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ILLINOIS FARM BUREAU is kee ping state budg et issues among its state legislative priorities following action at the IFB board meeting last month. ..........3

WINTER 2009-2010 already h a s f e a t u r e d h e av y r a i n s a n d snow at many locations in the state and the season is but two weeks old. ...................................5

WINNING PHOTOS from our Member Photo Contest bring rural life in Illinois into focus with images of our state's agricultural landscape and people. ...............6,7

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two sections Volume 38, No. 1

Buffett: Don’t short-change ag post-Copenhagen BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Periodicals: Time Valued

U.S. agriculture could be “easily short-changed” — along with the growing world population — if global leaders don’t slow the climate policy process long enough to form reasoned conclusions and help farmers help the planet. So says Howard Buffett, head of the Decatur-based Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which oversees ag sustainability projects across the globe. Buffett is concerned about development of onesize-fits-all solutions and inadequate attention to U.S. agriculture’s potential contributions in the wake of December’s Copenhagen climate accord. In a non-binding pact, each of 193 nations at the Copenhagen summit pledged to meet future greenhouse pollution reduction targets — President Obama reported an international process he compared to the World Trade Organization would monitor compliance. The U.S. and others pledged $30 billion over three years to help developing nations reduce pollution while sustaining growth, with reductions in Third World deforestation a

major emphasis. Buffett doesn’t question that, climatically, “something’s changing.” He’s visited Howard Buffett northern Canada on a half-dozen occasions over the past 15 years and has witnessed an increasingly earlier ice melt and later “freeze-up” — “It’s affecting (polar) bear behavior,” he said. However, the farm philanthropist remains uncertain about the extent to which human activity affects climate change and “how we fix it.” As world leaders “speed through this process to develop policy,” potentially impacting future food production, Buffett believes scientists and policymakers must hone more precisely in on climate cause and effects. Major climate/greenhouse forecast models often lean heavily toward theoretical worst-case scenarios, “So you have this really big reaction to what the worst-case scenarios could be,” Buffett

told FarmWeek. U.S. production is “key to feeding the world,” and efforts to “beat up on U.S. farmers” threaten not only future food security but also world-class

tillage/conservation practices that capture and contain carbon emissions, he warned. “There are some things that are identifiable, and those things we should be dealing

with,” Buffett said. “Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer production are something we can pretty much identify. How See Buffett, page 4


Champaign-area producer Paul Berbaum demonstrates how his innovative new auger dolly transforms the cumbersome job of moving equipment from bin to bin into what he describes as “a simple 10-minute task.” Berbaum’s five grain bins are serviced by a single eight-inch auger. He told FarmWeek transporting the auger was “almost an impossible job” for himself and a back-breaker even with his brother’s help. His dolly enables a producer to easily raise and move an auger and line it up with and insert it into the bin’s auger tube. The invention also saves the cost of equipping each bin with its own auger. The Farm Bureau Farmer Idea Exchange submission will be featured at American Farm Bureau Federation’s Jan. 913 annual meeting in Seattle. For details about the annual meeting, see page 4. (Photo by Ken Kashian)

Senate health plan more ‘rural friendly’ While uncertain how the U.S. Senate’s health care plan would affect Americans overall, industry observers suggested last week it shouldn’t hurt and indeed could help some rural consumers. The Senate package “didn’t have everything we wanted,” but it includes some “good pieces” for rural communities, said National Rural Health Association (NRHA) governmental affairs specialist Alison Renner. NRHA proposes a dual approach to improving health care access: addressing medical workforce shortages in rural areas and reducing inequities in Medicare payments to rural providers. Both an earlier House plan and the Senate plan offer “strong workforce provisions” focusing on primary care needs, though Senate provisions are more “rural friendly,” Renner said.

“It doesn’t appear (rural communities are) going to be negatively impacted,” David Sniff, CEO with Rushville’s Culbertson Memorial Hospital, told FarmWeek. “How positively we’ll be impacted, I’m still unsure. “What’s encouraging is that we have in the Senate leaders that have rural backgrounds and that represent large constituencies of rural people. It’s not that we’re unique and should be treated special. We should be treated fairly,” he said. NRHA won Senate support for a proposed new program to train medical student residents in “community based settings.” Funding under Medicare’s Graduate Medical Education Program would help rural clinics and other approved medical teaching centers develop new primary care residency programs similar to those for which

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hospitals already are reimbursed. Added grants would enable medical colleges to develop rural health training programs and recruit more rural students. The Senate bill bolsters funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which fills needs in underserved areas, and expands teaching opportunities within the Corps. The plan would adjust the existing Medicare physician payment schedule to reduce disparities between regions and, ideally, between urban and rural areas, and proposes improved reimbursements for rural retail pharmacies. Senators rejected a proposal to boost reimbursements for “tweener” hospitals — small facilities that currently do not qualify as federally supported critical See Health, page 2

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FarmWeek Page 2 Monday, January 4, 2010

Quick Takes CROP HAIL DIVIDENDS RETURNED — Country Financial will return about $1.4 million in dividends in March to more than 13,190 crop hail policyholders in Illinois. Policyholders will receive a 10.7 percent return of the premium they paid in 2009. The amount of each dividend check will vary depending on the amount of crop hail coverage each policyholder had on crops during the 2009 season. “Farmers faced a difficult crop season this year. Even though the severity of losses was greater this year, we experienced fewer crop hail claims,” said Jeff Gendron, senior vice president of property and casualty operations for Country. The last time Illinois farmers received a dividend payment was for the 2007 crop season when Country returned $3.2 million to its crop hail clients. Country is the largest crop hail insurer in Illinois. The company provides crop hail protection to about 4.9 million acres of Illinois crops valued at about $1.7 billion. AG LEGISLATIVE ISSUES ON TAP — About 160 leaders are expected to represent more than 50 agricultural organizations, universities, agribusinesses, and federal and state governments Wednesday at the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable at the Illinois Farm Bureau Building, Bloomington. After receiving 2009 issue summaries and outlooks for the upcoming legislative session, the leaders will divide into working groups to discuss submitted federal and state legislative priorities for the ag industry. A preliminary list of federal and state priorities will be developed, pending final consensus from all roundtable members. THE YEAR IN AG — According to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, the biggest ag news story for 2009 was weather extremes, from drought in California and Texas to the wet planting in many regions and the unseasonably cool and wet harvest in many areas, including Illinois. Stallman said the cool, wet harvest created quality problems in many parts of the country. “It was really kind of an unusual weather year for U.S. agriculture,” he said. The other big news was the economic crisis that hit all aspects of the economy, some more than others. “We had hogs and the dairy industry under a lot of economic stress,” Stallman said. “We had much lower commodity prices than we had in 2008, while at the same time producers were still coping with higher input costs. So from an economic perspective, we took a significant decrease in net farm income, even though we still had a relatively high level. That created a lot of anxiety for producers.”

(ISSN0197-6680) Vol. 38 No. 1

January 4, 2010

Dedicated to improving the profitability of farming, and a higher quality of life for Illinois farmers. FarmWeek is produced by the Illinois Farm Bureau. FarmWeek is published each week, except the Mondays following Thanksgiving and Christmas, by the Illinois Agricultural Association, 1701 Towanda Avenue, P.O. Box 2901, Bloomington, IL 61701. Illinois Agricultural Association assumes no responsibility for statements by advertisers or for products or services advertised in FarmWeek. FarmWeek is published by the Illinois Agricultural Association for farm operator members. $3 from the individual membership fee of each of those members go toward the production of FarmWeek.

