There were many observers, inside and outside of agriculture, who thought that the Illinois Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA) couldn't please all and benefit the state's economy.
But those skeptics have virtually been silenced, notes Nic Anderson, livestock business developer for the Illinois Livestock Development Group, based at his home in Divernon, just south of Springfield.
In his consultant's role, he promotes growth of all of the major grain and livestock commodity groups in the state and also represents the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Anderson, who was raised on a hog farm in Henry County, IL, was specifically brought on board as an industry liaison in 2005 to help farmers understand and cope with this massive regulation.
“Livestock producers felt this thing was going to kill them. It was too prohibitive. There were too many rules, and it was forced on the industry by the state legislature and opposition groups that wanted to have set rules and guidelines on how producers build livestock facilities,” he observes.
Yet once the details were sorted out, the regulation has become very easy to work with, says Anderson. Setbacks are based on animal units and animal thresholds.
For example, the setback is a quarter mile from residential areas for 1,000 animal units (1,000 animal units equals 2,500 hogs over 55 lb.) and a half-mile from population centers. For each additional 1,000 animal units, the setback increases 220 ft. for residential and 440 ft. for populated areas.
The notice of intent to construct since 1997 started out slow but has achieved growth over time.
“The big thing it establishes is, no matter what county I am in throughout the state, we all have the same standards and there is no favoritism because there is no township or county control. The state has set a standard that is high enough to supersede local control, as long as the area is zoned agricultural,” Anderson explains.
“We don't try to build barns in non-agricultural areas or around cities,” he explains.
The challenge for Illinois today is that city folks move to the country and have certain expectations. They live in an agricultural zone and yet they would like to prohibit livestock from coming into their area, which results in some real clashes right away, he admits.
A big part of Anderson's job is to deflect those criticisms and help producers site new barns or expand their facilities.
The Illinois pork industry has seen growth of 5-15% over the last three years or so using the LMFA rule. But dairy and beef cattle industries have lagged behind. Illinois boasts just 125,000 dairy cows and produces only 25% of its milk requirements.
Of the 134 notices of intent to construct in 2007, hog applications represented close to 120,000 pig spaces, or about 75% of the building applications, similar to the previous two years. He estimates the pork industry injects $70-100 million of new monies into the state's economy annually.
So while the pork industry in Illinois has seen a bit of a boom in the last three years, Illinois' livestock industry overall is somewhat stagnant, while it continues to grow nationwide. Total livestock receipts in the last decade fell from $2.3 to $1.7 billion.
Pork producers are younger than their livestock counterparts in Illinois; their average age is 45 vs. 55 for beef cattle and dairy farmers.
Higher labor costs have led the economic drain in Illinois. But Anderson believes that the current economic/energy crisis in agriculture will actually drive the return of the livestock industry to places like Illinois, to enjoy easy access to markets and a bountiful supply of corn and soybeans.