Page 1

THirTy-seven counties were approved Friday for emergency use of Conser vation Reserve Program acres to start Aug. 2. .............................................3

soybeans sTill have time to recover in fields where there is an adequate stand, according to a Purdue University Extension soybean specialist. ................................4

in a Final installment on the Cuba Market Study Tour, some of the island nation’s alternative urban farming practices are examined. .........................................10, 11

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two sections Volume 40, No. 29

Governor set to visit

‘It’s going to be real tough on everybody’ — farmer host

BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Jefferson County farmer Donnie Laird of Waltonville stayed positive last week even as he planned to chop down part of his corn crop to supplement a dwindling hay supply. “Our philosophy is to be optimistic. It could be worse. You just got to move on,” Laird told FarmWeek.

For more drought issues and concerns, look inside

Periodicals: Time Valued

Laird, who farms in partnership with his father, Jim, anticipated receiving questions about the drought when he hosts Gov. Pat Quinn today (Monday) on a farm visit. The governor and other state officials were expected to see first-hand the drought’s severity on the Lairds’ 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat. “The situation is dire in many parts of the state, especially in Southern Illinois,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson. “I’m pleased the governor accepted our invitation to visit a farm that is feeling the impacts of the drought on both crops and livestock.”

“Providing the governor with a first-hand look will reinforce the significance of what is happening to this year’s crop,” added Nelson. Pasture has suffered along with the crop on the Laird farm. The Lairds have been feeding their winter hay supplies for a month after their 200 pasture acres couldn’t support their 130-head cow-calf herd. Laird estimated he would need to chop 70 or more acres of corn to supplement the cattle feed. “Hay is extremely short, and prices are up significantly,” said Laird, a Jefferson County Farm Bureau board member. The potential for high, even toxic, nitrate levels in the chopped corn is another concern. Laird planned to take corn samples to the state’s Centralia Animal Disease Laboratory for nitrate testing. The lab’s director, Dr. Gene Niles, said the lab has received many corn samples for nitrate testing.

FarmWeekNow.com Comprehensive, up-to-theminute information about the drought is available at FarmWeekNow.com.

The previous week, the lab tested 90 samples for nitrate levels. “As long as the drought continues, this (testing) will increase,” Niles told FarmWeek. “We’re finding some (nitrate levels are) sky high,” he said. Corn with levels that high cannot be fed. Of the test results he received last Monday (July 9), five samples were safe for feeding, 18 samples could be fed under limited conditions, and one was not safe to be fed under any circumstance, according to Niles. The Centralia lab plans to continue providing testing services through Aug. 15 before it closes Aug. 31 as part of a budget-cutting measure. “As long as we’re here, we’ll sure try to provide as good a service as we can,” Niles said.

Just as green corn may look safe to feed, looks also are deceiving on the corn’s yield potential. Laird said he wants his visitors to see there are no kernels on the ears, despite the plants’ appearance. The outlook for his soybean crop? “That’s going to be tough. We’re not sure if they’re going to drop the pods. It’s

pretty early to tell,” he said. Laird noted the drought impact will be felt by agribusinesses and others in rural communities. “It’s going to be tough on everybody,” he said. “You just got to move on. We have to put this year behind us and move on,” he said. “Farmers are resilient, and we’ll find a way to make it.”

Frank Doll, Pocahontas, president of Bond County Farm Bureau, stands in a cornfield that he was cutting last week for silage after giving up on the field to produce harvestable corn. Doll, who operates a dairy farm, said the field was yielding the equivalent of less than 10 bushels per acre. He holds one of the poorly pollinated ears. (Photo by Ron Marshel, Bond County Farm Bureau manager)

House farm bill timetable uncertain BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

The U.S. House Ag Committee briskly approved a 2012 farm bill proposal last week. The measure includes controversially deep cuts in future nutrition funding and a two-tiered safety net plan designed to satisfy Midwest and southern growers alike. However, amid debate over such issues as health care and taxes and lingering concerns about long-term ag spending, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated he was not yet ready to schedule floor time for a farm bill vote. A short legislative pre-election calendar has raised concerns among farmers and the ire of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack (see page 3). Last week, Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson lobbied Illinois’ congressional delegates for timely House floor action and major farmer priorities, including continued crop insurance support. “We’re in desperate and dire need of some rain to cure some of our problems, but a lot of our producers have tried to

minimize their risks by addressing them with crop insurance,” Nelson noted. The Ag Committee approved its plan 35-11, with Democrat members opposed to proposed food stamp spending reductions. But Chairman Frank Lucas (ROkla.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have crafted a farm program compromise that may reduce resistance from southern lawmakers worried about the regional impact of eliminating farm direct payments. The measure outlines a dual program option: Price Loss Coverage (PLC), a risk management tool that addresses deep, multi-year price declines, or Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC), which addresses revenue losses similar to Senate-approved Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program. University of Illinois ag economist Nick Paulson sees no significant budgetary or administrative “barrier” to offering growers both price and revenue options. PLC would be the “default choice” for producers, who would be required to opt in for revenue protection, Paulson said. “(PLC) does favor rice and peanuts,”

FarmWeek on the web: FarmWeekNow.com

he told FarmWeek. “Relative to just having ARC, the rice and peanut producers should be happier with the Price Loss Coverage option. “(RLC and ARC) are very similar programs. The main difference is the scope of coverage they provide. RLC has a little lower (payment) trigger, and expected payments are going to be a little bit lower than they would be under ARC. The likelihood of a payment is a little smaller; the average payment, when it occurs, is going to be a little smaller.” PLC reportedly would complement federal crop insurance, which is not designed to cover multiple-year price declines. It would use modern yields and an index of below-cost-of-production prices to establish a market-oriented, price-based risk management tool for farmers. PLC limits budget exposure by addressing only deep, multi-year losses, and “prevents the need for costly and unbudgeted bailouts when markets See Timetable, page 8

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


FarmWeek Page 2 Monday, July 16, 2012

drought

Quick takes SOIL CORES ILLUSTRATE DROUGHT — Soil scientists with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have been taking soil core samples for various purposes around Illinois. Scientists haven’t found any water at depths of 5 and 6 feet in some areas of Northern and Central Illinois, Roger Windhorn, NRCS soil scientist, reported last week. And those areas aren’t where the drought is most severe. While it’s not unusual for water tables to be low in Illinois in July and August, the difference this year is the length of time that the water tables have been low and tiles have not drained, Windhorn noted. CLARK COUNTY WOMAN TOP MIDWEST FARM MOM — Clark County Far m Bureau member Sherri Lynn Kannmacher of Martinsville last week was honored for being the Midwest farm mom of the year. The mother of four daughters was presented $5,000 during the Martinsville Agricultural Fair. She was selected as one of five regional winners by American Agri-Women and Monsanto. Mark and Sherri Kannmacher’s farming operation includes 700 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat, and they have a small herd of HerefordAngus cattle. They also have a custom hay baling and a custom Conservation Reserve Program planting operation. HSUS PLANS SUIT — The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) last week released letters of notice of plans to file lawsuits against 51 large-scale pork producers in North Carolina, Iowa, and Oklahoma for unreported ammonia releases into the environment. According to HSUS, the far ms that will be sued were identified after “months of research” that allegedly indicated the emission of hundreds of pounds of ammonia daily from each operation. The National Pork Producers Council is reviewing the allegations, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to evaluate air emissions data from livestock and poultry operations with the goal of developing “a better understanding” of emission rates, according to a FeedStuffs article. Letters of notice are required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-toKnow Act before litigation can start.

(ISSN0197-6680) Vol. 40 No. 29

July 16, 2012

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 (bstandard@ilfb.org) Advertising Sales Manager Richard Verdery (rverdery@ilfb.org) Classified sales coordinator Nan Fannin (nfannin@ilfb.org) Advertising Sales Representatives Hurst and Associates, Inc. P.O. Box 6011, Vernon Hills, IL 60061 1-800-397-8908 (advertising inquiries only) Gary White - Northern Illinois Doug McDaniel - Southern Illinois Editorial phone number: 309-557-2239 Classified advertising: 309-557-3155 Display advertising: 1-800-676-2353

University of Illinois agronomist Bob Dunker shows the drought’s impact on corn research on the university’s South Farms in Urbana. Agriculture research around the state is feeling the effects of hot, dry weather. (Photo by Cyndi Cook)

Ag research, scientists sharing drought’s impact BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Agricultural field researchers are coping with the drought along with neighboring grain and livestock farmers. While some University of Illinois research farms are experiencing severe drought, others have better growing conditions. “One reason we have research farms scattered around the state is to spread the risk,” said Dennis Bowman, U of I Extension commercial ag educator. Here is a snapshot of the state of agricultural research this summer: Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, Simpson, Johnson County: Drought is taking its toll on crop and livestock research at Dixon Springs, according to Steve Ebelhar and Frank Ireland. The drought altered research into alternative forages for grazing when two of three potential forages didn’t grow. To reduce stress on cattle, workers start weighing the animals at 6 a.m. The cattle have changed their eating habits and rest in shade before returning later to finish their feed. In some plots, corn is waist

high and tasseling. However, crop plots on bottomland fields that hold moisture are doing better than others. Work with Monsanto on drought-tolerant corn is in the right place at the right time. “I’m keeping my eye on it. If there ever was a year to participate in drought-tolerant research, this is it,” Ebelhar said. Brownstown Agronomy Research Center, Brownstown, Fayette County: The research crops looked good until July 1, but now are suffering with great variability among corn plots, according to Robert Bellm. This is a tough year for corn research. The planting date plot drowned out at first, and fields stayed wet until the first of May. A plot of 25 hybrids is showing wide variety differences in drought tolerance. The soybeans amazingly are holding up well, Bellm said. “You always have to be careful with research (results) in drought years because you can’t repeat the conditions,” he said. University South Farms, Urbana, Champaign County: The weather will have a big impact on crop data interpreta-

Advice, nitrate testing available Several certified laboratories provide nitrate testing, according to Teresa Steckler, University of Illinois Extension ag specialist at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center. Cattlemen also will hear drought strategies at a July 24 Beef Field Day at the Dixon Springs Beef Center, Simpson. The labs and their locations are: A&L Great Lakes Laboratories Inc., Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Dairyland Laboratories-Arcadia, Arcadia, Wis.; Agri-King Inc., Fulton, Ill. (Whiteside County); Land O’Lakes/SureTech Labs, Indianapolis, Ind.;

and Rock River Laboratory Inc., Watertown, Wis. The free Dixon Springs beef program starts at 5 p.m. and focuses on drought issues. Topics will include feeding cows during drought, drought forage management, and feeding drought-stressed corn. The event will conclude with a meal. For more information or to register, call 618-695-4917 or e-mail Steckler at tsteckle@illinois.edu with name, address, county, phone number, and number attending.

tion on the South Farms, and any yield reports probably will note the drought’s influence, Bowman said. A few plots are irrigated, but the bulk of the research plots are not and are suffering. One plot was hit hard by a mid-April frost, and researchers were counting the number of surviving plants that will yield a crop. Now the study is adding high temperatures and little rain, Bowman said. Some corn plants show signs of potassium deficiency, which showed up early in the season, said Bob Dunker. Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center, Monmouth, Warren County: The research crop fields “are in pretty nice shape,” said Marty Johnson. The research farm has received timely rains. Unless research studies are weather related, different crop treatments may be compared with each other in dry conditions, he noted. “Our crops are not stressed at all,” Johnson said.