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Conferencing care: ‘Stark’ differences in bills BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Employers would not be required to offer coverage. However, companies with more than 50 employees would pay a $750-perworker fine if the government subsidizes employees’ coverage. “Both bills say that if you’re living in America, you have to buy health insurance,” Wolff said. “If farmers and ranchers could afford health insurance right now, they’d probably buy it.”

University of Illinois health care specialist Thomas O’Rourke sees a final health care bill being approved in time for President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address. The National Rural Health Association’s Alison Renner nonetheless noted “rather stark differences” between the House’s government-run “public option” for extending health coverage and PAYING FOR Senate proposals to offer conEXPANDED COVERAGE sumers a menu of privately ‘If anything, the House: $460 billion in new owned plans, including one income taxes over the next House will have operated on a non-profit basis. decade on individuals making That complicates House-Senate t o c o m e t o t h e more than $500,000 per year conference approval. Senate.’ and couples earning $1 million; “If anything, the House will $400 billion-plus in Medicare have to come to the Senate — — Thomas and Medicaid cuts; new fees for the Senate won’t go to the O’Rourke medical device manufacturers; House,” said O’Rourke, who penalties on individuals and University of Illinois argued the public option has employers who do not obtain become a “farce.” coverage; and assorted corpoThat may be small consolarate taxes, fees, and new limits tion: American Farm Bureau Federation anaon contributions to tax-deferred flexible lyst Pat Wolff concludes the Senate bill is an spending accounts. improvement over the House plan, “but not Senate: Fees on insurance and pharmaceugood enough.” tical companies and medical device manufacHere are some other key differences turers; increased Medicare payroll taxes for between the House and Senate bills: individuals with more than $200,000 or couTHE COST OF EXPANDED COVERAGE ples with $250,000-plus in annual income; a 40 House: Anywhere from $894 billion over a percent excise tax on insurers for policies that 10-year period to $1.2 trillion. annually cost more than $8,500 for individuals Senate: An estimated $871 billion over 10 or $23,000 for families; a 10 percent tax on years. tanning salons; fines for those who don’t purCOVERAGE REQUIREMENTS chase coverage, and employer fees (see above). House: Individuals must have insurance or Cuts would be made in Medicare and Medicpay a tax penalty of 2.5 percent of annual aid. income. Employers with annual payrolls above House provisions wouldn’t kick in until $500,000 must provide employee insurance or 2013 and the Senate plan wouldn’t launch until pay a penalty equal to 8 percent of payroll. 2014 — both “after the next presidential elecSenate: Individual coverage is required. tion,” O’Rourke noted in an RFD Radio interThose who do not obtain coverage face fines view. “Interestingly, people would start paying of $95 in 2014, graduating eventually to $750. for it next year,” he said.

Health Continued from page 1 access hospitals (CAHs) — by waiving the requirement that a CAH be located at least 35 miles from another hospital. CAHs such as Culbertson Memorial receive Medicare reimbursements equal to their costs plus 1 percent. But Medicare accounts for only about half of Culbert-

son’s patient flow, and CEO Sniff remains concerns about how congressional health legislation overall will affect rural communities. “We can’t just survive on critical access hospital status alone,” Sniff said. “What happens with the rest of the market is going to have an impact on rural hospitals.” — Martin Ross

Where do soybean pests spend winter? What happens in the winter to the soybean insects that attacked crops in the summer? Some stay, while others head south, according to Matt Montgomery, Mason County director with the University of Illinois Extension. Bean leaf beetles spend the winter beneath plant debris in Illinois, Montgomery said. That plant debris may be either along the edge of woodland areas, in fence rows, or occasionally within a field. Blister beetles that decimate small areas within a field and form blisters on the skin when accidentally crushed also overwinter in Illinois. They are in the dark, nestled underground as overwintering eggs, Montgomery said. Grasshoppers also spend the winter months as eggs. Those eggs are deposited in the same undisturbed areas in which blister beetle eggs

reside, he noted. Green cloverworms, a minor soybean leaf feeder that is one of several species of inchworms, migrate into Illinois from the deep South as moths in the spring. Stinkbugs, most known for sucking juices from plants with a needle-like mouthpart, vary their winter habitats. Some overwinter as adults in Illinois; others don’t, according to Montgomery. The preferred winter location varies from species to species. Two-spotted spider mites that feed on plant juices, causing foliage to yellow and brown curl up beneath plant residue in sheltered areas. Woolybear caterpillars — sometimes called woolyworms — use chewing mouthparts to remove leaf material during the mid- to late summer.

FarmWeek Page 3 Monday, January 4, 2010


Funding issues again top IFB state legislative priorities BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Illinois’ financial outlook won’t improve with the new year, leading the Illinois Farm Bureau to keep state budget issues among its state legislative priorities. The IFB board set the organization’s state legislative priorities during its December meeting. IFB will seek passage of a state budget with maintenance funding lev- The full list of IFB state legislative priorities can be found at

els for core agricultural programs within the current state tax structure. The board supports a no-growth program budget given the current economic situation and state deficit. Kevin Semlow, IFB director of state legislation, estimated Illinois is facing a budget deficit of about $11.5 billion. Elected officials continue to discuss possible tax increases, program cuts, or a combination of both to address the budget shortfall.

“Illinois agriculture will most likely be faced with a proposed state budget in which tough decisions will have to be made to balance the state budget within the current revenue stream,” Semlow said. Under current tax levels and revenue streams, IFB believes the state should maintain key Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) programs, such as meat and poultry inspections, grain and warehouse dealer oversight, and weights and measures programs, according to Semlow. In addition, the state should keep “as whole as possible” many programs that receive funding under the IDOA budget and provide direct support to production agriculture, he added. Those programs include Soil and Water Conservation

Districts, University of Illinois Extension, and county fairs. Two priorities address nuisance suits filed against farms. IFB will seek legislation that will allow a defendant who wins in a nuisance case against a farm to be paid for costs and reasonable attorney fees. With little financial risk, an individual currently may file a nuisance lawsuit to slow down or possibly stop construction and operation of a new livestock facility. “Accountability in the form of financial risk could serve to deter purely frivolous lawsuits,” noted Bart Bittner, IFB associate director of state legislation. IFB will work closely with the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and the Illinois Beef Association (IBA) on

Illinois to receive $1.8 million for Internet mapping, planning Illinois will gain more information about the state’s broadband Internet ability thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced Illinois was among 15 states and territories that will receive stimulus funding for broadband mapping and planning. NTIA awarded the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known as Connect Illinois, about $1.3 million to collect broadband data and develop a map over two years. Connect Illinois, a non-profit organization, also will receive about $500,000 for broadband planning over five years. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic

Opportunity (DCEO) contracted with Connect Illinois to develop a state broadband map and to help qualified Illinois applicants apply for federal stimulus funding. “This funding will help ensure that no one in Illinois is left out of the technological revolution,” said Gov. Pat Quinn. He added too many people lack access to affordable Internet service — especially those in rural and lowincome communities. Once Illinois’ broadband map is completed, the state will have statewide information about the availability, speed, and location of broadband services. Earlier, USDA and NTIA officials had said they expected December announcements about several broadband grants, including $2.5 billion

from the USDA Rural Utilities Service. While in Chicago, the officials had said additional funding would be released in January and February. Members of the Illinois Broadband Deployment Council, including the Illinois Farm Bureau, have pursued state broadband initiatives, while applying for federal funding. The state committed up to 10 percent state matching funds for 16 broadband projects should be they selected in the first round of stimulus projects. Most of the total $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds will be awarded to build broadband infrastructure. More information about Illinois broadband projects is online at {www.Broadband.ill}. — Kay Shipman

Quinn makes new appointments to state ed boards Gov. Pat Quinn recently announced new appointments to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the new P-20 Council education advisory group. James Baumann of Lake Bluff, Steven Gilford of Evanston, and Melinda LaBarre of Springfield were appointed to the ISBE. Baumann served as president of the Lake Bluff School District 65 School Board for more than a decade and as chairman of board of directors of the Golden Apple Foundation for eight years. Gilford served on the Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board for 12

years, including two terms as president. LaBarre was an elementary teacher in Springfield District 186 from 1963 to 1990, before serving as principal at two local elementary schools. In addition, Quinn also named veteran ISBE member Joyce Karon to the P-20 Council, an advisory panel that will make education recommendations to the governor. P-20 stands for preschool through graduate school. Karon served on the Barrington Community Unit School District 220 School Board for nearly 40 years and on the State Board of Education since 2003.

legislation, he noted. On a related matter, IFB will seek to pass legislation to pre-empt anticipatory nuisance lawsuits against owners of proposed livestock facilities or expansion of existing facilities that comply with the Livestock Management Facilities Act. IFB will work with the IPPA and IBA on legislation that would narrow what lawsuits can be filed when the only issue is an anticipated nuisance. IFB’s other state priorities include legislation: • To allow equine harvesting in Illinois; • To limit a landowner’s liability when invited guests use the landowner’s property for recreation; • To allow all-terrain-vehicles and utility-terrain-vehicles to be used on roads for farming purposes and to allow those vehicles to cross roads. Also, legislation or regulatory changes to expedite the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ ability to issue nuisance permits and/or expand a landowner’s ability to use such a permit will be sought.

DATEBOOK Jan. 6 University of Illinois Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Holiday Inn, Mt. Vernon. Jan. 6-8 Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference, Crowne Plaza, Springfield. Jan. 8 U of I Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I Hotel and Conference Center, Champaign. Jan. 11 U of I Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Crowne Plaza, Springfield. Jan. 12 U of I Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Doubletree Hotel, Bloomington. Jan. 13 U of I Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I Wireless Center, Moline. Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Knox County Extension office, Galesburg. Jan. 14 U of I Corn and Soybean Classics. 9 a.m. to 3;30 p.m. I Kishwaukee College, Malta. Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Adams-Brown County Extension office, Quincy. Jan. 25 Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Effingham County Extension office, Effingham. Jan. 26 Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. American Legion Post 252, Breese. Feb. 23 Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stephenson County Farm Bureau, Freeport Feb. 24 Certified livestock manager and manure management workshop. 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. DeKalb County Farm Bureau, Sycamore.

FarmWeek Page 4 Monday, January 4, 2010

POLICIES Jan. 9-13 in Seattle

Climate, budget issues focus at AFBF meeting BY MARTIN ROSS

FarmWeek Congress’ unfinished business will be a key focus for producers from throughout the U.S. at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 91st annual meeting Jan. 9-13 in Seattle. The fate of the federal estate tax and the direction of domestic cap-and-trade debate in the wake of the recent Copenhagen global climate summit offered preChristmas fodder for Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson and other members of AFBF’s Resolutions Committee (AFBF-RC). The committee tweaked 2009 AFBF policies and drafted new policies for delegate consideration at the annual meeting, which will feature a keynote address by Texas rancher and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and sessions on climate, livestock care, and social media. With health care taking center stage, the Senate deferred House proposals aimed at capping annual industrial and utility greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The AFBF-RC drafted a policy proposal opposing current cap-and-trade legislation, legislation IFB National Legislative Director Adam Nielsen said is not “fair, affordable, or achievable.” Proposed policy specifically opposes GHG caps on any ag

entity and voices concerns about incentives for tree planting as a carbon sequestration strategy that could result in reduced food production. Delegates also will consider proposals aimed at addressing the federal debt, based on findings by AFBF’s Federal Deficit Task Force Committee. The AFBF-RC submitted new delegate proposals supporting reduced federal entitlement spending and tax increases designed to balance the budget — as long as they are discontinued after a balanced budget is achieved. In addition, the committee recommended adjusting estate tax policy provisions to reflect ongoing congressional tax reform efforts. Under current

law, the estate tax was eliminated last Friday but could return in 2011 at a 55 percent rate and a reduced exemption. In December, the House voted to permanently extend the current $3.5 million individual exemption and 45 percent top rate, with no adjustment in the exemption for future inflation. The Senate failed to act on the House plan or a proposed new $5 million exemption indexed for inflation, and Democrat leaders may attempt to pass estate tax extension retroactive to Jan. 1 when Congress returns this month. Farm Bureau supports the $5 million exemption, but existing AFBF policy seeks a $10 million individual exclusion — an unlikely prospect in the current Congress. With the dairy sector facing serious economic challenges, the AFBF-RC proposed removing policy language explicitly opposing dairy supply management programs. “That doesn’t mean we’re for them,” Nielsen stressed nonetheless. Amid continued debate over the Clean Water Restoration Act, which would greatly expand federal regulatory authority over so-called U.S. “waters,” the committee emphasized the need to limit control to commercially “navigable” waters. Two dozen senators support the bill, which seeks to

regulate pollution of “all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing.” The measure proposes to

exempt prior-converted croplands, but AFBF senior regulatory director Don Parrish remains concerned about attempts to bring “all” waters under the federal Clean Water Act. “Once you use those types of words in legislation, it’s going to be difficult to exclude anything,” Parrish said.

Four from Illinois on AFBF committees The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently announced the appointment of four Illinois Farm Bureau leaders to its 2010 Commodity Advisory Committees. The purpose of these committees is to provide farmers and ranchers, serving as a committee within the Farm Bureau organizational structure, the opportunity to discuss and recommend solutions to problems that directly affect the commodity for which the member is appointed. The committees may: • Identify and recommend issues for policy development; • Identify emerging issues related to production and marketing of commodities; and • Offer suggestions or clarification of existing policies, at the direction of the AFBF president or board of directors. The committees serve in an advisory capacity to the president and AFBF Board of Directors. Copies of committee recommendations and their disposition are sent to the state Farm Bureaus and the Commodity Advisory Committee members after approval by the board of directors. The four Illinois leaders named as committee members are: Terry Ferguson, DeWitt County, Feed Grain (chairman); Harry Alten, McHenry County, Labor; Steve Pitstick, Kane County, Soybean; and Chad Leman, Woodford County, Swine. Alternates to each committee are: Jamie Schaffer, Stark County, Feed Grain; Don Ahrens, Gallatin County, Labor; Lance Tarochione, Fulton County, Soybean; and Pat Bane, McLean County, Swine.

