R.F.D. News & Views, February 11

by Tim Alexander

ICGA Laments Lack of Water Resources Funding

BLOOMINGTON – President Obama’s recently announced budget proposal proves he’s not as focused on waterways infrastructure investments as he previously indicated, according to Illinois Corn and the Waterways Council Inc.

“Given recent austere budget proposals for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is not surprising that the Administration has slashed FY ‘16 transportation infrastructure funding, but it is nonetheless disappointing to see so little appropriations funding requested for lock and dam modernization in a Presidential budget portrayed as focused on infrastructure investment,” said Michael J. Toohey, Waterways Council CEO, in a Feb. 3 news release. “In fact, a new National Waterways Foundation study indicates that if 21 priority navigation projects on our inland waterways could be completed at an estimated cost of just $5.8 billion, the 20-year sum of related economic output activity would exceed $82 billion that would benefit our nation’s overall economy.”
In an Ill. Corn Daily Update to members, special projects coordinator Lindsay Mitchell noted that Obama’s proposal of $4.732 billion for the Corps’ Civil Works program is 13.25 percent below Congress’ 2015 appropriation. Other key funding allotments for Corps operations have also been slashed under the proposal, along with cuts to specific lock and dam projects and the nation’s Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Pork Producers to Move Annual Conference
PEORIA – The Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) will move their annual Ill. Pork Expo to Springfield in 2016 after 44 years in the Peoria area, IPPA announced during the 2015 expo, which was held last week in Peoria and East Peoria.

“This is a big change for the association. Since the pork industry continues to evolve and adapt, we feel we have to do the same for Pork Expo,” said Curt Zehr, new IPPA president and a pork producer from Washington in Tazewell County. Zehr added that the move was not based on dissatisfaction with Peoria-area venues or hospitality, but in order to better demonstrate to legislators the $1.8 billion economic impact of the state’s pork industry.

The proposed change to the expo was discussed with producers and allied industry members, and was presented at seven IPPA roundtable meetings last fall, according to an IPPA news release announcing the change. The move will allow the IPPA to combine their Ill. Pork Expo with their IPPA Legislative Day with the intention to draw more people to both. The 2016 Ill. Pork Expo will be held Feb. 16-17 at Springfield’s Prairie Capital Convention Center.

IPPA: Kaitschuk Appointment Will Help State
EAST PEORIA – As previously reported in this column, Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), has accepted the position of legislative director for new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. The position became effective January 26. Tim Maiers, IPPA public and media relations director, was appointed as IPPA interim executive director following Kaitschuk’s move.

“We hate to lose Jim. He’s been a great asset to the pork industry and ag in general,” Maiers said during an interview prior to the Ill. Pork Expo, held Feb. 3-4 in Peoria and East Peoria. “But I think that in his new position he can be of help to agriculture. He’s in a key position to help Illinois, overall, as a state.”

As IPPA executive director, Kaitschuk was hailed for his keen understanding of legislative and regulatory issues and his ability to bring diverse groups and individuals together to further pork’s interests. Conducting regulatory negotiations with state agencies and helping pork producers find expert advice about legal and technical matters were two of Kaitschuk’s passions during his tenure with the IPPA, according to Maiers.

“Jim has a very strong legislative and regulatory background and has worked with folks on both sides of the aisle. He can help (Rauner) work with the Illinois General Assembly to accomplish some of the things he has indicated he wants to do, and help end the political gridlock in the assembly,” Maiers said. “I’m excited for Jim and I know he’s looking forward to this new challenge.”
During the expo’s annual awards banquet, IPPA past president Todd Dail said pork producers had “lost a great leader, but thankfully Tim has stepped up to help guide us through this time.” The IPPA board has formed a search committee and has published a job description on the IPPA website (www.ilpork.com).

ISA Launches B20 Club With Peoria CityLink, Others
BLOOMINGTON – Encouraging and recognizing public transit fleets operating on blends of B20 biodiesel in Illinois is the mission of the B20 club, created by the Ill. Soybean Association (ISA) and the American Lung Assoc. of Ill. Six inaugural B20 Club members– including Peoria CityLink, G&D Integrated of central Illinois, Evanston’s Public Works Dept. and others– met January 20 during the National Biodiesel Conference in Fort Worth, Texas to map the organization’s future.

More than 2.2 million gallons of B20 is used in more than 2,700 vehicles managed by the six charter members, translating into an estimated annual reduction in CO2 emissions of more than 253 tons– the equivalent of taking 48 cars off the highways.
“B20 offers economic and environmental benefits to the fleets that use it, so we wanted to bring these leading fleets together and recognize them for taking the initiative to move up to B20,” stated Rebecca Richardson, ISA biodiesel lead, in an ISA news release. “We’ll also provide resources for our B20 Club members, and others in the state, who have questions about how to use biodiesel in their fleets.”

After a poor year in 2014 for biodiesel production and sales, ag economists with the University of Ill. have suggested the industry could be poised for a rebound this year if the U.S. EPA ups the recommended volume obligations (RVOs) for biofuels in their final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard ruling, expected this spring.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Utilizing B20 biodiesel, Peoria CityLink operates 58 buses and 35 paratransit vans that carry three million passengers annually. (B20 Club/ISA)
(Tim Alexander is a freelance reporter who writes agriculture, news and feature articles for Chronicle Media, Farm World, Prairie Farmer and many other publications. He resides in rural Peoria County with his family.)