Tuesday: • Trisha Braid, director of communications for Illinois Corn Growers Association • Ag weather with Chesapeake Meteorology • Rep. Mike Zalewski and Randy Fornoff, Mason County Farm Bureau president • Ron Moore, Illinois Soybean Association Wednesday: • Jerry Kirbach, Illinois Department of Agriculture acting bureau chief of ag products inspection • Jim Bower, Bower Trading • Stu Ellis, director of Ag/Engage Thursday: • Illinois Beef Association • Tamara Nelsen, IFB senior director of commodities • Grant Strom, farmer and participant in the IFB market study trip to Cuba • Claire Benjamin, IFB ambassador Friday: • Harry Cooney, GROWMARK • Bob Young, American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist • Alan Jarand, RFD radio director


Page 3 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

Drought

State government moves into drought mode BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

The drought’s impact on Illinois agriculture is the state’s most critical issue at the moment; however, the state Drought Response Task Force also is monitoring public water supplies, a task force co-chairman told FarmWeek last week. “In the short-term, the most pressing issue is the agriculture drought,” said Arlan Juhl, director of the water resources office with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Task force members heard state agency reports and recommendations last week when the group reconvened under the direction of Gov. Pat Quinn. The task force “allows us to better evaluate what we need to do to manage the impacts of drought in the coming weeks,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is working closely with the Farm Service Agency to determine what assistance would apply

to Illinois’ situation, Acting Agriculture Director Bob Flider reported. Early assessments indicate some farmers will suffer sub-

stantial yield losses, Flider said. On July 16, Flider wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and urged him to consider the state’s “dire

Must have permit

State law allows harvesting hay on rights-of-way

Illinois law authorizes the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to issue permits allowing hay to be harvested and switchgrass to be produced on specified rights-of-way, according to Kevin Rund, Illinois Farm Bureau transportation specialist. “Permits will be issued on a case-by-case basis following the appropriate application by farmers,” Rund said. Interested farmers should contact their district IDOT office. District office locations are online at {www.dot.state.il.us/idotmap.html}. Rund knew of only three cases over the 3year life of the program in which farmers asked for a copy of the application form, but no applications were filed and no permits were issued. A non-refundable $40 application fee was established in the law, which includes several specific restrictions and requirements. These include:

Until July 30, the adjacent landowner or his designee has first priority to receive a permit for the portion of right-of-way adjacent to his property. After that date, a permit may be issued to a non-adjacent landowner. Permits may be issued to an individual for up to 5 linear miles of right-ofway and would be valid from July 15 through Sept. 15. Permit applicants must demonstrate they have liability insurance of not less than $1 million to cover any accident, damage, or property loss. The permit holder cannot alter, damage, or remove any markers, fences, signs, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation or highway structures. A permit holder must notify IDOT at least 48 hours before starting to cut hay and must carry the permit with him at all times while harvesting the hay. A copy of the hay/switchgrass application form is online at {www.ilfb.org}. — Kay Shipman

Vilsack: Pass farm bill quickly USDA announces disaster measures BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a three-pronged response to severe nationwide drought conditions last week, along with an appeal to Congress to quickly ensure USDA has the resources necessary to help beleaguered farmers. Vilsack unveiled final rules that simplify the secretarial disaster designation process, designed to result in a 40 percent Tom Vilsack reduction in processing time for most disaster-affected counties. In addition, USDA has approved a reduced interest rate for emergency loans, effectively lowering the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, and a cut in the payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent. Vilsack cited the need for “a much faster” designation process that reduces reliance

situation” and to expedite any federal assistance possible. Illinois livestock farmers also are facing forage shortages and may benefit from

on individual states providing “timely” aid requests. The new rule automatically qualifies any county that has been in a drought monitored moderate “D2” condition for eight consecutive weeks or in a severe D3 condition at any point during the growing season. As a result, 1,016 primary disaster counties are immediately “fast-tracked” for 2012 — according to Vilsack, the largest such secretarial designation to date. He announced a streamlined process for areas that have not yet met USDA loss thresholds, allowing county or state Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency boards or FSA state executive directors to initiate requests without gubernatorial involvement. USDA has “a limited set of tools” to address disaster concerns, Vilsack noted. The 2008 farm bill’s Supplemental Revenue (SURE) disaster program expired Sept. 30, 2011, removing protections especially for livestock producers. While SURE per se has been marked for extinction in both Senate and House bills, Vilsack noted current proposals would revive SURE’s Livestock Indemnity and Livestock Forage programs, as

well as bolstering crop insurance. “For the life of me, I don’t understand why (the farm bill) isn’t a priority for every member of Congress, particularly the leadership,” he told FarmWeek. “They’re spending time today for the 32nd time in the House of Representatives indicating their dislike of the (2010) health care bill. Fine and dandy. I think everybody knows folks are split over the health care law. “What we need are the consensus and the bipartisanship that have been reflected in the Senate and reflected in the House Ag Committee by Chairman Frank Lucas (ROkla.) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), to get a food, farm, and jobs bill through the process. The Ag Committee’s doing its work. This needs to get to the floor.” Vilsack argued the fixed interest rate for emergency loans “was not effective in providing assistance to producers,” because it exceeded USDA operating loan rates. The new emergency loan rate goes into effect this week. USDA estimates $38 million to $39 million in emergency help may be available through the loan program.

the online directory of hay and straw for sale produced by IDOA. The directory is at {www.agr.state.il.us/markets/hay/}. Copies of the free directory also are available by calling IDOA at 217782-4925. Statewide, rainfall shortages range from 5 to 12 inches. The impact of the deficit is even greater due to the unseasonably warm spring in most of the state. “There were some discussions on the (drought’s) short-term and long-term economic impacts,” during the task force meeting, Juhl added. Agency task force members plan to post droughtrelated reports on their individual websites and to meet every two weeks, according to Juhl. In addition to the governor’s staff, IDNR, and IDOA, task force members include the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Water Survey, Illinois Department of Public Health, and Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

FSA announces emergency CRP release Thirty-seven counties, primarily in Southern Illinois (see map), were approved Friday for emergency use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to start Aug. 2, announced Scherrie Giamanco, Farm Service Agency (FSA) state executive director. The list of counties approved for emergency hay harvest and grazing was expected to grow, according to FSA officials. Giamanco stressed eligible farmers who are interested must request approval from their county FSA office before they hay or graze CRP acres. Farmers in approved counties were urged to contact their county FSA offices right away to get paperwork completed early. Those farmers also need to obtain a modified conservation plan that includes haying and/or grazing requirements from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). If approved for emergency hay cutting, farmers must leave hay standing for wildlife in at least 50 percent of each field or contiguous field. Farmers may not both harvest hay and graze the same CRP acres. They will be limited to one hay cutting and are not permitted to sell any of the hay. In addition, there will be a 10 percent CRP payment reduction based on the number of acres actually used for hay harvest or grazing. Eligible farmers must not graze at least 25 percent of each field or contiguous CRP field for wildlife, or graze not more than 75 percent of the stocking rate as determined by NRCS. Farmers who don’t own or lease livestock may rent or lease the haying or grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer.


FarmWeek Page 4 Monday, July 16, 2012

Production

Drought could have lasting impact on livestock production BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

The severity of this year’s drought will come to light in coming months when farmers combine what’s left of their damaged fields at many locations around the state. But the impact of the drought likely will be felt in the livestock industry long after this year’s harvest is complete. Dan Shike, University of Illinois animal scientist, believes a tight supply of feed could force some producers to cull cattle. The extreme heat in recent weeks also could have a Dan Shike negative impact on calving rates, which will affect herds well into next year. “It’s a critical time in the breeding season for many (cattle producers),” Shike said. “I think we’ll see poorer reproduction” as a result. “But we won’t fully know the extent of the impact (of

the heat and drought) until pregnancy checks (in the fall) or until spring when guys may wonder why their cows aren’t calving.” The more pressing issue right now for many livestock farmers is poor pasture conditions and smaller hay cuttings. About two-thirds of pastures in the state last week were rated poor or very poor. “Each producer will have to evaluate his or her situation,”

Shike said. “Some cattle probably will be liquidated.” Shike recommended producers take inventory of their pasture and hay supply. “Don’t wait until you’re out of grass to figure out what you’re going to do,” he said. Producers who are running out of grazing area or hay may want to consider culling cows, weaning calves early, and using a variety of co-products (such as distillers grains, wheat straw,

or cornstalk bales) to supplement feed rations. Producers should be careful, though, when feeding drought-damaged corn to livestock. “One of the biggest concerns is the nitrate level (in drought-damaged corn),” Shike said. “You need to test that.” Nitrate levels concentrate in the lowest parts of cornstalks. Shike, therefore, recommend-

ed producers chop droughtdamaged corn about one-third of the way up each stalk. “Making hay from drought-damaged corn will not reduce nitrate levels,” said Robert Bellm, U of I Extension educator. “Hay made from drought-damaged corn should be tested prior to feeding.” Ensiling the forage can reduce nitrate levels by 30 to 60 percent, he added.

The corn crop may be running out of time to recover yield potential while a portion already has been lost to the drought. In Illinois, more than three quarters of the crop (77 percent) was silking as of the first of last week compared to the five-year average of 33 percent. Soybeans, on the other hand, still have time to recover in fields where there is an adequate stand, according to Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist. “Beans can really turn around with an August rain,”

said Casteel, who was a featured speaker last week at the Top Farmer Crop Workshop in West Lafayette, Ind., hosted by Purdue and the University of Illinois. Casteel pointed to the drought year of 1991 in which corn yields were off by 27 percent from average but soybean yields were off just 1.7 percent. What made the difference that year? Mother Nature turned down the thermostat by an average of about 10 degrees in August compared to July and there was timely August rainfall. Beans generally recovered in that year while most

corn already was too far along to add yield. This year, however, soybeans may not have as much time for a comeback as they would in a typical year. “We’re probably two to three weeks early this year (due to early planting and warm temperatures),” Casteel said. “The critical period probably will be the last week of July and the first two to three weeks in August.” Nationwide, 44 percent of the bean crop was blooming last week compared to the average of 25 percent. In Illinois, 42 percent of the crop was blooming compared to the average of 24 percent. Soybean plants currently are putting more energy into root development. Taproots may be 3 to 4 feet deep. “The fields that have good stands are stagnant, but they still could yield well if the

water returns,” Casteel said. He recommended farmers scout soybean fields often for spider mites and spray as soon as they detect an outbreak. Overall, Casteel, who grew up on a farm in East-Central Illinois, does not subscribe to the theory of a yield plateau for soybeans. Soybean yields from 1920 to 2010 increased by an average of one-third of a bushel per year, he reported. He told farmers in order to keep increasing bean yields, they should focus on variety selection (which can make a 6to 12-bushel difference), strive for timely planting (which can increase the length of the reproductive period), and make sure fields have adequate potassium. Casteel estimated about one-third of soybean fields in Illinois and Indiana don’t have enough potassium to maximize soy yields. — Daniel Grant

Some soybeans still have time to recover from drought

Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist, scouts a soybean field in West Lafayette, Ind. during the Top Farmer Crop Workshop hosted by Purdue and the University of Illinois. Casteel said soybean fields that still have good stands could make a comeback if significant rain falls during the reproductive stage, which he projected will take place the last part of July into the second or third week of August. (Photo by Daniel Grant)


Page 5 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

WATer QuAliTy

Central Illinois farmers testing BMP smorgasbord BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Visitors from as far as Ontario, Canada, and Washington, D.C., scanned several living conservation laboratories in Livingston County last week. “As farmers, we need to try different things on our own ground. Do it yourself and test it yourself on your own ground,” said Marcus Maier, who farms 450 acres near Forrest. Maier is participating in nitrogen Marcus Maier use efficiency trials that are testing differing nitrogen rates, application times, and technology. The second Indian Creek Watershed Project field tour attracted 150 participants to hear about the best manage-

ment practices (BMP), products, equipment, and technology being used in the watershed. The watershed project is facilitated by the county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Indianabased Conservation Technology Information Center and led by local farmers who demonstrate and test practices on their land. One of the practices Maier tried this year for the first time was top dressing 36-inchtall corn with coated urea. He admitted all new practices are not for the faint of heart but worth the effort. “As a small farmer, it’s important for me to try new techniques,” Maier said. “No matter what the size of your farm ... you’ve got to figure out what is good for you ... these (inputs) cost so much, you need to be efficient.” Now in its third year, the

Roger Windhorn, left, a Natural Resources Conservation Service soil scientist, describes conservation practices that improved the soil structure of Livingston County farmer John Mueller’s field. The field was a stop on the Indian Creek Watershed tour last week. (Photo by Kay Shipman)

Indian Creek project continues to gain agribusiness and corporate sponsors and participation in addition to expertise and support from universities, agricultural associations, conservation organizations, and agencies. About 40 percent of the farmland in the watershed is enrolled in the Conservation Security Program.

