'My Deadly Valentine' Stikes Pavilion Love Birds

“Bloody Williamson” takes on a whole new meaning this Valentine’s Weekend when the Williamson County Pavilion hosts “My Deadly Valentine” murder mystery dinner theater on Friday, February 15.

Vendettas and valentines may not seem a likely match-up for a romantic dinner but we’ve wanted to host a murder mystery for quite a while. In addition to the dinner and entertainment local lodging operators are offering special room rentals for the weekend.

As part of our promotions we will encourage couples to extend an overnight into a two-day stay. They can check out one of the many wineries in the area on Saturday and stay for some country music at the Southern Illinois Opry Valentine’s Dance Saturday night in the Expo Hall of the Pavilion.

The Random Acts thespian troupe of Ohio will provide the entertainment at the dinner Friday night. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the elegant dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person which includes a catered dinner, glass of wine and the performance. Group table discounts will be offered for tables of eight.

The dinner will also include dinner music and wine tastings from area wineries.

For more information contact the tourism bureau at 618-997-3690.

New Year Brings New Fishing Season

I know it's just the day after Christmas, but it's never too late to start planning those late winter fishing trips to Williamson County as Don Gasaway notes in his latest column sent out this week as a news release.
MARION, Ill. - Groaning through the mists, the bass boat slips away from the ramp and out on to the lake. The driver gives it more throttle and the boat goes up on plane and disappears into the pre-dawn fog. Long after it is gone from sight, one can hear the roar of the big engine carrying the anglers to a meeting with Mr. Largemouth Bass.

Bass fishing in southern Illinois begins to heat up in March. Warming temperatures, tending to average about 10 degrees warmer than the northern part of the state, spark the activity of both fish and angler. Williamson County contains several prime bass lakes. They contain many fish in the 2- to 6-pound class.

Crab Orchard, Little Grassy, Devils Kitchen, and Lake of Egypt all hold good populations of trophy size largemouth bass. Together they provide some 11,200 acres of water available to the angler in search of fishing recreation.

There's more online at www.wctb.org, just click on news.

Maid-Rite Seeks Suitor For Marion Franchise

The Marion Daily reported yesterday that long-time restaurant chain Maid-Rite whose closest restaurant is in Christopher is now seeking franchisees for a new store in Marion.

It's part of the company's aggressive expansion of the established brand that's been around since 1926.

MARION — Maid-Rite, famous for its ground beef sandwiches, has targeted Marion as a priority city to open one of its franchisee-owned sandwich shops.

“In our opinion, a Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe restaurant in Marion would be very successful because of the population size of the city of approximately 17,000 residents, plus with the traffic from Interstate 57, along with your city council’s recent approval for a new major retail distribution center,” said Bradley Burt, President and CEO of Maid-Rite.

“The entire community would enjoy our famous sandwiches, thick Blue Bunny malts and shakes and our homemade pies.”

For more information check out the story.

Herrin Chamber Seeks Fireworks Sponsor

The Herrin Chamber of Commerce is seeking a new entity to produce the "Fireworks in the Park" event next July 4th. The chamber produced it in 2006 and 2007 using donated funds.

Their board has decided not to sponsor the event in 2008 so they're calling on all civic organizations in Herrin to see if another entity would like to take over the sponsorship.

They have $1,357.70 in donated funds to give to that organization if one steps forward. Interested organizations should contact the chamber office at 618-942-5163.

Boat and Fishing Show Returns Feb. 1-3

MARION – The Southern Illinois Boat and Fishing Show sponsored by Marion Toyota will return to the region during the first weekend of February.

The Williamson County Events Commission, in partnership with the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation, will produce the event at the Williamson County Pavilion behind the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion on February 1-3.

“The first show we did last February turned out great with nearly 7,200 people flocking to the event,” said Jon Musgrave, executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau which operates the Pavilion.

“Last year we promised a hard-core boat and fishing show for the sportsmen of Southern Illinois and their families and it’s still going to be a hard-core boat and fishing show this year, just bigger and better,” promised organizer Ron Allen.

“We’re expanding a bit this year. We have some boat dealers from Kentucky coming up. One of the most important things we are proud of is that it will still be free to the public,” Allen added.

The 2nd Annual Southern Illinois Boat & Fishing Show is the only such show south of the St. Louis MetroEast. Hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3.

There will be a $500 cash drawing on Friday night and bluegrass entertainment on Saturday afternoon, in addition to a number of seminars throughout the day.

Interested vendors can contact Allen by phone at 217-787-8862 or 217-725-7602, or by e-mail at allen92@insightbb.com. Interested persons can also contact Musgrave at the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at 618-997-3690 or jmusgrave@wctb.org.

The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization, the mission of which is to assist in providing free or low cost programs to educate youth in the safe and responsible use of the outdoors.

The Williamson County Events Commission is a non-profit, charitable organization organized to build and develop the city-owned Williamson County Pavilion conference center and exposition hall.

For more information on the event check out the show’s website at www.BoatAndFishingShow.com.

Is Target Targeting Marion?

The Southern Illinoisan is reporting today that Target is apparently the corporation looking to build a regional distribution center east of Marion southwest of Route 13 and Crabtree School Road.

Last night the Marion City Council annexed the property for the new center after the city engineer Glenn Clarida publicly provided more details about the project.

The property - 149.5 acres - is owned by Marion attorney Ron Osman. On Monday, the council, at Osman's request, annexed his property from the county into the city. That makes the city responsible for infrastructure improvements at the site, including road, water and sewer.

"The site development plan calls for a 1.3 million-square-foot warehouse with a 35-foot ceiling and 253,000-square-foot shipping center with a 24-foot ceiling," Clarida said. "Combined, that's 200,000 square feet larger than the Circuit City distribution center."

To measure it another way. That's more than 35 acres under roof.

Other details revealed included a new entrance off of Route 13 into the new industrial park as well as improvements to Crabtree School Road; plus new water and sewer lines, all totaling around $2.2 million. Clarida and the city expect the state will help on the roadwork and additional grants or low interest loans will likely be made available for the other infrastructure.

The city still isn't releasing the name, but apparently the contact number passed out to the media last night is for Target Communications of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To give an idea of how active a distribution center might be consider the new one Target is building near Allenwood, Pennsylvania. There the company plans to send "have a truck in or out of the facility every seven minutes each day except Christmas."

According to the company's 2006 Annual Report Target built 113 new stores last year in 36 states, closed some older ones for a net gain of 91. At the time they planned another 100 net new stores each year for the "foreseeable future, potentially doubling" the current store base by 2021.

As to distribution centers they added three in 2006 for a total of 25 and planned to open two more this year. The company had 79 stores in Illinois in 2006. Based in Minnesota the company has been around since incorporating in 1902.

Old Executive Inn May Reopen

The shuttered Executive Inn may reopen in 2008 as a Garden Inn with 100 rooms, but major hurdles remain.

The city has started the process of condemnation and major health and life safety issues remain in the building shut down by the courts after numerous fire code violations.

The owner, Dr. Yuseph Tai, told the Southern Illinoisan last week a $4 million two-phase renovation will begin soon.
"We're starting soon," Tai said of the remodeling effort. "The first phase is to get the building in compliance (with city fire and county health codes) and get 100 rooms open to the public."

Tai said phase one will cost him about $1.2 million. The next step would be to get the additional 100-plus rooms and banquet hall up and running. Total cost is projected at upwards of $4 million.

Tai said his hope is to open next spring possibly in connection with the Hilton Garden Inn chain, but he said he hasn't worked out a deal with the corporation.

Built as the first motel west of the interstate in Marion as well as the largest motel with 200 rooms, the building first housed the Holiday Inn before it first lost its franchise and the owners picked up the Travelodge brand. After losing that national brand it became the Executive Inn.