Suit charges California fuel regs unconstitutional A variety of groups has joined a pair of ethanol trade groups in a federal lawsuit claiming California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is discriminatory against cornbased ethanol and unconstitutional. The lawsuit, spearheaded

by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), charges the greenhouse emissions rule, which will be phased in starting in 2011, is in violation of the Constitution’s commerce and supremacy clauses. The supremacy clause dic-

tates that congressional law — in this case, a federal renewable fuels standard that sets forth goals for long-term U.S. biofuels use — supersedes state legislation or regulation. The ethanol groups argued the California Air Resources

Buffett Continued from page 1 do we mitigate these things? I think there are some solutions to that. “Maybe one of the problems is that the solutions here at home are getting driven by a global agenda, and maybe that’s the wrong way to do it. Maybe we need to ask, what are the solutions that work here for our U.S. farmers and our farm community that can help mitigate some of this that aren’t driven by an agenda of 100 other countries but by good thinking and sound science? “We can do some of those things — easily, actually. With the right incentives, that’ll happen.” Any global action that would be binding for

the U.S. must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) emphasized in the wake of the Copenhagen agreement. Kyl pledged to fight efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on greenhouse gas regulation “without the U.S. Congress acting in this area, as well.” Meanwhile, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed USDA researchers to revise a computer forecasting model that indicates House capand-trade legislation would make planting trees more lucrative than crop production and thus potentially could reduce food production. Vilsack said he wants to ensure future legislation will not result in unintended consequences for agriculture.

Board’s (CARB) regulation would unfairly and illegally block ethanol from the California market. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, “should help fix a serious mistake,” Growth Energy and RFA suggested. The LCFS would “cripple the nation’s effort to move to more diversified sources of U.S.-produced ethanol, including ethanol from feedstocks other than corn,” they stated. CARB’s “willful intent to disregard Congress” is particularly disturbing given that California is the nation’s single largest statewide market for transportation, a Growth Energy spokesman told FarmWeek. “Were California to succeed in discriminating against cornbased ethanol as the LCFS is currently structured to do, it would empower other states to defy the intent of Congress

and establish a patchwork of fuel regulations that would greatly complicate the nation’s fuel infrastructure and potentially limit the trade of fuel and fuel components between states,“ the ethanol groups warned. Beyond constitutional issues, the LCFS was based on controversial “indirect land use” considerations related to the theoretical carbon footprint left by corn and corn ethanol production vs. conventional gasoline. Those criteria were not applied to other alternative energy sources. Even an electrical vehicle uses coal-fired power and nickel potentially mined in Canada and shipped to Korea for battery assembly, with the battery then shipped for auto assembly in Japan before it reaches California, the Growth Energy spokesman noted. — Martin Ross

FarmWeek Page 5 Monday, January 4, 2010


Good: Acreage battle may not materialize this year BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

The “acreage battle” that seemingly developed into an annual event in recent seasons may not materialize this year. Darrel Good, University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist, believes there are sufficient acres currently available in the U.S. Darrel Good to meet demand for corn and soybeans. “I don’t envision a significant acreage battle” prior to

planting this spring, Good said recently at the Illinois Farm Economics Summit in Bloomington. Market prices in recent years increased for particular crops depending on which one had the most demand prior to planting. U.S. farmers from 2008 to 2009 increased soybean plantings from 75.7 million to a record 77.5 million acres and corn plantings from 86 million to 86.4 million acres. Farmers also responded to a run-up in corn demand and prices in 2007 when they planted the most acres of corn (93.5 million) since World War II.

This year, Good believes U.S. farmers need to plant about 2 million more acres of corn while demand dictates there is no need for more soybean acres. Listen to an inter view with Darrel Good about 2010 crop prospects at FarmWeek

“I think we need a few more corn acres, and I think that will be accomplished with fewer acres of soft red winter wheat and with a few more acres out of CRP (the Conservation Reserve Program),” Good said.

USDA last month estimated American farmers in 2009/10 would grow 59.1 million acres of wheat compared to 63.2 million in 2008/09. In Illinois, fall wheat seedings declined from 1.2 million acres in 2007 to 850,000 in 2008. Another decline in wheat production is expected this year due to the late harvest that limited fall fieldwork. “There’s not very much wheat planted in our area at all,” Ken Taake, a Pulaski County farmer, previously told FarmWeek. Taake said he did not plant any wheat in 2009 compared to 400 acres in 2008. Meanwhile, Good believes a rebound of soybean produc-

tion this year in South America may offset the need for additional soy acres in the U.S. Brazil and Argentina could produce record-large soybean crops this year, which could raise world soybean stocks by an estimated 539 million bushels in 2009/10 compared to the previous year. “If that crop materializes (in South America), there may not be a need for us to increase soybean acres (in the U.S.) in 2010,” Good said. “That suggests to me there is not a huge acreage battle shaping up.” Good projected prices this year could hover around $4 per bushel for corn and $10 for beans.

Winter off to ‘active’ start while harvest drags on An “active” start to the winter season has added a few more challenges to what has been one of the longest harvests in a number of years. The winter season, which officially began two weeks ago (Dec. 21), already has featured rainfall totals in the 2- to 4inch range followed by snowfall that totaled half a foot or more at many locations in the state. “The beginning of winter has been active, but it’s not out of the ordinary,” said Brad

Churchill, meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Lincoln. Precipitation totals in Illinois from Dec. 1 through Dec. 28 generally ranged from 3 to 4 inches north of Interstate 74 and 4 to 5 inches in the southern half of the state — with a pocket of 5 to 6 inches along the Interstate 70 corridor and south — according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The heavy rain prior to the snowfall made it even more

Tillage conference topic

Vertical tillage offers advantage for upcoming growing season After a wet spring and fall, corn and soybean farmers must decide what field tillage operations are essential before the 2010 crop season. “With wet fall seasons, there may be less tillage done prior to the next spring’s planting. In this situation, farmers have fewer alternatives to consider,” said Tony Vyn, a Purdue University agronomist. “One option for spring field preparation is vertical tillage — an operation in which producers use tools with straight coulters, harrows, and rolling baskets in order to fluff up remaining surface crop residue with shallow soil penetration, without actually inverting the soil,” Vyn said. “Vertical tillage tools have the advantage of leaving more residue cover than a field cultivator or a disk, but less residue cover than an undisturbed no-till operation,” he added. “This operation is best suited for fields that are poorly drained or have high clay content and, therefore, dry more slowly in the spring.” Vyn will one of the featured speakers at the 2010 Illinois Tillage Seminar on Jan. 26 in Peoria. Vyn advised farmers that whatever tillage operation they choose, they must wait for soil conditions to dry and to keep all operations shallow. “If we continue to deal with wet spring conditions, soil moisture will increase very quickly with depth, which means that deep tillage operations in spring could cause smearing and compaction,” he said. “The combination of smearing and compaction is always going to be more of an issue when the soil conditions are reasonably wet at the time of tillage, and when dry, warm conditions persist after doing the operation,” Vyn said. For registration information about the state tillage conference, go online to {} or phone 815-395-5710. Advance reservations are required by Jan. 19 with a $25 per-person registration fee.

