The Asmark Agricenter offers safety training in the areas of grain handling, pesticide application and anhydrous ammonia application. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
BLOOMINGTON - A newly constructed training facility in Bloomington now offers agricultural safety courses for farmers and ag retailers across the Midwest.
The Asmark Agricenter is operated in partnership with the Asmark Institute, a not for profit organization that helps agricultural retailers with regulatory compliance. The agriculture industry has been looking for ways to enhance hands on training, specifically with regard to anhydrous ammonia, pesticide application and grain handling. A lot of the anhydrous ammonia in the country is located in the Midwest, which made this a central location for a training facility of this type.
"Every time there is a fatality or injury or ammonia release, there's a lot of scrutiny that comes down on our industry and we realize that if we aren't trying to stay a step ahead of that, then yet more regulations are coming and that just makes it really hard to operate in a profitable manner," said Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association.
Payne said with less funding available from state and federal resources, the industry has to be forward thinking as they invest for the future.
"While agriculture is a huge part of the economy, it doesn't get a lot of attention from the standpoint of programs to help agriculture. We really are kind of responsible for a lot of that ourselves. So, with the ag industry doing fairly well recently even though the general economy hasn't, it was a good time to invest in these very specific training courses," said Payne.
The Asmark Agricenter offers training beyond classrooms with Power Point presentations and videos.
"Now the guys can put the parts together, go into the grain bin, work on the sweep auger, put together the ammonia hoses and the compressors and pumps, work with an actual pesticide spray application nozzle and see how all of the different nozzles work," said Payne. "And with a newer generation of people, too, you really have to do more showing and not just telling."
The grain handling side is a focus because of recent fatalities due to grain engulfments over the last few years. At the same time, pesticide application is changing as new products are coming onto the marketplace.
"For the last 10 years, glyphosate has really made pesticide application fairly easy. But as we have now glyphosate resistant weeds coming out, there are going to be new chemical products coming out in the marketplace that are going to kind of challenge the pesticide applicators to kind of rethink everything that they've been doing," said Payne.
A mobile unit that can be loaded up onto a semi is also available for training presentations throughout the country. That unit is also based at this facility. In addition, the building offers a conference center that can hold up to 150 people with catering available.
"Our goal is compliance and training and safety and health, so the more people we can have use it, I think the better benefits to everyone in Illinois," said Payne.
The 20,000 square foot facility is located on Carole Drive off IL Route 9 west of Bloomington, next to the Illinois Corn Growers Association headquarters.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.