By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An environmental readiness and response service that assists pork producers with modern issues confronting their farms is now available as a membership benefit for those in the Illinois Pork Producers Assoc. (IPPA).
“Hog farmers are committed to environmental responsibility in every aspect of our farms,” said Dereke Dunkirk, IPPA president and a hog farmer from Morrisonville. “We take a number of steps each day to ensure we are caring for our land, air and water.
“This new membership benefit is like an environmental preventative maintenance program, which will continue to further enhance the pork industry’s commitment to the environment. No one is more dedicated to preserving our natural resources and protecting the environment than farmers.”
IPPA has retained retired University of Illinois and faculty member Ted Funk to make confidential visits to individual farms at the request of producer-members.
“I’ve been doing farm visits all over the state as an extension ag engineer for more than 30 years,” said Funk, who has already embarked on some pilot farm visits for the IPPA. “Now that I’ve retired from the (U of I) and have more time to focus on this type of service, I am sure I can help our Illinois pork producers gain confidence that they are doing the best possible job of environmental stewardship.”
As producers prepare for impending National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations, Funk’s expertise – he testified during a federal hearing on pollution control last year – and credibility among the farming community of Illinois will provide unique benefits to the state’s pork producers, according to Tim Maiers, director of public relations for the IPPA.
“Knowing Ted’s background and expertise working with livestock producers on environmental issues, we feel he can offer valuable services to IPPA members,” said Maiers. “Different programs through the years have offered different on-farm assessments, but Ted being well known by livestock farmers lends a lot of credibility to this program.”
A visit to an IPPA member’s farm provides a fresh perspective and another set of eyes to assess potential areas of concern for environmentally-conscious producers. In addition to a general assessment, Funk is also available to respond to pre-identified areas of concern to producers, on a strictly confidential basis.
“Each farm is so different. This is a chance for Ted to come in and look at what the farmer is doing and offer some practical advice,” said Maiers. “It’s confidential between Ted and the farmer.”
Examples of assistance Funk could provide producers include identifying compliance issues with manure handling systems, a basic review of a farm’s manure nutrient management plan, assistance in preparing a response to a regulatory agency’s visit or notice or suggestions on how a farm might expand with the help of a Technical Service Provider or other consultant.
IPPA will share in the cost of the professional consultant service, funding the first four hours of Funk’s walk-through and assessment. He will travel anywhere in the state to consult with pork producers enrolled with the IPPA.
“Ted has been on a couple of pilot visits to farms, and the response back from the farmers was very positive. They found it worthwhile and would encourage other farmers to consider arranging their own visit,” said Maiers.
“Ted was able to give us some practical tips to improve our odor management and manure management practices. It really helps to have another set of eyes look at your farm and try and find areas where you can improve on,” said Brad Folkers, a hog farmer in Polo. “I found Ted’s visit to be very valuable for our farm.”
Maiers also announced a free service available to all Illinois pork producers providing technical and environmental information based on Funk’s expertise, that is accessible through the IPPA website. “We’ll have information on a regular basis produced by Ted, available for all pork producers,” he explained.
Further information on farm visits by Funk and free regular updates from him are available at www.ilpork.com