The project’s diversity, not only in testing many practices but also in the spectrum of involved entities, is noteworthy, Ivan Dozier, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), told the crowd. “I really see this project being the role model of what we’re going to have to do,” Dozier said, adding the proj-

ect relies on a variety of funding sources and expertise. In-depth information about the project, including water monitoring and field demonstrations and results, is available online at {www.ctic. purdue.edu/IndianCreek/}.

Livingston County farmer John Mueller of Strawn, left, answers cover crop questions from Bureau County farmer Kent Hildebrand of Princeton during last week’s Indian Creek Watershed Tour. (Photo by Kay Shipman)

Cover crops hot tour topic

Deep in his Livingston County cornfield, farmer John Mueller last week was surrounded by farmers who wanted to hear about his experience with cover crops and to share their own cover-crop stories. Mueller’s farm near Strawn was one of three stops on the Indian Creek Watershed tour in Livingston County. Last fall, Mueller planted oats and tillage radishes as a cover crop into a field that was planted to corn this spring. On the same field, Mueller also is conducting nitrogen-rate studies and testing nitrogen-use efficiency with nitrogen inhibitors. At a soil profile pit in the field, farmers and other tour participants saw how the cover crop roots had broken through a tillage pan layer in the soil. Tillage radish tap roots grow 16 to 18 inches deep and store nitrogen. After the roots decay, they leave the nitrogen

and pore spaces in the soil. “I think it definitely helps,” Mueller said of the cover crop. One farmer who has had several years of cover crop experience shared cell phone photos of his field and neighboring fields that didn’t have cover crops. At one point, after two inches of rain fell in 15 minutes, the water was standing in pools or running off the neighboring fields but was absorbed in his field that previously had a cover crop, he pointed out. Another farmer suggested using cover crops to help take up nitrogen and other nutrients from field-applied manure. Others asked about different cover seeding methods and technology. “These are good ideas,” Mueller told his fellow farmers. “I think we’re going to have to adapt.” — Kay Shipman

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FarmWeek Page 6 Monday, July 16, 2012

CROPWATCHERS Bernie Walsh, Durand, Winnebago County: Not much new to report this week because we still have not had any rain. This makes four weeks now since our last rain, and we only have had 0.6 of an inch since June 1. We now have adult rootworm beetles and Japanese beetles clipping silks in the drought-stressed cornfields. Some people have sprayed in only the very best fields, but it’s a lot tougher decision on the marginal fields that don’t look like they will produce much corn at all. The soybeans look like they are hanging in there waiting for a rain, but they have plenty of Japanese beetles and spider mites. As bad as it looks around here, it is much worse just a few miles north in southern Wisconsin, where some have already given up on their cornfields. Leroy Getz, Savanna, Carroll County: Rain on Saturday, July 7, in the southeastern part of the county amounted to about 2 inches. The rest of the county got nearly nothing. I received 0.1 of an inch. Conditions are getting drier. Planes are flying on insecticides and fungicides hoping there still will be a crop. We baled our straw, and it was so dry we couldn’t make a good square bale; the round baler wouldn’t work, either. We finally baled early in the morning just after sun-up. Ryan Frieders, Waterman, DeKalb County: No precipitation again for the past week. The corn struggles to conserve water during the day. Pollination is 50 percent complete. Airplanes are flying constantly to spray fungicide and insecticide. Soybeans are trying to set pods but struggle from the lack of rain. Larry Hummel, Dixon, Lee County: Pollination of the corn crop was in high gear this past week and will continue this week. The cooler nighttime temperatures, along with a few pop-up showers, have helped the situation. With grain prices rallying, I have been trying to estimate our yields so we could price them at these lofty levels. In two weeks, I should have a better handle, but for now, I’m using half a crop as a worst-case scenario and 80 percent of our 10-year average, if it starts raining and keeps at it. The majority of our corn needed to be sprayed during pollination for rootworm and Japanese beetles feeding on silks. Soybeans seem to be just biding their time until some showers arrive. Ken Reinhardt, Seaton, Mercer County: It was a dry week with pleasant temperatures. Round two of extreme heat sounds as if it’s on the way. Crops are holding up so far but will be ready for more rain anytime. The last corn I planted is just about to tassel, otherwise pollination is over. Aerial applications are slowing down, with a few soybean fields still being treated for Japanese beetles. Ron Moore, Roseville, Warren County: Same old story, different week. No rain to report, crops look bad, creeks are running dry, and no rain in the forecast. I hate to sound pessimistic, but this year’s crop prospects are not good for this part of Illinois. I know others are worse off than we are. The only bright spot is the markets have responded to the crop conditions by moving higher. It may not help this year. Crop insurance will be the only source of income for some folks this year. Brian Schaumburg, Chenoa, McLean County: Sustained triple-digit temps took their toll on crops and in the aftermath, yield potential was cut by 50 to 70 percent. Some fields are a complete disaster. Soils with better waterholding capacity are evident. Soybeans can still make respectable yields, but they could run out of water soon. Spider mites are slowly making a name for themselves and some fields have been sprayed. Comparisons to 1988 are justified. We just need to remember that Providence got us through that one, too. Corn, $7.64; fall $7.38; soybeans, $16.04; fall $15.25; wheat, $8.12.

Mark Kerber, Chatsworth, Livingston County: Same report as last week — hot, dry, and no wind. Corn is trying to fill what ears are there. Not as much fungicide spraying is going on as planned. Soybeans are still growing, but also need rain. Markets are responding to weather. This drought will really hurt our demand. This also trickles down to many incomes, not just those of producers. Ron Haase, Gilman, Iroquois County: It was another dry week. A few cornfields were sprayed with fungicide. They were either sprayed in the morning or evening, so that the corn plants were not rolling their leaves when the application was made. With the drought conditions, there has been a lot less spraying of fungicides in cornfields up to this point. Many cornfields in the area have either finished pollination or are about to finish. Corn in the area ranges from the V12 growth stage on up to the R3 (milk) growth stage. Many cornfields are at the blister or R2 growth stage. Sixtyfive percent of our own corn has yet to begin pollination. The crop conditions vary quite a bit. Some fields had problems pollinating and will have poor yields no matter what happens. Other fields that pollinated better do not have big ears and the yield will depend on future rainfall. Even in the fields that pollinated better the ears will not be able to fill, unless it starts raining. Most soybean fields are at the R2 or full-flower growth stage. I haven’t seen any pods yet. The local closing bids for July 12 were: nearby corn, $7.69; new-crop corn, $7.32; fall 2013 corn, $5.93; nearby soybeans, $15.97; new-crop soybeans, $15.15; fall 2013 soybeans, $12.70. Steve Ayers, Champaign, Champaign County: Just how dry is it? One indicator is Premier Co-op’s rain gauge that tracks rainfall in the co-op’s trade area from April 1 to July 12. The driest location is Jamaica, in southwest Vermilion County, with 4.2 inches compared to the wettest at Sadorus at 11 inches. USDA has our district topsoil moisture at 51 percent very short, 40 percent short, and 9 percent adequate. Area corn is 80 percent silked and 6 percent dough at a 69-inch average height. Beans are 51 percent blooming with 6 percent setting pods. Minimal rain in sight and temperatures will be back to mid-90s this week. Think rain! Wilfred Dittmer, Quincy, Adams County: Here it is another week and a person cannot buy a drop of rain. We did get a short 0.25 of an inch last Saturday (July 7) while others got more. But it’s far too little, too late for most fields to come out of a near or complete failure for this year. Most pastures are practically dried up and owners are already feeding a hay crop intended for next winter. The combines probably will make a little noise in some places and run amazingly quiet the rest of the field. Soybeans may produce some crop yet if it rains. Maybe next year will be different after this 25-year drought event. And further, DO BE CAREFUL. In our county, folks mourn the death of a young man killed in a four-wheeler accident. He had just graduated from high school. Carrie Winkelmann, Tallula, Menard County: We received 0.1 of an inch of rain last week. Definitely not enough to help out our corn or soybeans. The corn plants have made ears with kernels, but they are not pretty and the yield looks to be low and variable throughout the county. Nobody is going to make 200-bushel corn in our area this year. The spider mite is the bug that is on the major scouting list in soybeans. We haven’t found any. Hoping for a rain. Kevin Raber, Browns, Wabash County: Rain fell again this past week. Amounts were variable, but my fields received between 0.25 and 0.5 of an inch. I don’t know how much it will help the corn crop, but it has made the beans look better. There are some planters running after the rain. People were replanting double-crop fields trying to get a better stand.

