Illinois beef enthusiasts gathered in Bloomington at the Parke Regency Hotel, June 17-19 to discuss industry issues, attend educational workshops and visit with others from across the state.

More than 100 cattlemen and women attended the event to take part in social activities and annual Awards Banquet, sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the Illinois Beef Association (IBA) annual meeting and Zoetis Cattlemen’s College, and also took tours to learn about agriculture business unique to central Illinois and finished the conference with a fun night at the Normal Cornbelters baseball game.

During the IBA Annual Meeting, the membership elected Mike Martz and Joni Bucher to serve as president and vice-president, respectively. The following IBA at-large directors will all commence three-year terms starting this year: Barney Gehl of Geneseo, Dr. Jay Miller of Atlanta, and Dave Duzan of Lexington.

IBA Executive Vice President Reid Blossom gave a brief overview of program highlights during the last year and thanked beef producers for their commitment and dedication to furthering the success of the beef industry in our state. A big success driven by Illinois cattlemen was the reactivation of the Illinois Beef Checkoff. The industry is also getting a boost in the eyes of influential consumers with new programs related to consumer marketing and efforts targeting dieticians along with continued support of the Illinois Farm Families program. On the membership front, IBA announced a new membership benefit with the offering of consulting services from environmental engineer.

The membership reviewed and discussed the IBA Strategic Plan and will continue the plan as written for the 2015-2016 year. Newly elected IBA President Mike Martz gave the president’s outlook for the coming year. Martz said he knows cattlemen take pride in the beef they raise here in Illinois and is committed to continuing the promotion and consumer education of our end product and hopes to continue reaching consumers in unique ways through Illinois Team Beef and other spokesperson programs. He also stressed the importance of involving youth in our industry and looks forward to more junior-focused events like EDGE Conference. Mike said he looks forward to working with IBA Vice President Joni Bucher, the board of directors, and membership in the coming two years and will approach Association programs with an open mind and will rely on the strategic plan as a guide.

“Joni and I have two things in common, we both have two ears that we will use to listen and understand, and we have two eyes to see our optimistic vision for the future of the state’s beef industry to fruition. It’s vital that IBA continues to work with other commodity groups with Illinois beef producers’ best interests in mind. We are stronger together than we are apart,” Martz said.

The Awards Banquet kicked off the summer conference events. Attendees enjoyed the fellowship of other beef producers, as well as had the opportunity to visit with 15 trade show vendors and conference sponsors. During the banquet, the IBA recognized some of Illinois’ most outstanding cattlemen. Among those who received awards were Dameron Angus, Seedstock Breeder of the Year; Prescott Angus and Simmental, IBA Farm Family of the Year; and Head Cattle/Dipper Farms, Commercial Producer of the Year. Membership awards were also presented to the Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association for being the largest affiliate with 3 counties or less, the Heartland Beef Alliance for being the largest affiliate with more than 3 counties, the Kankakee-Will Livestock Association for having the largest percent increase in affiliate membership, and Scott Bonner received an award for being the top individual recruiter and for his dedication in helping to grow the IBA.

The conference also featured opportunities for cattle producers to learn about new trends and industry issues during the Zoetis Cattlemen’s College. The Zoetis Cattlemen’s College was host to several speakers throughout Thursday morning, one of which was Cameron Bruett head of the corporate affairs department at JBS USA and lead for the company’s sustainability and corporate communications efforts. Bruett said even though sustainability is difficult to define, it boils down to the ability of farm families to maintain land to pass it on to the next generation to continue to do a great job on their property.
Conference attendees also had the opportunity to hear from Season Solorio, NCBA; Dr. Steve Loerch, U of I; and a panel discussing environmental issues including Bruce Rodely, Illinois EPA; Ted Funk, environmental engineer; Nic Anderson, Illinois Livestock Development Group; and Travis Meteer, U of I Extension.

To round of the summer conference events, the group visited four tour stops to learn about different segments of the agriculture industry in the Bloomington area. The group enjoyed a steak dinner Thursday evening and viewed top-quality Angus seedstock at Prairie View Farms near Gridley,owned by Alan and Theresa Miller. What began in the 1990s as a 4-H project for Alan and his siblings and has grown from 25 cows to 150 head today. A desire to return to the production agriculture lifestyle after a 15-year career in academia led Alan to diversify his family’s operation and start raising Angus cattle full-time. Each year, Prairie View Farms markets around 200 animals with more than one-third being show heifers at a spring production sale held on the farm, an online sale hosted in December, and through state consignment sales.

The first tour stop on Friday morning was Twin Groves Wind Farm. Twin Groves is located in central Illinois on two prominent moraines in eastern McLean County. Twin Groves I Wind Farm achieved commercial operation in June 2007 and Twin Groves II Wind farm achieved commercial operation in March 2008. Twin Groves Wind Farm has installed capacity of 396 megawatts- enough to power approximately 109,000 average Illinois homes with clean energy each year.

Mackinaw Valley Vineyard opened their doors to their winery and vineyard in central Illinois. The concept of a “staycation” is the heart and soul of Mackinaw Valley Vineyard’s mission. In 1998, when owner Paul Hahn attended a seminar about growing wine grapes in the Midwest, it was the beginning of what 17 years later is now the oldest winery and vineyard in central Illinois. The group enjoyed a tour of the vineyard and an excellent wine-tasting experience.

The last stop was the Asmark Institute Agricenter. The Asmark Institute Agricenter is a 20,080 foot training facility constructed on a 4.2 acre lot in McLean County. The Agricenter is located within four hours driving time of approximately 80 percent of the anhydrous ammonia used in production agriculture in the United States. The group learned about different farm safety practices including grain bin safety.

“The program of speakers, tour stops, and social opportunities did not disappoint this year. We were really happy with the participation and crowd that came in Wednesday night and stayed through Friday. Going forward, I’m excited to see how the IBA Summer Conference can continue to grow as a top notch offering for cattlemen in Illinois,” said Reid Blossom, IBA executive vice president.

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