Perry County Development Still Alive

The Southern Illinoisan is reporting this afternoon that plans for a new Branson-like development in Perry County are still underway despite the lack of formal public progress.
Jacquie Vick, senior vice president for the Glen Carbon-based Toney Watkins Company, said “it’s just a manner of trying to finalize some things” before the company will be able to announce more details of its plan.

Published reports have suggested that the development near Pinckneyville, about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis, would be a recreational theme-park tourism destination featuring music entertainment venues, golf courses and a BMX bike-racing area.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch last the last update on the venture back in September.

Workshop Tonight on Smoke-Free Illinois Act

The Carterville Chamber of Commerce sent out this e-mail today regarding the new law banning smoking in public places that will take affect in a few weeks:
The Smoke-Free Illinois Act will require all workplaces in Illinois to be smoke-free beginning January 1, 2008. You can view the entire act by visiting the Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department website at www.bicountyhealth.org.

A workshop will be held to clarify the law and enforcement issues as well as possible. The Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is busy developing the specifics of the rules on enforcement and clarifying issues with the law. There is a possibility they will be finalized this month. This workshop will address questions regarding: whom the law affects, signage, enforcement, and cessation resources. The date and time is listed below:

Monday, December 10, 2007 6 – 7 pm John A. Logan College, Room F119

Illinois Department of Public Health is currently developing a website to assist workplaces in complying with the law. There will also be an online complaint system accessible through the website as well as a toll free number for complaints.

The website will also have signage available to download that meets the requirements of the law. The website is www.smoke-freeillinois.gov. The website is currently under construction and will be online soon.

IDOT Puts Route 13 Plans Online

The public apparently likes what it sees when it comes to the Illinois Department of Transportation's plans for Route 13 widening and expansion between Marion and Carterville.

Today's Southern Illinoisan reported feedback from last month's public unveiling of the plans here at the Williamson County Pavilion proved to be mostly positive.
According to IDOT, about 170 people attended and 226 comments were submitted with 115 supporting the project, 38 supporting with suggestions for revisions, 63 opposing the project and 10 who were neutral.

"We were pleased with the overall results from the public meeting," said Carrie Nelson, program development engineer at IDOT.

The biggest complaints came from the Crainville area which would lose their four-way intersection at Main Street and Route 13 (Pioneer Log Cabin restaurant), but would gain a diamond interchange at Wolf Creek Road and Route 13.

The proposal for the highway expansion is also now online at the agency's website.

Part of the website shows the updated 2007 traffic count for Route 13, as well as what it projected by 2025.

Route 13 and Halfway Road, the first stop light west of Interstate 57 sees 38,100 vehicles a day. With a projected 3 percent growth rate, IDOT is projecting 64,800 vehicles on average to be pulling through there in 2025.

Down the road at the next stoplight at Williamson County Parkway where the Pavilion has its sign in front of Steak 'n Shake sees 29,800 vehicles passby each day and is expected to grow to 50,700 daily by 2025.

Father west the traffic count stays pretty steady. Even at the west end of the project at John A. Logan, 28,100 vehicles pass by daily with a 2.5 percent growth coming out to 43,800 vehicles daily by 2025 at Route 13 and Greenbriar Road.

Fruit Growers Gather In Saskatoon

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 20th annual Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association (SFGA) conference will be held during Crop Production Week in Saskatoon. The conference is set for January 11 and 12 at the Heritage Inn.

"The conference will reflect where the industry is going at this time," said Charon Blakley, Executive Director of the SFGA. "As the industry develops, growers are looking at marketing and branding as key elements."

The two-day agenda features numerous speakers, including Terry Ackerman, a business developer and brand builder with both a multinational corporate and co-operative background. Ackerman will be providing growers with insights on branding Saskatchewan fruit to set it apart and to gain recognition in the local, national and international markets.

Saskatchewan Agriculture will be presenting information on the history and future of the industry in Saskatchewan. The conference will be kicked off by Clarence Peters, who was Saskatchewan's Provincial Fruit Specialist for 27 years prior to his retirement, and will discuss how the industry has developed. Current Provincial Fruit Specialist Forrest Scharf will address the delegates during the opening night banquet.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for personal networking during the event.

"Sometimes, that is every bit as valuable as the sessions themselves," Blakley said. "We can learn from professional people, but we learn an awful lot just from networking with others who are doing the same thing as we are."

The agenda has been designed to deal with the interests and issues of everyone in the sector, according to Blakley.

"For people just starting out, with something like a u-pick operation, we have the raspberry and strawberry workshop," she said. "In crops like saskatoons, the most advanced sector for fruit, marketing both nationally and internationally is increasingly important."

There will be two sessions on the potential for haskap, also known as honey-berry or blue honeysuckle, which is just beginning to develop as a commercial crop in Saskatchewan. The University of Saskatchewan's Eric LeFol and Bob Bors will present information on both crop development and the potential market for haskap exports to Japan.

The SFGA currently has about 160 members, and continues to develop new information and networking opportunities for members.

"That's one of the major advantages of being a member of the association. People like to hear how other growers are doing and how they are succeeding," said Blakley. "For instance, at this conference, we'll hear from Marie Bohnet of Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery."

Complete information and registration forms are available on the SFGA website at http://www.saskfruit.com/.

For more information, contact:
Charon Blakley, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association
Phone: (306) 743-5333
E-mail: cas.lyn@sasktel.net

Reducing Cattle Feeding Costs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With grain prices on the rise and margins shrinking for cattle producers, the time is right to look at the advantages of feeding lower grade grain such as light test weight barley.

Earlier this fall, cash prices for 1CW barley were as high as $167.12 per tonne, or $3.64 per bushel. Prices have dropped slightly and are currently about $153.00 per tonne, or $3.33 per bushel (in-store Saskatoon).

"With these higher prices for heavy feed barley, lighter test weight barley purchased at discounted prices may be an attractive option for cattle producers," said Saskatchewan Agriculture Livestock Development Specialist Bryan Doig.

This year, barley harvested in many locations across the province had lighter bushel test weights due primarily to dry conditions and high temperatures during the month of July.

"Many feedlots apply significant discounts for lighter barley and often refuse to purchase barley that is lighter than 42 pounds per bushel," said Doig.

Doig cites research done at the University of Alberta that compared the performance of feed steers fed finishing rations containing light test weight barley to rations with heavy barley.

"There were no differences in average daily gains or days to finish, comparing 34.5 pound, 47.3 pound, and 51.3 pound barley in finish feedlot rations," said Doig. "There were no differences in carcass weights, dressing percentage, rib-eye area or back fat depth between the three barley weights."

According to the Alberta study, steers gained an average of 3.6 to 3.7 pounds per day with a start weight of 867 pounds and a finish weight of 1162 pounds. It took 6.29 pounds of dry matter to get one pound of gain for the light barley, compared to 5.9 pounds of dry matter to get one pound of gain for the heavy barley.

"The dry-matter-to-gain ratio was six per cent higher for the light barley," Doig said. "The light barley contained more fibre and less starch than the heavy barley."

Doig notes that the main problem producers may encounter with light test weight barley is the variability in kernel size, because small kernels mixed with large kernels can make rolling the feed a challenge.

"Barley should be milled or ground to increase its digestibility," he stated. "This usually increases the feed efficiency by 20 per cent or more. Breaking the barley into two or three pieces is all that's required to expose the starch."

These findings are important, since 2007 is looking like a record year for the prices of top grade grains of all varieties. As a result, the feed grain market will be under pressure over the next several months, and innovative approaches will be required to manage feeding costs, especially in a time of flattening cattle prices.