Jimmy Ayers, New City, Sangamon County: Hot and very dry pretty well sums it up. Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (July 6-8) were extremely dry with high temperatures. The good corn took a pretty good hit and beans seem to have leaves rolling as they try to conserve moisture. A lot of the 30-inch beans still haven’t got the rows closed. It was a tough week on the crops around here. The northern part of the county actually ended up getting about 0.5 of an inch of rain in some spots. I don’t think it was very widespread, but there was a little bit of relief in those areas. Doug Uphoff, Shelbyville, Shelby County: Hot and dry still. I can’t say this is a disaster of biblical proportion, but it is bad and I don’t believe the Chicago Board of Trade has even come close to understanding how bad it is. Livestock producers are worrying about where they will find corn of decent feed quality free of aflatoxin or — maybe even any corn at all. Livestock will be liquidated and meat prices will rise. Ethanol will be hard to produce without corn but would be a possible outlet for aflatoxin corn. Seed may be hard to find for the 2013 crop. Corn just keeps looking worse. Top leaves are dying now. Beans are trying to survive and are about knee high. Some pods are setting, but there are only about one per plant, and some are aborting. Hay is too short to mow for third cutting, but we are going to try after getting the OK from an agronomist. It’s a newly established alfalfa field, and I am concerned if it goes dormant from weather it will need upper growth to feed the roots. I was interviewed by a Decatur reporter and he asked, “Is there anything you can do?” I said I think we have already done all we can do. So now we pray, wait, and hope. The southern part of Shelby County is a total loss as far as grain production goes. Corn hit $8.02 in Decatur for a short time and then the basis widened 20 cents. On July 12 cash corn was $7.61; cash beans, $16.03; Decatur processor corn, $7.81; beans, $16.28; elevator fall corn, $7.17; beans, $15.09; December corn, $7.17; beans, $15.04; January corn, $7.20; beans, $15.11. David Schaal, St. Peter, Fayette County: Another dry week with temperatures only in the midto upper 90s, instead of 105. Again crops deteriorated with no rainfall. Had a county Farm Bureau meeting on Thursday night and some of the comments on the corn crop were, “fields will not be picked,” “miracle if it produces 1 bushel per acre,” “corn in river bottom even burned up,” “cut silage on Monday just for fodder — no corn.” In 1983, the county corn average was 27 bushels per acre. Many think we are way below that this year. We are still hoping and praying for a good soaking rain to salvage a little of something from the soybean crop. In 1983, the soybean yield was around 14. Jeff Guilander, Jerseyville, Jersey County: The bright side is I haven’t had to mow the yard in five weeks, there is no point in washing my truck, and this could be the earliest (and shortest) harvest ever. Some of the corn is trying to hold on. Don’t know if it is soil type, variety, or planting date, but every field has large areas that are completely burned up. Beans are doing better than I thought they would, though the rows in several fields still have not filled in. There are more weeds showing up every day, but at this point no one even cares as spraying is not an option. Maybe this week things will look better, or it will be time to just quit looking altogether. Dean Shields, Murphysboro, Jackson County: Still no rain to report in Jackson County that amounts to anything. A few showers went through, dropping the temp a little. An isolated area got 1 to 1.5 inches. Every day conditions of both the corn and soybean crops are deteriorating. Corn is in pretty bad shape, and soybeans on the sandy ridges and river bottom ground are starting to burn up, too. We hope to get rain this week so the soybeans can pick up a little bit. It is surprising how well some are doing as dry as the weather has been. Most of the wheat field beans I’ve looked at have not germinated at all. It’s been that dry.


Page 7 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

CROPWATCHERS Dave Hankammer, Millstadt, St. Clair County: We experienced some relief in daytime temps after scattered storms moved through the region the weekend of July 7. Some areas received up to 3-plus inches of rain. Unfortunately, much of the region received no rain. Corn planted in early to mid-May seems to be catching up on its growth with many of those fields entering the pollination stage. Heat stress remained apparent on the entire crop, as evidenced by upright pointed leaves during the day as the plants tried to conserve moisture. Dry, brown plants can be seen on some of the lighter soils in some fields. First-crop soybeans seem to remain resilient to the drought. Most fields are about knee high and have started to bloom. Some farmers are spraying their fields to control high populations of spider mites. Doublecropped soybeans are about 4 inches tall. Some farmers are experiencing plant loss in the drier parts of their fields. The young plants just ran out of moisture to survive. Fields with adequate plant population and growth potential are being treated with herbicides to control newly emerged and existing weeds since wheat harvest. Local grain bids are corn, $7.57; soybeans, $16.11; wheat, $8.04. Rick Corners, Centralia, Jefferson County: Ditto.

Randy Anderson, Galatia, Saline County: Guess what — the crop is just like last week — awful. We hauled some feeder calves up to Greenville, and the crops look the same up there as they do here. A friend of mine went to a cattle show in northwest Ohio and he said the crops on the way there didn’t look very good, either.. I checked some of what I thought was my better corn, and it was not very pretty. Population is around 31,000 in 17.5 feet, and only about three or four ears might make it if it rains. Yields looked like 15 to 20 bushels per acre. Two years ago the same farm made around 160 bushels per acre. When we get rains, the wind also blows and some of the better corn has been blown down or hit with a hail storm. I also worry about the quality of the droughtstressed corn and the possible chance of chemical carryover in next year’s crop. Ken Taake, Ullin, Pulaski County: We had a couple of little showers move through the area in the past week. We received 0.3 of an inch of rain Sunday night (July 8). People in the area received anywhere from nothing to more than 2 inches. Then we received another 0.4 of an inch Wednesday night. It was the same way — very spotty, to say the least. Some people received nothing. I’ve also heard of totals as high as 0.9 of an inch. People are getting out to look at their fields and trying to get an idea of what their crop is going to be. I’ve heard estimates anywhere from up to 130 bushel an acre all the way down to 25. Some fields are going to

be a total bust. Everyone is hopeful that if we can get some rain, at least the late beans will do something. I’ve heard of people replanting double-crop beans. Those beans got a stand, got about three or four inches tall, and then they just died. It is continuing to be a very challenging crop year. Try to avoid getting overheated during these extreme temperatures. Dan Meinhart, Montrose, Jasper County: Showers moved through the area on Sunday, July 8, with very isolated areas getting up to 5 inches, but most got little or none. It was a cooler week compared to the week before with temperatures still reaching into the mid-90s. The early corn is pretty well done. Some fields did not pollinate and other fields do not have any ears. The mid-May planted corn still has potential, but it is deteriorating fast. The same holds true for the beans. They are very short and the weather has taken its toll. Double-crop beans are standing still and some are dying. There are reports of spider mites in the bean fields, buy very few are spraying. Silage choppers are running. Some people are mowing the corn and baling. A return to warmer weather and a heat index between 100 and 105 are expected this week.

Reports received Friday morning. Expanded crop and weather information available at FarmWeekNow.com

Herbicide performance differs in dry environment BY BARRY NASH

The current weather conditions have exposed both weeds and crop plants to extremely high temperatures and very little rainfall. In addition, these conditions have been accompanied b y low humidity and high winds. Barry Nash In this scenario, we expect most weed species to slow their growth and enter a kind of dormancy. We also observe that leaf cuticles thicken and density of leaf pubescence increases, resulting in difficulty for herbicides to

penetrate. Due to the weather stress, crop plants also will suffer. Production of mixed function oxidases (MFOs — the “white blood cells” of the plant) will be substantially reduced. All plants have their own defense system (including MFOs) to fight off “foreign substances,” such as pathogens, viruses, and pesticides. MFOs function somewhat like the white blood cells in our own bodies. Just like defense systems in our own bodies, MFO production is reduced when the plant is exposed to prolonged stresses. A lack of MFO production results in the plant being more susceptible to crop injury from

postemergence herbicides. Due to the prolong ed heat and drought stress currently being experienced throughout much of the Midwest, MFO production in the crop plant can be expected to be extremely low. For this reason, crops are highly susceptible to injury from postemergence herbicides. Additionally, consider the cur rent weather condition. Hot, dry conditions prevail over much of the Midwest. Not only will a crop plant be mu ch m o r e s u s c e p t i b l e t o

postemergence herbicide injury, but most of the weed species will be essentially dor mant during this timeframe. Therefore, the likelihood of crop injur y is dramatically increased, while the chances of consistent weed control are greatly decreased. If herbicide applications must be made during hot, dry weather, we recommend that applications be made in the early morning. Once plants enter heat-induced dormancy,

they require a period of cooler temperatures, accompanied with minimal sunlight, for recovery. Most plants “recover” during the dark hours and cooler temperatures of night. Be sure to contact your local FS crop specialist for more information on herbicide performance in a hot, dry year. Ba r r y N a sh is G ROW MARK’s weed science technical manager. His e-mail address is bnash@growmark.com.

U.S. beef production could fall; forage supply shrinking BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Beef production this year is expected to decline by 3.9 percent nationwide as farmers continue to scramble to find adequate feed supplies. USDA last week projected U.S. beef production this year will total 25.27 billion pounds, down 1.02 billion pounds from a year ago. This month’s projection, however, is 90 million pounds higher than the June forecast for beef production as deteriorating pasture conditions are expected to force farmers to send more cows to processing plants. “I see another round of liquidation for the animal sector,” said Chris Hurt, Purdue University economist. Pasture conditions in Illinois last week were rated 65 percent poor or very poor, 20 percent fair, and just 5 percent good to excellent as every county in the state is listed as experiencing a drought. Southern Illinois is in the worst shape as some counties there are in what’s labeled “exceptional” drought. “While weather conditions were good for baling, it

was not good to renew growth for the next cutting of hay,” the Illinois Department of Agriculture noted this month in its hay market report. “The hot and dry conditions also made pastures brown and increased the need for livestock producers to start supplemental feeding.” Justin Sinn, a farmer from Cissna Park in Iroquois County, last week cut hay that yielded just a small load of bales. He uses the hay for his livestock, and he recently shipped two loads to dairy farms in Michigan. “The first and second cutting were pretty good,” Sinn told FarmWeek. “We’re just trying to get what we can now.” Prices for hay this month in Illinois have been steady to firm, according to the hay market report. Premium alfalfa as of July 5 fetched anywhere from $200 to $240 per ton while good grass bales were worth $160 to $180 per ton. Sinn believes hay prices will escalate if the drought lingers or intensifies. “I think there’s going to be high demand (for hay),” he said. “Prices are high already and I think they’re going to get quite a bit higher.”

Justin Sinn, a farmer from Cissna Park, looks over what little hay exists in a windrow he cut in a field near Rankin in EastCentral Illinois. The third cutting yielded very little hay. Sinn uses the hay for his own livestock and he’s been selling it to farmers who are in desperate need of forage due to drought losses in Illinois and elsewhere. (Photo by Daniel Grant)


FarmWeek Page 8 Monday, July 16, 2012

commodities

USDA slashes crop production estimates BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

USDA last week slashed crop production estimates as crop conditions and yield potential continue to plummet due to the drought. The national corn yield last week was projected to average 146 bushels per acre, down 20 bushels from the previous estimate. The U.S. soybean yield was projected to average 40.5 bushels per acre, down 3.4 bushels from the previous estimate. “It’s obvious the weather is having an impact on the estimates of crops,” said Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Despite the fact we have more acres planted (to corn and beans) this year, we’re still looking at significant reductions (in production).” Crop production last week was projected to total 12.97 billion bushels for corn (down 1.8 billion bushels from the previous estimate) and 3.05 billion bushels for soybeans (down 155 million bushels). “We’ve had pretty severe setbacks to corn and soybeans in parts of the Midwest,” Jim Bower, president of Bower

Trading, said during a teleconference hosted by the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. The corn production estimate, if realized, still would be the third-largest crop on record, Vilsack noted. But yield estimates are expected to worsen in coming weeks and months unless there is a significant change in the weather pattern. “The outlook has changed fairly dramatically in the last month,” Darrel Good, University of Illinois economist, said last week at the Top Farmer Crop Workshop at Purdue University. “The current estimate of 146 bushels per acre reflects where we’re at now,” he continued. “The risk is on the downside. The question is how much lower can that average go.” The condition of the nation’s corn crop last week was rated 40 percent good to excellent, 30 percent fair, and 30 percent poor or very poor. Last year, the corn crop on the same date was rated 69 percent good to excellent, 22 percent fair, and just 9 percent poor or very poor. “Conditions could improve, but there’s not much room for error with this crop going for-

ward,” Bower said. Bower called last week’s estimates a “benchmark report” that is expected to lead to a spike in crop prices to ration demand. Some traders were concerned USDA would wait until its August report to adjust its yield estimates to account for the drought, according to Bower. “The market is somewhat relieved USDA came in with low-

er expected yields,” he said. “It makes the market more comfortable with its pricing decisions.” The U.S. isn’t the only location in the world experiencing a significant drought. USDA cut its forecast for world wheat production by nearly 250 million bushels due in large part to drought-related losses in Russia. In Illinois, the dry conditions earlier this season actually may

have helped the winter wheat crop. The statewide wheat yield was projected to average 64 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from the June forecast. “Dry weather limits disease, makes harvest possible without the grain getting wet, and in general provides good conditions for wheat to fill grain,” said Emerson Nafziger, U of I crop sciences professor.

