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USDA WILL TARGET about $320 million over four years in Illinois and 11 other states to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin. .....................2

USDA ATTRIBUTES lowerthan-anticipated ACRE program signup to producer wariness and recent price trends while more interest is expected for SURE. ....4

LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS will find a variety of information and planning tools for manure nutrient management and related regulations online. .........................8

Monday, September 28, 2009

Two sections Volume 37, No. 39

F i r s t s t e p t o wa r d r eg u l a t i o n ?

EPA to require greenhouse reporting BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week launched into new and potentially questionable territory, raising concerns the agency is setting the stage for greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. EPA announced it would require selected businesses and utilities to collect data on GHG emissions beginning Jan. 1. EPA reporting requirements target enterprises that generate at least 25,000 tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions per year — the threshold also set in House-approved carbon “cap-and-trade” proposals. Larger livestock producers would fall under new reporting requirements, American Farm Bureau Federation regulatory specialist Rick Krause told FarmWeek last week. EPA reportedly is focusing on operations with more than 29,300 beef cattle, 3,200 dairy cows, 34,100 hogs, 723,600 layer hens, 38 million broilers, or 7 million turkeys. No permitting or other regulations are tied to reporting. However, Krause deemed the plan “part-and-parcel” of

anticipated greenhouse regulation and/or legislation. In response to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling directing EPA to regulate GHGs, the agency last spring issued a proposed “endangerment finding” arguing GHGs threaten human health and safety. Because the agency has issued proposed vehicle emissions standards that can’t be implemented without it, Krause sees final approval of the finding as a “foregone conclusion” with or without passage of greenhouse/climate legislation. “We certainly see reporting as a kind of first step in regulation,” Krause noted. “I think anyone who does report will be subject to regulation at some point in the future. “EPA is going to try to tailor its greenhouse gas regulation to anything over 25,000 tons. We don’t think they can do it. Because they operate under statutory thresholds, we think the only way to change the rules is by (congressional) statute.” Krause challenges claims EPA is merely complying with court directives and congressional assertions it must cap greenhouse emissions or risk

incurring even more stringent EPA regulations. The Supreme Court’s ruling applied solely to auto emissions, and EPA’s authority does not “trump” Congress’ ability to block GHG regulations, he said. In fact, House-approved

U.S. Interior Department spending legislation includes provisions banning EPA imposition of a so-called “cow tax” on bovine methane emissions. A proposed amendment to the Senate version would prevent EPA from regulating

GHGs beyond automotive sources for at least a year. “A lot of Democrats who are playing the regulation off against the legislation are opposing this amendment,” Krause said. “They want to keep that threat going.”

HARVEST PREPARATIONS

Dewayne Willhoite, left, Austin Cranford, center, and Robert Dear, right, assemble aeration tubes for the corn “stadium storage” area at the Evergreen FS Yuton facility in McLean County. The temporary storage adds 1.4 million bushels of capacity at the elevator, according to Steve Dennis, grain department manager for Evergreen FS. No loads of new crop had been delivered to Yuton as of last week. Dennis pegs harvest at two to three weeks behind in his area. For more information about the slow start to harvest and preparations for a large crop in the grain industry, see page 5. (Photo by Ken Kashian)

Conditions ‘optimal’ for Diplodia

Periodicals: Time Valued

Ear rot latest intrusion into wild season BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Rain makes grain, but as some farmers who already started harvest are finding out it also promotes development of fungus in corn. In particular, cool and wet conditions this growing season were “optimal” for development of Diplodia ear rot, according to Suzanne Bissonnette, University of Illinois Extension integrated pest management educator. “Diplodia is starting to be observed and will likely be our most common ear rot this season” rather than Fusarium ear rot, which is more common in Illinois when conditions are hot and dry during

pollination, Bissonnette noted in a recent issue of the U of I Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin. Presence of Diplodia, of course, raises the specter of price discounts when producers market infected grain. Signs of Diplodia include a bleached appearance of the husk and a white, fluffy fungus inside the husk. Earworm damage at the ear shank also is associated with the disease, according to plant pathologists at Purdue University. “The good news is that the Diplodia fungus will not produce toxins in the grain,” Bissonnette said. “The bad news is kernels will be very lightweight, shriveled, and of very poor quality.”

FarmWeek on the web: FarmWeekNow.com

Jerry Rowe, general manager of Heritage Grain Cooperative in Dalton City and secretary of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, reported some recent deliveries of corn exhibited as much as 10 percent damage. He estimated some spots in some fields in his area may have as much as 30 percent damage from ear rot. “There’s going to be some discounts,” Rowe said. “We don’t have any choice.” So what should farmers do about fields they suspect have ear rot damage? Ear rot fungi will continue to develop in the field or in storage at moisture above See Rot, page 7

Illinois Farm Bureau®on the web: www.ilfb.org


FarmWeek Page 2 Monday, September 28, 2009

Quick Takes U OF I PRESIDENT WHITE RESIGNS — University of Illinois President B. Joseph White submitted his resignation last week to newly elected U of I Board of Trustee Chairman Christopher Kennedy. White is to step down at the end of the year, but will remain at the university as a business professor. He also will continue raising money for a fundraising campaign. The board of trustees is expected to select an interim president shortly and to name a permanent president next year. White’s resignation is the latest consequence of involvement by the U of I and its board of trustees in an admissions scandal. They became the focus of a state panel that investigated the matter. STATE LAWMAKER WANTS FLU VIRUS CALLED H1N1 — State Rep. Bob Pritchard (RHinckley) is taking the legislative route to encourage people to use the term “H1N1 influenza” and not connect the flu virus to the pork industry. Pritchard last week introduced House Joint Resolution 73 that urges state agencies and employees and the news media to stop using the term “swine flu.” Pritchard acknowledged that legislators can’t dictate to reporters, but told FarmWeek he hopes to build awareness in Springfield about the negative ramifications to the pork industry. “We need to star t with cor rect infor mation,” Pritchard said. “We have a lot of sensitivity for other issues.” DAIRY DRAFT — Meeting in Chicag o, the National Milk Producers Federation’s (NMPF) Strategic Planning Task Force agreed to pursue a four-part approach to implementing sweeping changes as to how federal dairy policies protect producers and how farmlevel milk prices are estabilished. Recognizing the need for programs to help reduce price volatility and protect producer income, the task force agreed last week to develop a multi-pronged approach aimed at maintaining the ongoing viability of the nation’s dairy farms and revising some complex and less popular aspects of the milk pricing system. The four features of NMPF’s plan include revamping the safety nets of the Dairy Product Price Support and Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) programs; creating a new dairy producer income insurance program; addressing the need to improve participation in the producer self-help program, Cooperatives Working Together, while allowing it to better address periodic imbalances in the milk supply; and reforming the Federal Milk Marketing Order program.

GOVERNMENT

Illinois eligible

USDA targeting Mississippi River Basin water quality BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

ship Initiative that was authorized in the 2008 farm bill, $25 million for the Wetland Reserve Program, and $5 million for the Conservation Innovation Grant Program. Each state will not receive a pre-determined amount of money, but will compete with project proposals, according to White. In addition to Illinois, eligible states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

USDA will target $320 million over four years from existing conservation programs to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin. U.S. AgriFarmWeekNow.com culture SecreCheck out USDA’s YouTube tary Tom Vilchannel about the new sack announced Mississippi River initiative. Go the new initiato FarmWeekNow.com. tive to the Gulf Hypoxia Task Short time line Force that met last week in Des Moines, Iowa. NRCS plans to move quickly and wants each In a teleconference, Natural Resources Con- of 12 state NRCS offices to select one to three servation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White major watersheds by the end of October. Genstressed the funding will go toward voluntary erally watersheds of that size range from conservation practices to avoid or control nutri- 250,000 to 1.2 million acres. Within the large ent runoff, improve wildlife habitat, and mainwatersheds, the state NRCS will focus on tain agricultural productivismaller watersheds from ty in Illinois and 11 other 10,000 to 40,000 acres. states. National NRCS plans to Specific conservation select the state projects by ‘ I ’ m d e a d s e r i o u s late January or early Februgoals have not been determined, and NRCS will grap- about going after some ary and to have signup ple with several complicatof these (water quality) from February through ing issues, such as monitorMarch, according to White. issues.’ ing, according to White. White stressed the vol“How do you establish a untary nature of the probaseline (initial water quali— Dave White gram and NRCS’ plan to Natural Resources ty and condition assesswork with conservation Conservation Service chief ment) if you don’t have partners. data? It’s going to be a little “We want to address tricky to have a baseline to measure progress,” national conservation issues, but to ... allow a White said. consistent, unified, local approach,” White White added another complicating factor is a said. lag time from the time a conservation practice is “NRCS in Illinois is very excited about this put in place until measurable results are new initiative,” said Illinois State Conservaachieved. The time could range from two to 15 tionist Bill Gradle. years, he noted. White offered a list of familiar conservation “There are going to be some things we need practices as examples of practices that will be to work through,” White said. eligible. These include: no-till, grass waterways, The initiative funding, $80 million annually and nutrient management. for the next four years, will come from funding “I’m dead serious about going after some of for the Environmental Quality Incentives Prothese (water quality) issues,” White said. “We’ll gram (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Prosee a focused effort that will have a bigger gram (WHIP), and the Conservation Stewardimpact as we go across the watershed.” ship Program (CSP), White said. USDA will target $320 million over four Annual funding distribution will be $50 milyears in Illinois and 11 other states to improve lion for the Cooperative Conservation Partnerwater quality in the Mississippi River Basin.