"Lighter test weight barley at discounted prices could help offset high feed grain prices, it's that simple," Doig said. "This may provide an opportunity for producers to reduce feeding costs for wintering cows, backgrounding, and finisher calves."

For more information, contact:
Bryan Doig, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone: (306) 446-7477
E-mail: bdoig@agr.gov.sk.ca

A Natural Fit Suggests Bright Future For Can Pro

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Can Pro Ingredients Ltd. Of Arborfield is currently taking the necessary steps to establish the first commercial implementation of a new canola processing technology. The technology was made possible through acquisitions deemed a natural fit for the company.

After the recent acquisition of business assets and operations of Arborfield Dehy Ltd. (ADL) and licensing of proprietary canola processing technology from MCN Bioproducts Inc. (MCN), Can Pro Ingredients Ltd. Is in the process of transforming ADL's existing alfalfa processing plant into a multi-product processing facility.

"The acquisition was necessary to provide the base for the production facility," explained Todd Lahti, President and CEO of Can Pro Ingredients. "We acquired these assets and now we are expanding the production facilities that exist there, so it was a faster route than starting from scratch."

He says the combined operations are larger, more diversified, and more flexible than either alone.

"Arborfield Dehy Ltd. Has been operating the alfalfa business since the early 1970s, so when looking for a place to start this new canola business, it was beneficial to start it where there was existing infrastructure in place," said Lahti.

Lahti added that there are certain pieces of equipment that are utilized in the ADL business that are also utilized in the canola processing scheme and that they are planning to put to work within the new facility.

The expansion of the facility is expected to be complete and commissioned by May of next year. In addition to alfalfa, Can Pro will be processing canola. They will be crushing seed and using the licensed new canola processing technology which fractionates canola meal into a series of higher value products.

The infractionation process is a home-grown canola technology invented at the University of Saskatchewan and commercialized by MCN to employ in Saskatchewan's most productive canola region.

"This new venture is a synergistic combination of existing infrastructure and new technology," said Lahti. "Our value-added processing model accesses multiple input crops, maximizes infrastructure utilization, injects proprietary technology, and produces a diversified product line for international feed and industry markets."

"The canola meal is a low-value byproduct right now. MCN's patented infractionation process takes canola meal and fractionates it into multiple byproduct streams, creating products of much higher value than canola meal," explained Lahti.

"The canola meal has been an undervalued product for years with limited utilization. Therefore, fractionating the canola meal into other products opens up new markets for canola protein that previously could not be accessed. The new market suggests that more value is generated from the starting seed."

Can Pro has also attracted attention from biofuel manufacturers who have byproduct streams in need of further processing. The company's total seed utilization and multiple input materials approach to canola and alfalfa provide a model to enhance the economic viability of the biofuels industry.

"One of the problems with the biodiesel economic model is that they get little value from the meal. Our model extracts much greater value from the meal, which then allows better economics for the overall biodiesel manufacturer," Lahti suggested.

"Combined with unique local inputs, our model provides a risk-managed, sustainable, competitive advantage for our new company. If bio-refining is the wave of the future, this is an important step."

For more information, contact:
Todd Lahti, President and CEO
Can Pro Ingredients Ltd.
Phone: (306) 651-1930
E-mail: lahti@cpil.ca

Soil Disturbance Can Increase Anthrax Risk

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle producers considering improvements that will result in excavation in certain pasture areas are being advised to strongly consider vaccinating their herd for anthrax before going ahead.

"Anthrax spores come from the soil, and disturbance means higher risk for livestock in the immediate area," said Bob Drysdale, Resource Management Specialist with the Lands Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Saskatchewan Agriculture closely monitors disease and environmental conditions across the province to maintain optimal health and range conditions for its Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP). The program comprises some 54 community pastures representing 846,000 acres of grassland. The program serves approximately 2,500 patrons, who graze 125,000 cattle and calves.

"After the anthrax outbreak in 2006, SPP regional managers required cattle in anthrax risk areas to be vaccinated before entering the pastures this spring," Drysdale said. "By working proactively with the Pasture Patron Advisory Committees, SPP came through the 2007 pasture season without any anthrax-related cases, even with the repeated wet conditions in northeastern Saskatchewan this summer."

In late August, the pasture program was advised by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of an anthrax case in Cherry Grove, Alberta, near Cold Lake. Pasture managers were immediately notified of the risk, with an extra caution for the Beacon Hill and Bluebell Pastures just across the border from Cherry Grove.

"The basis of the Cherry Grove incident was traced to excavation," said Drysdale. "Since there was a case near Lloydminster in May and one near Bonneville the previous summer, this indicated a risk for anthrax in the northeastern area of Alberta. This case has real implications for SPP and livestock producers in risk areas of Saskatchewan."

With the risk ever-present, and the potentially devastating consequences for producers of any large-scale anthrax outbreak, Saskatchewan Agriculture is urging caution and the incorporation of prevention into plans for pasture improvements.

"If producers are planning excavation work such as buildings, dugouts and water pipelines, they should consider vaccinating if there have been anthrax cases in their areas," said Drysdale.

"Talk to your local veterinarian about anthrax. Their knowledge of conditions in your region will help decide whether vaccinating for anthrax is appropriate for your situation. With the herd out of the pasture for winter, now is the time to consider vaccination, before excavations begin in the spring."

For more information, contact:
Bob Drysdale, Resource Management Specialist, Lands Branch
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone : (306) 787-5173
E-mail : bdrysdale@agr.gov.sk.ca

Federal Funding Announced for Scenic Byways

Southern Illinois will receive a good chunk of $2 million in federal funds announced yesterday for scenic byways in the state. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin's office released the details Thursday.

According to Durbin's office the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has awarded the following National Scenic Byways Discretionary Grants to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for the Ohio River Scenic Byway.
  • Pulaski County — $262,561 in funding for the design and construction of an overlook of the Ohio River including parking, a walkway, an overlook platform, landscaping, interpretive signs and directional signs.

  • Cairo — $275,000 in funding for the re-creation and re-construction of Fort Defiance as it existed during the Civil War. Fort Defiance was used by General Grant to lead the great Western Campaign of the Civil War. This funding will be used as part of a $2.6 million park improvement program by the City of Cairo.

  • Southeastern Illinois — $25,000 in funding for the implementation of the Corridor Management Plan which will enable the byway coordinator to coordinate and manage initiatives and projects while developing a marketing plan to promote the byway.

In addition to these projects funds were awarded to the Historic National Road byway which runs through Vandalia and three projects for the Meeting of the Great Rivers Byway in the St. Louis MetroEast area.

Improvements Set for Cairo

Monday's Southeast Missourian had a good story about some of the improvements taking place in Cairo.
CAIRO, Ill. -- This community once envisioned to become a great Midwestern metropolis has suffered from an economic depression for at least half a century. But flickers of life have appeared recently. Biodiesel and coal gasification are two of the industries considering locating in Cairo. There's talk of relocating the airport to make room for other industries.

Another sign of life can be found in attempts to preserve Cairo's history. In a few weeks, construction is scheduled to begin on a design that will rehabilitate and expand the vacant tollhouse next to the Ohio River bridge into a museum that will reflect Cairo's Civil War and transportation history. The $1 million project is being funded through a variety of sources but primarily the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Cairo's history offers tremendous potential for tourism development. It's good to see a new administration in the city working toward that goal.

New Convenience Store Opens Below Hill

The new FiveStar Food Mart convenience store opened yesterday at around 2 p.m. located at the northeast corner of Route 13 (West DeYoung) and Halfway Road just west of Exit 54.

The store is the first Illinois location for Newcomb Oil Co., a Bardstown, Kentucky-based company.