Vilsack: No need to trim RFS BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Despite drought-revised corn projections, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack sees no reason to pare back on ethanol mandates under the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). “We’re not at that point,” Vilsack stressed during a teleconference last week. “Certainly, the renewable fuels program is an extraordinarily important aspect of our efforts to rebuild and revitalize the rural economy. “The reality is, we’re still looking at the third largest corn crop on record. We’re still looking at a very large bean

crop (for biodiesel production), notwithstanding the disaster. Obviously, it could have been significantly higher because of the additional planted acres. At this time, we have no plans to adjust the Renewable Fuels Standard.” The RFS directs 36 billion gallons of annual biofuels use by 2022, including a maximum 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol. The federal Energy Information Administration predicts an ethanol supply of 13.9 billion gallons this year. While Illinois Farm Bureau economist Mike Doherty cites currently narrow corn carryover stocks (“We essentially were banking on a good year”), he argues the supply-and-demand dynamics of the corn/ethanol markets will address overall concerns about corn availability for feed, food, and export markets. Already, livestock interests are outbidding ethanol plants for corn, he reported. Doherty noted the shutdown of a handful of U.S. ethanol plants amid high corn prices and tight profit margins, and anticipates more production cutbacks to come. Valero Energy Corp., one of the largest U.S. ethanol producers, temporarily closed two of its 10 plants. In Doherty’s view, “it would not make sense to open up a longstanding piece of federal legislation (adopted in 2005)

aimed at reducing our foreign oil dependence,” especially over what could well prove a one-year circumstance. By setting annual biofuels use targets for fuel blenders, the RFS serves essentially to “give industry a consistent projection for ethanol demand.” Refiners and other fuel blenders can meet their RFS obligations by actually buying ethanol or by purchasing Renewable Identification Number (RIN) “credits” which represent biofuels purchases, meaning annual RFS goals can be met without straining short-term, regional corn/ethanol supplies. The RFS nonetheless continues to be a political football in Congress. At a House energy hearing last week, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) likened the RFS to the $535 million federal loan guarantee granted failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra — an oft-used focus of attacks on renewable energy incentives that, according to Pompeo, represents “the absolute danger of intervention in the energy market.” However, Rep. Bobby Rush, a Chicago Democrat, defended the RFS’ long-range value in reducing petroleum imports and consumer fuel costs. “Every year or two, we are in the same exact position we were in two months ago, discussing extremely high gas prices,” Rush argued.

Timetable Continued from page 1 collapse,” the Ag Committee stated. The Congressional Budget Office thus has scored RLC as a “slightly cheaper” option than ARC, Paulson noted. RLC requires a grower experience at least a 15 percent seasonal loss to receive payments, purportedly helping ensure that no growers are guaranteed profits. It offers crop coverage based on countywide losses to avoid duplicating potential crop insurance protections. RLC uses actual history over a five-year olympic average or yield “plugs” (substitution of missing history with 70 percent of county transitional yields) and an index of below-cost-of-production prices as a revenue benchmark. ARC covers 89 to 79 percent of program guarantees, RLC 85 to 75 percent. In an RFD Radio interview, National Corn Growers Association Corn Board President Garry Niemeyer said he was “very supportive” of the Senate proposal. Despite high corn prices, current drought worries demonstrate the need for a program that factors “price times yield,” Niemeyer argued. Both PLC and RLC apply to planted acres, up to a farm’s total base acres, in an effort to contain program costs. Cotton producers are offered a separate program in both House and Senate measures.


Page 9 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

government

Highway bill offers ag exemptions, Illinois $$ BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

The president has signed a new two-year “highway bill” that offers Illinois a potentially major infusion of infrastructure funds and relief for farm truckers (see accompanying story). Amid bleak prospects, House-Senate conferees in late June reached “some breakthroughs” that finally moved a long-term surface transportation bill to the White House, Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek told FarmWeek. Steenhoek had expected a mere extension of current highway authority until after the fall elections. Illinois Soybean Association transportation consultant Scott Sigman noted “some reductions” in key program spending areas under the measure, which expires Oct. 1, 2014 (prior to congressional elections). Passenger rail drew greater support than rail freight infrastructure “because it is an election year” and, possibly, because gas price swings have made rail an appealing consumer travel option, he suggested. In addition, the bill included neither proposals to commit federal harbor trust funds to port dredging nor a shipper-supported plan to replenish Inland Waterway Trust

Fund monies vital to Mississippi-Illinois lock projects. “The federal highway bill has always been focused on the roadways, and yet they call it a ‘transportation’ bill,” Sigman told FarmWeek. “It has not been as holistic in recognizing the transportation system as we in the transportation sector would like it to be.” Transportation conferees also rejected House proposals to push approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would delivery oil from Canada to Illinois refineries and the Texas Gulf Coast. The bill nonetheless provided $4.1 billion dollars in highway funding for Illinois over the next three years. It distributes highway “formula” funds in a way that reflects the highest share of federal formula funding Illinois has received in 15-plus years, Illinois congressmen reported. In addition, the measure provides $500 million for “projects of regional and national significance.” It authorizes a competitive grant program that offers Illinois and communities statewide the opportunity to seek funds for economically significant projects. Such projects include an expanded I-74 bridge across the Mississippi River in

‘Sweeping’ exemptions raise regulatory issues The new highway bill includes “a sweeping exemption” for farm drivers but raises key questions regarding the bureaucratic timetable for those exceptions and continued regulation of placarded ag vehicles, according to Illinois Farm Bureau transportation specialist Kevin Rund. The surface transportation package provides IFB-sought exemptions from general commercial drivers license; drug testing; medical card; and vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance requirements for “covered” farm vehicles. Covered vehicles are those operated by a farmer, farm employee, or family member and used to transport ag commodities, livestock, machinery, or supplies to or from a farm. To be exempt, such vehicles must bear a “farm” license plate or some other state-issued farm vehicle identification, and they cannot be used in for-hire hauling. Those primary exemptions do not apply to placarded equipment such as anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks or large diesel resupply tanks. Past federal motor carrier safety regulation ag exemptions did not require any official “farm vehicle” designation. Rund suggests current Illinois limits on the number of available farm plates could limit exemptions for producers with multiple vehicles. Further, it’s uncertain how or how soon new statutory changes may be implemented. While conferees specified that nothing in ag carrier provisions “shall be construed as authority for the Secretary of Transportation to prescribe regulations,” some U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rule changes appear necessary to meet new standards. “That could take months, with public hearings, public comments, and the like,” advised Rund, who noted the possible need for similar changes in state farm plating rules. The highway bill also requires the U.S. DOT to conduct a safety study of covered farm vehicles over the next 18 months. — Martin Ross

Northwestern Illinois; the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass; rail relocation in Springfield; and a proposed “Illiana” highway that would cross the state’s northern tier. That funding largely focuses on freight projects on eastwest routes between Atlantic and Pacific ports, rather than on north-south corridors. Illinois is integral within that “strategic geographical footprint,” Sigman said. Further, he noted a graduated, nearly tenfold expansion of the

Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, a major federal project bond financing vehicle. “In early June, I talked to some federal highway folks who were getting trained in anticipation of this expansion of major projects,” Sigman related. “This is where I think there is an effort to invest some funds and make sure there is a return on investment and the benefit-cost ratio these projects are designed to yield for the general public.

“Because we’re at the center of the country, we do have a number of both highway and rail corridors in Illinois that are of national significance. (Freight) volumes that move to, from, and through the state are so huge.” The highway bill also seeks “acceleration” of transportation project delivery, including provisions aimed at speeding construction projects by cutting bureaucratic red tape such as duplicative environmental assessments.


FarmWeek Page 10 Monday, July 16, 2012

CUBA

CUBA2

Urban agriculture born of social, economic necessity

BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Urban agriculture’s on the rise, organic’s the trend, and local food more frequently is what’s for dinner. No, it’s not the western burbs or the Loop. It’s Havana, where abrupt sociopolitical change and economic necessity have forced Cubans to adopt a low-tech, yet innovative, style of food production. “This type of agriculture is not the type of Monsanto,” jokes the president of UBPC Organoponico Vivero Alamar, one of a number of co-ops that have turned former housewives, teachers, laborers, and professionals into farmers and patches of sprawling Havana into green spaces that fuel government food stocks and neighborhood markets. And while Cuba continues to chart low yields and high import numbers, the island’s metropolitan ag co-ops have generated a wealth of data that could benefit U.S. niche producer-marketers (see page 11). Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, who founded his co-op 15 years ago, notes “we have impacted the economy.” With “the Crisis” — Cuba’s economic crash and subsequent reorganization following the demise of European communism in the ‘90s — “to grow and sell food was a good business in Cuba,” he told participants of Illinois Farm Bureau’s recent Cuba market study tour. Above: From left, Illinois Farm Bureau Cuba has high hopes for low-tech ag, but Cuba Market Study Tour participants Salcines stressed co-ops are not trying to create Tom Marten, Jamie Walter, and Glenn a “utopia” and recognizes the value of MidLeighty Jr. view papayas at Havana’s west-style farming. Mercado Agropecuario 19YB, an open Cuban ag ministry global relations specialist “supply-and-demand” market that enJuan Jose Leon notes his nation’s poor corn ables growers to sell excess production. yields (“We barely get 2 (metric) tons per Right: A butcher transacts a sale with hectare”), and supports the idea of “demoncustomers at the state-run “ration marstration farms” where U.S. experts might “help k e t , ” w h i c h d i s t r i b u t e s i n d i v i d u a l us boost yields to five tons” — if the U.S. can monthly rations. Ration coupons rarely ease current limits on Cuban interaction. cover all family needs, and the open “We’re all in favor of seeing the (Cuban) market is located next door. embargo lifted so we can help you with your agriculture and, in turn, you can help us with our agriculture,” Salcines told farmers. Revolution, regression, revival With the 1959 Cuban revolution and the country’s shift to socialism, the U.S. ended relations with Cuba and the Soviet Union became both key supplier of ag inputs, fuel, and machinery and chief customer for Cuba’s staple sugar crop. Then, in 1991, Soviet support vanished. Sugar had accounted for 80 percent of Cuban exports, and between loss of the USSR as a buyer, the clo- Illinois farmers listen as Orlando Lopez Co-operative researcher Wilfred Peres Hernandez, standing sure of 60-some sugar mills, and center, and President Ramon Garcia Hernandez, fuel and parts shortages that hobright, explain the intricacies and often unorthodox bled transportation, “it was an ecopractices of Havana’s urban ag co-ops. nomic disaster,” Salcines said. Before the “crisis,” Cuba had seen major urban migration. Despite the subsequent breakup of state-owned farms into more productive co-ops and “reallocation” of some state lands into individual hands, “we couldn’t go back to manual agriculture” as a sole food source for Cuba’s millions, Salcines said. “The alternative was to farm the land around the cities with the labor force that was available after the crisis,” he said. Because of a lack of inputs and urban public safety issues, the decision was made to rely on organic production, using natural fertilizers and biological pest controls.

