Agriculture’s impact on the state’s economy ripples beyond fields and livestock buildings to the industries and services that support farmers. In turn, those industries and services provide jobs and economic stability across Illinois, especially in rural areas.
Illinois agriculture accounted for one of every 17 jobs in the state and contributed $120.9 billion in sales to the state economy, according to a 2015 Decision Innovation Solutions study.
Some major agribusinesses are well known here and elsewhere, while others’ recognition resonates in the agriculture sector they support and the communities they call home.
For example, Automated Production (AP) System ships swine feed storage and delivery systems across the country and to global customers from Christian County. Its parent company, Grain Systems Inc., operates its global headquarters and a 1-million-square-foot plant in Assumption. In Illinois, the company employs 750, including 200 in Taylorville.
“We ship globally from the Taylorville plant to South America, Europe, Asia and North America” to customers whose orders specify “U.S. quality,” said Tom Stutham, AP swine product management director. The Taylorville plant, which opened in 2007, annually ships $100 million worth of products, according to Stutham.
Effingham County serves as home base for FarmWeld Inc., which manufactures swine equipment, including feeders, waterers, gates and flooring. A large portion of the company’s sales is centered in Illinois, but FarmWeld also sells to farmers throughout the Midwest and the U.S., as well as some international ones, according to Frank Brummer, president of FarmWeld. In 2016, FarmWeld enjoyed a “positive year,” and Brummer attributed part of that success to long-term employees who function as a team.
Operating in Teutopolis since 1979, FarmWeld employs 45 people in positions ranging from sales and marketing to engineers, welders and general laborers who reside in seven counties.
The vitality of the pork industry is critical for both downstate companies.
“As more barns are built in Illinois, it increases our chance to supply equipment within our own state,” Brummer said. “FarmWeld is looking to expand our facilities in 2017, and bring some outsourced processes inhouse and add more great people to our team to support our growth.”
Stutham added: AP “enjoys great success in Illinois, from producers who desire to work with local companies. We’re very interested in seeing livestock production grow in Illinois. When swine (production) expands, we definitely feel it and prosper.”
Based on sales volume, Iowa and Minnesota comprise the largest markets for AP swine products, he noted.
Given the status of Illinois’ economy, especially in rural areas, supporting local business is crucial, both executives noted.
“We employ a lot of your neighbors and your customers in our factory,” said AP’s Stutham. “The animal agriculture industry is a major contributor to Illinois and to rural communities. We’re proud to employ these citizens in our factories. Trade with our company and others like ours.”
Brummer agreed: “Supporting local businesses in rural Illinois invests part of your dollars back into your state to help build infrastructure, better schools and more. Buying from Illinois companies is the easiest humanitarian effort you can take part in, and it will positively affect your neighbors and community.”
Asked how policymakers can support rural companies such as theirs, Stutham and Brummer took different approaches.
“Grants are a way to support businesses in rural Illinois,” Brummer said. “Invest in those that are investing in themselves.”
Stutham mentioned his customers: “Animal agriculture needs a common-sense approach to siting … Everyone wants to be good stewards. Make regulations that are common sense, and understand how legislation can have unintended and severe impacts.”