It's also the first of what will hopefully be several new projects on the former site of the old Wolohan Lumber Co. The parent company sold most of its stores and morphed into a real estate development company focusing on its real estate holdings such as the Marion land.

The convenience store is just one of several projects underway on the city's west side.

Big New Industry Targeting Marion

It's not on their website yet, but WJPF News Radio is reporting a large national retailer may be just weeks away from announcing the selection of Marion for a new regional distribution center employing hundreds.

Marion Mayor Robert L. Butler told the station he's not been given the go-ahead to identify the name of the company but added that an announcement could come before the end of the month.

The new plant is a distribution center that could employ between 300 and 400 workers. Marion is already home to the large Circuit City distribution plant.

The Circuit City building is so big it's measured in acres rather than square feet. The new distribution center could very well be on the same scale. If so, that will be good for the hospitality industry. Construction jobs that big often involve specialized workers who come in and stay at area motels.

The new plant would be located east of Marion in a new industrial park on the south side of Route 13. The city council authorized a Phase I archaeological survey on the grounds earlier this summer. Later when U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello announced a multi-million dollar grant to extend a water line from Rend Lake to Marion Butler again commented about the number of jobs this would initiate.

Eagle Tours Registration Begins Dec. 10

Reservations open next week for the Bald Eagle tours at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. The tours take place the third and fourth weekends of January and begin at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and last 2.5 hours. The dates are January 19-20 and 26-27.

Reservations open on December 10 and may be made by calling 618-998-5933.

Each Eagle Watch tour begins at the refuge visitors center on Route 148 with a brief overview of the species and what visitors might expect to see on the tour. The tours use the refuge's vans and travel to places where bald eagles have been visited in the past.
Last year, of the six nests on the Refuge, five had at least one chick fledge. The new nest in Crab Orchard Campground was successful and hatched two eaglets. Eagles were seen at the other new nest on the east side of Little Grassy Lake near thedam, but they didn't actually produce any eaglets.

With six nests on the refuge, there should be at last 12 eagles on or near the refuge year round. Immature bald eagles usually remain near their nest for a couple of years after they've hatched, too. Wolf Creek Causeway near the fishing piers is a good places to spot one of the young eagles.

Bald eagles that winter at Crab Orchard NWR spend their summers in the northern United States and Canada feasting on fish. In the midst of the Southern Illinois winter, eagles often feed on sick and injured waterfowl.

According to the refuge's newsletter "Wild Times" every Eagle Watch tour over the last decade has seen at least one bald eagle.

Agritourism Conference Set for January

The Illinois Specialty Crops and Agritourism Conference is set for January 9-12, 2008 at the Crowne Plaza hotel & Convention Center.

Wendesday will be for workshops for specialty crops. There's one on using high tunnels and greenhouses to extend seasons and the other is on growing grapes in Illinois.

Sessions on Thursday and Friday are split into five tracts: Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Agritourism and Cross-Cutting Issues.

I attended this conference last year and it offered a number of good ideas and discussions.

Check out the group's website for more information.

Record year for oat production

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that this year's oat production on the Prairies could be at the highest level in three decades.

Saskatchewan's oat production is up 44 per cent from last year.

The Statistics Canada survey of over 3,000 Saskatchewan farmers pegs oat production in the province at 2.5 million tonnes.

Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission Executive Director Jack Dawes says strong market factors are driving an increase of over 35 per cent in harvested acres.

"The big thing is that oat prices went up quite substantially, and that, of course, always drives acres. The other thing to keep in mind is that oats have been one of the few profitable crops over the past few years," Dawes said.

"Partly because of the need for lower input costs, oats have been a real solid crop. Of course, there has been a lot of good export demand from the United States, so that has helped keep prices up."

The big American millers, including companies like General Mills and Quaker Oats, are major purchasers of Canadian oats.

"We grow the best oats, and there are very, very few oats of any quality being grown in the States. Since the early ‘90s, Canada has been the go-to market for the big players," Dawes said. "Right here in Yorkton, we have Grain Millers, and they have several plants in the U.S. So there are very strong customers for Canadian oats."

While production was up, Dawes says yields could have been better.

"From all indications, oats have been no different than any other crop in that what looked like big bushels back in June haven't panned out," he noted. "A lot of that has to do with the heat. My guess is that yields are going to come in somewhere around average, but the bushel weight is going to be down."

Some external market factors suggest that oat prices and the oat market will remain strong, with even an outside chance this year could actually see Canadian oats exported to Europe. Analysts predict that a bad crop year in Europe and an end to the European export subsidy for oats could create import demand for the Canadian product.

"There are always a number of factors, but it seems like a lot of them have come together at a good time for farmers who are looking to sell oats," said Dawes.

There are an estimated 14,000 oat producers in Saskatchewan, but the volume of oat production still pales in comparison to canola, barley and wheat.

The Statistics Canada survey also showed significant production increases this year in other crops. Pea production is expected to be about 2.4 million tonnes, thanks to a record harvested area of 2.9 million acres. Barley production increased by more than 850,000 tonnes to 4.3 million tonnes, with a 29-per-cent increase in the harvested area.

Statistics Canada will release final production numbers in early December.

For more information, contact:

Jack Dawes, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission
Phone: (306) 744-2775
Website: http://www.poga.ca/

Food safety management for beef producers made simple

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle producers have the tools and the know-how to prepare their cattle for market free of drug residues, thanks to the practices outlined in the Quality Starts Here/Verified Beef Production (VBP) program.

"The program provides the latest knowledge to assess and improve on-farm food safety," said Jodie Horvath, Provincial Co-ordinator for VBP in Saskatchewan. "It helps cattle producers keep up to date with good production practices in their operations, and supports improved efficiency."

The Verified Beef Production program manual outlines standard operating procedures on the use of animal health products, medicated feed and water, control of pesticides, and cattle shipping.

A key recommendation is that producers keep a permanent record of all individual and group medical treatments of their herd. The record should include details such as date, animal identification, product used, route of administration, withdrawal time, and who administered the treatment.

"The manual provides sample records to help you get started," Horvath said. "Animal identification is a must-do step in order to clearly link the animal with its treatment or vaccination record throughout the duration of its withdrawal period. Group or pen identification can be used in the case of group treatments."

Another important record-keeping practice is to double-check that all drug withdrawal requirements have been met before cattle are shipped to slaughter or to the next owner. The manual suggests that treatment records should be initialled once the producer has verified the withdrawal date.

Producers can avoid some potential issues by taking simple steps, such as storing their animal health products according to label instructions, which normally means avoiding extreme cold or heat. It is also important to make sure that syringes and other equipment deliver the intended amount of product.

"Sometimes we see producers using treatments in ways that are not in keeping with product labelling," Horvath noted. "This so-called ‘extra-label use' includes use on species or under conditions not listed on the label, using different dosages than specified, or using the treatment via an inappropriate route, frequency or duration."

The VBP requires that, in cases of extra-label use, there must be a vet prescription for the treatment. This prescription should include withdrawal times appropriate to the product's use.

The manual also deals with "what-if" situations that may arise.

"For example, if a needle breaks, you need to identify the animal and record the incident in a permanent record," Horvath stated. "The next owner must be notified. Or, if the wrong product is administered or if the dose is wrong, you should contact your vet and record it to make sure the animal meets its withdrawal time before shipping for slaughter."

At this time of year, it is common for cull cows to be shipped if they have turned up open during pregnancy checks. Concerns can arise if they have been given health products in the two-month period prior to shipping.

"Some of the common topical treatments for parasite control require a 49-day withdrawal period before slaughter," said Horvath. "Separating the culls from the rest of your cows before treating the herd is an easy way to avoid any accidental treatments."