The human factor The Alamar co-op’s 26acre, 160-member base represents diverse interests, specializing in vegetables but also producing fruit and ornamental plants. Members raise some livestock, including oxen for Photos by Martin Ross plowing and reproduction as well as rabbits and goats. Ramon Garcia Hernandez, president of the 168-member Orlando Lopez Cooperative, notes challenges in bringing “newtype farmers” into even low-tech farming. “We’re quite a heterogenous group,” the former Havana educator noted. “Here, you can find a former military man or a retired professor.” The classroom is an important ag training ground and computers are an integral tool in fostering member productivity. This season, co-op leaders have focused on fruit tree production, with an emphasis on grafting techniques that can reduce startup costs and installed a small nursery to explore the fundamentals of coffee production. Orlando Lopez contracts much of its produce to the state for distribution to schools and hospitals, but excess stock can be sold in area “supply-and-demand” markets where prices can be negotiated. Further, individual members can decide whether to sell their own surplus products to the co-op or directly to local markets, Garcia said. Because, as Salcines asserts, “almost no one would like to be a farmer” in Cuba, urban co-ops have tapped an older producer base. Nearly a third of his co-op’s members are older than 65; Garcia’s members average in the 45-50 range. Women also are a key component in co-op success — Salcines argues they are “better administrators” than their male counterparts. While Garcia encourages his co-op’s children to attend public school, they can voluntarily train at the base farm as potential family “replacements.” Orlando Lopez helps each member household devise an annual “farmer development plan” outlining seed needs, prospective pest and disease control and fertilization strategies, and even marketing issues. It also is working to help members obtain crucial credit: Today, an urban “farmer” must have two co-signers and be endorsed by his or her co-op. “The co-operative system reminds me of a lot of what we’ve done in the United States,” Market study tour participant David Serven concluded. “They have a board made up of the best farmers in the co-op and a managing director. That works on the same principles as some of our co-ops. “I was also interested by some of the programs they’ve started to try to educate their youth about agriculture. Here in Illinois, the average age of the farmer is well into the 50s. They have the same problem.”

Ophelia Milan, researcher with the UBPC Organoponico Vivero Alamar farmer co-op, studies beneficial insects used as an essential biological control at the co-op’s Havana headquarters.


Page 11 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

cuba Worm leavings and ladybugs:

Cuba refines alternative urban farming practices

BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Above: Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, president of UBPC Organoponico Vivero Alamar urban co-op, displays his farm’s “worm castings” production facility, where worm wastes are collected for conversion into a natural, high-nutrient fertilizer. Left: Illinois Farm Bureau Cuba Market Study Tour participants trek through the Havana Forest, a major natural area in the heart of the city. The forest and the adjacent Almendares River (a source of water for the city) are the focus of local preservation/clean-up efforts.

gies, we can better make sure we use every tool that’s available to us. Research in organics can help us improve ‘inorganic’ production, as well.” Use of worm castings is part a diversified suite of alternative strategies applied at UBPC Organoponico Vivero Alamar, a Havana co-op. The co-op’s beneficial insect laboratory has studied 20 varieties of ladybugs as well as nematodes in an effort to combat aphids and other destructive “bugs.” Corn plantings provide a “living barrier” between insects and vegetable crops. But the “first weapon” is biodiversity, according to co-op President Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez. By flooding farms with an array of col-

Fithian grower and Illinois Farm Bureau Natural Resources Grassroots Issue Team member Kevin Green has a longstanding interest in conservation and sustainability. The IFB market study tour participant noted Cuban farmers face two conflicting challenges: a need to boost local food production and lack of access to commercial “synthetic” fertilizers. He noted co-op use of worm “castings” — liquefied, manureKevin Green enhanced annelid excrement that reportedly offers nutrient values similar to ‘If we can understand these types of urea. “But the product is healthistrategies, we can better make sure we er,” argues Wilfred Peres Hernandez, scientist in residence at use every tool that’s available to us.’ Havana’s Orlando Lopez Cooperative. That fascinates Thomas — Thomas Marten Marten, a Montgomery County Cuba market study tour participant/Litchfield ag teacher collegiate FFA’er set to begin his master’s degree studies in ag education at the University of Illinois. Marten, a Litchfield High School teacher, notes student orful, aromatic plants and trees, growers can interest in “vermicomposting” — use of worms cause insects effectively to “go crazy” with sento convert compost for community gardens. sory overload, Salcines suggested. “At Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Cuban co-op practices have drawn scientists they have the largest research vermicomposting and academics from Harvard, North Carolina program, and I’d say this one’s about three times University, New York’s Botanical Gardens and as big as that,” he observed. “It’s very impresother institutions, Salcines said. And the research sive. continues: Orlando Lopez Co-op President “I fully believe in using every aspect of techRamon Garcia Hernandez noted ongoing explonology that’s available to us, whether that’s pesti- ration of microorganisms both to control pests cides or (commercial) fertilizers. At the same and, potentially, to produce better animal feeds. time, it’s important to maintain this kind of “This is a very primitive way of producing knowledge. stuff,” Garcia admitted. “But it’s how we do it, “If we can understand these types of stratebecause we have limited resources.”

Preservation pioneers target security, nutrition One of Figueroa’s initial breakthroughs was developTo many U.S. consumers, canning and pickling are lost ment of a vitamin/protein-rich sugarcane molasses for arts newly revived by avid foodies, and use of natural swine that provided nutritional benefits “equivalent to a preservatives is a matter of shopper’s preference. In Cuba, food preservation is a potential matter of life cereal diet.” In Cuba, cereal crops generally are produced for human food. and death. She and Lama, a mechanical engineer, translated her Just ask Vilda Figueroa and Jose Lama, preservation pioneers, authors, and Cuban TV/radio personalities. The knowledge of feed chemistry into technologies that could pair educates farmers, homemakers, teens, and children in help Cubans preserve food “in a very organic, natural way, food production, preservation, preparation, and nutrition based on the chemical properties of the foods.” They worked with Havana’s burgeoning urban ag movement. — a key concern given Cuba’s growing obesity concerns. Their repertoire includes pickling; fermentation; “Vilda and Pepe,” as they are jam production; use of solar “drying tunnels” to dehyknown to Cuban audiences, FarmWeekNow.com drate produce for extended shelf life; addition of “arohave published more than 100 View photos from the recent matics” such as basil, garlic, and rosemary to enhance books and brochures and have mobilized some 2 million coun- Cuba Market Study Tour and preservation and flavor; and production of papaya and trymen, including thousands of listen to audio from partici- pineapple vinegars. pants at FarmWeekNow.com. Their project has evolved to include education in volunteer “promoters” trained improved cooking practices and integration of to educate their own neighbors. They have told their story to 80-plus U.S. delegations and “organic work in the garden” with food preservation. The couple’s latest mission is to improve basic nutrition in a groups from five continents. nation that Figueroa said is plagued by “an excess of salt Figueroa, an animal nutritionist who turned to food and sugar — especially sugar, for historical and cultural security issues 20 years ago, recalls the double-hurricane reasons.” strike that destroyed nearly 700,000 tons of Cuban foodRoughly half of Cuba’s population today faces weight stuffs over a 10-day period in 2008. problems fed in part by rising urban food production, vs. “People who did not preserve their food didn’t eat,” 40 percent of the populace a decade ago. she told Illinois farmers who visited the cramped head“We have to start with children — children like soft quarters of Vilda and Pepe’s Proyecto Comunitario Conservacion de Alimentos (Food Conservation Project). drinks,” Figueroa said. “We train kids who are going to be “They went through some hard times.” promoters to train other kids.” — Martin Ross

As Illinois Farm Bureau Cuba Market Study Tour Participant and IFB board member David Serven, left, and IFB Senior Commodities Director Tamara Nelsen look on, Joe “Pepe” Lama displays an array of preserved food products he and partner Vilda Figueroa have developed in an effort to bolster consumer food security on the island.


FarmWeek Page 12 Monday, July 16, 2012

Risk management

More crop insurance audits likely from this growing season BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Illinois producers already fretting over potential droughtrelated claims could face another headache this season — a crop insurance audit. If a loss amount is equal to or greater than $200,000 per crop per county per claim type (i.e., prevent plant or production claim), USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) requires a three-year Actual Production History audit before the claim can be settled. Farmers subject to an audit must submit their Farm Service Agency 578 report of acreage form for their farming operation as well as hard-copy production evidence for insured crops. Given current drought con-

ditions, some insurance agents are anticipating hundreds or perhaps even thousands of growers possibly facing audits, Illinois Farm Bureau risk management specialist Doug Yoder related. “Audits are strenuous: It’s not an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) type of audit, but you have to prove all your production data,” Yoder said. “If a producer thinks he’s going to have that big a claim, he should start getting prepared and have his ducks in a row.” As of last week, Country Financial had received some 1,102 crop replant claims statewide and 330 production loss claims. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack reported RMA would work to help ensure losses are

adjusted and payments made “as quickly as possible to adjust losses.” “I can anticipate, given the magnitude of what we’re facing, we would make preparations to be in a position to respond as quickly as we can,” Vilsack told FarmWeek. Meanwhile, Country Crop Claims Supervisor Steve Wor-

thington offers these details for crop policyholders: Once an insurance company grants necessary permission to tear up or chop a damaged field subsequent to a claim, when will that claim be paid? Worthington: Every claim has it own unique set of circumstances and will be handled

on a case-by-case basis. The insured should consult the certified crop adjuster concerning his or her situation. If a farmer planted prior to the April 6 crop insurance eligible planting date, will that impact fall claims? Worthington: No, that date refers to replant payments and does not affect a fall claim.

BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

manager at GROWMARK. Wells discussed his outlook for the fertilizer market last week at the Top Farmer Crop Workshop in West Lafayette, Ind. The event was hosted by Purdue University and the University of Illinois. Fertilizer prices in the late 1990s and early 2000s general-

ly were driven by supply. Many production plants were mothballed in the U.S. during that oversupply time. However, a boom in fertilizer demand, which coincided with a spike in commodity prices in the late 2000s, put demand in the driver’s seat the past few years. Farmers during this time saw anhydrous ammonia prices peak above $1,000 per ton. The situation prompted an increase in fertilizer production around the world to the point where Wells believes it could surpass demand in coming years. “We’ve been in a demand cycle the last several years,” Wells said. “It could turn and be driven more by supply.” A number of nitrogen production plants in the U.S. currently are on pace to come back on line, he noted. The trend has been prompted, in part, by historically low natural gas prices. “We had been mothballing production plants in the U.S.,” Wells said. “Now we’re starting to see the industry come back.” Wells projected demand for nitrogen fertilizer will increase by about 3.5 percent per year. But anhydrous ammonia production is projected to grow by 15 percent in the next few years. About half of the new production is expected to occur in China. He also projected an annual growth rate of 3 percent for phosphates. But new phosphate production in the next three to five years could reach 17 percent. “We see excess capacity and supply the next three to five years,” Wells said. The build-up of fertilizer production capacity is not expected to ease wild price swings in the market, though. “Volatility is alive and well in the fertilizer sector and we see continued volatility,” he said. Prices are driven by seasonal use of products, the fact that there’s no futures market for fertilizer to manage risk, and ripple effects from the global economy. Currently, the European debt crisis, rising demand for protein, issues with production interruptions, and fertilizer subsidies in India are wreaking havoc on the market.

