"The Livestock Management Facilities Act was passed in Illinois in May 1996," said Funk, "requiring certification in livestock manure management for producers with more than 300 animal units. Certification must be renewed every three years, and producers with 300 to 999 animal units can choose from three options: attend a CLMT workshop, take a series of five quizzes on the Internet (www.livestocktraining.com), or pass the written exam given by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Producers with more than 1,000 animal units must attend the workshop or take the quizzes and pass the IDOA's written exam."
Loren Bode, ABE department head from 1994-2004, believed his department needed to take the lead on providing this training for producers. So Funk helped write the original curriculum for the workshops, and this curriculum was updated and used each year until 2000. "I would estimate we've seen more than 3,000 different people since our first year of operation," said Funk. "The response of the livestock producers was exemplary when we started. They wanted to make a good faith effort to get the certification process going. I give them a lot of credit."
In 2000, U of I collaborated with other land-grant universities and the USDA to write and test the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship National Curriculum, which is the current manual and source of state test questions. In 2002, the online quizzes were approved by the IDOA as an alternative to workshop attendance.
There are generally a dozen workshops held across the state from December through March. Some are species-specific (beef/dairy or swine), and Brad Beaver, manager of the IDOA's Livestock Facilities program, gives a presentation on the state's livestock regulations and administers the state examination at each workshop.
Warren Goetsch, bureau chief of Environmental Programs for the IDOA, has supported the training program since its inception. "We believe strongly in the benefits of continuing education," said Goetsch. "Livestock production has certainly changed considerably over the past 15 years. From its beginnings until today, this program continues to provide livestock producers an opportunity to study the latest materials about the proper use and application of livestock manure and to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally responsible management of their production facilities."
Funk said he estimates more than 3,000 different people have gone through the program since 1997. "We probably see 10 to 20 percent new people each year, and the test pass rate has increased steadily around the state," he said. "We've introduced new technologies in areas such as odor control, carcass management and proper procedures for new construction.
"I believe the workshops have increased competence in environmental protection and helped reduce the environmental impact of manure handling procedures," Funk concluded. "Producers don't get into the business to manage manure. They see it as a cost, so we do everything we can to help them improve their manure management."