By Charlyn Fargo
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Our situation is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
Pork producers say that applies to them and the upcoming 2016 Pork Expo. This year, the Pork Expo, scheduled for Feb. 16-17, moves to the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield after being in Peoria for the past 30 years. The group made the move to combine the Illinois Pork Producers Association Legislative Reception with the Expo and move their awards ceremony to a luncheon rather than a dinner.
“Change derives from the notion that work in our field is fluid and ever evolving,” said Mark DeDecker, chairman of the Illinois Pork Expo. “As professionals, and also human beings, we are at times fearful of and resistant to change, as it demands that we face the unknown and the unfamiliar. Even so, change is inevitable.”
He’s encouraging fellow pork producers to embrace change at the farm and at the convention.
Besides the usual training for producers (certified livestock managers training and opportunities and expectations for contract growers), producers can stop by a booth with social media experts to learn how to tweet and set up a Facebook account. Springfield seemed like a better place to help producers connect with each other and their legislators.
“We’re trying to find a way to connect with legislators,” said Jennifer Tirey, Executive Director of the IPPA. “We want them to know the economic value of livestock in the state.”
The Illinois pork industry contributes $1 billion in direct impact and $1.8 billion and 10,533 jobs of total impact to the state’s economy in addition to providing $170 million to total taxes, according to a study conducted by Peter Goldsmith, Associate Professor of Agribusiness Management at the University of Illinois. The pork industry is also important to Illinois agriculture as it consumes over 69 million bushels of corn and 22.5 million bushels of soybeans each year.
Western Illinois is one of the larger areas for pork production, so it makes sense to have a convention closer to producers, Tirey said.
“We’ve already sold out booth space moving to Springfield,” she added. “That’s a good sign. Exhibitors are excited, and we’re expecting more than 1000 producers to attend.”
The lineup of speakers includes a women’s panel on Juggling Farm and Family Life. One of the panel members is Genny Six with Six Family Farms of Meredosia. The Six’s operation recently opened a new 4,600 head wean to market hog barn near Meredosia as an expansion of their existing farm. The Six’s contract with The Maschhoffs to raise the small pigs to market size is a partnership that has spanned the last 13 years.
Tirey is hopeful Illinois markets to sell pork will be expanded through passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would open up markets in Japan and Vietnam. Also helpful was the recent repeal of the Country of Origin Labeling law, which could have added a tax on pork sold to Mexico or Canada.
“We feel like the industry is on an upswing,” said Tirey. “Mexico is now a bright spot for exports, and in Illinois, notices of intent to construct have increased. The livestock industry is healthy. We encourage our members to come to Springfield and to take advantage of the educational seminars, go through the trade show, network with their legislators and learn all the can.”