Iroquois County couple sentenced for theft and grain law violations (ISSN0197-6680) Vol. 37 No. 39 September 28, 2009 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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STAFF Editor Dave McClelland (dmcclelland@ilfb.org) Legislative Affairs Editor Kay Shipman (kayship@ilfb.org) Agricultural Affairs Editor Martin Ross (mross@ilfb.org) Senior Commodities Editor Daniel Grant (dgrant@ilfb.org) Editorial Assistant Linda Goltz (Lgoltz@ilfb.org) Business Production Manager Bob Standard Advertising Sales Manager

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The former president of a failed Iroquois County grain company was sentenced for money laundering, bank fraud, theft, and grain code violations last week. Mikel Freeman, 57, pleaded guilty for his role in the 2007 failure of A-Way Grain Inc. His wife, Dianne, was sentenced to federal prison for her part in the company’s failure and for bank embezzlement. The couple, who pleaded guilty, also was ordered to pay $4.839 million in restitution to the victims of their fraud scheme. U.S. District Court Judge Joe McDade sentenced Mikel Free-

man to 10 years and Dianne Freemen to eight years and one month. Circuit Court Judge Gordon Lustfeldt also sentenced Mikel Freeman to 10 years on one count of felony theft and concurrent terms of seven years each on two counts of violating the state grain code. Mikel Freeman will serve his federal and state prison sentences concurrently. The Freemans are scheduled to report to federal prison Nov. 4. Freeman had served as president of A-Way and his wife, Dianne, worked as bookkeeping manager at First Trust and Savings Bank in Wateska. A-Way had elevator facilities in Cres-

cent City and Onarga. To carry out their scheme, the Freemans diverted payments intended for A-Way into other First Trust and Savings accounts, including Freeman Trucking and personal accounts held by the couple, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Dianne Freeman also misposted fund transfers to different accounts, according to federal authorities. The Illinois Department of Agriculture withdrew $2.8 million from the state grain insurance fund to pay claims against A-Way that weren’t covered by its grain assets. — Kay Shipman


FarmWeek Page 3 Monday, September 28, 2009

GOVERNMENT

EPA chief admits land use ‘uncertainty’ BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closed a contentious comment period on renewable fuels rules, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded “uncertainties” in trying to tie U.S. biofuels production to global land use shifts. As a result, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has withdrawn an amendment to fiscal 2010 spending legislation that would bar EPA from considering overseas indirect land use change (ILUC) in implementing the renewable fuels standard (RFS). Last Friday was the deadline

for comments on the RFS, which directs 36 billion gallons of domestic biofuels use by 2022. EPA has proposed assessing “advanced biofuels” based on the theoretical impacts crop/fuel production might have on cropping practices and environmental sensitive lands. RFS fuels must have a significantly lower carbon “footprint” than conventional gas or diesel, and land use calculations thus could affect future ethanol or biodiesel markets. But satellite/computer calculations are “very speculative,” American Farm Bureau Federation’s Rick Krause told Illinois Farm

Bureau Leaders to Washington. In a letter to Harkin, Jackson acknowledged uncertainty in calculating land use change. Based on RFS feedback and scientific review of “lifecycle” emissions (greenhouse gases generated from the farm through fuel use), she reported EPA would conduct an “uncertainty analysis” of the issue, with “estimates of uncertainty” incorporated into final rules. The issue is a “hot button” for Ron Fluegel, a Stephenson County producer involved with Illinois ethanol and biodiesel production. Given “the vastness of Brazil,” he challenges the notion an ethanol-driven

spike in corn production would spur deforestation or destruction of grassland for expanded Brazilian soybean production. “You don’t take rainforests and raise crops on them,” Fluegel stressed. “The topography, the soil types, the soil conditions, and the drainage just don’t work.” Scientists noted uncertainties tied to land use science at a recent National Corn Growers Association conference. Winrock International carbon specialist Nancy Harris argued scientists can really only measure “land cover change” over an extended period and warned lower-cost, low-reso-

lution satellite imagery can miss small but possibly crucial changes in regional ground cover. Even Iowa State University economist Bruce Babcock, who defends efforts to “measure the unmeasurable,” maintained land use change generally is a “response to higher market prices.” “You can never point to the response to a higher price by looking at a particular plot of land in Argentina and saying, ‘That’s because of biofuels,’ ” he said. “You can’t do it — this is a market response, an overall aggregate change in production. Lots and lots of things change production.”

Transportation debate slow-moving, but moving While the transportation debate seemingly has slowed to a crawl behind health care and federal spending, farm state lawmakers continue to pave the way for issues affecting producers on the nation’s roads, rails, and rivers. U.S. Senate Commerce and Environment and Public Works committees have proposed an 18-month extension of the current six-year highway bill, as recommended by the White House and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. House Transportation and

Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Wis.) favors moving ahead with a new highway package. But that will be “harder and harder to do, given the legislative calendar,” American Farm Bureau Federation policy specialist Elizabeth Jones warned FarmWeek. Beyond funding new infrastructure, the highway bill is the likely vehicle for regulatory provisions affecting ag producers and shippers. The push has intensified for standard nationwide interstate truck weight limits, with trucking groups and manu-

Bill misses big picture Despite raves from some consumer groups, Illinois Farm Bureau National Legislative Director Adam Nielsen argues a measure aimed at holding energy companies more accountable is a “feel-good piece of legislation” with potentially little real-world price impact. Congress instead could help U.S. producers and consumers feel better through expanded incentives for domestic bioenergy and increased scrutiny of speculation in the oil and gas markets, according to Nielsen. The Energy Security Through Transparency Act, spearheaded by Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), would require energy and mining companies to publish amounts they pay to foreign countries and to the U.S. government (in the form of leases) for oil, gas, and coal. The bill would revise federal Securities and Exchange Commission rules to require reporting of expenditures on a country-by-country basis. The watchdog group Revenue Watch Institute argues “corruption and the suspicion of corruption” on a global level undermine public trust in energy providers, efficient oil and mining operations, “and even national stability.” The bill would aid the developing world as well as “enhancing U.S. energy security,” the coalition Publish What You Pay maintained. Nielsen feels the measure, while addressing public frustrations, misses part of the “big picture” behind recent energy price volatility. U.S. energy security — and to an extent fertilizer availability and affordability — are compromised “as long as we continue to buy these resources from other countries,” he maintained. Nielsen argues congressional effort would be “better spent” on measures encouraging replacement of foreign petroleum with ethanol and biodiesel and assessing and possibly regulating the influence of fund and other commodity speculators on retail prices. “I’m convinced a certain amount of retail price volatility was tied to speculation, at least when gasoline was $4 per gallon,” Nielsen said. “If there are some specific steps Congress can take to limit the amount of speculation and the impact it has on prices in this country, that would be good. I don’t see how merely disclosing how much companies are paying for sources of energy helps, because the speculation can still occur.” — Martin Ross

facturers supporting a Houseproposed 97,000-pound threshold for single-trailer trucks. Some consumer groups fear larger trucks would accelerate highway wear-and-tear. The 97,000-pound threshold would require use of a third axle to redistribute weight and thus minimize roadway damage, according to Aaron Smith, aide to Peoria Republican and measure supporter Rep. Aaron Schock. However, vibrations from larger vehicles could cause increased wear on bridges, so the bill would include an increased trailer fee directed exclusively to highway maintenance. “We’re not Springfield here — our (federal) Highway Trust Fund has a firewall around it,” Smith assured Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington. Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by Reps. David Boren (D-

Okla.) and Mary Fallin (ROkla.) and another by Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) would raise the trigger for defining a farm truck as a commercial motor vehicle. The Boren-Fallon bill would set a firm 26,000-pound threshold (vs. a current 10,001 pound threshold). The MarkeyInhofe measure would follow interstate limits imposed by the state where a farm-tagged truck is based, with a minimum of 10,000 pounds. Ag groups also are lobbying to protect “hours of service” exemptions for producers who transport grain or other products across state lines. Federal regulations limit most operators carrying goods to 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours offduty, but exempt drivers who transport commodities or sup-

plies, stay within 100 air-miles of supplies or commodities or a farm, and operate during planting and harvesting seasons. Smith said lawmakers are increasingly averse to granting regulatory “exemptions” for individual sectors, but will consider “small changes to match the real world, what farmers are doing now.” “Farmers have to depend on being able to get their crops out of the field during the growing season, so sometimes their days are longer,” AFBF’s Jones stressed. “They also have a lot of interruptions in their day. “If a piece of equipment breaks down, you’re not likely to find a for-hire carrier who will sit for hours while a farmer goes to the next town, gets a part for his combine, fixes it, and finishes cutting his field. Farming is different.” — Martin Ross

House moving ahead with rail reforms Congress appears on track toward major rail reform, but carriers argue a “balanced” approach is necessary to keep the industry and its commercial users moving ahead. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a plan to eliminate antitrust exemptions approved in the ‘80s to assist troubled rail freight carriers. The bill would repeal provisions that exempt some rail transactions from antitrust review, allow federal judges to supersede rulings by the regulatory Surface Transportation Board (STB), and allow rail users to seek court injunctions against carriers. Supporters contend antitrust exemptions contribute to higher shipping rates and have allowed four companies to dominate rail shipping. According to the industry Alliance for Rail Competition, three carriers control more than 70 percent of U.S. grain movements. The Senate recently canceled a vote on a similar bill, but Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) plans to offer legislation aimed at overhauling the STB. “Legislation is definitely needed to take care of the ‘captive’ shipper issues,” American Farm Bureau Federation transportation specialist Elizabeth Jones told FarmWeek. “(Rail carriers) are not subject to antitrust laws other companies are subject to.