Producers can learn more about these procedures and the manual at Verified Beef Production program workshops, which will be scheduled at various locations this fall and winter.

"The workshops last about two hours, and include time to go through the manual and discuss its requirements with qualified VBP trainers," said Horvath. "I welcome questions about the program from anyone who wants more information."

For more information, contact:

Jodie Horvath, Provincial Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Verified Beef Production Program
Phone: (306) 675-6177
E-mail: jhorvath@sasktel.net

New pricing strategy for mustard capital inc.

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Mustard producers now have the option of choosing from three new pricing contracts when selling their product to Mustard Capital Inc. (MCI) in Gravelbourg.

The dry mustard mill began operating a few weeks ago, and produces flour, oil and bran products. MCI has created two averaged-priced contracts that will give producers the opportunity to share in the upside of price surges in mustard markets.

"These changes were necessary due to the current volatile market," said Tom Halpenny, CEO and member of the MCI board of directors. "Currently, mustard prices are fluctuating, creating uncertainty."

Halpenny explained the three pricing contract options available to farmers.

The first option allows producers to take a spot price on delivery, which is very similar to what is offered traditionally. The prices offered will fluctuate daily, and if a producer likes the current price, he or she is able to book into a purchase agreement.

The second option allows producers to average the daily prices from the time the contract is signed to July 31 of the crop year in which the average is calculated, with delivery based on MCI's call.

The third option allows producers to select one of four 60-day pricing and delivery periods beginning on December 1, 2007, with price averaging during that time frame and guaranteed delivery.

Halpenny says the new pricing options give producers the opportunity and flexibility to participate in future price rallies. "Producers are able to lock in a minimum price, which would be paid at the time of delivery," he noted. "Then, we pay the amount owing if the average is greater than the minimum price. This process allows producers upside potential if the market increases, with no downside risk."

Yellow mustard has topped 40 cents per pound this fall. For producers who think the rally will continue, the price averaging contracts will be enticing. MCI hopes these options will attract long-term suppliers who will provide the company with the stability it needs in the tough international market for food ingredients.

Halpenny stated that MCI has recognized two deciding factors with respect to pricing options. "We want to secure our supply, but we recognize that producers want to extract as much value as they can from the marketplace. Our pricing options match these objectives," he said.

For the averaging options, the minimum price is paid at the time of delivery, with the amount owing being paid within 10 days at the end of the averaging period. Average price is calculated using Stat Publishing's daily posted price, which is the average of five brokers' daily spot prices.

All of the contract options include paid storage from the time the producer signs an agreement until the time of delivery.

The volatile prices in the mustard market are the result of decreased supply. Although mustard acres in Western Canada were up this year, production was average when combined with the carry-over from last year.

Production from this year still leaves less supply than was available last year at this time. As well, production declined in eastern Europe, further decreasing supply. Consequently, with limited supply, prices are trending higher.

More information regarding pricing contract options can be obtained by contacting MCI at (306) 648-2799.

For more information, contact:

Tom Halpenny, CEO
Mustard Capital Inc.
Phone: (306) 648-2799

Maximum value from equine health funding

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Equine health research is getting a major boost with the latest funding from the Equine Health Research Fund (EHRF) to the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The EHRF is providing $225,000 to several research and training programs at the college. It is the single largest annual amount ever awarded by the 30-year-old fund. The investment will be used in three major areas, according to Dr. Norman Rawlings, WCVM's associate dean of research.

"The fund is supporting three of our residents," Rawlings said. "They are veterinary graduates who have come back to do specialized training in some aspect of equine medicine or surgery. They are tomorrow's specialists and researchers."

In addition to the training component, the funding will also be used for research projects that are aimed at increasing knowledge of equine medicine.

"The faculty members apply for the funds, and an external committee composed of people from other colleges reviews the applications," Rawlings said. "They would be projects to do with fertility and management of reproduction, orthopaedic surgery, and several in the area of infectious diseases and immunology."

Another important aspect of the WCVM research effort is the fellowships offered to undergraduate students.

"Last year, we had some 43 undergraduates working in the college, in a laboratory, with a professor, on some sort of research project do with veterinary medicine," said Rawlings. "We see this as a means of getting students interested in research and graduate studies when they leave the college."

The Equine Health Research Fund has helped the WCVM become a national centre for horse health research and specialized training. It has resulted in the training of many equine specialists who are working in clinics across Western Canada.

"The reason this fund was set up was to foster equine research with the WCVM," Rawlings noted. "We regard this as start-up money for research projects, but we encourage faculty to go outside and look for other sources of funding once they get rolling."

The EHRF is administered by the college, but is entirely dependent on grants and donations from outside the university.

"We get donations from horse clubs, individual owners, clinicians and some of the racing associations, as well as the endowment which makes grants from its interest earnings," Rawlings said. "We have a standing offer of $100,000 in grants from a private foundation over the next four years if we can find a matching amount from other sources. So we are always looking for participants in this two-for-one campaign, and we welcome new supporters."

There is always information on the activities of the Equine Health Research Fund in the college's Horse Health Lines magazine. Anyone interested can also find more on the WCVM website, at http://www.usask.ca/wcvm/.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Norman Rawlings, Associate Dean of Research
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-7068
E-mail: norman.rawlings@usask.ca

Workshop focuses on nutrition and management for organic beef

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

"Better Beef - Better Returns" is a workshop that is designed to assist organic beef producers with returns on their cattle by optimizing nutritional performance and improving management decisions.

Craig Klemmer, a Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the workshop will give organic livestock producers tools and instruction, allowing participants to take home the material and apply it to their own agricultural operation.

The course will be separated into two sections. The first part will cover nutrition balancing, while the second segment will focus on management.

Nutrition balancing will address the issues of creating a balanced ration, allowing producers to maximize the performance of their cattle based upon the available feedstock. Cattle owners will be able to compare different rations so that they can determine the best gain and return from the feed.

Instructors will address the importance of producers knowing their individual costs of production. Using management calculators, producers will determine their cost per pound of gain, including all overhead and operating costs associated with cattle production.

"I would highly recommend that organic producers feeding cattle in Saskatchewan enrol in this course," Klemmer said. "They will receive a lot of good information that will allow them to improve both the animal and financial health of their operations."

The course will be offered in Saskatoon on January 18 to 20 at the University of Saskatchewan, and in Yorkton on January 23 to 24 at the Parkland Regional College. Registration is $575 per person, which includes all class material, software and follow-up support. It is a Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) registered course, and limited space is available at both locations, so producers are encouraged to sign up early.

Registration forms are available on the SAF website at http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca, or by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:

Craig Klemmer, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 953-2772
E-mail: cklemmer@agr.gov.sk.ca

Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone : 1-866-457-2377

Winter feed concerns require careful management

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

You've cut and baled your available forages and put your feed grains into storage. But you're still concerned you might be tight for feed this winter, and your budget, as always, is pretty thin. What can you do about it?

Getting through the winter when feed for your herd is scarce and expensive means getting the most out of every forkful.

It is really an ongoing management strategy in well-run and profitable operations where production costs are constantly pared to the bone.

Planning ahead from the first sign of trouble for available winter feed - considering both quality and quantity - can get the bulk of the herd through the cold season without spending too much money or sacrificing productivity the following year.

In order to help cattle producers manage the challenging task of wintering a herd with a limited feed supply, the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS) has devoted one of its many "Cattle FACS" fact sheets to the subject.

"The information we provide through these fact sheets has been developed by committees of cattle care experts with specific knowledge in each of the topic areas covered," said FACS Executive Director Adele Buettner. "Our organization has offered to co-ordinate the effort, produce the material and make it as widely available to producers as possible."