Supply could be key driver of fertilizer market

The key driver of the fertilizer market could transition in the near future from demand back to supply. But that doesn’t mean price swings will be any less volatile, according to Rod Wells, plant food division


Page 13 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

from the counties

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HRISTIAN — Christian and Shelby County Farm Bureaus will sponsor a landowners informational meeting concerning the transmission line and fracking at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary’s Church, Assumption. Call the Christian County Farm Bureau office at 824-2940 or the Shelby County Farm Bureau office at 774-2151 by Wednesday for reservations or more information. ACKSON — The annual fish fry and fun night will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at the K of C Hall, Murphysboro. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. • The Marketing Committee and Illinois Corn Marketing Board will sponsor a food drive during the month of July to show relationship between livestock producers and corn growers. For every non-perishable item donated, Farm Bureau will contribute $2 to purchase meat for the local food pantries. EE — The Young Leaders Committee will have its annual cookout at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Nathan and Tiffany Hummel’s farm, 335 N. Blackstone Ave., Amboy. The cookout is open to all members between the ages of 18-35. Bring a dish to pass and your own lawn chair. Call the Farm Bureau office at 815-857-3531 or e-mail leecfb@comcast.net for more information. • Farm Bureau and Lee County Fair Association will sponsor a blood drive from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 26, at the Lee County Fairgrounds during the 4-H Fair and Junior show. Call the Farm Bureau office at 815-857-3531 or e-mail leecfb@comcast.net if you can donate or volunteer.

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Walk-ins are welcome. ONROE — A family farm informational seminar will be at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Monroe County Annex. Federal and state estate tax change and planning for the transfer of the family farm will be discussed. Call the Farm Bureau office at 939-6197 by Monday, July 30, for reservations or more information. ONTGOMERY — Farm Bureau will help sponsor Hillsboro’s annual Old Tyme Tractor Show Saturday and Sunday at Lake Hillsboro Park. Registration is from 9 to 11 a.m. each day. There will be pedal tractor races, flea markets, and crafts. Breakfast and lunch will be served by Luck and Buck Saddle Club. Merle McFarlin will supply Hawaiian Ice. Visit the website {www.montgomerycountyfb.com} or call 217-532-6171 for more information. EORIA — Members who ordered Michigan blueberries may pick their orders up between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday at the Farm Bureau office. • The Heart of Illinois Fair will conclude on Saturday. Farm Bureau will have an interactive display in the Youth Exhibition Building. • The golf scramble will be Saturday at Laurel Green Course. Cost for members is $15 for golf and cart. A steak fry is an additional $10. • Discount Peoria Chiefs baseball tickets are available at the Farm Bureau office for the Chiefs vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 25. Cost is $6. Hotdogs, soda, and ice cream sandwiches are $1.

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IKE — A “Planning for Transfer of the Family Farm and Tax Changes” seminar will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Farm Bureau office. Dinner will be served. Call 285-2233, 285-4427, or your Country Financial representative for reservations or more information. ICHLAND — The Young Leaders Committee will sponsor a trap shoot Saturday, Aug. 18, at the County Line Gun Club, Noble. Pre-registration fee is $25 per person or $100 for a team of five. Raffle tickets for a Remington 870 shotgun, which is sponsored by Slunaker Gun Shack, are $5 each. Call the Farm Bureau office at 618-3934116 or a Young Leader Committee member for tickets or reservations. COTT — A “Planning for Transfer of the Family Farm and Tax

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Changes” seminar will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Nimrod Funk Extension building, Winchester. Lunch will be served. Call 742-3351 or 742-3182 for reservations or more information. NION — The Marketing Committee and Illinois Corn Marketing Board will sponsor a food drive during the month of July to show relationship between livestock producers and corn growers. For every non-perishable item donated, Farm Bureau will contribute $2 to purchase meat for the local food pantries. ERMILION — The Farm Bureau Member Appreciation Night will be Friday. Members may attend the Danville Dans vs. Springfield Sliders game at 6:30 p.m. Free tickets are available at the Farm Bureau office.

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• Farm Bureau will sponsor an “On the Road” seminar at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the Farm Bureau office. Kevin Rund, Illinois Farm Bureau senior director of local government, will discuss trucking issues. Call the Farm Bureau office for more information. • Farm Bureau is taking orders for Rendleman Orchard peaches. Cost for a 25-pound box is $23 for members and $28 for nonmembers. Orders are due by Tuesday, July 24. Delivery will be at the end of July or first part of August. Call the Farm Bureau office at 217-442-8713 or visit the website {www.vcfb.info} for more information. “From the counties” items are submitted by county Farm Bureau managers. If you have an event or activity open to all members, contact your county Farm Bureau manager.


FarmWeek Page 14 Monday, July 16, 2012

profitability

Biodiesel quality is key for best performance BY BRIGETTE HARLAN

Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Co., once said: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” He understood that consumers expect a quality prodBrigette Harlan uct and that quality is the key to customer satisfaction. It is no different with biodiesel.

ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, develops technical standards for many products and services including biodiesel. The standards for biodiesel performance are outlined in ASTM specification number D6751. Biodiesel producers must meet these specifications as a minimum standard of performance, but there is more to the story. When product quality is taken seriously, biodiesel produc-

USDA

Farm Service Agency PART-TIME HOURS IN FOUR COUNTIES — Four county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will be open parttime only starting Tuesday, Scherrie Giamanco, FSA state executive director, announced last week. The local FSA offices are Boone County office, Belvidere; Calhoun County office, Hardin; Wabash County office, Mt. Carmel; and Williamson County office, Marion. The offices will be open each Wednesday and Thursday for normal FSA business and closed the remainder of the week. Office hours will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each Wednesday and Thursday in those counties. The work hours of other co-located agencies, such as Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil and Water Conservation District, and Rural Development, will remain unchanged. CROP CERTIFICATION DEADLINE — Don’t forget to Certify your 2012 spring-planted crops and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) cover by today (Monday). Filing an accurate acreage report for all crops, CRP and land uses, including failed and prevented planted acreage, can prevent the benefit losses for a variety of programs.

M A R K E T FA C T S Feeder pig prices reported to USDA* Weight 10 lbs. 40 lbs.

Range Per Head $26.55-$46.50 n/a

Weighted Ave. Price $36.95 n/a

This Week Last Week 96,899 76,020 *Eastern Corn Belt prices picked up at seller’s farm

Receipts

Eastern Corn Belt direct hogs (plant delivered) Carcass Live

(Prices $ per hundredweight) This week Prev. week $87.65 $90.93 $64.86 $67.29

Change -3.28 -2.43

USDA five-state area slaughter cattle price Steers Heifers

(Thursday’s price) (Thursday’s price) Prev. week Change This week 114.72 116.94 -2.22 114.72 116.87 -2.15

CME feeder cattle index — 600-800 Lbs. This is a composite price of feeder cattle transactions in 27 states. (Prices $ per hundredweight) Prev. week Change This week 143.71 146.16 -2.45

Lamb prices n/a

Export inspections (Million bushels) Week ending Soybeans Wheat Corn 07-05-12 18.9 14.9 22.8 06-28-12 14.6 22.7 22.3 Last year 6.6 21.3 34.9 Season total 1235.2 100.5 1344.0 Previous season total 1431.4 124.8 1521.0 USDA projected total 1315 1025 1700 Crop marketing year began June 1 for wheat and Sept. 1 for corn and soybeans.

ers strive to produce a product that exceeds ASTM standards. Meeting a minimum standard isn’t good enough. While some biodiesel performance characteristics are a result of the feedstock used, others can be improved during the production process. Consider the following examples: The percent mass of total glycerin to meet ASTM D6751 is .24 of a percent maximum. But for best performance, this number must be considerably lower. Lower total glycerin and more importantly, lower monoglyceride content, means fewer plugged filters and better cold temperature storage characteristics. The percent volume of water and sediment to meet ASTM D6751 is .05 of a per-

cent maximum, but good suppliers aim for half that amount. Biodiesel is extremely absorbent and can absorb much more water than conventional diesel fuel. Excessive water in the fuel is the No. 1 cause of filter plugging in biodiesel blends. The lower the water content, the better the performance. The cold soak filterability test is a recent addition to the D6751 specifications, but it has proved to be an important tool for preventing unexpected filter plugging. The test is intended to detect any components of the biodiesel that may precipitate out of suspension when exposed to long periods of cold temperature. The test requires biodiesel to be cooled in a 40 degrees

Fahrenheit bath for 16 hours. It is then warmed to ambient temperature. The biodiesel is required to pass through a 0.8 micron filter in less than 360 seconds (winter) or 200 seconds (summer). A lower filtration time indicates better performance. When it comes to using biodiesel blends or storing them successfully for a period of time, it is essential to use a quality biodiesel blend that not only meets but exceeds ASTM standards. For additional information and assistance in determining biodiesel quality, contact your local FS energy salesperson. Brigette Harlan is GROWMARK’s renewable fuels product manager. Her e-mail address is bharlan@growmark.com.

Economists: Crop pricing opportunities ahead BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Rallies in the crop markets likely will continue this summer as concerns about short crops intensify. But the recent jump in prices isn’t expected to last beyond the upcoming harvest season. In fact, the bullish run could fizzle out before combines are rolling this fall. Farmers, therefore, should take advantage of any marketing opportunities in the near future, according to ag economists Darrel Good of the University of Illinois and Chris Hurt of Purdue University. “The size of the crops certainly is the focus of the marketplace,” Good said last week at the Top Farmer Crop Workshop at Purdue. USDA last week cut its production estimates this season by 1.8 billion bushels for corn and 155 million bushels for soybeans. The smaller supply outlook Darrel Good prompted USDA to significantly boost its crop price projections for the marketing year by $1.40 per bushel for corn, $1 for beans, and 60 cents for wheat. (See chart) “This is the rationing process,” Hurt said. “Rationing is done early with higher prices.” The process will cause demand to falter, according to Hurt. SDA last week cut corn demand estimates by 650 million bushels for feed and residual uses, 300 million for exports, and 100 million bushels for ethanol production. Soybean exports were reduced by 115 million bushels as USDA pegged ending stocks at

just 130 million bushels for beans (down 10 million bushels from last month). Corn ending stocks were put at 1.2 billion bushels (down 698 million bushels). “We’re going to have to ration the consumption of soybeans,” Good said. “There are not enough beans to maintain crush at current levels.” Good said crop prices in the future could climb as high as $8-plus for corn and $17 for soybeans. But the run-up isn’t expected to last. “I think this will be a year prices peak fairly early, prior to or near harvest,” he said. Hurt agreed there could be an early peak followed by a long tail in the crop markets. The economists urged producers to take advantage of marketing opportunities in coming weeks. “You need to be ready to do some pricing to capture that,” Hurt told farmers at the workshop. The jump in crop prices could be pivotal for many farmers, who will have significantly fewer bushels to sell. “There is hope we’ll get some price compensation,” Hurt said. “As yields potentially drop Chris Hurt more, I’d expect to see prices go higher.” Hurt last week projected corn yields nationwide could average about 142 bushels per acre (4 bushels lower than USDA’s estimate). The price of corn on average could increase about 60 cents for every 5 bushels that comes off the national average corn yield through the end of the growing season, Good added.