“Sen. Rockefeller is looking at ways to reform the STB and make it more consumer-friendly because agriculture isn’t the only industry that has trouble with the captive shipper issue.” For example, rail rate increases for Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power — a rural co-op that serves some 575,000 Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin households — more than doubled in four years. Dairyland power plants annually consume three million tons of coal largely from Wyoming, and higher rail costs have translated to a 5 to 20 percent hike in electricity rates for its customers. Major carriers meanwhile argue House reforms would discourage industry investment. Construction began earlier this month on Union Pacific’s (UP) $370 million, 785-acre terminal and 3,900-acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center at Joliet, which is capable of processing 500,000 ocean-going freight containers annually. UP reportedly plans to bring a portion of its stored railroad fleet back into service in anticipation of firming freight volumes. UP vice president of ag products Paul Hammes stresses the need for a “balanced approach” to rail reform “in order to have the right outcome for both the shipper and the carrier.” “We think there is a way to get it done, but it’s going to have to take a fair approach from both sides,” Hammes told FarmWeek. — Martin Ross


FarmWeek Page 4 Monday, September 28, 2009

GOVERNMENT

Callahan: Rural Development attuned to rural needs BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

USDA Rural Development is focused on rural issues and needs, including highspeed Internet and economic opportunities, the Illinois Rural Development director told the Illinois Farm Colleen Callahan Bureau board last week. Colleen Callahan discussed her agency’s national and state priorities and its investment in rural Illinois during the IFB board’s monthly meeting. “We

(Rural Development) invest $1.3 million every day in Illinois,” she said. Expansion of broadband into rural areas is a directive for state Rural Development directors. “Broadband will empower (rural areas),” Callahan added. Rural Development has received applications from broadband providers to expand services into rural areas. The next phase is to evaluate those applications and for state Rural Development agencies to help ensure those services will be brought to the areas with the greatest needs, Callahan explained. Callahan encouraged rural

county and community leaders to consider Rural Development programs to help meet local needs, such as farm labor housing, waste water treatment, and community facilities. “In one fell swoop, we can help entire communities,” she said. However, Rural Development also is seeking partners to help with projects. A community foundation could serve as a local partner and use donations from local people for specific communities or particular projects, she explained. Rural Development has 125 employees and 12 offices in USDA Service Centers across Illinois.

USDA to fund 88 Illinois renewable energy projects Illinois will benefit from 88 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to be funded by USDA Rural Development, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week. Nationwide, Rural Development will provide $62.5 million in loans and grants for 705 projects in 45 states and Puerto Rico. The loan guarantees and grants may be used for renewable energy systems, to improve energy efficiency, feasibility studies, and energy audits. In addition to many individual farmers and farm operations, Illinois recipients include the Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative, Danville Gardens Inc., and Mid American Growers Inc. More information about the program is available online at {www.rurdev.usda.gov/il}.

Producer wariness behind tentative ACRE response BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

USDA attributes lowerthan-anticipated initial ACRE program signup to producer wariness and recent price trends. In contrast, interest in a new biomass-to-biofuels incentive program is significantly higher-than-anticipated. At the same time, the department is eyeing ways to refresh a downsized Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and increase pro-

ducer comfort with new 2008 farm bill disaster programs. Only about 10 percent of eligible producers signed up for the 2009 ACRE (average crop revenue election) program, which delivers loss payments based on national prices and state and individual farm yields. Meeting with Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington, the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Brett Orr cited original projections that per-

PROGRAM NOTES USDA continues to adjust to 2008 farm bill changes and fine-tune “new” farm bill programs. Here are some of the latest developments in selected programs. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). New CRP provisions should emerge by next June. USDA Farm Program Deputy Administrator Brad Willis noted the 2008 farm bill trimmed the program from 36 million acres to a maximum 32 million acres. This year, he reported, “we couldn’t enroll everybody who had an expiring contract in 2009.” “Probably only about two-thirds of the people who had expiring contracts chose to re-enroll them,” Willis told Illinois producers. Because recent lawsuits have mandated stringent environmental analysis, “everything we do with that program is quite slow,” Willis said. With a current 31 million acres enrolled, he hopes to boost 2010 signup while continuing to focus on “the acre that needs to be protected.” Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The 2008 farm bill created this program to encourage cellulosic ethanol development through matching payments for processor purchases of and incentives for establishment and annual production of biomass crops. Willis cites “more interest in the program than anyone anticipated,” though paper and lumber companies with existing biomass resources constitute the majority of initial applicants. “The hope is to expand beyond that, especially when we have (payments for) establishment costs,” he said. “So far, the BCAP incentive is garnering a lot of attention.” Because BCAP interest has “skyrocketed,” projected BCAP costs will be “substantially more than estimated,” he reported. BCAP payments will be announced this fall. Payment limitations. Last Dec. 28, USDA issued draft producer payment limit regulations — too late for 2009 program implementation. USDA is now reviewing proposals based on nearly 5,000 public comments and plans to report on further measures later this fall. A Government Accountability Office report questioned efforts to screen payments to wealthier landowners, and USDA and the Internal Revenue Service plan to ensure farm tax ID numbers jibe with program eligibility. Forthcoming procedures would be designed to protect producer privacy,” Willis said. “Nobody wants this to end up on websites.” — Martin Ross

haps 30-40 percent of producers nationwide would enroll. USDA has approved 124,000-plus ACRE contracts to date (of an estimated 126,000 applications), with Illinois alone accounting for roughly a sixth of program participants. “Understandably, there’s a little bit more pushback on the ACRE program than I had anticipated because you’re signing up for the life of the farm bill,” Orr suggested. “With the fluctuation in commodity prices we’ve seen in the last year, you can full well understand why a landowner’s hesitant to make that four-year (ACRE) commitment to a 20 percent reduction in direct (program)

payments, a 30 percent loan rate reduction, and no countercyclical payments.” Current ACRE participants must provide county FSA officials with 2004-2009 production evidence, plus annual documentation going forward through the end of the current farm bill. The production reporting deadline for 2009 crops coincides with the 2010 acreage reporting deadline — growers have until next July 15 to submit six years’ ACRE evidence. Producers are subject to USDA “spot checks” to verify production data. Orr told farmers “we don’t want your shoebox full of sales receipts,” but stressed county FSA committees would have authority

to verify suspect evidence. Signup for the 2010 ACRE program begins Wednesday. USDA hopes to begin signup for and deliver initial payments under the new general supplemental revenue (SURE) standing disaster assistance program later this year. So far, $1.4 million has been paid through a companion livestock indemnity program, primarily to cover Texas hurricane and Upper Plains blizzard losses. Livestock forage disaster payments are expected soon. To qualify for SURE payments, producers must be in a declared disaster county or have suffered an individual 50 percent loss and must have some form of crop insurance.

Senate health blueprint near The U.S. Senate Finance Committee reportedly is working overtime to move a health plan that provides a favorable alternative to the “public option” and offers a way to “level the playing field” for farm and other consumers. That’s according to Ben Schierer, spokesman for Communicating for Agriculture and the Self-Employed (CA), a Minnesota-based rural health advocacy/research organization. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) recently released a basic health proposal that rejects House-approved, government-managed insurance/care options. Baucus and colleagues are working through more than 550 amendments, but his committee could vote on a bill by week’s end. CA supports Baucus’ “co-op alternative to the public option” — establishment of regional health cooperatives that could extend coverage to large blocks of under- or uninsured Americans. Schierer noted “effective” co-ops already operate in Minnesota and the state of Washington. “We’ve seen how co-ops can offer affordable, portable group insurance to our members, who otherwise would be out in the individual (insurance) market,” he told FarmWeek. Member critical mass is crucial to co-op competitiveness in the health market, but Schierer notes co-ops can be structured in various ways. Washington’s Group Health Cooperative both provides insurance and operates medical facilities for its nearly 600,000 ag, union,

and other members. Minnesota Rural Health Cooperative focuses on helping members access outside health insurance and services. Under proposals spearheaded by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), co-ops could be formed on a statewide or regional basis and would serve as selfgoverned insurers contracting directly with health care providers. Senate proposals would provide federal grants or loans to help with co-op startup. One of the more controversial elements of the Baucus plan is a proposed new tax on insurers who offer high-cost, so-called “gold-plated” policies. Schierer defends the tax, noting “Cadillac” policies extended to employer-covered individuals raise overall costs for producers and other self-employed individuals who must purchase their own insurance. Meanwhile, American Farm Bureau Federation supports Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Ark.) proposal to allow ag operations that employ seasonal workers to receive small business tax credits to help cover health care costs. Schierer stressed insurance is only part of the rural health equation, urging inclusion of incentives to attract and retain rural primary care providers. Lawmakers also are eyeing proposals to aid small-but-crucial “critical access” hospitals while improving Medicare reimbursements for rural “’tweener” hospitals that have neither the economic advantages of major regional hospitals nor the cost-based reimbursements afforded federally designated critical access facilities. — Martin Ross