The first strategy the fact sheet recommends is to match feed nutrients to animal needs. This means saving the best quality feed for after calving, and the next-best feed for 60 days before calving. Boosting feed during cold snaps is also necessary, particularly for young or thin cattle.

Segregating cattle by their feed requirements can reduce over- and under-feeding. For example, mature cows in good condition will need fewer nutrients than bred yearlings or rebred two year-old heifers.

"Animal feed experts always advise producers to test, don't guess," said Dr. Murray Jelinski, FACS director and veterinarian at the University of Saskatchewan. "In other words, feed test and balance rations based on actual nutrients in the feed." Vitamins, minerals, protein supplements and mixed-in grain should be introduced as required, particularly for young, growing or thin cattle.

The second strategy recommended in the information is to minimize the herd's overall feed requirements. For example, use herd records to identify and keep only the best breeding cows or replacement heifers. Pregnancy test and consider culling open cows, hard calvers, poor mothers or those with bad feet, legs, udders, eyes or temperament.

Employ a body condition scoring system to manage the herd's rations, and manage feed to reduce waste. "This could include something as simple as feeding on clean snow, feeding under a hot wire, or grinding and mixing with more palatable roughages," Jelinski said. "Whatever works to get your cattle through the winter."

Experts also suggest treating for external parasites such as lice and warbles, since they lessen a cow's health and increase feed requirements. Internal parasites may also be worth treating, on the advice of a veterinarian.

The third strategy recommended in the fact sheet is to maximize the value of the feed supply. Supplement low-quality roughages like mature range grass, slough hay, stubble and straw. They are too low in protein (and energy, minerals and vitamins) to support sufficient microbial growth in the rumen for optimal digestion.

"Evidence shows that proper supplementation of nutrients and grain will allow animals to get much more value out of the same feed," Jelinski stated. "When formulating rations, it's always a good idea for producers to consult their veterinarians, a provincial agriculture specialist or an animal nutritionist."

Feed experts note that grinding coarse or poor quality feeds can increase feed value by increasing intake. Mixing with moderate quality roughages will increase palatability and dilute anti-nutritive factors like nitrates, as well.

The Cattle FACS fact sheet on how to manage a herd through winter feed shortages can be obtained from the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan's website at http://www.facs.sk.ca/ or by calling 249-3227.

There are a number of other good resources on the subject, including the websites of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Western Beef Development Centre and the Prairie Feed Resource Centre of the University of Saskatchewan. Another good source of information are the livestock nutrition experts at the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre. They can be reached toll-free at 1-866-457-2377.

FACS is a membership-based, non-profit organization that represents the livestock industry in advancing responsible welfare, care and handling practices in agriculture. It endeavours to raise producer awareness of the economic and ethical benefits of animal welfare and to help consumers achieve a greater understanding of animal care issues.

For more information, contact:
Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: 249-3227
E-mail: facs@sasktel.net
Website: www.facs.sk.ca

Little Horses are a big passion for Parkbeg producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A mutual interest in miniature horses sparked a marriage and a 20 year business for Dennis and Donna Russell, operators of Double D Miniatures in Parkbeg.

"Donna got into them in 1981," says Dennis Russell. "I was working bigger horses and then a friend of mine bought some miniatures. She was showing them and I was showing for a friend of mine, and that's how we met and got married."

The result was the Double D operation, originally established in the Wolseley area, but now located in Parkbeg.

Miniature horses are literally small copies of the well known larger breeds. They represent everything from draft horse types to elegant Arabians in look and colour, and can be found with the look of the appaloosa, pinto and many other variations.

Miniatures are shown right across North America, and sold as pets, therapeutic animals, and often seen in parades, exhibitions and at petting zoos.

Dennis Russell has seen an evolution in the breeding towards a slimmer and longer legged animal.

"At one time they were short-legged," he says. "You buy good stallions to put some leg under them, and then they look like small versions of full-sized saddle horses rather than a short, stocky draft horse."

Standards for breeders are established by the American Miniature Horse Association, which sanctions shows, including the World Championship, across North America. Dennis and Donna Russell normally take in five or six shows per year, showing their horses in several categories. They are proud to have had a national championship with a stallion in the under-28 inches category at Tulsa in 2005.

The Russells are running about 50 head of miniatures, of which some five or six are being shown in any given year. Showing and selling are closely linked.

"You're trying to sell horses all the time," says Dennis. "The show circuit is in spring and summer, and the better you do, the more you can sell."

The Russell herd includes stallions, mares, geldings and foals. They range from 25 to 32 inches in height at the shoulder, and come with names like "Shirley's Gem," "China Doll," and "Meadow Pussycat."

"We've made sales from the east coast to the west coast," says Donna Russell proudly. "Our horses went to Nova Scotia last year and to Washington state this January."

Many of the miniatures are sold as pets, which brings a price of several hundred dollars. Breeders looking for the best stock will pay thousands for the right animal. In Saskatchewan, there are at least 45 members of the provincial miniature horse club. Sales are generally conducted privately through contacts made at shows or on the Internet.

For the Russells, small is big. Along with the horses, they sell mini-carts in a sulkie style or even a tiny grain wagon, along with the harness required for the miniatures to pull the carts for shows or pleasure rides. They are also breeders of registered Yorkshire Terriers, the teacup-sized puppies that grow into the perfect lap dog.

They welcome inquiries about their horses, carts, and dogs at http://www.doubledminiatures.com/ or at 355-2399.

For more information, contact:
Dennis and Donna Russell, Owners
Double D Miniatures
Phone: 355-2399
E-mail: drussell@facmail.com

Alpaca Breeders Working Together To Build New Markets

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The young alpaca industry is pulling together through a provincial network and a national co-operative to find markets for their unique fibre product.

Alpacas are a domesticated version of a species that arose in the South American highlands, in the camelid family. They might be called "small llamas," in that they superficially look like a llama, but are much smaller. Unlike llamas, which are used as beasts of burden in their home countries, alpacas are raised only for their fibre.

"Alpacas were a hidden secret of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile for thousands of years," says Lynn Hilderman, who operates Country Vista Alpacas with her husband Don on a farm near Duval. "The first herds in North America and Australia only date back to the late 1980s."

Like sheep, alpacas are raised to be sheared, and their soft fibre is used for weaving various fabrics. Alpaca fibre grows in over 50 natural colours and many grades of softness and toughness.

"We shear them once a year, in April," says Lynn Hilderman. "It can be done anywhere from April to June. Then the new growth is enough to protect them from the summer sun, and there's lots of time to grow their heavier coats for winter."

The Hildermans are running some 36 head of their own, and caring for another 50 stock that will be sold on consignment for other producers. They have been in the alpaca business for 11 years.

"They are easy to raise," says Hilderman. "The animals are gentle, inquisitive, friendly, and intelligent. They don't eat much and don't require that much attention. They live up to 25 years and reproduce pretty much through their whole life cycle."

For producers, the challenge to make the industry viable is building markets. To that end, they have formed the Saskatchewan Alpaca Breeders Network (http://www.sabn.net/), which represents a majority of the 50 active breeders in Saskatchewan.

"You can enter at many levels, from just keeping a couple of fibre-producing males, to a group of mixed females, to top quality bred females," says Hilderman.

The SABN exists to share expertise and success stories and to promote alpaca fibre here at home and elsewhere. Members recently organized displays and sales at the Sask In Demand trade show held in Saskatoon, and their annual alpaca show was held in Nokomis.

Now alpaca breeders from across Canada are coming together in the Canadian Camelid Fibre Co-op (http://www.cancamco-op.com/) to market their product.

