R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: IPPA spotlights Employee of Year

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Illinois Pork Producers Association announced last week that the recipient of its pork industry Employee Spotlight of the Year is Dan Phillips. (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Pork Producers Association)

This week’s farm and rural news roundup includes info on a meat processor shortage in Illinois, new details on $8.5 million in soil and water conservation grants for farmers, attendance results from the Du Quoin State Fair and a spotlight on Dan Phillips, a Eureka-area swine farm manager. Please read on …


IFB addresses meat processor shortage

BLOOMINGTON — To address a shortage of labor in the meat processing industry that is causing delays in services in some areas of the state, the Illinois Farm Bureau helped develop and promote an online food safety certification tool. The IFB’s new online training for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points certification is free to all small meat processing businesses in Illinois that serve the livestock industry.

“Labor is an issue and it’s left a gap in the certification of some employees. This is a way to help them through this,” said Tasha Bunting, IFB associate director of commodities and livestock programs. “It started about one year ago when there were issues with producers getting access to local lockers. The plants were so booked with a backlog (of animals) and with employees being out (due to COVID). It created a need, so IFB created ways to assist and keep them running.”

Bunting said the first phase of the HACCP learning module is intended for existing meat processors to update their HACCP plan and employee training. The second phase will cater to new establishments that seek assistance in developing a new HACCP plan. More information about the new learning module can be found at www.ilfb.org/foodsafety.


NRCS grant: $8.5 million for soil and water conservation

BLOOMINGTON – Last week we told you about new USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service grants being extended to a pair of Illinois soil and water conservation groups. More details have emerged regarding the grants, which will total $8.5 million. One grant award recipient is the upstart Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, which will partner with the Illinois Soybean Association to produce water quality and climate outcomes resulting from new conservation practice implementation on 70,000 acres in both 2022 and 2023. The project anticipates the following environmental outcomes: 1.82 million pounds of nitrogen reduction, 112,000 pounds of phosphorus reduction, and 105,000 tons of CO2e sequestration, according to an ISA news release.

“Navigating this space through a partnership with the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund and USDA is a unique opportunity to understand how farmers are able to participate in an ecosystems market while ensuring their needs and the principles behind sustainable farming practices are put first,” said Abigail Peterson, ISA Director of Agronomy. “We are looking forward to this new partnership and being able to bring the opportunity to not only our Illinois farmers, but to farmers across the Midwest.”

The grants are part of 15 total awards being distributed nationwide as part of the USDA-NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program Alternative Funding Arrangement. More information about the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund can be found at www.theoutcomesfund.com.


Du Quoin State Fair sees attendance spike

DU QUOIN — Perhaps fueled by COVID-19 cabin fever, attendance for the 2021 Du Quoin State Fair in southern Illinois registered significantly higher than in 2019, the last year the fair was held prior to last year’s postponement due to the pandemic. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, over 150,000 people attended the fair this year, up 22.1 percent from 2019 attendance numbers of nearly 124,000 people. In addition, grandstand shows saw their highest attendance numbers since 2012.

“To come off of a year where we were unable to hold a fair due to the pandemic and generate these numbers is fantastic,” said Josh Gross, fair manager. “Our goal once we started planning for 2021 was to give people something to look forward to and I think we did that. Starting with the return of free admission to the fair in 2019, to bringing in top grandstand performances this year, the Du Quoin State Fair keeps improving year after year.”

Though overall revenue numbers are not final, the 2021 Du Quoin State Fair is estimating an overall revenue of over $1.2 million, ranking sixth for total revenue in the last two decades.

“My family and I look forward to the Du Quoin State Fair every year,” said Jerry Costello II, IDOA director. “It is an annual tradition that allows southern Illinois an opportunity to showcase what makes our area so special.” (Illinois e-News release)


IPPA spotlights Employee of Year

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Pork Producers Association announced last week that the recipient of its pork industry Employee Spotlight of the Year is Dan Phillips, a rural Eureka resident who is operations manager for Leman Farms, Inc. Phillips was raised on a small pig farm, and in high school he helped a local farmer with cattle and pigs. After graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in animal science, he was drawn back into the pork industry when he joined Leman Farms 16 years ago.

Phillips, who along with wife, Nicole has a 14-year-old son, Riley, says his biggest challenge is recruiting new people to start their career in pork production. He wants people to know there is more to the profession than working in the barn all day.

“We are very grateful for Dan’s work ethic and diligence in helping us care for our pigs, raise crops, and grow our farm. Thank you, Dan, for your 24/7 care and commitment!” said farm owner Chad Leman.

IPPA started the program to combat the labor shortage and show appreciation to hard working industry employees. Phillips will receive recognition at the 2022 Illinois Pork Expo and a monetary gift certificate in appreciation for all his hard work.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Livestock farms, along with meat and dairy processing, contribute $14.1 billion in annual economic activity in Illinois and account for around 52,000 jobs. (Illinois Small Meat Processor Expansion and Economic Study)

R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: State Fair draws second-largest crowd