FarmWeek Page 5 Monday, September 28, 2009

PRODUCTION C o m b i n e s m o v i n g a t s n a i l ’s p a c e

Grain industry braced for a late and large harvest BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

A few loads of new-crop corn and soybeans started to trickle into some country elevators about the middle of this month, according to representatives of the grain industry. But the big rush isn’t expected until later next month as damp conditions and a late-maturing crop likely will extend harvest activity all the way to Thanksgiving and beyond, according to Kim Holsapple, grain department manager for Total Grain Marketing in Effingham. “As strung out as planting was, I expect harvest to be even more strung out,” Holsapple told FarmWeek. Bruce Bastert, general manager of Ludlow Cooperative Elevator and first vice president of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, believes timing of the current harvest could be similar to last year. “Last year our largest receipt week was the last week of October,” which was about 30 days later than normal, Bastert said. “It very well could be later this year.” Corn harvest as of the first of last week was 1 percent complete statewide, compared to the five-year average of 16 percent, while soybean harvest also was 1 percent complete,

compared to the average of 8 percent. Rain last week limited fieldwork, but the main reason harvest is off to such a slow start is the immaturity of crops. Just 13 percent of the corn crop last week was rated mature, compared to the five-year average of 69 percent, while 20 percent of soybeans were shedding leaves, compared to the average of 56 percent, the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office reported. “Dryer demand will be at a premium this year due to the lateness and wetness of the crop,” Holsapple said. “If there is a bottleneck (at elevators this fall), it will be the capacity to dry the crop.” Bastert also expects heavy demand for grain drying services. “We’ve got the potential for a big one,” he said of potential crop production. “I can run X number of bushels per hour (through grain dryers). My concern is there will be more corn than hours.” USDA this month projected Illinois farmers will harvest 2.17 billion bushels of corn, 2 percent more than last year, with an average yield of 179 bushels per acre. Soybean production in the state currently is projected to

reach 398.2 million bushels with an average yield of 44 bushels. The grain industry is prepared for the large crops,

according to the industry representatives. Total Grain Marketing has an additional 2.1 million bushels of capacity space available this year com-

pared to last year while Ludlow Cooperative has contingency plans for an additional 2.75 million bushels of storage space.

HORSE RACING AND AGRICULTURE

Tony Petrillo, far left, Arlington Park vice president for facilities and operations, discusses the horse racing industry and its connection to Illinois agriculture with state Rep. Mark Walker (D-Arlington Heights), second from left, and Crawford County Farm Bureau leaders and a Cook County Farm Bureau representative. Recently, Walker hosted his “adopted” county Farm Bureau for a tour of the race course and horse barns and Motorola Inc. headquarters. This summer, Walker toured Crawford County ag sites. (Photo by Christina Nourie, Illinois Farm Bureau)

Meteorologists: Illinois may avoid early frost A change in weather patcould help the Midwest avoid Nino favors a dry and mild terns through the end of this an early frost. winter from the Plains into the month favors delivery of coolIn fact, Palmerino said the Midwest, according to Rippey. er air masses east of the Rock- current weather pattern is simHowever, a Canadian jet ies and down into the Midilar to 2004 and 2008 when the stream could be a more dominant west. weather factor But Illinois later this fall and for the most winter, producing part should more consistent ‘The freeze may be later than normal.’ remain safe periods of prefrom the threat cipitation, — Mike Palmerino Palmerino said. of an early DTN meteorologist frost, according “The freeze to Brad Rippey, may be later than USDA meteonormal this rologist, who recently discussed first freeze in Illinois generally year,” Palmerino said. “But the fall weather outlook with Illi- was later than the typical range once things start to develop, nois Farm Bureau Leaders to of mid-to-late October. conditions could deteriorate Washington. “The cool summer (in rapidly as early as late October.” “We’ll be stuck in that which temperatures averaged Palmerino and Anderson (cooler) pattern the rest of the about 3 degrees below normal) therefore believe farmers in commonth,” said Rippey, who not- tends to relax a bit in the fall ing weeks could struggle with hared the best chance of frost this (when compared to similar vest delays and poor stalk quality. week is in the Red River Valley. weather patterns in previous “The ability to dry things “A lot of the Upper Midwest years),” Palmerino said. down and get harvest done should be safe.” The two DTN meteoroloquickly this year is suspect,” The forecast was very simi- gists predicted the first frost Palmerino said. “We’re going to lar to the fall weather outlook this fall will be “no earlier than be losing sun (light hours) every released last week by DTN ag normal in the Midwest.” day through the end of this year.” meteorologists Bryce AnderOpinions varied, though, as Elsewhere, the DTN meteoson and Mike Palmerino. to what type of conditions may rologists reported heavy rainThe DTN weather experts prevail throughout harvest and fall this month in South Amerbelieve a weak El Nino pattern into winter. The presence of El ica eased drought concerns in

Argentina and Brazil at least temporarily while dryness in parts of Australia reportedly

had little impact on key wheatproducing areas there. — Daniel Grant


FarmWeek Page 6 Monday, September 28, 2009

CROPWATCHERS Bernie Walsh, Durand, Winnebago County: Rain was on tap here last week for a change. We had 1 inch Sunday (Sept. 20) and 1.75 inches on Tuesday. More was forecast for the weekend. It has all soaked in so far, but we don’t need anymore right now. Silo filling is well under way, but no other harvest has started yet. Hopefully, I can report some soybean harvest in the week ahead. Leroy Getz, Savanna, Carroll County: Rain of 1.15 inches on Sept. 21-22. No harvesting yet. Some beans have lost all their leaves and just need more time. Corn moisture is still above 30 percent, but dropped four points since last week. Secondcrop green string beans were harvested last week. Ron Frieders, Waterman, DeKalb County: By now, early varieties of soybeans should be combined. The fly-free date has passed, so wheat should be seeded. Even some corn should be out, but it’s not. A very few soybean fields are getting close, but most are two weeks from being ready for harvest. I don’t think any corn is dry enough. For now, preparations for harvest will continue, and we all have to pray for good weather to get this late crop in the bin. Larry Hummel, Dixon, Lee County: I’ve seen one field of soybeans that should be ready to harvest sometime this week. Our beans probably are closer to two weeks from harvest. Seed corn harvest has begun. No field corn has been harvested yet, but it’s usually about this time when someone pokes into some fields just to get everyone excited. Joe Zumwalt, Warsaw, Hancock County: Light to steady rainfall over the past week slowed down the few producers who were harvesting. A handful of combines were running on some April-planted corn, and we even were able to cut one field of soybeans between rains. Yields have varied from 170 to 210 dry bushels per acre with moisture ranging from 18 to 28 percent. A few are going after wetter corn, but most are waiting a bit longer. Most of the corn is just now black layering. At the best, we are looking at most corn being harvested around the 25 percent moisture range. Our soybeans were planted May 10 on some lighter ground. They yielded 60 bushels per acre with moisture near 14 to 15 percent. It is still my belief that traders haven’t taken into account the impact of a late harvest, the condition that the crop may be in because of that, and the effect that a late harvest will have on next year’s planting intentions. Have a safe harvest. Ken Reinhardt, Seaton, Mercer County: It was raining Friday (Sept. 25) morning, with 0.75 of an inch fallen so far. It could possibly help some of the later crops given the dryness. Not much to report on the harvest. A few early beans are ready to cut, while some are going to try a little corn this week. Most corn harvest will be from mid-October onward. Ron Moore, Roseville, Warren County: We received 0.5 of an inch of rain last week. It was raining Friday morning (Sept. 25), with up to another inch expected over the weekend. That will delay the start of harvest until this week. We have a few acres of corn ready and will have some beans to harvest when it dries out. Several agronomists from seed companies are predicting higher-than normal corn moisture this fall. They are even talking about corn not drying down below 25 percent moisture. This crop will be expensive to get in the bin. One field of 105-day corn reportedly yielded near this farm’s average. No beans have been harvested. Please be careful this fall.

