By TIM ALEXANDER
DUNLAP, Ill. — National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) laws, the Livestock Management Facility Act (LMFA), feed availability and other topics were “on the table” when the Illinois Pork Producers Assoc. (IPPA) had a Fall Roundtable meeting in Peoria County Nov. 15.
The roundtable allowed pork producers from IPPA District 4 to offer opinions and ask questions of IPPA officials about legislative, regulatory and other issues.
“The roundtables are great opportunities for pork producers to get firsthand updates from their staff about how their investment is being spent and what the plans are for the future,” said Jim Kaitschuk, IPPA executive director, of 12 IPPA district roundtables taking place in November.
“In addition, policy issues certainly impact the daily lives of everyone, including farmers.”
Mike Borgic, IPPA director of membership and outreach, led much of the discussion with about 20 area pork producers. Offering a rundown on legislative and regulatory issues facing hog farmers, he wasted no time diving into the hot-button topic of whether producers should be purchasing federal NPDES permits. He told farmers at this point, the IPPA is advising them not to apply or pay for a permit.
Borgic detailed IPPA’s role in clarifying NPDES permit legal language. Specifically, IPPA was instrumental in rewriting a bill requiring NPDES permits for all livestock producers concerning the definition of “discharge” within the legislation.
“(A discharge is now) when manure gets into the waters of the U.S., which is totally different than waters of the state,” as previously defined, he explained. “Waters of the state can technically be considered a puddle in your driveway. We were able to change (the language) to waters of the U.S., which basically means navigable waters.
“Unless you are having an ongoing, continuous discharge, you do not need a permit on your farm. If you have a discharge by accident, you don’t need a permit as long as you fix the problem. The fees are $750, $300 and $150 for varying levels of animal units on your farm. It was going to be $1,200 per year for five years; we got that cut back quite a bit.”
Though Gov. Patrick Quinn signed the amended NPDES bill into law at the State Fair in August, Borgic said the issue will likely be revisited by the legislature next year. IPPA will continue to stay on top of the situation, he said.
In addition, he advised producers the Illinois Pollution Control Board has been holding hearings throughout the state to consider changes to the CAFO rule. “We went through this at a federal level, now we’re going through the same process in Illinois,” Borgic reported. “There will be a rule proposal and a comment period, probably in the spring. We’ll deal with it accordingly.”
It seems every year legislators talk about reexamining the LMFA, Borgic continued, and now IPPA is hearing new rumblings about Congress revisiting the issue. “We don’t want to have that opened back up again. We already have a hard enough time trying to find places to locate hog farms or any kind of livestock facility within the state,” he said.
As to whether hog facility expansion in Illinois is possible with grain for feed selling high and prices for hogs remaining steady, “At the beginning of this year it looked like there was going to be a lot of expansion, or people putting up new barns. Then spring and summer saw corn prices shoot upward and hog prices stay fairly the same, so people started to back off of their (expansion) plans,” said Borgic.
“Depending on the price of corn in the next couple of months, we may have a resurgence next spring. There is opportunity to make money on pigs, but can you capture that opportunity?”
Some of the pork-producing families in attendance were more interested in improving the public image of the industry than in legislative issues. One teacher said she has been focusing part of her curriculum on ensuring area youngsters are aware of the importance of pork production and animal agriculture in general. “Even right here in Peoria, kids don’t know where bacon comes from. Many kids have never traveled more than two miles from their houses,” she said. For that reason, the teacher visited 120 classrooms with a piglet in tow last year to educate kids.
“Believe me, that was one spoiled piglet,” she quipped. Another educator in attendance suggested pork producers become more active with the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adopt a Classroom Project, to which Borgic agreed.
Feed availability was a hot topic, with one farmer reporting Woodford County corn harvests were just one-half to three-quarters of typical. Another said the Varna Elevator in Marshall County was one-third short of normal storage.
Pam Janssen, IPPA District 4 board member, hosted the roundtable. She said the gathering served to “give thoughts and ideas on where we need to go, what we need to do and how we can benefit each other.”
Curt Zehr, a pork producer who farms in Tazewell and Woodford counties and is also an IPPA at-large director, told attendees to pick up the phone and contact him or Janssen with questions and concerns for the IPPA board. “We’re supposed to be your conduit to the state organization,” he said. “We’d like to hear from you.”