existing rules for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA) in late March. While the Illinois Senate Democrat legislative website cites Koehler’s measures as Senate bills 1272 and 1273, the Associated Press reported last week that as many as four separate measures involving CAFO reform measures had been introduced, at least two of which are sponsored by the 46th District senator.

The bills are modeled after current laws in other states, including Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, according to Koehler. Specifically, the suite of legislation calls for all CAFOs to register with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and seeks to close a “loophole” in state law that allows the expansion of existing operations without seeking a legal permit. A separate bill would require facilities to file pre-construction waste management plans and publicly disclose the plans at a public hearing if requested by local residents and county boards.

A final bill would give neighbors of proposed operations the right to challenge the approvals issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the AP reported. Koehler’s office was contacted on Monday, April 3 by this reporter, who requested a copy of the legislation and comment from the senator. There was no response by press time to a request for a copy of the legislation or a comment from the senator.

New hog barns celebrated in Vermilion County

ROSSVILLE — Meanwhile, the Illinois Livestock Development Group (ILDG) and Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) hosted an open-house celebration for two new hog barns with 250 guests at the Carl and Jody Clark farm near Rossville, as planned. The third-generation farmers opened up their two new 41,000-head wean to finish hog barns on April 6 to allow neighbors and the public an opportunity to tour the operation, which they say will allow them and their two young boys to remain on the family farm.

“My father gave me the opportunity to come back and farm with him, and then passed it on to me. I want to give my sons the same chance and keep our farm going for generations to come,” Carl Clark said. Local tax revenues to Vermilion County generated by the barns are estimated at more than $20,000 per year in new money, with a sizable percentage going to the Rossville/Alvin school district, according to the ILDG.

Guests of the open house were served pork chop sandwiches for lunch. (IPPA news)

Free, confidential water testing offered

BLOOMINGTON — Farmers can have their water sources tested for nitrate presence and remain anonymous under a program offered by Illinois Corn and administered through the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). The NLRS is a strategy designed to encourage farmers to engage best management practices and make changes to fit their family farm that reduce nutrient losses. The free program is being offered continuously at dozens of county farm bureau and soul and water conservation offices throughout the state, and will continue throughout the summer at some locations.

Some locations will offer water testing only on certain days or by reservation. Contact Carolyn Wade, Illinois Corn, at (309) 231-7440, for more information, or contact your county farm bureau or SWCD office to see if they are participating. A listing of participating offices, dates and times for testing is currently accessible through the Illinois Corn website at www.ilcorn.org.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Illinois has roughly 50 different varieties of peaches. (Ill. Ag in the Classroom)

Report shows soil moisture holding steady

SPRINGFIELD — Much needed rain fell throughout the state during the week ending April 2, according to the April 3 Illinois Crop Progress and Condition Report issued by the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Heartland Office. The report rated topsoil moisture at 72 percent adequate and 17 percent surplus, and subsoil moisture at 73 percent adequate and 9 percent surplus. Slight moisture deficiencies were reported in west-southwest Illinois (22 percent short, 5 percent very short) and southwest Illinois (20 percent short, 2 percent very short).

Crop progress estimates for corn and soybeans are not yet being issued by NASS. Winter wheat condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 28 percent fair, 54 percent good and 11 percent excellent. Pastureland was rated 4 percent poor, 34 percent fair, 48 percent good and 14 percent excellent. Soil temperatures were estimated at below 50 degrees in most of Illinois, with the exception of far southern Illinois, where soil temperatures reached as high as 50.5 degrees in some areas. Planting is just around the corner!

Wild temps, snow and rain defined March

URBANA — Wildly fluctuating temperatures and “lots of snow and rain” marked the month of March, observed Jim Angel, Illinois State Climatologist, in his weekly weather blog from his office in the Illinois Water Survey building. “The warmest daily report was Belleville with 86 degrees on March 21. Chicago Midway reported a high of 82 degrees on March 24,” Angel reported. “Meanwhile, the coldest temperatures of the month were experienced in the northwest corner of the state, including Altona and Illinois City with a low of 6 degrees on March 25.”

The statewide average temperature for March was 42.3 degrees, one degree above normal. March precipitation for the state was 3.62 inches, 0.66 inches above normal. Parts of Illinois also saw a fair share of snow during the month, helping the water table and soil moisture levels to remain consistent (see prior news item) and helping ensure optimal soil moisture conditions for spring planting across most of the state.