Jacob Streitmatter, Princeville, Peoria County: After a week or two of nice, dry weather, we finally got back to wet and miserable conditions. I received a little more than an inch of rain with showers on and off the last few days. Soybeans are starting to turn with some just dying from white mold and sudden death syndrome. Corn has a long ways to go. The milk line on the first-planted corn is approaching halfway down the kernel, but the last-planted corn still has a long ways to go. Few have started any fieldwork yet. Tim Green, Wyoming, Stark County: A very cool, wet, foggy week. A lot of diseases grew last week. Corn failed to dry down much. A lot of people continue to talk about how bad the beans will be. People are starting to get antsy about picking corn. Most of the hand-shelled corn samples have been well in the upper 30s, putting a damper on things pretty quickly. Otherwise, people just keep finding jobs to do and things to fix in preparation for the fall. Mark Kerber, Chatsworth, Livingston County: Cloudy, wet weather last week did not help the dry down of corn. Producers and elevators are concerned about the moisture levels of corn and how long it will take to dry down. Driers will get a workout. Soybeans are turning even in the rain. There will be some beans ready to combine next time it dries out. Diplodia ear rot is a growing concern in some areas. If a high percentage of corn is rotten, it will be difficult to keep in storage without it spreading through the entire bin. Elevators will be testing for that if it becomes a problem. Many people toured our local ethanol plant in Gibson City. It is running at full capacity, producing about 100 million gallons of ethanol per year. Markets expect a large crop throughout the Corn Belt. Ron Haase, Gilman, Iroquois County: We received rain on Sept. 21-22, measuring in a range of 0.8 of an inch to 1.3 inches on our farms. Light showers on Sept. 24 were not measurable. The majority of area cornfields are still in the dent stage (R5). The milk line in our corn is anywhere from 20 percent to all the way down the kernel or at black layer (R6). Most of our corn would have the milk line from 20 percent to 66 percent of the way down the kernel. Diseases and remobilization of nutrients to the filling ear continue to cause deterioration of the plant. Most soybean fields are in the beginning maturity growth stage (R7) with other fields entering into the full maturity growth stage (R8). Others are still at R6. Some soybean fields will be ready to harvest once the fields, plants, and pods dry off from the rains. The local closing prices for Sept. 24: nearby corn, $3.11; nearby soybeans, $9.21. Brian Schaumburg, Chenoa, McLean County: Limited harvesting has occurred. My 106-day refuge corn (planted April 26) is still at 27 percent moisture and yielded 210 bushels per acre. Diplodia ear rot is showing up in harvested samples with 5 to 20 percent damage. Beans will be cut as soon as the weather cooperates. This may be the most challenging harvest since the early 1970s. Corn, $3.16; January corn, $3.29; soybeans, $8.99; January soybeans, $9.01. Steve Ayers, Champaign, Champaign County: A damp, warm week delayed early harvest, but helped with crop development. The rain did not amount to much with 0.13 of an inch Sunday (Sept. 20), 0.3 of an inch Tuesday, and 0.07 of an inch Thursday. More showers fell Friday. This week looks like sunshine with rain Thursday, and temps ranging from 45 to 70 degrees. Some combines will roll early next week. Corn in our crop reporting district is at 70 percent dent with 9 percent mature and beans at 72 percent yellowing with 32 percent shedding leaves. Early yields sound promising, but Diplodia damage ranges from 0 to 35 percent.

Wilfred Dittmer, Quincy, Adams County: A damp morning in our area Friday after light rain overnight added about 0.75 of an inch to the rain gauge for a total of about 1 inch for the week. Little harvesting is being done, with just a few going into corn in some areas. I have not heard of any yield reports. Most soybeans are still pretty green. At least a couple weeks are ahead before many fields will be tested. Have a safe week wherever you are! Harry Schirding, Petersburg, Menard County: Rainfall last week, 1.76 inches. Total for September, 3.46 inches; normal for September, 3.3 inches. It was a cloudy and damp week with limited harvesting. On Sunday (Sept. 20) rain totals ranged from 1.6 to 2.5 inches. Reports of corn moisture levels are in the mid- to upper-20s. Low test weights and kernel damage are common in early corn harvest. A field of soybeans planted in late April was harvested with moisture near 11 percent and a yield in the low 60s. The new phenomena appears to be the swarms of soybean aphids in the area. Nearby corn, $3.23, up 11 cents; nearby soybeans, $9.20, down 27 cents; January corn, $3.16, up 4 cents; January soybeans, $9.20, down 32 cents. Tom Ritter, Blue Mound, Macon County: It was a dreary week — cloudy and cool. We have had showers, but no major accumulation of rain. It definitely was not conducive to maturing the crops, especially corn. Very little field activity occurred. A little bit more corn has been picked. Based on a limited sampling, yields seem to be fair. The biggest problem is the moisture level. Most corn that was being harvested was April-planted, which was only 5 percent of the crop. Corn planted in late May and early June is still extremely green and not showing a lot of browning. The biggest concern at the moment, besides moisture, is white mold. Reports are that most loads have 7 to 40 percent damage. There also is a dramatic effect on the test weight, which is running from 48 to 53. That could be one of the major losses. Another problem will be keeping on-farm or elevatorstored corn in good condition. Soybean fields are getting very close to harvest. Only one field was tried, due to the moisture content and the coolness. With a good day or two of sunshine, several fields of beans will be harvested. Todd Easton, Charleston, Coles County: Harvest in Coles County finally started last week. A handful of combines have been in selected areas harvesting the April-planted corn and earliest soybeans. A survey of several producers has pegged the early corn harvested in a 10 bushel range above or below the 200-bushel mark. Moisture has been between 20 to 25 percent. The rest of the corn should achieve harvestable maturity this week and will need at least another week to reach more desirable harvest moistures. The majority of soybeans are starting to shed leaves and should be ready in a week or two. As harvest begins, be careful on the roads as traffic gets acclimated to combines and implements on the roads. Doug Uphoff, Shelbyville, Shelby County: Ear rot has been turning up in early corn delivered to local elevators. Damage from 14 to 25 percent has been reported, with some even greater than that. It is not really surprising given this season’s weather conditions. I expect a lot of dryer gas and electricity will be used for the corn crop as our earliest corn planted is still at least 28 percent moisture. Soybeans have matured slowly since the onset of the wet weather. A few have been harvested, and yield reports have been anywhere from the mid-40s to mid-50s. Most farmers are anxious to get started, but it’s hard to get too excited with the corn so wet. Soybean harvest is about five to 10 days off if it warms up and stays dry.


FarmWeek Page 7 Monday, September 28, 2009

CROPWATCHERS David Schaal, St. Peter, Fayette County: The county crop tour on Sept. 24 indicated corn yields were averaging 149.97 bushels per acre with a range of 69 to 200 bushels. Soybean yields ranged from 12 bushels to 46 bushels per acre with an average of 33.54 bushels. Some diseases, mainly gray leaf spot, were found in cornfields, along with disease pressure in some bean fields. Diplodia also was found in early-planted cornfields. Aphids also worked soybeans across the county. We still need some frost-free time for soybeans to fully mature. Everyone has harvest on their minds, but we’re just not here yet. Have a safe week. Ted Kuebrich, Jerseyville, Jersey County: Jersey County experienced a very wet week. On Sunday (Sept. 20), we received 3 inches of rain at the farm near Jerseyville. The rest of the county received anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches. The northern part of Greene County received as much as 5 inches. The weather forecast called for rain until Sunday. The hard rain has caused some beans to go down. Bob Biehl, Belleville, St. Clair County: Rainfall amounts fell shy at 0.25 of an inch after a couple of rainy days this past week. Virtually no harvest activity has yet occurred. We are probably nearly two weeks away from a few beans and some of the May-planted corn being ready. Double-cropped beans are just starting to fill the pod so frost threat remains. Even the June-planted corn is two to three weeks away, maybe longer, from reaching black layer.

Rick Corners, Centralia, Jefferson County: It took a couple of days to get it, but we finally received 0.3 of an inch of rain. There are going to be a few patches of beans ready to cut this week.

Dan Meinhart, Montrose, Jasper County: Showers were in the area almost all week. On Sunday (Sept. 20) a small cell of rain moved through Lawrence and Crawford counties, leaving from 2 to 5 inches of rain. In the past week, amounts of rain varied widely from a couple of tenths to 2 inches. In a few fields of soybeans, the leaves are turning and dropping. Harvest in these fields could begin in a week or so. The majority of beans are still green. A few fields of corn have been chopped, but most farmers are waiting for the corn to further mature before chopping. There were reports of a considerable amount of Diplodia — better known as ear mold. A slight chance of rain was seen through Saturday. Kevin Raber, Browns, Wabash County: Rainfall totals for last week were between 4 and 5 inches with a chance of rain Friday (Sept. 25). Corn was shelled in between the two big rains, but corn I shelled was between 22 and 25 moisture with the sandier ground corn out-yielding that on the darker soil. I shelled white corn. I was happy with the yields, but quite a bit of Diplodia is showing up in the grain. Early beans are maturing rapidly, but the double crops are still green.

Dean Shields, Murphysboro, Jackson County: Last week the weather was still cloudy and rainy for the most part. There was some corn being harvested in between the showers. I started picking corn and got about 12 acres done before the rain arrived. Very few beans are being harvested. It seems that quite a few will be ready to go this week. We are about a week away from getting fullblown harvest in Jackson County. We’ll see then where yields fall. Everybody would like to see dry conditions return and allow us to get started. Everybody have a safe harvest now. Ken Taake, Ullin, Pulaski County: It was not a very good week for harvest in Pulaski County — rainy and drizzly with high humidity most of the week. Although we haven’t had a lot of rain, the high humidity has kept everyone out of the fields. About 0.3 of an inch of rain fell over the weekend of Sept. 20, followed by 0.7 of an inch on Wednesday night and Thursday. We managed to get into the cornfield on Wednesday before the rain. Moisture on our corn was running about 23 percent so it’s not drying very fast. Some early soybeans are ready to harvest, but the weather has just not cooperated. It’s supposed to be drier and cooler this week, so I’m hopeful we can get started cutting beans then. Please be careful.

Reports received Friday morning.

Crop insurance tips for when Diplodia hits A wet, cool crop season has translated into potential problems with Diplodia, or white mold, in corn. Diplodia can damage corn by causing lightweight kernels that

reduce yield. However, Diplodia does not appear to produce toxins in grain. “Indications so far point to white mold in corn planted in early April as being a potential

problem,” said Roger Ninness, COUNTRY Financial crop claims manager. “Diplodia is not considered a toxic substance, and samples may be taken by the farmer from a

Rot Continued from page 1 18 percent, according to Bissonnette. So if wet weather is expected, farmers may want to harvest infected fields first and dry the grain to below 18 percent moisture. Otherwise, if dry weather is expected, farmers can try to save some drying costs and leave the grain to dry a bit longer in the field, Bissonnette noted. Farmers who suspect they have any type of quality issues with their grain also should turn in a crop insurance claim, according to Roger Ninness, crop claims manager for Coun-

try Financial. “If (farmers) think they have any type of quality problem, they should turn in a claim,” said Ninness (see accompanying story for more information about crop insurance decisions). Initial reports of grain quality problems have not been confined to any one particular area of the state. “The whole state was wet,” Ninness said. But, so far, the quality problems do seem to be associated any more with early-planted corn than late-planted corn, Ninness added.

