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Nine-hundred-million slices of bacon. That would be enough for three slices for everyone in the United States, minus the vegans. And it is all going to be generated around the Chrisman area where Route 36 crosses the Indiana state line.

But since this is not yet National Bacon Day, let’s put that on hold for a moment.

You may not have noticed it, but Illinois is becoming more livestock oriented. No, corn and soybean growers will not be building woven wire fence around fields to turn out cattle and hogs. Livestock production is different today than a generation ago, and the technology change is one facet that is bringing hogs and cattle back to the Prairie State.  The bottom line is economic development.

A recent report created by Illinois commodity groups, Farm Bureau and others, uses the phrase that “Livestock has been a beacon of light for an otherwise bleak state economy and has invested millions of dollars in Illinois’ local communities.” 

In 2017, 89 new swine operations went into production after $56 million was spent for construction.  All totaled $68 million was spent on construction when new beef, dairy and poultry operations are added to the mix.

In addition to construction, Illinois livestock operators paid over $300 million in local, state and federal taxes, and another $321 million in local property taxes, thanks to those operations generating $1.2 billion in earnings for 2014, the last year for which data is available. 

The report indicates “Livestock production, along with meat and dairy processing, contributes over $14 billion in economic activity in Illinois, along with more than 52,000 jobs.”

The most fascinating fact about this explosion of interest in livestock is that while all the expansion was underway, environmental complaints were plummeting. According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, complaints about livestock are at an all time low. “From 1986 to 2017, the highest number of total complaints received by IEPA was in 1996 with 259, and the lowest number of total complaints was in 2017 with 24. 

“During this 32 year time frame, there is a trend showing a declining number of complaints submitted to IEPA regarding livestock farms. 99.9 percent of Illinois livestock farms did not receive any water pollution or odor complaints in 2017. This data proves that environmental problems are an extremely rare occurrence and current environmental regulations are working.”

One of the reasons for the vast increase in livestock production in Illinois is the availability of feed in the form of corn and soybeans, as well as increased capacity for livestock processing into meat. The former was particularly cited by officials of The Equity Cooperative last month when it opened a new feed mill south of Chrisman. It has the capacity to provide feed to 1.35 million hogs per year.

Currently, there are not 1.35 million hogs near Chrisman. The Co-op’s directors wanted to spur development of hog operations in East Central Illinois and West Central Indiana as a new market for 32,000 acres of corn and 45,000 acres of soybeans, converting the grain into 2.7 million hams, 90 million pork chops, and 900 million slices of bacon.

It has the capacity to raise commodity prices and ensure long-term farm family prosperity, with an attractive new venture for youngsters returning to the farm. Livestock will be an economic development engine for Illinois.

Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.

 

 

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