Illinois milk association recognizes sustainability, service
The Illinois Milk Producers Association recently announced the recipients of its 2020 service and sustainability awards.
This year’s sustainability award recognizes the Kilgus Farmstead in Livingston County. The Kilguses — Paul, Matt, Justin and Trent — and their families run a second-generation family dairy farm in Fairbury. The dairy was started by Paul’s parents in 1958.
Environmental sustainability is achieved on the Kilgus dairy farm through practices such as reducing soil loss with pasture rotational grazing, using crop rotation to minimize weed-insect-disease pressure, improving soil fertility with manure management, and using compost bedded cow housing, which boosts cow comfort and health.
Leanne Casner of Montgomery County is the 2020 winner of the service award. Casner grew up on her family’s dairy farm and later returned after college and three years of service in the U.S. Army. She has worked full time on the farm since 2009, overseeing new hires, breeding decisions and all heifer reproduction.
Casner also runs a Facebook page, Daily Dose of Dairy, to clarify myths and present facts behind the dairy industry and milk. She often welcomes visitors to the farm for tours and agriculture education opportunities.
Prairie Farms earns cheese awards
Several Prairie Farms cheese plants in Illinois took home honors from the 2020 National Milk Producers Cheese Contest held at the end of October.
After all the votes were tallied, Prairie Farms won the most honors, including six out of nine awards in the three cottage cheese categories and four first-place finishes overall. Prairie Farms cottage cheese was particularly strong this year in the reduced-fat category, where Prairie Farms plants swept all three spots.
The Quincy, Ill., plant took first place, followed by Fort Wayne, Ind., in second place and Carbondale, Ill., in third place. In the regular cottage cheese category, the Fort Wayne plant won first place, followed by Quincy in second place with 4% cottage cheese.
Sustainable feed facility planned for Decatur
The world’s largest insect protein production facility is coming to Decatur, Ill. The facility will be owned by a French company raising insects for animal feed, Innovafeed. It will co-locate with ADM’s Decatur corn processing complex, with ADM supplying feedstocks, waste heat and more.
Together, these investments will increase Illinois’ access to a sustainable ag feed supply.
“InnovaFeed’s decision to bring their first-ever international facility and state-of-the-art agriculture technology to Illinois is a vote of confidence for our state, and a win for our farming communities,” says Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Insect feed has become an increasingly popular protein ingredient for the agriculture and aquaculture industries, as demand for animal feed has now reached an all-time high and consumers look for food that is sustainably grown. InnovaFeed already operates two insect production facilities in France, including what is today the world’s largest. The Decatur facility is InnovaFeed’s first international project and will be larger.
Illinois expects construction of the new high-capacity facility to create more than 280 direct and 400 indirect jobs in the Decatur region by the second phase. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity partnered with InnovaFeed through a tax credit agreement to support this investment. Decatur and Macon County also offered the company incentives.
InnovaFeed expects construction to begin in 2021. Construction and production will come in two phases. When both are complete, the plant will have a target annual production capacity of 60,000 metric tons of animal feed protein derived from a fly. The plant will also have the capability to produce 20,000 metric tons of oils for poultry and swine rations, and 400,000 metric tons of fertilizer every year.
NRCS deadlines approaching Jan. 8
The main financial assistance program from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, has a deadline for applications set for Jan. 8.
EQIP helps with gully erosion, pastureland diversity and soil health by funding a plan that addresses these problems, such as nutrient management plans, grazing plans and more.
Producers interested in EQIP should submit a signed 1200 form to their local NRCS field office or through farmers.gov. A blank 1200 application form may be obtained from the local office or on the Illinois NRCS website.
EQIP applications submitted by Jan. 8 will be evaluated by local NRCS field office staff. The NRCS staff will work with an applicant to assess the land and resource concerns, answer ranking questions and determine program eligibility. If an application is ranked high enough to be funded, staff will work with the applicant to develop a contract.
For more information, visit your local NRCS field office or nrcs.usda.gov.
Specialty crop conference goes virtual
The annual Illinois Specialty Crop Conference, Jan. 6-8, is moving to a virtual venue. The event will feature two live keynote speakers, a round-table discussion with attendee chat features, networking opportunities with peers in the industry and an exhibition floor where attendees can share business and industry information.
Registered attendees will have exclusive access to educational video presentations on major industry topics. Jan. 6 videos include produce safety training, beginning farming, pollinators, berries, tomatoes and peppers, and digital business. Jan. 7 and 8 videos include vegetable production, tree fruit production, herb and flower production, agritourism, and business development.
Illinois Specialty Growers Association members receive an exclusive rate of $15, and any nonmember can register for $100. All attendees of the virtual conference will also have access to the online conference library on the ISGA website following the conference.
Conservation cropping seminars go virtual
The Illinois Conservation Cropping Seminars that have been held in person for seven years are going digital Jan. 20, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. Participation is free, with each virtual event running from 9 to 11 a.m. Central time.
Register online at the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District website. Certified Crop Adviser soil and water credits will be available. The following speakers will cover soil science, sustainable agriculture and more:
Soil science. Ray Archuleta, certified professional soil scientist with the Soil Science Society of America
Sustainable agriculture. Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University associate professor of soil science and sustainable ag
Climate. Nic Jelinski, assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water and Climate
STAR program. Program coordinators and testimonials from farmer participants Illinois’ Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources program
Soil health. Stacy Zuber, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service soil health specialist
Social media. The Peterson Farm Brothers, social media communicators and farmers