"The co-op was formed to provide quality assurance and uniform classes of fibre," says Lynn Hilderman. "This created certified classes of fibre so that you have consistency of colour and grade when it goes to the mill. As a result of the availability of large lots of uniform fibre, our products are now much softer and more durable."

Alpaca fibre is woven into a long list of products, from sweaters and scarves to insoles for winter boots. Hilderman says the industry continues to evolve, and the current players are looking for new entrants.

"We need more members supporting the co-op with more fibre," she says. "Canada is not a fibre-producing nation on the order of Australia or England, where their experience allows them to adapt to the market very quickly. We are still doing trial and error, although we have begun to produce some really beautiful Canadian-made alpaca products."

Hilderman welcomes inquiries from fellow producers, those interested in joining the industry, and anyone who would like to know more about alpaca fibre products.

For more information, contact:
Lynn Hilderman, co-owner
Country Vista Alpacas
Phone: 725-4337
E-mail: lynn@cvalpacas.sk.ca
Website: http://www.cvalpacas.sk.ca/

New Lab Means More Leading Edge Research At WCVM

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The opening of the new Westgen Research Suite at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine is another leap forward for a facility with a long track record of producing results for livestock producers in Saskatchewan.

WCVM dean Dr. Charles Rhodes says the new lab will provide an enhanced base for the work the college has been known for over the past 30 years.

"The suite is primarily going to be concerned with research related to animal reproduction," says Dr. Rhodes. "It will focus on the common livestock species such as cattle, swine, sheep and horses."

The name of the new research suite honours Western Canada's Genetics Centre, a B.C.-based non-profit society owned by producers which promotes the development and use of assisted reproduction in dairy herds. Westgen contributed $640,000 toward the cost of the new laboratory building. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provided 60 per cent of overall funding, and the remainder was funded through Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

"This is a tremendous improvement for us at the college," says Dr. Rhodes. "It provides added space that we need for research and for graduate students. More importantly, it provides the very latest equipment and dedicated space to do really cutting-edge research in this area."

The Westgen Research Suite comprises facilities such as cell culture rooms, storage space for liquid nitrogen, and more than $1.5 million in specialized equipment. It will also host scientists from the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources Centre, which is dedicated to preserving the diversity of genetics in Canadian farm livestock.

The new lab completes a research wing of some 1,468 square metres that is certified to handle lower-level biohazards such as food pathogens. It represents part of a multi-year expansion and renovation project at the college.

"Earlier this summer, we opened the Animal Care Unit, which is where we house the research animals - everything from mice to cattle," says Dr. Rhodes. "Beyond that, we have expansion of our clinical resources, and we're working on our diagnostic laboratory right now. It'll be a year and a half to two years before the entire project is completed."

In all, some $57 million will be spent to modernize and expand the WCVM facilities.

"We will have an increase of about 25 per cent in space and a renovation of a quarter of the existing space," says Dean Rhodes. "It's a huge, complex project, because we're trying to keep our clinics running, our diagnostics lab running, and our student teaching continues during the midst of all this."

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine today boasts enrolment of over 400 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, and annual researching funding of more than $10 million from both public and private sources.

"Really, what you're talking about is enabling good people to do good things," says Dr. Rhodes. "In order to attract outstanding students and outstanding staff you need to have the facilities and equipment that they can apply to modern research."

For more information, contact:
Dr. Charles Rhodes, Dean
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: 966-7448
E-mail: Rhodes@usask.ca

Little Egypt Off-Road Wins State Grant

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources just awarded a $210,000 grant to Little Egypt Off-Road east of Crab Orchard earlier this month. The money comes from the state's Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreational Trails Program.

Little Egypt was one of six sites that will share $1.4 million in grants announced Nov. 9.
The OHV Recreational Trails Program is funded through the title fees on all-terrain vehicles and off-highway motorcycles, and through the sale of public access stickers that must be displayed on all off-highway vehicles using grant-assisted facilities. The program provides up to 100 percent reimbursement for approved project costs, which may include land acquisition from willing sellers, construction and maintenance of OHV trails and related facilities, restoration of areas damaged by OHV use, and for education and safety programs.

Local governments, not-for-profit OHV clubs and organizations, businesses and private individuals may apply for grants through the program. Projects are reviewed and recommended for funding by the Off-Highway Vehicle Trails Advisory Board composed of representatives of motorized recreation groups and organizations.

The grant to the Little Egypt Off-Road Motorcycle Club will help the group's 718-acre site south of Route 13 east of Marion.

According to the state's news release the project will include "construction of a shower and bathroom building, a picnic shelter with 20 picnic tables, the purchase of two utility ATVs for trail maintenance/security/rescue operations, the development of 12 additional miles of OHV trails, and funds for advertising the site."

Also in Southern Illinois Williams Hill Pass Association in southern Saline County will use $188,700 for improvements to their 220-acre OHV park on the north side of Williams Hill. There, "funds will be used for improvements to the showers, to widen and upgrade the entrance and site interior road, to install a water line to the welcome center/shower building, and funds for advertising the site."

The next round of grants will be accepted from January 1 to March 1, 2008. For more information check out the IDNR Division of Grant Administration.

Kerasotes to Donate Varsity to Stage Co.

Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole unveiled news this morning at his annual State of the City Address that Kerasotes Theatres will donate the shuttered Varsity Theater for the new home of The Stage Co.
Just yesterday, I spoke with one of the Kerasotes’ brothers, and after several years and more intensely the last several weeks and months, I am proud to announce today that the Varsity Theater will soon be donated to the community and will be available to become the permanent home of The Stage Company and hopefully some other not-for-profit organizations, such as Carbondale Community Arts.

That property will then become the Varsity Arts Center, a community-oriented, visual and performing arts center that will combine the nostalgia and romanticism of the past with the modern conveniences of the present.

Now, there is still much work that needs to be done, to renovate the property and to build proper offices, community rooms and staging areas, but this is a dream come true for many. It is certainly something I am very excited about and it will return the Varsity Theater to an active, integral part of the downtown entertainment atmosphere.

Several people are responsible for making this happen. First, of course, the Kerasotes family and Kerasotes Theaters company should be thanked and thanked again. Also, we should thank Trace Brown and Charlie Brown and Associates for doing a thorough inspection of the property and detailing an appraisal that makes it financially worthwhile for the company to donate it to us. And, without a doubt, all the people that have supported me behind the scenes (pun intended) to work with the property owners to get to this point… that specifically includes people like Blanche and Fred Sloan and Trish and John Guyon, who have all kept hoping and pushing to see something come to fruition. I hope they’re as excited about this as I am.

Congratulations Carbondale, not only will this be a boost for the Stage Co., but also for the Strip along South Illinois Avenue

Las Vegas Flights Cancelled Before Take-Off

Dreams of direct flights from Williamson County Airport to Las Vegas dissipated over the weekend with Friday's announcement that the flights scheduled to start in February would be canceled due to high fuel prices.

The Southern Illinois has more in Friday's article as well as more today in a follow-up.
Friday also marked the final day of air service from Williamson County to Chicago courtesy of Mesa Airlines in Phoenix. Only air service to St. Louis remains. There are two flights a day through Great Lakes Airlines in Cheyenne, Wyo.

"If there is a silver lining, it's that an airline like Allegiant did have interest in us and someone else will again," Kimmel said.

Crab Orchard Refuge Updates

I attended last night's annual meeting of the Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. There are were a number of projects I heard updates about, some were new, some I just knew were in the works.

Here's a summary:

  • Bogard Point Fishing Area — While there is already a fishing dock and benches at Bogard Point on the west side of Wolf Creek Road on the north shore of Crab Orchard Lake, the Friends approved a bid last night night to pay for a new 690 feet long walking path to extend from the existing parking lot, as well as five new picnic tables.

