By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Educating a large influx of new state lawmakers as to “what we do and why we do it” is a top priority of the Illinois Pork Producers Assoc. (IPPA) moving forward in 2013, according to the group’s returning president, Dereke Dunkirk.
“Here in Illinois we had a huge new group of (General Assembly) members both in the House and Senate sides, so we’ve got a lot of new faces to work with, and that’s a challenge,” Dunkirk said, following the IPPA’s annual meeting Feb. 5, prior to the opening of the 2013 Illinois Pork Expo in Peoria.
“Also, we have bigger majorities than we’re used to seeing, and sometimes that makes it harder to get things done.”
Though the General Assembly may be filled with fresh faces, two of the IPPA’s top legislative concerns are not new – fending off legislation affecting environmental and animal welfare issues.
“They are at the top of our legislative agenda,” Dunkirk said, adding it is important for pork producers and the IPPA to do all they can to respectfully educate new and returning Illinois lawmakers on the purpose and mission of animal agriculture, rather than letting them get their “facts” from anti-farm groups.
“Our annual Legislative Day (in Springfield) is coming up in March, and we’re encouraging producers to come out and get in front of these new faces and start telling our story to them, and getting them acquainted with agriculture. Almost all of the new members don’t have an ag background,” said Dunkirk.
In addition to discussing legislative priorities, IPPA delegates voted for resolutions during the meeting. These included coordinating with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to work with the USDA, to achieve more accurate feed usage information that the USDA uses for its stocks reports.
Resolutions also directed IPPA and the National Pork Board (NPB) to ask USDA to establish standards similar to ground beef for ground pork as soon as possible, and for the IPPA to work with the National Grain and Feed Assoc. and other interested parties to better develop enhanced testing standards for corn.
Because the implications of aflatoxin in corn on feed quality are not fully researched, another IPPA resolution directed the IPPA, NPB and NPPC to work to ensure that testing of grains with aflatoxin be completed prior to delivery to the farm, and that aflatoxin levels are 300 parts per million or less.
In addition, a new resolution compels the IPPA and the NPB to continue to develop a robust program roster of progressive efforts to enhance animal well-being, such as PQA Plus. Another asked that IPPA, NPB and NPPC increase efforts to further use pork and pork products in school lunch programs.
Producer profitability was, of course, a main topic of discussion among IPPA delegates, officials and members during the two day-conference and trade show, which concluded Feb. 6. Dunkirk was among many producers and farm economists anticipating a profitable year following a couple of not-so-profitable ones.
“We’re hopeful – there is definitely the opportunity there (to be profitable),” said Dunkirk, who, along with his father, operates a 4,800-space wean-to-finish farm in Christian County. “We’ve got a large report of planted acreage intended for corn. If there is a decent crop it will make for an abundant feed supply, so that would drive input prices down from that side.
“On the other side, you’ve got demand; we’re going to have another record-setting year for exports, and our domestic market also continues to grow. If we can cheapen input costs and increase demand, that’s when profitability will come back into play.”
The IPPA’s annual awards were presented during a banquet the evening of Feb. 5, with the Dewey Haag family of Emington recognized as the 2013 Illinois Pork Producer Family of the Year.
“The Haag family is an excellent example of the We Care principles for their care of their animals, the environment, their community and their family,” said Dunkirk, who was reaffirmed as 2013 IPPA president earlier in the day (he also served during 2012).
Ted Funk, former extension agricultural engineer for the University of Illinois, was presented the IPPA Distinguished Service Award, and Michelle Abel of Glasford was recognized with the IPPA Pork Promoter of the Year Award.