Manure management workshop scheduled Aug. 11 for equine, small livestock farms A workshop on manure best management practices for owners of horses and small livestock operations will be from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 11 at the University of Illinois Extension Ogle County office, Oregon. Early registration deadline is Aug. 8. Workshop topics will include best management practices with neighbor-friendly manure stor-

age, manure composting techniques, and state rules and regulations on manure storage and composting. “We want to help horse and small livestock owners understand what best management practices are available to them and to offer some ideas for things they can do with manure other than putting it on a field or in a dumpster,”

said Ellen Phillips, U of I extension educator. The cost is $30 per person in advance and $15 for a second participant from the farm. The fee for children younger than 18 is $5. After Aug. 8, the fee increases to $35 per person. For a brochure or to register, go online to {web.extension.illinois.edu/state/calendar_event. cfm?EventID=56518}.


Page 15 Monday, July 16, 2012 FarmWeek

PROFITABILITY Corn Strategy

CASH STRATEGIST

A look at 1988 USDA reports We thought it might be useful to look at how USDA saw the crop situation unfold in 1988. The weather has been somewhat similar so far, albeit not quite as extreme as it was at the beginning of that growing season. USDA appeared to be assuming record corn and nearrecord soybean yields in May and June 1988, just like this year. USDA cut projections significantly in its July forecasts because of the early extreme weather, even more than this year. But those crops were in even worse shape than they are this year. Demand projections were slashed as well, not only because of the change in supply but also because of the early high prices. But the story to focus on is the one going forward

from those July estimates. The first “official” production estimates in August found production potential even below the low numbers forecast in July. Supplies tightened sharply for soybeans. The 4 billion-plus corn carryover from the prior year offset much of corn’s production losses in 1988. Without going into detail, low farmer expectations were behind the low August and September production forecasts. When harvest proved the crops proved slightly better than expected, the output forecasts increased slightly, especially for corn. Corn demand ended up being a little stronger in the end of the marketing year, mostly because supplies were still moderately abundant due to the large carryover. But soybean demand generally eroded over time, lifting the final stocks well above the low levels projected in August and September of 1988 when production forecasts were at their smallest.

AgriVisor endorses crop insurance by

AgriVisor LLC 1701 N. Towanda Avenue PO Box 2500 Bloomington IL 61702-2901 309-557-3147 AgriVisor LLC is not liable for any damages which anyone may sustain by reason of inaccuracy or inadequacy of information provided herein, any error of judgment involving any projections, recommendations, or advice or any other act of omission.

Policies issued by COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Company®, Bloomington, Illinois AgriVisor Hotline Number

309-557-2274

Cents per bu.

ü2011 crop: Sell remaining old-crop bushels now! ü2012 crop: Get sales to recommended levels now! The inability to sustain gains after the supply/demand report was a sign the rally is tiring out. We prefer hedgeto-arrive contracts for making sales. ü2013 crop: Leave an order to price 10 percent if December futures hit $6.35 If they fail to hit that trigger, and close below $5.98, get that increment priced. vFundamentals: The USDA supply/demand projections appear to have taken some of the ammunition away from the bull market. The yield and production cuts were more than expected with the corn yield estimate dropping from 166 bushels to 146. Yields likely will drop lower yet, but if weather shifts, the market emotions will shift, capping upside potential. Demand has become just as important of a focus, and even though USDA cut it drastically, it could still decline further. ûFail-safe: If December futures close below $7, make sure sales are at recommended levels.

Soybean Strategy

ü2011 crop: Wrap up any old-crop sales now. ü2012 crop: Use rallies above $15.25 on November futures for catch-up sales. ü2013 crop: Use strength to get caught up to our recommendation to price 10 percent of your 2013 crop. vFundamentals: Ongoing warm, dry weather across the Corn Belt is the feature supporting the soybean complex. USDA reduced yield expectations sharply on the July supply/demand report, but it only put the yield (40.5 bushels) at a level the trade had been privately talking about. The 130-millionbushel projected ending stocks are tight, but prices are at historically high levels. New talk out of Brazil suggests Brazilians could expand plantings as much as 11 percent this year, potentially pro-

ducing a crop that could eclipse the size of our 2013 crop. ûFail-safe: If November futures close below $14.78, make sure sales are at recommended levels.

Wheat Strategy

ü2012 crop: The uptrend in wheat remains intact, as prices with Chicago September futures penetrating $8.53 resistance. The next target is $8.70. Make catch-up sales with Chicago September trading above $8.50. The futures carry makes it somewhat attractive to store wheat into winter, but only if it’s priced or hedged. We may recom-

mend an additional 10 percent sale at anytime, so stay close to the Hotline. We are watching to see how far weather can carry the corn market. But when prices break, the decline will be as fast as the rally. vFundamentals: Wheat continues to mostly follow corn prices higher, but world supplies are tightening some too. The less-than-ideal weather conditions in Black Sea area countries are cutting into world supplies. But, price and supply are finally pulling wheat out of India and Pakistan. And there are subtle indications the European crop is a little better than forecast.


FarmWeek Page 16 Monday, July 16, 2012

pERspEcTIvEs

Some economic impacts of regulating livestock housing Egg prices in Europe are 67 percent higher now than they were a year ago. Production is down by an estimated 15 percent. European restaurant owners and families are driving into neighboring countries to buy eggs. The situation there is not a result of runaway inflation. Rather, it was triggered by a government mandate on how chickens are raised. Congress is being asked to MIKE DOHERTY approve similar legislation here. Based on Europeans citizens’ concerns for animal welfare, the European Agricultural Commission banned conventional cage housing systems for egg-laying hens — systems in use for decades and that, until recently, housed 75 percent of all laying hens worldwide and 95 percent of the layers in the United States. Since January, European producers have been required to house chickens in so-called furnished cages or raise them cage-free. Because the decision was based on emotion rather than on economics and science, Europe is facing skyrocketing egg prices and extreme egg shortages. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would do the same thing here — ban conventional cages for laying hens. It would dictate cage sizes, add labeling requirements,

and regulate other production practices. Congress would prescribe, to the cubic inch, on-farm production standards that are not tied to food safety or animal health. Currently, 96 percent of the eggs purchased in this country come from conventional hen housing, eggs that are produced economically and in accordance with animal welfare guidelines. Consumers also can choose more expensive cage-free eggs, eggs enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids, or organic eggs. The proposed legislation would force consumers into more expensive options. Moreover, significant quantities of eggs are used in school lunch and breakfast programs as well as in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). In fiscal 2008, $677 million was spent on eggs under these programs. A 25 percent increase in egg prices — the projected gain in retail prices if cage-free eggs are mandated — would add $169 million in costs for these programs. In addition to the ban on conventional hen housing, the European Union (EU) will ban gestation stalls for female

pigs beginning next year. Such stalls allow farmers to care individually for animals, monitor their health and feed, and prevent bullying that arises when dominant and submissive sows share

group housing. It has been estimated that pork production in Europe will drop as much as 10 percent and that significant numbers of producers might leave the industry because of their inability or unwillingness to comply with the ban. A number of U.S. restaurants and retailers — McDonald’s, Wendy’s,

Burger King, Kroger and Safeway — have announced plans to source pork products only from farms that do not use gestation stalls. This will force a major overhaul of the entire pork production system, not only requiring producers to invest heavily in new housing systems but also affecting costs for transportation, processing, and distribution. These new standards are driven by animal rights groups. With an economy that has still not fully recovered and with so many Americans unemployed, we cannot afford to legislate consumer choices based on emotion rather than economics. What’s happening to European egg producers and consumers this summer serves as a cautionary tale for the U.S. As a country, we should not head down a path that inflates prices and drives farmers out of business. Mike Doherty is a senior economist and policy analyst with Illinois Farm Bureau. This column appeared in the July 1 “Chicago Tribune.”

Put agriculture books on your summer reading list In the age of so many ways to use words — Facebook, Twitter, texting, blogs, and emails — let’s not forget books. There are two new books about agriculture that are surprising, entertaining, and enlightening. While about Kansas, the first WILLIAM BAILEY tells in a unique and very human way about the changes agriculture and farm families have experienced over the years. The book is “Time’s Shadow: Remembering a Family Farm in Kansas,” written by Arnold J. Bauer. It discusses the author’s life growing up on a

small farm through the 1930s into the 1950s. While those years may seem like another world, the issues discussed are as relevant to agriculture today as they were 70 to 80 years ago: how to keep a family farm running, and the role of the family, and children, on the farm. There are two incidents in the book that I found particularly intriguing. The first centers on the author’s greatgrandparents who immigrated to Kansas from their home in Germany to farm. They arrived thinking Kansas farm life would continue unchanged over the decades as it had in the rural villages they left in Germany. But the new farm life lasted only a brief

Good advocates needed for renewable fuels

because people don’t care about gas mileage. Not true — high-rated-mpg cars are the ones people are buying. Cars getting up to 40 mpg are the hottest-selling models. Gas guzzlers scarcely sell at all. Plus CAFÉ standards have led engineers to innovate with great results. My first car got 15 to 17 mpg, maybe up to 20 mpg on a long trip under ideal conditions. And that 1954 Plymouth was the same size as

Editor: We need good advocates for farm-based renewable fuels. Unfortunately, Gary Herwick (president of Transportation Fuels Consulting) isn’t one. The last third of his June 18 article is fine, but the first part destroys his credibility. He says CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) mileage standards haven’t worked

period before science, world events, and social events combined to change the central structure of farm families and farm life. The author discusses, in a very human way, those unanticipated changes and how they affected his life. The second issue is that the author, while growing up and actively participating in the farm’s operations, did not become a farmer; he left the farm, as did his sisters, to pursue a future elsewhere. Why and how that decision was made is detailed in the book, and it is a decision some of the students at Western Illinois University face today. The second book, global and historical in scope, also

centers on agriculture. It is entitled “The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food,” authored by Lizzie Cunningham. The central theme of the book is straightforward and relevant — the central role of food to all aspects of World War II and the impact of American agriculture on that war. The reason food was key to World War II, according to the book, is soldiers and workers must be fed — solders to fight and workers for the industrial efforts that war requires. According to Cunningham, how to feed them became the central focus for various campaigns — Italy into Ethiopia, Japan into Manchuria, and Germany into Russia and the

LETTER TO THE EDITOR today’s 40 mpg cars. Second, he says our government is trying to force us to buy electric cars. Not true — no law requires us to buy a certain brand or model of any car. Third, he says production of electric cars is “... restricting what we can buy.” Not true — no dealer says, “Sorry, I’m all out of gas engine cars. I can only sell you an electric car.” Our dealership’s lot is as

large as the acres my wife and I own, and it’s full of cars of every size, shape, style, and color. Plus, the used car lot is filled with cars of similar variety. We Illinois Farm Bureau members need to publicize the values of ethanol and biodiesel. We need to point out that Brazil’s older cars use ethanol without damage. We need to thank the Environmental Protection Agency

Ukraine. While the U.S. war effort faced the same challenges, the solution was much more straightforward — American agriculture. Unlike Germany and Japan, the U.S. did not need to invade another country to meet its food needs — those could be met by the power of American agriculture. The first book talks about farm life in a way that will educate and entertain. The second underscores the strategic importance of agriculture, particularly American agriculture, to all of the countries involved in World War II. William Bailey is the director of the School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University. His e-mail address is WC-Bailey@wiu.edu.

for endorsing E15 and E85, using them in its vehicle fleet, and working with U.S. Navy on biodiesel for ships. We need to work for blender pumps and similar infrastructure. We need to oppose subsidies paid to ultra-rich oil companies. Let’s ACT on these things. ELDON C. MCKIE, St. Louis, Mo.

FarmWeek July 16 2012  

FarmWeek July 16 2012

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