Mike Borgic, director of memberships for the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), explains that the demand for drivers with a “commercial driver’s license” is high across the country due to retirements and also because truckers leave the industry to seek different careers. It’s not an easy job.
After hearing feedback from its pork producer members, “that truck driver shortages were impacting their bottom line and their ability to transport feed to their farms and their animals to market,” says Borgic, “IPPA has decided to introduce a scholarship opportunity.This program is our first initiative to address the shortage of truckers.He is not aware of other such programs in other states.
About 10 days ago, those looking to obtain — or renew — their commercial driver’s license in the state of Illinois could begin applying for the chance to receive a scholarship of $1000 USD.
Transportation quality assurance certification required
Applicants must already have a “Transport Quality Assurance” certification, a program that trains hog transporters, producers and handlers in handling, moving and transporting hogs. It includes training on the potential impacts transport can have on pig welfare and quality.
Applicants must also prove that they already transport hogs or feed for an in-state producer.
Since rolling out the program about 10 days ago, the IPPA has already received inquiries. “Since this is a new initiative, we want to look at the needs before determining the number of scholarships we will allocate,” says Borgic. “At this point, we have the option to increase the number of scholarships if demand is met.”
On-farm labor shortages
Last year, the National Pork Producers Council published the conclusions of a study on the ongoing struggle to solve the problem of labor shortages in his industry.
From 2001 to 2020, the U.S. hog industry grew at an annual rate of 1.5%, four times faster than job growth in all U.S. industries. Additionally, from 2014 to 2019, the rural labor force in the United States declined in five of the top eight pork-producing states.
To help those in Illinois, the IPPA is creating a job board to be hosted on its main website where IPPA members can post job openings.
“We expect this platform to be completed in the next few months,” says Borgic. “IPPA also works with high school and college students to educate them about job opportunities in our industry. This next generation can not only serve as additional workforce support, but also advocate our industry to state and local stakeholders who want to learn more about hog production in Illinois. We must constantly advocate for issues related to agriculture and allow our farmers to operate freely. »
This year, the IPPA began offering a monthly ‘Employee Spotlight’ award for pig farming employees. In addition to wide recognition, winners receive a barbecue set and are also entered to win the grand prize, which will be announced in October 2022.