Diplodia ear rot may be more of a problem in cornfields than usual this season in Illinois due to the cool, wet conditions that reportedly were optimal for its development. (Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois)

EPA proposes Madison County site for Superfund List The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week proposed adding a Madison county site for the Superfund National Priorities List of hazardous waste sites. The Chemetco site is a closed copper smelter in Hartford. Sites on the list are eligible for additional study and resources under EPA’s Superfund program. A 60-day public comment period about the proposed listing began last week. The site is located on Ill. Rt. 3 about two miles south of Hartford. It was a secondary copper smelter from 1969 to 2001 before the

company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. More than 500,000 cubic yards of processing slag, sludge, and other hazardous materials were left at the 230-acre site. Elevated levels of copper, lead and cadmium have been found in sediment in on-site wetlands and nearby Long Lake. Under the listing process, sites are first proposed and public comments considered before EPA decides to formally add a site to the list. Information is available online at {www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm.

storage facility or analyzed by your local grain elevator.” Grain elevators will dock farmers for low test weights and kernel damage. However, federal crop insurance rules dictate that insurable damage occurs only if kernel damage is more than 10 percent and if the test weight is less than 49 pounds per bushel. For insurable damage on corn with more than 35 percent kernel damage, the elevator dockage will be applied to the claim. COUNTRY crop adjusters will apply a discount factor provided by the federal government to corn with kernel damage between 10.1 percent and 35 percent. If toxins are suspected, the grain must be tested to determine whether it’s toxin-free. Samples must be taken by a

COUNTRY crop adjuster or a disinterested third party approved by COUNTRY before the crop is placed in storage. Farmers who harvest and deliver grain found to contain toxins when tested at the grain elevator should also ask the elevator to hold a sample for pickup by a COUNTRY crop adjuster. The crop adjuster will send the sample to a certified lab for verification. Farmers will be charged a fee for this test. “We are here to help farmers have an efficient, safe harvest. If grain samples are toxin free, farmers can carry on with harvest,” said Ninness. “If tests show that toxins are present, farmers should call their financial representatives.”


FarmWeek Page 8 Monday, September 28, 2009

LIVESTOCK

Research, technology managing manure nutrients, odor BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Walker: New law favors composting

Livestock producers will soon have more options to help them manage and benefit from manure nutrients, while reducing odor, according to researchers at several universities. “The dream when you have manure is to get the full fertilizer value,” said John Lory, an environmental nutrient management specialist with the University of Missouri. Lory and other researchers

FarmWeekNow.com Additional resources on manure management are available at FarmWeekNow.com.

discussed management practices and new research at a manure management field day on the Illinois State University (ISU) research farm near Lexington. The ISU farm uses solidliquid separation systems to better manage nutrients, which are applied as effluent and as compost, and to reduce odor. Research results, along with related rules and other information, are available online at {www.sweeta.illinois.edu}. SWEETA is short for Swine Waste Economical and Environmental Treatment Alternatives. “The whole issue of odor affects our right to site (livestock) facilities. It’s also affecting our right to exist,” said Paul Walker, ISU animal science professor. ISU either applies composted manure biosolids to its

Participants of a manure management workshop tour the Illinois State University (ISU) research farm’s swine manure handling system near Lexington. ISU also applies polymers to separated solids, seen in the foreground, that are composted. (Photo by Kay Shipman)

fields or sells the compost to consumers. The separated effluent is applied by a centerpivot irrigation system or an underground irrigation system. Walker noted the nitrogenphosphorous ratio of the effluent is “close to what a corn plant wants” and can be applied at higher rates than raw slurry without overloading soil phosphorous levels. The effluent has “remarkably low odor” when applied via a center pivot and no odor when applied through the underground system, Walker added. Lory recommended farmers regularly sample and test their

manure to obtain current nutrient values and then estimate the amount of available nutrients. “It’s important to get test results converted into the right units, pounds per thousand gallons or pounds per ton,” he said. Livestock manure nutrient values are changing as the animals increase their feed efficiency and livestock diets change, Lory noted. For example, nitrogen levels in swine manure have decreased

30 percent; phosphorous, decreased 60 percent, and potassium, decreased 10 percent. Cattle diets with higher amounts of dried distillers grain (DDG) also are changing nutrients levels in manure, Lory said. As DDG dietary levels increase, phosphorous levels also increase in manure, he added. “It’s a good source of phosphorous (fertilizer), if you need it,” Lory said.

A new state law will make it more economical for livestock producers to compost livestock waste, according to Paul Walker, Illinois State University (ISU) animal science professor. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), that exempts certain types of compost facilities from regulation as pollution control facilities. Compost facilities that have no more than 30,000 cubic yards of livestock waste continue to be regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and must meet setback requirements, but no longer must also be sited by county governments, according to Walker. “This makes it more economical to do composting,” Walker said of the new law. He has researched composting of livestock waste as a management practice on the ISU research farm near Lexington. –- Kay Shipman

Livestock producers may tap into information and funding A variety of information and planning tools for manure management is available online, according to University of Illinois specialists. To assist with nutrient management expenses, producers also may apply for Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) cost-share funds through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). U of I’s Randy Fonner and McLean County NRCS’ Kent Bohnhoff described several opportunities during a livestock manure management field day hosted by Illinois State University. Manure management planning assistance is available online at {www.immp.uiuc.edu}. The planning tool helps producers tailor plans for their operations. Fonner said the program was “modeled on Turbo Tax.” Producers may find livestock-related regulations at {www.ezregs.uiuc.edu}. The infor mation covers r ules related to environmental protection, livestock facility constr uction, facility management and siting, pesticide use, historic preser vation, and endangered species. One of the newer sites, Manure Share, is a forum for people wanting to exchange

manure from farms or stables with others who need it for composting or field applications. Fonner said there is no charge to register at {www.ManureShare.illinois.edu}. More than 100 people from across the state have registered, and more than 40 of those are looking for manure, according to Fonner. The registrants have a variety of livestock species, including beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, and horses, he noted. On the funding side, producers may receive EQIP cost-share dollars for a variety of practices. But funding has been allocated for the current fiscal year, Bohnhoff said. Producers who apply receive application points based on the conservation practices and environmental issues they plan to address, he explained. Eligible livestock practices and tools include developing a comprehensive nutrient management plan, waste storage facilities, windbreaks, roof and gutters to reduce stormwater from entering waste storage areas, and vegetative treatment area for livestock waste. Bohnhoff encouraged producers to contact their local NRCS offices for more information or an application. — Kay Shipman


FarmWeek Page 9 Monday, September 28, 2009

FROM THE COUNTIES

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ASALLE — Check out the Adopt an Acre Program with WCMY Radio by visiting the website {www.lasallecfb.org}. By clicking on the Adopt an Acre Program link, interested persons will be directed to WCMY’s radio station where they can hear segments with WCMY’s Jay LeSeure and Bob Beutke. • Volunteer nature lovers are invited to the Wetlands Workday at Dixon Waterfowl Refuge from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Come and gather seeds from native prairie plants. Visit the website {www.wetlands-initiative.org} for a map and more information. TEPHENSON — Stroke Detection Plus will perform screenings Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 2021, at the Farm Bureau office. Stephenson County Farm Bureau members will receive a discount. Call 877-732-8258 for an appointment or more information. • Flu shots will be given from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Farm Bureau office. Cost is $20 for members and

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$25 for non-members. Medicare exemptions will be accepted. • Advance Hearing Healthcare will give hearing screenings from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Farm Bureau office. Call the Farm Bureau office for more information. • A defensive driving course will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 17-18, at the Farm Bureau office. Doug Sommer will be the instructor. Cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Lunch will be provided. Call the Farm Bureau office at 815232-3186 for reservations or more information. • Orders for holiday nuts and candy will be taken through Oct. 30. Delivery will be during the week of Nov. 23. Order forms are available online at {www.stephensoncfb.org} or at the Farm Bureau office. Call 815-2323186 for more information. “From the counties” items are submitted to county Farm Bureau managers. If you have an activity or event open to all members, contact your county manager.

Farmers encouraged to comment on CRP The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is gathering input on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The comment period will end Oct. 19. The agency is seeking comments related to provisions dealing with cropping history requirements, crop rotation practices, contract incentives, program enrollment terms and the CRP enrollment authority of 32 million acres established for the remainder of the 2008 farm bill. USDA will consider each comment received during the comment period when preparing a required supplemental environmental impact statement. This statement will help USDA with an analysis of the environmental benefits and potential impacts associated with implementing various changes to CRP consistent with the 2008 farm bill. CRP is a voluntary program that supports implementation of long-term conservation measures. Participants receive rental payments and cost share assistance under contracts of 10 to 15 years. Written public comments may be submitted to FSA by Oct. 19. Comments may be submitted: • Online at {http://public.geo-marine.com}, • Through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at {http://www.regulations.gov}, • By e-mail to CRPcomments@tecinc.com, • By postal mail to CRP SEIS, c/o TEC Inc., 8 San Jose Dr., Suite 3-B, Newport News, VA 23606, or • By fax to 757-594-1469.