challenging for farmers to complete harvest, according to Bruce Meier, a farmer from Hebron and president of the McHenry County Farm Bureau. “There is snow on top (of the soil) but no frost underneath,” Meier said. “You’ve got to plow the snow to get trucks in (to the field), but you’ve got to make sure you can get them out.” Ninety-five percent of the corn crop in Illinois was in the bin as of Dec. 22, according to last crop progress report for 2009 issued by the National

Agricultural Statistics Service Springfield office. However, 21 percent of the crop still was in the field prior to Christmas in Northeastern Illinois. “There is a fair amount of corn still up here,” Meier said last week. “There is probably 10 percent left in the county in scattered areas.” Meier reported some farmers last week were on the brink of finishing harvest, but others were expected to continue shelling corn well into the new year. “I’ve got probably five to

six acres to go,” Meier said. “If we get a thaw in January, I may get it then. Otherwise, it may sit out there until April.” The forecast as of the middle of last week called for a continuation of bone-chilling temperatures. “It looks like it’s going to be highs in the teens and low 20s and lows in the single digits for at least the next seven days,” Churchill said on Dec. 30. On the bright side, the NWS Climate Prediction Center projected below-normal precipitation this month. — Daniel Grant

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Beef industry will continue to focus on safety BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Mandy Carr, executive director of research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), last month stressed “beef is very safe” for consumers. The chance of being sickened by E. coli is 1 in 4,100, according to But Carr acknowledged more work needs to be done in 2010 and subsequent years to address beef safety con-

cerns such as reducing pathogens in food products. E. coli outbreaks and other safety threats continue to challenge the beef production and processing chain. Some of the outbreaks have resulted in meat recalls and illness outbreaks despite the low odds of such occurrences. Oklahoma-based National Steak and Poultry just last month recalled 248,000 pounds of beef it said may be contaminated with a strain of

E. coli bacteria. USDA believes beef from the company may be associated with outbreaks of illness in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota, and Washington. “We know our work is not done,” Carr said during a recent webinar titled “Addressing Beef Safety.” The beef industry as a result is taking an integrated total systems approach in which methods to improve beef safety are applied and

shared from pre-harvest to harvest through consumption of all products. NCBA also is a member of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, which was formed in 1997 to develop industrywide, science-based strategies to solve food safety problems. “The beef industry continues to improve knowledge through a proactive approach to safety,” Carr said. Members of the beef industry will focus on safety

issues March 3-5 in Dallas at the 2010 Beef Industry Safety Summit. More information about the event or beef safety in general can be found online at {}. General tips to avoid E. coli and other pathogens, such as salmonella, include the following: cook meat to at least 160 degrees, wash meat thermometers between uses, and rinse fruit and vegetables.

2009: a year to remember, and one to try to forget The year 2009 will be one Illinois farmers won’t forget for a long time. There was a spring planting season and a fall harvest that never seemed to end due to extremely wet conditions. On the political front, farmers rallied against capand-trade legislation and its potential impact on agriculture. Here are some of the highlights of Illinois agriculture that occurred during the past year:

January Despite the economic turmoil, nearly 4,000 acres of farmland in Macoupin and Montgomery counties sells for $24 million, or about $6,000 per acre. The Illinois Senate unanimously convicts Gov. Rod Blagojevich in an impeachment trial and removes him from office. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn becomes governor. February Meadowbrook Farms, which operates a pork pro-

cessing facility in Rantoul, shuts down the plant and lays off 600 employees. The firm later in the year files for bankruptcy. March Illinois Farm Bureau’s Market Study tour visits China. Participants say the new Chinese consumers are “young, hip, and wary” and they want convenient and safe food. USDA projects U.S. farmers will plant fewer crop acres and reduce livestock numbers in response to the overall down-

turn in the economy. The soybean market bottoms for the year at $7.84 per bushel. April Spring planting gets off to a cold, wet start reminiscent of the slow planting progress the year before. Pekin-based ethanol producer, Aventine Renewable Energy, files for chapter 11 bankruptcy. May Illinois Farm Bureau launches, a new multimedia website that provides news for Illinois producers. IFB sends a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to consider additional pork purchases to bolster low prices. Gov. Pat Quinn declares six Southern Illinois counties state disaster areas due to a major storm. The ag facilities at Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondale sustain at least $5 million in damage. Planting progress remains slow due to heavy rains. June Farmers statewide finally finish corn planting, but frustration mounts as sloppy soil conditions limit fieldwork. Corn market makes yearly high of $4.73 per bushel; soybeans top out at $10.99 per bushel. General Motors announces it will stop making mediumduty grain trucks. July Illinois lawmakers approve a new state budget, which includes a capital plan. The capital bill includes authorization for 80,000-pound trucks in 2010, a long-sought IFB goal. The IFB board unanimously opposes U.S. Houseapproved “cap and trade” legislation that the board believes will drive up costs for Illinois farmers and consumers alike. August USDA projects farmers will harvest the largest soybean crop and second-largest corn crop on record.

In an effort to help pork producers fight off misconceptions about the H1N1 flu virus, Governor Pat Quinn buys and eats a pork chop sandwich at the Illinois State Fair. September IFB President Philip Nelson and other state presidents meet with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss options to help save pork producers from financial disaster. IFB Vice President Rich Guebert Jr. led about 900 producers, laborers, business owners, and consumers in the chant — “No cap and trade!” — during a rally in Springfield. The corn market bottoms for the year at $3.05 per bushel. October Soybean rust is confirmed in 20 Illinois counties, but the outbreak is late enough in the season that it causes no yield damage. U.S. EPA announces the start of a new year-long study of potential health risks related to atrazine. At the end of the review, EPA will determine if it needs to revise the product’s usage. November High moisture readings in corn and soybeans have done more than slow harvest this fall. Discounts due to high moisture have become commonplace at Illinois grain elevators. The University of Illinois announces it has developed a map of the swine genome that may produce breakthroughs in pork production, medicine, and environmental protection. December Ninety percent of Illinois corn is harvested by midDecember, but heavy snow halts progress in northern counties. Delegates at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting approved resolutions dealing with election reform, animal welfare and identification, and concealed carry at the organization’s 95th annual meeting in Chicago.

