(Bloomington, IL) - Earth Day is an opportunity to celebrate environmentally sustainable practices that conserve natural resources and support a long-term ecological balance. For today’s livestock farmers, environmental sustainability is a way of life and a way of doing business.
“Environmental sustainability is a process that involves continuous improvements,” said Joni Bucher, a cattle farmer from Good Hope, IL and current Illinois Beef Association President. “Livestock farmers will continue to work hard to feed a growing population, while at the same time, caring for the land and protecting the environment.”
One of the beneficial by-products of livestock production is manure, which has been used as a fertilizer source for thousands of years. Farmers have become more efficient and sophisticated in their collection and containment of manure. Modern livestock farms are designed and operated to have zero discharge of manure.
“Livestock farmers utilize manure management plans to balance the nutrients in the manure with the nutrient needs of the crop and the current nutrients in the soil providing a very sustainable system,” said Mike Haag, a pig farmer from Emington, IL and President of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “Livestock manure reduces the amount of commercial fertilizer we apply to our crops, saving us money and increasing our profitability.”
All livestock farms in Illinois must comply with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) rules that require operation of the farm in a manner that does not cause water pollution. In August 2014, IEPA’s livestock rules were made even more stringent to meet federal requirements under the Clean Water Act. IEPA’s regulatory program focuses on location and protection of farms and manure handling facilities, handling and storage of manure, field application of manure, agency inspections, and federally enforceable permits.
“Livestock farmers have multiple layers of environmental regulations to comply with in Illinois,” said Don Mackinson, dairy farmer from Pontiac, IL and President of the Illinois Milk Producers’ Association. “Multiple agencies at both the federal and state level govern livestock production, giving Illinois a very comprehensive, robust regulatory program.”
When the IEPA’s livestock rules took effect in August 2014, the Illinois Agriculture Coalition, which includes the Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Milk Producers’ Association, and Illinois Pork Producers Association, implemented an on-going educational campaign for Illinois livestock farmers to explain IEPA’s regulations.
In 2017, the Illinois Agriculture Coalition developed resource guides for swine, beef and dairy farms to help clarify and simplify the IEPA livestock rules and identify Best Management Practices for livestock farms. From January 2017 to present, more than 6,000 of the resource guides have been distributed to farmers at meetings and events.
Farmers may contact any of the organizations involved in the coalition to request a free copy of the resource guide.
“Today’s livestock farmers are strong examples of true environmentalists,” said Richard Guebert Jr., a farmer from Ellis Grove, IL and President of the Illinois Farm Bureau. “They have a deep love and appreciation for the land because it in turn supports their families. These hard-working people are dedicated to caring for the resources entrusted to them, and they also know first-hand that caring for the environment protects their way of life for future generations.”