IFB President: Livestock farmers support food security in Illinois
If you’ve ever driven through the Illinois countryside, you’ve likely seen a herd of cattle dotting the landscape. You might have wondered whether
the animals that farmers raise benefit businesses and residents in our state.
Livestock farms offer
important sources of revenue for local businesses, strengthen the food supply, and continue to reduce impacts on the environment.
With livestock on 1 in
3 Illinois farms, animal agriculture is an economic engine for our state.
In 2019, livestock farms and related meat and dairy processors contributed
more than $31.8 billion in economic activity, supported more than 91,000 jobs, and accounted for $4..7 billion in household income.
When many meat packing plants shuttered due to worker safety concerns at the height of the pandemic, the backlog of orders
and limited processing capacity highlighted the critical role of food
processors. Disruptions also demonstrated the need for investments in small and medium-sized meat packers, many of which stepped up to fill the supply chain gap.
Thanks to their efforts, Illinois’ state licensed meat establishments processed more than 31 million pounds of meat to feed families across the state in 2020.
Illinois Farm Bureau recently partnered with Texas A&M University to offer Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification
– a prevention-based approach to the safe production, handling and preparation of foods – to support the continued development of local meat
As important as food
processing facilities are, it’s also important to remember that production starts on the farm.
More than 96% of the 71,000 farms in Illinois are family-owned and operated. For these farm families, producing quality meat
and dairy products means providing nutritious protein sources for the community.
In 2020, Illinois farm families donated more than 250,000 pounds of food to local food pantries. Donations of pork, beef and dairy products
offered resources to
those in need, while also benefiting food processors in the community.
In addition to providing
a steady supply of food for American families, farmers also continue to produce more with less.
Pig farmers today use 75% less land and 25%
less water than they did 60 years ago, cattle farmers are producing 60% more beef with 40% fewer carbon emissions than 50 years ago, and each gallon of milk produced by dairy farmers creates 63% fewer carbon emissions than in 1944.
Innovative barn construction, rotational grazing on cover crops
and manure management as fertilizer applications
are among the practices farmers use to continuously improve soil and water quality on their farms.
By caring for animals
in ways that also benefit the environment, farmers ensure a bright future for agricultural production on family farms and a steady food supply for all.
The next time you find yourself driving past a herd of cattle, or picking out food at the grocery store, I encourage you to think about the many ways livestock farms and related industries add value in our state.
This op-ed was distributed through a cooperative
project between Illinois
Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news,