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ROWN — Farm Bureau and Brown County Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, Mt. Sterling. Retired Judge David Slocum will be the speaker. Tickets are $6.50. Call the Farm Bureau office at 217-773-2634 for reservations or more information. HAMPAIGN — The annual Illini Farm Toy Show will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, at the Hanford Inn & Suites, I-74 and U.S. 45, Urbana. Special events include a silent auction and a kiddie tractor pull on Saturday. The event is sponsored by Champaign, Douglas, and Vermilion County Young Farmers. Cost for Friday and Saturday is $3 at the door, $2 for youth ages 6-12, and free for children under 6. Sunday is Family Day with free admission. EWITT — A Stroke Detection Plus screening will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Warner Library, Clinton. Farm Bureau members will receive a $35 discount. Call 877-7328258 for an appointment. RUNDY — The annual meeting will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Morris Country Club, Morris. There will be a silent auction, social hour, and dinner before the business meeting. Tickets are $15. More information was printed in the county Farm Bureau’s “Field Notes.” Call the Farm Bureau office at 815-942-6400 for more information. ANCOCK — Hancock County Farm Bureau Foundation has three $1,000 scholarships available for students majoring in agri-




culture, agribusiness, or an agrelated course. Students must be a Farm Bureau member or a dependent of a member. Deadline to return applications is March 15. Call the Farm Bureau office at 217357-3141 for an application or more information. ENRY — Terry Jones, Russell Consulting Group, will be the speaker at a marketing seminar at 9:30 a.m. Friday at The Cellar Restaurant, 137 S. State St., Geneseo. Breakfast will be served. Call the Farm Bureau office at 309-937-2411 or the Henry-Stark Extension Unit at 309-853-1533 for reservations or more information. EE — The annual meeting will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Farm Bureau office. A USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America program



will be given. Call the Farm Bureau office at 857-3531 or e-mail for reservations or more information. IVINGSTON — The Young Leaders will sponsor an outing on Saturday, Jan. 16, to a Prairie Thunder hockey game, Bloomington. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Those ages 18-35 interested in agriculture are invited. Tickets are $9. Call the Farm Bureau office at 815-842-1103 or email for the tickets or more information. ASON — Kevin Rund, Illinois Farm Bureau senior director of local government, will be the speaker at an On the Road seminar at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Farm Bureau office. All the Farm Bureau office at 309543-4451 by Monday, Jan. 11,



for reservations or more information. ONTGOMERY — The Prime Timers will meet at noon Wednesday, Jan. 20, for a roast beef lunch at the Farm Bureau office. Cost is $8. David and Patricia Pence will provide the entertainment from “Now and Then” and introduce their Border Collie therapy dogs. A free will offering will be taken. Call the Farm Bureau office at 217-532-6171 for more information. EORIA — Cathy Ekstrand, StewartPeterson Group, will be the speaker at a Women to Women Marketing seminar from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11 and 25, at the Farm Bureau office. Call the Farm Bureau office at 6867070 for reservations or more information.



• Farm Bureau will sponsor a Stroke Detection Plus health screening from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Farm Bureau office. Call 877732-8258 for an appointment. ERMILION — Farm Bureau and WITY Radio will sponsor a market outlook seminar at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at the Farm Bureau auditorium. Dale Durchholz, AgriVisor Services, and E-Trader floor traders will be the speakers. Blake Miller, Illini FS, will give a fertilizer price and supply outlook for spring 2010. Call the Farm Bureau office at 217442-8713 for more information.


“From the counties” items are submitted by county Farm Bureau managers. If you have an event or activity open to all members, contact your county manager.

Modest cut in swine inventory may not restore profits BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Hog producers in coming months may be able to cover cash costs, but they likely won’t return to profitability. USDA last week in its December hogs and pigs report estimated U.S. hog producers as of Dec. 1 made just a modest 2 percent cut to the inventory of all hogs and pigs compared to last year. The herd currently totals 65.8 million head. “There probably are a few more hogs out there than the trade anticipated,” said John Lawrence, Iowa State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, during a teleconference hosted by the National Pork Board. “We’re not seeing the fol-

low-through liquidation,” Lawrence continued. As a result, “We may continue to limp along and cover cash costs, but we’re not going to the return to the strong profitability we’ve seen in previous years.” Glenn Grimes, University Visit for full details of the quarterly hogs and pigs report.

of Missouri Extension livestock economist who last week retired after nearly 60 years at Mizzou, believes the U.S. hog inventory may have to contract by another 3 to 5 percent before profitability returns to the industry. But those cuts may be dif-

ficult to achieve based on the structure of the industry and productivity gains. The average number of pigs saved per litter from September through November was a record-high 9.7. Meanwhile, producers reduced the number of farrowings during that time frame by only 2 percent compared to pre-report estimates of 3-plus percent. “We continue to show productivity growth that is almost astounding,” Grimes said. The breeding inventory (5.85 million head) and the market hog inventory (60 million head) declined by 3 and 2 percent, respectively, in the latest report. The ag economists and Dale Durchholz, AgriVisor senior analyst, projected the

Iowa/Minnesota carcass price may hover around $58 to $62 per hundredweight in the first quarter of this year before improving to the midto high $60s and possibly $70-plus by the second and third quarters. “Our estimated-returns model shows lean hogs becoming profitable in late March through August but then back to red in the fall months,” Lawrence said. Producers this year also will continue to deal with higher feed costs. “We are moving or using soybeans at a pace as fast or faster than any time in the last 10 to 20 years,” Durchholz said. “What happens to the end-users who aren’t well covered if a crop scare takes place in Brazil or Argentina?”

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Vigilance a must after wicked 2009 harvest BY RANDY HOLTHAUS

The harvest that would never end is finally down for the count. If you are done, congratulations! If you are not done, our heart goes out to you in hopes that you can finish without huge losses. The trials and tribulations of a wet crop, endless Randy Holthaus weather challenges, good yields, and poorquality grain increases the need for extreme vigilance of the condition of your stored grain. Higher-than-normal moisture content at harvest has left a large percentage of stored grain with an abundance of fines, cobs, and immature and broken kernels. Drying this poor-quality

grain to 14 percent would help avoid storage problems. Observe your stored grain weekly, especially during critical fall and spring periods when average air temperatures change rapidly. Check the surface of the grain for signs of crusting, wet, sticky, or frozen kernels. Inspect the underside of the roof for signs of condensation. Probe the grain surface in several places with a grain thermometer on a length of rod to detect any heating. If any of these signs appear, you must react quickly as conditions can accelerate and jeopardize the entire grain mass. Stored grain needs to be cooled down to 35 to 40 degrees for winter storage. Aeration cycles need to be started anytime the average 24-hour temperature is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the temperature of the grain.

The biggest mistake in aerating grain is not running the fans long enough. If the temperature of the entire grain mass is not equalized, problems will occur at the level in the bin where the temperature is unequal. Air follows the path of least resistance. Accumulated fines will block airflow and go out of condition if not broken up or removed. If the grain is peaked or not level, air will escape at the shallowest point. Unaerated grain will cause problems as temperature differentials increase with seasonal changes. How long should you run your fans? The answer depends on the airflow rate (cfm/bushel). See chart at right. To tell if an aeration cycle has passed through the grain, check to see if the air temperature coming out of the grain

is the same as the outside air. If you are storing poorquality grain, don’t plan to store it past the cold winter period. All the odds are against you. Extreme vigilance and close monitoring will help

protect and maintain your grain quality and avoid spoilage losses. Randy Holthaus is GROWMARK’s grain systems marketing manager. His e-mail address is

Will farmland prices remain stable in shaky economy? BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Demand and prices for farmland softened in some areas during the past year. But compared to other sectors, farmland values remained strong in 2009 despite the economic recession, according to Paul Ellinger, University of Illinois

Extension ag economist. “Given the current economic conditions, we haven’t seen a significant decline (in farmland values) like we’ve seen in other markets,” Ellinger said recently at the Illinois Farm Economics Summit in Bloomington. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago last month report-


Feeder pig prices reported to USDA*

Weight 10 lbs. 40 lbs. 50 lbs. Receipts

Range Per Head Weighted Ave. Price n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a This Week Last Week n/a n/a *Eastern Corn Belt prices picked up at seller’s farm