Auction Calendar Sat., Sept. 26. 8 a.m. Consignment auction, harvest equipment. Route 9 Auction Co., CANTON, IL. Sat., Sept. 26. 9:30 a.m. Miscellaneous. Chris Fowler, ALEXIS, IL. Gregory Real Estate and Auction, LLC. Sun., Sept. 27. 11:30 a.m. Collector tractors, misc. James Stilla Jr., MILWAUKEE, WIS. Gordon Stade, auctioneer. Tues., Sept. 29. 10 a.m. Livestock equipment. Gary Edwards, Pure Cattle LLC, CAMERON, IL. Van Adkisson Auction Service. Tues., Sept. 29. 6 p.m. Real estate.

Indiana State University, CASEY, IL. Stanfield Auction Co. Sat., Oct. 3. 9 a.m. Farm machinery and equipment. Sunny Brook Farms, AVA, IL. McCormick Auction Service. Sat., Oct. 3. 10 a.m. Land Auction. Kenneth and Sam Gehant, MENDOTA, IL. Espe Auctioneering. Sat., Oct. 10. 9 a.m. Real estate and personal property. U Ralph Galloway Trust, SESSER, IL. Jamie Scherrer Auction Co. Mon., Oct. 12. 7 p.m. Land. Van Kalker Family, L.P. Gordyville Auction Arena, GIFFORD, IL. Gordon Hannagan Auction Co.

FEEDING EXTREME HOME TEAM

The Carroll County Farm Bureau and Carroll County Pork Producers teamed up to provide a hot meal for volunteers helping ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” work on a rural Lena home in Stephenson County. The Philip Stott family was the recipient of the home makeover in mid-September. (Photo courtesy of Chas Welch, manager Carroll County Farm Bureau)


FarmWeek Page 10 Monday, September 28, 2009

PROFITABILITY

Broadband Internet usage expands in rural areas BY JIM CHARLESWORTH

Development of the Internet began around 1957 when the first satellite was launched by the Soviet Union. The technology advances continued over the next three decades and eventually connected computers at U.S. universities. Jim Charlesworth By the early 1990s, Internet access was available to the public. Today, the Internet is becoming more widely used by agricultural producers. Illinois farmers have become almost as likely as urban dwellers to use high-speed Internet or broadband. A total of 61 percent of Illinois farms have Internet access. A significant change has tran-

spired with the primary method of Internet access. In a few short years, dial-up service declined to only 20 percent of Illinois farms, from 72 percent in 2005. Wireless service is the most common method of accessing the Internet, growing to 31 percent, followed by DSL at 22 percent, and satellite at 16 percent.

This broadband access expansion has created opportunities for producers to fully utilize the Internet’s potential. With advancements in the Internet arena, more applications now require higher data transmission rates. Farms using computers for business have increased to 44

percent in 2009. However, only 11 percent of Illinois farmers purchase agricultural inputs via the Internet. This has remained constant over the last five years. Not surprisingly, larger farmers tend to use the Internet for farm business purposes to a greater extent than smaller operations. Nearly 70 percent of the commercial producer segment ($250,000+ in annual farm sales) use the Internet to conduct farm business activities, while only one in four small producers commence farm business activities on the Internet. Producers also are widely using the Internet to conduct business with non-agricultural websites. Almost one half of the U.S. commercial producers and one third of all producers are purchasing non-agricultural products and services via the Internet. Recent policy developments

have aided the rural broadband expansion. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 reauthorized USDA’s telemedicine and distance learning and rural broadband access grant and loan programs. Businesses, farms, and families in rural areas with no or very limited service are targeted to benefit from this program. The act also simplified the application requirements. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $2.5 billion to USDA for loans and grants to expand broadband services in rural areas. As these funds address the needs of underserved communities, rural broadband access will continue to spread in the future. Jim Charlesworth is GROWMARK’s marketing research director. His e-mail address is jcharlesworth@growmark.com.

Hog inventory declines 2 percent; prices may improve BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

at 5.87 million head, was down 3.1 percent from last year. Both

Hog production is starting to show the effects of the ongoing economic downturn, according to Joe Kerns, an ag economist with Iowa Select Farms. USDA in its quarterly hogs and pigs report on Friday estimated the swine inventory on Sept. 1 at 66.6 million head, down 2.3 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile the breeding herd,

FarmWeekNow.com Full details of the latest hogs and pigs report are available on FarmWeekNow.com.

projections were about half of a percent lower than pre-report estimates. “I don’t think there is a lot of

M A R K E T FA C T S

Feeder pig prices reported to USDA*

Weight 10 lbs. 40 lbs. 50 lbs. Receipts

Range Per Head Weighted Ave. Price $19.00-$31.73 $26.65 $30.00-$30.50 $30.48 n/a n/a This Week Last Week 22,946 36,111 *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 $47.54 $47.88 $35.18 $35.43

Change -0.34 -0.25

USDA five-state area slaughter cattle price Steers Heifers

Prv. week 84.23 84.33

Change 0.14 0.05

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 96.87 98.16 -1.29

Lamb prices Confirmed lamb and sheep sales This week 873 Last week 619 Last year 1,282 Wooled Slaughter Lambs: Choice and Prime 2-3: 90-110 lbs, $98; 110-130 lbs., $92.75. Good and Choice 1-2: 60-90 lbs., $109. Slaughter Ewes: Utility and Good 1-3: $28-$30. Cull and Utility 1-2: $28.

Export inspections (Million bushels)

Week ending Soybeans Wheat 09-17-09 0.2 23.2 09-10-09 10.3 22.3 Last year 2.6 30.1 Season total 17.5 245.9 Previous season total 12.5 403.1 USDA projected total 1280 950 Crop marketing year began June 1 for wheat and Sept. 1 for corn and soybeans.

“We’ll probably be looking at more red ink at least until May (of 2010),” Grimes said. Prices are projected to increase early next year with a likely rebound in export demand. Daniel Bluntzer, director of research at Frontier Risk Management, estimated carcass prices the first quarter of next year could average $52 to $53. Two factors that could prohibit a return to profitability include high input costs and

H1N1 flu, which could be used again by other countries as a trade barrier, according to Grimes. “The cost of production is still very much a concern,” Kerns added. “We’ll have to see how that plays out.” U.S. producers also continue to improve their productivity as USDA reported the number of pigs-saved-per-litter the past quarter was a record 9.7, up 2 percent from last year.

Cattle market may have upside potential

(Thursday’s price) This week 84.37 84.38

optimism in this report,” Kerns said during a teleconference hosted by the National Pork Board. However, “we are seeing mitigation of the sow herd.” Sows farrowed from June through August totaled 2.97 million head, which was down 4 percent compared to last year. U.S. hog producers intend to reduce farrowings by 3 percent in each of the next two quarters, according to USDA. “This is a little better report than we expected,” said Glenn Grimes, ag economist at the University of Missouri. “But we still need a (breeding herd) reduction somewhere around 10 percent.” The ag economists projected hog prices in the fourth quarter could average anywhere from $32 to $35 per hundredweight for 51 to 52 percent lean hogs and about $48 per hundredweight for carcass prices on the CME lean index.

Corn 33.1 43.0 43.2 101.3 87.7 2200

The cattle market in coming months has some upside potential, according to Rich Nelson, director of research at Allendale, Inc., McHenry. However, a larger number of placements in feedlots could keep a lid on that potential. USDA estimated August placements of cattle in feedlots at 2.11 million head, a 2 percent increase from the same time last year. Meanwhile, the weight of the animals placed in feedlots also was high with 61 percent of placements in the two highest weight categories of 700 to 799 pounds (24 percent) and 800-plus pounds (37 percent). “We are going to see higher placements” which may limit market gains through the first quarter of 2009, Nelson said. The cattle market has dropped sharply compared to last year due to weakened demand and the fact it takes months and even years to reduce production, the analyst noted. Cattle and calves on feed in the U.S. this

month totaled 9.9 million head, just a 1 percent drop compared to last year despite significantly lower prices. “We have seen a sharp drop in prices (from the $90s to the low-to-mid $80s) compared to last year,” Nelson said. “Beef has been hit the hardest on the demand side” from the economic recession. USDA recently projected beef exports this year could decrease by 8 percent. But cash prices by November and December could rally to $88 per hundredweight and futures prices could tip $89.50 due to a possible reduction in slaughter numbers and an increase in demand as the economy slowly improves, according to the analyst. “We are not that bearish looking ahead based on the idea that demand could show some slight gains the next few months,” Nelson added. USDA projected beef exports next year could bounce back with a 7 percent increase. — Daniel Grant


FarmWeek Page 11 Monday, September 28, 2009

PROFITABILITY Corn Strategy

C A S H S T R AT E G I S T

Acreage changes ahead With the availability of acreage data that producers report to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) each year, there have been significant changes in the planted/harvested acreage numbers on the October USDA crop report in recent years. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) analysts can monitor the data compiled by FSA earlier in the fall, but the data isn’t adequate to make new acreage forecasts until they start preparing their October crop forecasts.