  • Bike Trail — The Friends has a committee working on developing bike trails inside the refuge and a surveying class at SIU-Carbondale is helping to do some of the planning work. They are generally looking to develop the first leg from the old northeast entrance of the refuge at Timmons Station Road on Marion's southwest side then following the old railroad grades across the north side of the refuge over to Wolf Creek Road. They are currently working on a grant to help cover the costs of doing this and replacing some of the bridge crossings.

  • Devils Kitchen Campground — The campground at Devil's Kitchen Lake will reopen next year on Memorial Day as a primitive campground. Amenities will include the shower building and plus another 9 or 10 tent camping sites.

  • Turn Lanes on Route 148 — Refuge Manager Dan Frisk told the group that the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Transportation have worked out a plan to provide turn lanes on Route 148 in front of the Visitors Center. As part of the project the intersection of Pigeon Creek Road and Route 148 will be realigned to match the entrance with the visitors center. Construction on this project should begin next summer.

The Friends of Crab Orchard NWR meets the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the refuge Visitors Center at 8588 Route 148 South.

Court Oversight of Shawnee Forest Continues

The Daily Register is reporting that U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert has decided to continue court oversight of the U.S. Forest Service's operations of trails and public guide and outfitter permits.

The Forest Service wanted out from the scrutiny.
Environmentalists and equestrians, usually at odds over forest use issues, joined together in supporting another year of oversight, which Gilbert saw as a positive step. Everyone seems to be working together at the Lusk Creek area — the flashpoint of debate in the case. Any cooperation between environmentalists and horse riders has to be seen as progress, the judge said Tuesday.

I used to cover the judge and the various lawsuits concerning the Shawnee National Forest in the 90s. Gilbert has been hearing those cases for more than a decade and has little patience for squabbling.

Corps Announces Winter Rules for Rend Lake

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is blaming its budget which they say will limit public access to parts of its Rend Lake complex this winter.

The following is from today's news release:
Benton, IL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Rend Lake is announcing some changes to the operation of two areas at Rend Lake for the upcoming winter months and the 2008 recreation season.

During the period of 1 December, 2007 thru 3 March, 2008 the Rend Lake Dam Road will no longer be open for public travel. The road will be gated and remain closed throughout the winter months. Access to this road will be made available on 3 March 2008. This closure is due to constrained resources for operating recreation areas at Rend Lake.

The popular “short cut” road which crosses over the Rend Lake dam will be gated to the west at the intersection of the Rend Lake Dam Road and the Rend City Road and to the east, slightly north of the intersection of the Licata and Mine 24 roads. The Sugar Creek parking lot will remain open for access throughout the winter season.

In addition, the South Marcum Recreation area will be open during the period of 15 July, 2008 thru 31 October, 2008. Areas that will be affected by this delayed opening will include South Marcum Boat Ramp, Shelter 9, Dale Miller Youth Area, and all campsites in the South Marcum Campground. No reservations will be taken for sites in the campground or the Dale Miller Youth area for the period of 1 April – 14 July, 2008. Any reservations which have been made prior to this announcement will be rescheduled.

For further information feel free to contact the Rend Lake Project Office at 618-724-2493.

The Southern Illinoisan already has an article available on its Afternoon Edition.

Marion Seeks Proposals for Old Hospital

Monday night the Marion City Council voted to seek proposals for redevelopment of the old Marion Memorial Hospital site. A Request for Proposal (RFP) went out yesterday.

Here's the RFP in part:
The City of Marion is seeking proposals from qualified developers to acquire and redevelop the former Marion Memorial Hospital located at 917 W. Main Street in Marion, IL.

Letters of intent must be submitted to Gail West, Director of Economic Development, City of Marion, 1102 Tower Square, Marion, IL 62959 by: 5 p.m., Friday, December 3, 2007.

The City of Marion will require the selected development team to enter into a redevelopment agreement with the City and commit to a timeline for improvements.

Background: The former Marion Memorial Hospitals sits on 7.448 acres, on Main Street and one block off of Route 37. The zoning of the site is C-1, General Commercial. The site is composed of three buildings, with a total square footage of 139,176 square feet. The largest building housed an 84 bed hospital and has 121768 sq ft. Attached to the main building is a 10528 sq ft one story building that served as an OB addition. The third Building also a one story brick building served as an insurance processing center and contains 6880 sq ft. Available utilities upon the site are city water, city sewer, electricity, natural gas and telephone. The topography of the site is generally level, drainage is adequate and landscaping is good. The driveway surface and parking areas are mostly asphalt covered. There are 135 parking spaces.

Redevelopment Objectives:
The City of Marion desires to encourage a development project that is innovative and will utilize either: (1) the existing structures or (2) by demolishing the existing structure(s), development of a project with retail, restaurant, and professional offices and/or mixed-use structures and which could include a combination of the following: street-level retail or restaurant and second level housing (town homes, loft-style apartments) and professional offices.

Available Incentives:
Acquisition: The City of Marion is willing to negotiate the cost of the building depending on the project scope and financial feasibility. A financial commitment will be required as a down payment.

The down payment and end use will both be used to judge the award of the proposal.

Hub TIF: The site is located in the Marion’s Hub Tax Increment Financing District. The City is willing to enter into a TIF agreement with the developer.

Williamson Snags Air Service to Vegas

Beginning Feb. 1, Southern Illinoisans will be able to fly direct to Las Vegas from Williamson County Regional Airport.

Airport Manager Doug Kimmel made the announcement this morning that Alligiant Air would begin service locally in just over three months.

Codell Rodriguez has the story at TheSouthern.com:
Flights will leave Williamson County at 1:25 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and arrive in Las Vegas at 2:55 p.m. with fares as low as $79 one way until May 15, 2008, when it will rise to about $99. Allegiant will use a 150-seat MD-80 jet, the largest plane the airport has ever used. Doug Kimmel, airport manager, said Allegiant expressed interest in expanding to Marion in November of 2006 because of the airports runway extension to 8,000 feet.

New Air Service for Williamson County

Officials with Williamson County Regional Airport will announce new air service tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 23) at 10 a.m. in the airline terminal.

It's been "win one, lose one" over the last few months with St. Louis service returning and Chicago service leaving next month.

In August airport manager Doug Kimmel told the Southern Illinoisan that negotiations were underway with Allegiant Air concerning service to vacation spots Orlando and Las Vegas.

No word if this is the announcement tomorrow, if it's Great Lakes Airlines taking over Chicago service, or something else entirely. Whatever, it's a step forward.

The media and public are invited to the announcement. Refreshments will be available.

WCTB Staff Take Part in ICCVB Conference

I normally wouldn't use the blog to talk about conferences we attend, but since the Macomb Journal has an article on it I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

The Illinois Council on Convention and Visitor Bureaus is the state trade association for tourism bureaus across the state. Macomb hosted this fall's conference.
"We're all doing the same thing, we're just doing it for different areas," said Kimberly Bless, chair of the ICCVB and President and CEO of the Elgin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tourism in Illinois is booming, relatively speaking. Back up to pre-Sept. 11 numbers, it's now in the top 10 industries that make up the Illinois economy.

"We've seen double digit growth in tourism money (spent) in Illinois over the last few years," Bless said.

One of the biggest assets ICCVB provides Williamson County is the opportunity to participate in trade shows and promotional events that would normally be too expensive for the bureau to do ourselves.

ICCVB has long had three niche committees - Tour Illinois, Meet in Illinois and Sports Illinois - which focus on the motorcoach/group tour markets, the meetings and conventions market and sports tourism respectively. A new committee, Market Illinois, held its first meeting this week and besides providing professional development opportunities for the bureaus' marketing directors plans to start attending travel writer conferences.
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