Eastern Corn Belt direct hogs (plant delivered) Carcass Live

(Prices $ per hundredweight) This week Prev. week $57.57 $58.88 $42.60 $43.57

Change -1.31 -0.97

USDA five-state area slaughter cattle price (Thursday’s price) Steers Heifers

This week $82.00 n/a

Prv. week $83.08 $82.71

Change -1.08

CME feeder cattle index — 600-800 Lbs. This is a composite price of feeder cattle transactions in 27 states. (Prices $ per hundredweight) This week Prev. week Change 92.61 93.32 -0.71


Export inspections (Million bushels)

Week ending Soybeans Wheat 12-24-09 51.9 10.7 12-17-09 33.7 13.4 Last year 33.5 4.6 Season total 696.6 478.5 Previous season total 496.4 656.8 USDA projected total 1340 875 Crop marketing year began June 1 for wheat and Sept. 1 for corn and soybeans.

from 1998 to 2008 averaged 12.7 percent. But agriculture certainly is not insulated from the financial crisis. Heavy losses last year forced a number of pork and dairy producers out of business, non-farm employment fell off quite a bit, and farmers in coming years will have more exposure to higher interest rates,

according to Ellinger. Meanwhile, farmland returns in Illinois last year posted a slight loss (negative 0.5 of a percent) for the first time in recent history. The ability of farmland values to remain strong this year will depend on farm profitability levels, interest rates, energy prices, and inflation, he concluded.

NRCS accepting applications for farmland protection program

Lamb prices Confirmed lamb and sheep sales This week n/a Two week’s ago n/a Last year Wooled Slaughter Lambs: n/a. Slaughter Ewes: n/a

ed farmland values for the third quarter were 4 percent lower than the previous year. Demand for recreational land, in particular, was hit hard by the recession, according to Ellinger. However, the economic situation in 2009 was much worse outside the farm sector. Ellinger reported 10.7 million homeowners with mortgages had negative equity as of the third quarter; more than 15 million workers were unemployed; households lost $3.6 trillion in real estate value; and since July 2008 there have been 148 bank failures. “Fallout from the recent financial crisis has deeply impacted most economic sectors,” Ellinger said. The value of high-quality farmland, on the other hand, remained strong through 2009, according to the ag economist. “We haven’t seen a significant decline (in farmland values) by any means,” Ellinger said. “It comes back to what land can return.” Illinois farmland returns

Corn 27.1 18.9 24.1 509.8 517.0 2050

The Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) on a continuous basis. The 2008 farm bill provides for continuous signup. Eligible entities must submit applications on or before Feb. 6 to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2010. Eligible entities include state or local governments as well as non-government groups that

meet specific requirements. Entities must have: • An established farmland protection program, • Authority to hold and manage easements, • Capacity to acquire, manage, and enforce the easements, and • Money to match the federal funding. Because the FRPP can provide up to half of the appraised fair market value of a farm’s easement, there are numerous

criteria for determining the land’s value, productivity, and historical importance. To determine if both the land and the sponsoring entity meet all criteria and learn other information, contact NRCS state FRPP program manager Bob McLeese at Illinois NRCS State Office, 2118 W. Park Court, Champaign, IL 61821. His phone number and email address are at 217-353-6643 or

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Commodities rise like a phoenix While they haven’t gotten back near their 2008 peaks, most commodity prices rebounded sharply from the depths of the lows posted just a year ago. Just like the phoenix rose from the ashes of a fire, so too did most commodity and equity markets. While at times the action may have seemed exceptionally volatile and unpredictable, the rebound in commodity prices has generally been orderly. The CCI (Commodity Channel Index) continues to trade within an upwardsloping channel that started with last December’s bottom. Currently, the CCI again is approaching another critical juncture. The pattern it has

Basis charts

put together off the late-2008 low is in position to potentially be completed. It also is trading at the upper end of the channel, and it has moved near another area of strong resistance just above 500. The fact that the dollar broke out of the downward sloping channel it traded in for the last six months adds to the possibility that commodity prices as measured by the CCI could be near an important turning point. While the 5 1/2 percent rally in the dollar can still be classified only as a correction, it was strong enough to suggest a bigger change in trend might possibly be occurring. Even if the CCI and the dollar confirm major trend changes, individual commodities still could continue higher. But a general commodity decline would become an increasing drag on any individual commodity still moving up. As we indicated a little more than a month ago, a general shift in grain price trends is something to watch for during the early part of 2010. Corn and soybeans both have major cyclic lows due at the end of 2010 or early in 2011. Crude oil is due for a low at the same time, with the CCI due for a low in early to middle 2011. While nothing has yet indicated the trends are turning from up to down, the risk of that is higher with the CCI at a critical juncture. The action over the next few weeks should be watched closely. AgriVisor endorses crop insurance by

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Cents per bu.

 2009 crop: Lower your target to boost sales to 50 percent to $4.30 on March futures. Maybe more important is the timing of any sale. If prices continue to rally into the Jan. 12 USDA reports (crop production, winter wheat seedings), we might make a sale ahead of the report. Check the Cash Strategist Hotline for changes in the days ahead of it. The carry-in futures continues to make hedge-to-arrive contracts attractive for late winter, early spring delivery. Do not plan to store corn beyond March/April unless you are confident of its quality. 2010 crop: We are considering initiating sales if December 2010 futures move to $4.60. Check the Cash Strategist Hotline ahead of the Jan. 12 reports. Fundamentals: The focus is turning to the Jan. 12 USDA reports. Even though USDA has provisions for dealing with late harvest in its reports, there will be lingering doubts as 8-12 percent of the crop still was in the field at the time of the survey.

Soybean Strategy  2009 crop: Soybean’s quick rebound after Christmas kept the short-term picture from turning negative. The picture continues to favor March futures pushing to a new high, with an initial target at $11.20. Leave an order to boost sales to 50 percent if March futures hit $11.10. As with corn, timing is more important than price, so check the Cash Strategist Hotline before the Jan. 12 reports. 2010 crop: We are considering initiating sales if November 2010 futures approach $11. Check the Cash Strategist Hotline occasionally for a specific recommendation. Fundamentals: South American growing conditions and crop expectations continue to be good. However, crops there are just now starting to enter the critical parts of their growing season. Meanwhile, demand for U.S. soybeans and products remains exceptionally good.

Because of that, any perceived problem with the South American crops could elevate price expectations quickly.

Wheat Strategy 2009 crop: The low-volume environment helped wheat prices rally hard to the upside after Christmas. The rally should have triggered needed catch-up sales. Continue to use March futures above $5.50 for that purpose. Hold off additional sales until after the 20week low due in early 2010. 2010 crop: Given wheat prices easy rebound off the

lower end of the emerging trading range, we are reluctant to recommend a new-crop sale just yet. Still, given the good supply of wheat in the world, it’s something we continually consider, even at these prices. Fundamentals: The Jan. 12 USDA winter wheat planting report looms large on the horizon. Although estimates are few, most analysts expect to see soft red plantings drop 2 million to 4 million acres this year. Although garnering little talk, the heavy early season snows in the Northern Plains could lead to planting problems for the spring wheat crop.