Basis charts

In 2005, soybean plantings were revised down as low prices cut interest in double-cropped plantings. They dropped 1.6 million acres that year. In 2006, farmers appeared to shift to a more balanced rotation with the fundamental structure of soybeans and corn equally negative shifting acreage more than originally forecast. In 2007, high corn prices (and insurance guarantees) pulled more acreage into corn than NASS initially forecast. During 2008, extreme planting delays shifted more acres into soybeans than originally expected. The question to be answered this year is: will a similar shift occur? While that’s possible, we’re inclined to believe low prices and high fertilizer costs caused more abandonment. That suggests corn plantings may be revised down, but soybean plantings may not be revised upward. After factoring in the wet conditions during wheat harvest in the Corn Belt, one could argue we might have lost enough doublecropped soybean acres to offset most of a shift from corn to soybeans. In the end, we wouldn’t be shocked to see corn plantings decline by 1/2 million to 1 million acres and soybean plantings not revised upward in NASS’s October crop report. AgriVisor endorses crop insurance by

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Cents per bu.

 2008 crop: We are still inclined to hold inventories until after har vest or use a marketing strategy that would keep pricing open until later this year.  2009 crop: The action suggests a seasonal bottom has been traced out, with prices clearing key resistance areas. But action could remain choppy because of both weather uncertainties and new supplies entering the pipelines. Use rallies to $3.40 on December to price at least half of the bushels you need to move at harvest. We don’t plan additional sales until later this year. Fundamentals: Shortterm price direction continues to be linked to weather forecasts. Current models suggest key growing areas generally will be free from a frost threat for the short term. The market is keeping tabs on initial yield reports, but they are from the early-planted crops. Subsequent reports will be more important to gauge how lateplanted crops are g oing to affect overall crop size.

Soybean Strategy 2008 crop: Even though rallies don’t last long, prices act as if they are putting in a “harve s t ” l o w. G i ve n l i m i t e d downside risk, it’s better to hold old-crop inventories if possible, especially if it’s farm stored. 2009 crop: The market continues to act as if it’s in the process of turning the shortterm trend back up. Although not confirmed, nearby futures may be done testing $9 support. If you need to price soybeans for harvest delivery, use rallies on November futures above $9.50. But as long as you can store soybeans, plan to hold them at least into winter.  Fundamentals: Even though frost losses may not be significant from this point, weather threat is underpinning the soybean market. At the same time, weather still appears to be diminishing the size of the Chinese crop. The relatively slow start to harvest is keeping basis levels firm in the interior and at the Gulf.

Forecasts indicate sporadic rain should keep harvest pace from accelerating.

Wheat Strategy 2009 crop: Wheat prices remain range-bound. Even though they seem to have lost downside momentum, large international supplies are keeping a lid on strength. We have a short-ter m upside target at $4.70 on the December contract. However, we still advise holding off on sales because better pricing opportunities are expected later this fall or winter. Even before advising catch-up

sales, we’d wait to see if Chicago December futures can attempt to rally back above $5. Fundamentals: Activity remains stagnant on limited fundamental news. Still, the recent weekly export sales of 18.2 million bushels (495,900 metric tons) were a little better than expected and could be signaling a desire to own inventories at these prices. At any moment, the market could show a short burst of upside energ y if speculative funds start liquidating even a portion of their large short positions.


FarmWeek Page 12 Monday, September 28, 2009

PERSPECTIVES

NITTY GRITTY Those planning an ag career need to get their hands dirty Ag students are revitalizing Illinois collegiate and high school classrooms. This is welcome news for those in the ag industry. But how will these students, agriculture’s future workforce, relate to farming? It’s clear the message that agriculture encompasses many careers is working and so is the recruiting of young people for these careers. This fall, the four state universities with agriculture programs reported increased or steady numbers of ag students. On two campuses, agriculture enrollments grew while overall university enrollments dropped. At Western Illinois University (WIU) and Southern Illinois University (SIU), both ag programs registered more students in the face of declining university enrollment. At SIU, the College of Agricultural Sciences was one of only two colleges on the Carbondale campus KAY that increased its student numbers. SHIPMAN Even more heartening is the news that college enrollment increased in many fields of ag study, including those, such as crop science, that are at the core of the ag industry. Some increases were substantial. Illinois State University (ISU) nearly doubled its number of students in agriculture education. Interest in agriculture careers also is strong among older students, who are less likely to switch majors. The University of Illinois (U of I) saw a nearly 50 percent increase in transfer students, including those who have earned associate degrees or college credits at community colleges. That trend is expected to continue as community college students finish a new dual-credit, dual-admission program with the U of I.

The other state universities report strong interest in ag among transfer students. During this period of economic turmoil, these college students see a promising future in the ag industry. “The agriculture employment outlook remains strong,” noted William Bailey, director of WIU’s agriculture school. Illinois isn’t alone; other states are seeing ag college enrollment increases. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln marked a fifth consecutive increase in ag, and Iowa State University reported its ag enrollment reached a 30-year record high. Illinois also has developed a good feeder system of students for collegiate ag programs. Nearly 26,000 high school students and another 3,000 junior high students enrolled in ag classes across the state, according to the most recent school data available. More young people are studying ag at an early age, and increasing numbers are working toward an ag career. But many of those students lack something — a farm background. Today, 90 percent of Illinois high school and junior high ag students don’t live on a farm. Nonfarm students are studying agriculture to prepare for careers in something other than farming, according to Jay Runner, state coordinator for Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education. They may not want to farm, but their ag-related careers will be based on or relate to farming. It is important non-farm students experience what

it is like to handle livestock, work in the field, or any of the other day-to-day activities that are part of farming. Laboratory experiments, computer technology, and classroom work cannot totally replace those hands-on experiences. Future technology and recommendations will be better if they were developed by someone who understands what it is like to work with a sow, take soil samples, or operate a combine. Ag students in today’s classroom, and those in the future, will benefit even more from supervised agricultural experience projects and experience on research farms than earlier students who grew up on farms. Illinois ag is attracting bright students; it needs to ensure they understand — and experience — the farming sector upon which the ag industry is based. Kay Shipman is legislative affairs editor for FarmWeek and covers education. Her e-mail is kayship@ilfb.org.

Agriculture worthy of respect — not a dirty word Agricultural science is ripe for a Renaissance. For too many years, the agriculture sciences have been disparaged in the science and education communities, perhaps because agronomy, soil science, plant pathology, ALLEN LEVINE and animal sciguest columnist ence use a problem-solving approach rather than simply seeking knowledge. When science research funds are handed out — for example, in the federal stimulus bill — agriculture often gets left off the list. I suspect this is because policymakers and some scientists see “agriculture” as synonymous with “agribusiness,” rather than as a purely scientific discipline, and they assume private funding will take care of agriculture-related research needs. Agricultural scientists at land-grant institutions do receive some research dollars from noncompetitive sources, but not all research is funded this way. Adding insult to injury, the major U.S. science journals don’t devote specific sections or editors to agricultural research. Some schools of agriculture have taken the word “agriculture” out of their names, presumably to attract

more students in a country where only 2 percent of the population farms. (It hasn’t worked: Enrollment in university agricultural science majors has dropped steadily nationwide since the early 1980s.) In short, agricultural science has an image problem. Our disciplines are not considered relevant and, more disturbing, we’re not seen as a source of solutions to many of the world’s most pressing challenges, even though many of those challenges directly relate to agricultural science. That’s unfortunate, particularly in a world where people are starving or eating unsafe food, where climate change will affect every aspect of 21st century life, and where new kinds of sustainable fuel are needed. The urgency of these global issues — all of them related to the agricultural sciences — amplifies the need for an applied-science approach. Agricultural scientists can do amazing things when they combine their expertise and have access to the resources they need. Recently, scientists at an international conference in Mexico announced that they have found a wheat variety that is resistant to Ug99 — a strain of stem rust that could affect up to 90 percent of the world’s wheat. Although

the scientists have not completely eliminated the threat, it’s clearly a breakthrough with enormous implications. Other recent signs also point to a renewed interest in and respect for agriculture. When the first lady plants a vegetable garden on the White House lawn for the first time in half a century, she’s sending a strong message: Food is important. Books about eating a sustainable, healthy diet top our best-seller lists. The National Gardening Association expects a 19-percent jump in the number of people growing at least some of their own food this year. Clearly, a growing number of Americans are interested in where their food comes from, even on a small scale. The 2008 farm bill creates the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, which will be headed by a distinguished scientist directly appointed by the president. A small thing, perhaps, but it elevates agriculture to a level of prominence along the lines of health and other sciences. The farm bill also increases funding for competitive grants in both basic and applied agricultural research, which will provide opportunity for advance study. Enrollment is up 16 percent among

college students in the professional associations that specialize in soil and crop sciences and agronomy, which suggests that today’s students are interested in learning more about agricultural and environmental issues. Job prospects also are good; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for agricultural and food scientists will be at least average overall and much higher than average in some specialties. In the long run, does it really matter whether “agricultural scientists” are what we call the people who ensure a safe and plentiful food supply, clean water, and healthy soil? Maybe not, as long as this critical work is funded and accomplished. But as we move into a new era of shared accountability and responsibility, let’s keep in mind that agricultural sciences affect us all, and when agricultural science is thriving our communities likely are thriving, too. Allen Levine is dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Sciences at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. This column is reprinted with the author’s permission. The original piece appeared in May, 2009, edition of “Science Magazine” online.

FarmWeek Sept. 28 2009  

FarmWeek Sept. 28 2009 edition

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