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Rural Development can help towns celebrate a new year

Seasons may change at FarmVille, but this pretend farmer has taken a decorative, and interesting, approach to idyllic farm life. (Image courtesy of Zynga)

Virtual farms offer gateway for agriculture Seventy-two million people a month pretend they’re farmers. Who knew so many people were fascinated with farming? Last year, virtual farming was among the more popular computer games on the social-networking website Facebook. In 2009, people provided more online updates about pretend farming than they did about any other activity, Facebook reported recently. The online farming games FarmVille and Farm Town were so popular that Lars Backstrom, a Facebook data analyst, referred to 2009 as KAY “the year of the farm in status updates.” SHIPMAN Is there any connection between virtual farms and real ones? Bill Mooney, FarmVille’s general manager and one of its developers, said the farm simulation game includes “the core of farming.” “You plow, you plant, and you harvest,” said Mooney, an executive with Zynga, the California-based gaming company that created FarmVille. Virtual farmers also fertilize and weed their fields, care for livestock, gather eggs, and maintain their farmsteads. Yes, those jobs are simplistic compared to the work done on a real farm. But the fact is that millions of people, many living in cities, are giving some thought to growing crops and caring for livestock each day — even if the crops and animals aren’t real. And agriculture wants non-farmers — children especially — to realize that farmers work hard to produce their food. “It really does bring home for people the connection that their food comes from people growing it on the land,” Mooney said. In FarmVille, farmers are good guys. They’re not running around destroying the land, polluting the air, or

causing havoc and destruction, as are the characters of some computer games. The fascination with FarmVille suggests people are interested in rural life and what they envision as an idyllic place. “A lot of people really want to express their vision of what rural life should look like,” Mooney said. The key is people are interested. Some may be curious about how their virtual crops and livestock compare to what happens on real farms. Giving them information about real farms isn’t Zynga’s or Mooney’s responsibility. It’s agriculture’s. FarmVille is a fantasy game. Mooney acknowledged he wants players to get a taste — not a reality chunk — of farming. “We’ve joked about having nice spring mud, but we probably wouldn’t bring a tornado through fields,” he said. Learning can be fun. Teaching people about farming and the importance of agriculture is something farmers know and are doing. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are increasingly important tools to share information about real farmers and their farms. Illinois farmers can reach consumers around the world without leaving the comfort of their homes or farm offices. Teachers already have seen the possibility of reaching students who play FarmVille. Mooney said Zynga is interested in the idea of working with educators who want to develop lesson plans. “We’d love it to be sort of a gateway to farming,” he said. FarmVille has attracted a huge new crop of pretend farmers. People who enjoy this sophisticated technology also want to learn about traditional farming. Let’s continue thinking about how we can reach and inform this audience and harvest potential allies. Kay Shipman is the legislative affairs editor for FarmWeek. Her e-mail address is

“Happy New Year!” It’s a frequent, appropriate greeting this time of year. And it’s also a greeting that we oftentimes say without thinking. So let’s think about it. For an Illinois corn and soybean producer, it’s easy to welcome in the new year. Good riddance to the crop production year of 2009! But what other reasons could there be to say “Happy New Year” — and mean it? USDA Rural Development offers some real examples. By the time 2010 comes to an end, Rural Development will have invested nearly $2 million per day in our rural communities throughout Illinois. (In 2009, we provided $1.8 million per day, while spending only 1.5 cents in administrative costs per dollar delivered). Do you live in or near a community that needs a new water tower or water system? Do you visit a doctor in a rural area hospital that needs improved capabilities? Are fire, rescue, child care, and adult day care available or needed in your community? Should your library be improved or replaced? Our Rural Development Community Facilities COLLEEN Program provides funding for each of CALLAHAN those needs. Where will you live when you leave the farm? Does your town have housing needs? Our Rural Development Housing Program provides funding for each of those needs. Would you like to add value to the crops you are producing? Do you want to make your farm business more energy efficient? Would a Rural Business Enterprise Grant benefit your community? Our Rural Development Business Program provides funding for each of those needs. Currently Rural Development in Illinois has applications “in play” in each of the aforementioned areas. And with the additional American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding (also known as stimulus money), Rural Development now has the capability of helping even more rural residents and rural communities make positive changes. So by the end of this New Year, when many of the projects supported by Rural Development are either under way or completed, the rural communities where these improvements are being made will be collectively saying, “Happy New Year!” — and mean it, thanks, in part, to Rural Development. Colleen Callahan is the director of USDA Rural Development in Illinois. Her family raises purebred Angus cattle on their Kickapoo farm. Her e-mail address is Colleen.Callahan

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Protect prime farmland from longwall mining Editor: I read with interest in FarmWeek, Dec. 14, 2009, page 6, the article titled “Survey reveals farmer optimism,” but I’m gravely concerned that no where did I read a concern about longwall coal mining under prime farmland here in Illinois and the destruction of such lands. Go to Macoupin County and check out the whole series of ridges and man-made swamps — all while the Illinois Department of Natural Resources contends that farmers can grow crops on such. Check out the available maps of Illinois that show that nearly all of Illinois south of I80 holds coal reserves. Recently, I was at a meeting

where an attorney “threw out” the idea of the possibility of robots mining a 2-foot-thick vein of coal under lands in the county. All across Central and South-Central Illinois various county boards have sold the coal rights under their county lands. With the U.S. population experiencing a +14 person-per hour-increase, where will we grow the food needed in future years? We are ruining our prime farmland for a one-time sale of soft coal to Red China. Why? And the surface owners will not be compensated! If mountain-top coal mining can be stopped in West Virginia, why not save prime farmland here in Illinois? Do your research. Determine if your county farmland is in danger of having longwall

coal mining and the resulting subsidence (destruction) of prime farmland and timberlands. Contact your state legislator immediately! HERBERT WODTKE, Loogootee

Global warming not human phenomenon Editor: I just read the article “Farmers must be involved in global climate debate” in FarmWeek and I am disturbed by what it says. Dean Kleckner says that “Whether you believe that climate change is a human phenomenon or a natural event in the long history of our planet is not the issue.” That is the issue! If it is a manmade phenom-

enon, there is something to worry about and to change. The good news is that it is a natural earthly change. This means that there is no reason for any global warming legislation. All of the cap-and-trade and related legislation is totally unnecessary and is a guaranteed production killer. Humans are not capable of changing the climate one way or the other, regardless of what Dean Kleckner says in the article. When researchers change the facts to match their beliefs, that is a religion and not science. Thirty two thousand scientists recently sent a petition to Congress saying there is not any manmade global warming either now or in the past and there never will be. With this body of

researchers saying this, why do we listen to the about 250 scientists that back Al Gore. When the leading global warming researchers admit lying and falsification of data in their e-mails, it is time to dump this pseudoscientific hoax. Notice how many of them have had to step down from their positions at prominent universities. These people provided the data that the United Nations used for its global warming declarations. It was all based on lies and deceit. You need to trumpet that there is no manmade global warming and quit trying to pass legislation like there is an impending crisis. The sky is not falling! DAVID HOLSHOUSER, Mulberry Grove

FarmWeek January 4, 2009  

FarmWeek edition January 4, 2009

FarmWeek January 4, 2009  

FarmWeek edition January 4, 2009