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HOW FARMLAND IS assessed in Illinois was the subject of a House Revenue and Finance Committee h e a r i n g l a s t we e k i n S p r i n g field. .......................................3

A NEW REVOLUTION may be coming in Cuba as a number of factors are falling into place that could result in a thaw in strained U.S.-Cuba relations. ........................4

I L L I N O I S WO O D L A N D owners sold timber valued at $16.66 million in 2010, but they are underselling their timber, according to an Extension forestry specialist. ...........8

The sequestration matrix: Cost cutting impact hard to pinpoint Monday, March 11, 2013

BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Periodicals: Time Valued

Farmers, federal officials, and lawmakers continue to feel their way through the developing “matrix” of the federal budget sequestration process. Most immediately, a 5 percent across-the-board cut is expected to have widespread — if as yet uncertain — impacts for near-term ag spending. According to American Farm Bureau Federation policy director Dale Moore, USDA is expected to trim some $1.95 billion in spending over the remainder of the current 2013 fiscal year. That includes a potential $531 million cut in Farm Service Agency funding, and Moore suggests current-year direct payments may be reduced. However, he said he didn’t expect sequestration itself to have a significant effect on longer-term farm bill debate. The greater impacts may lie in expiration of the current continuing budget resolution March 27, and revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections of proposed House-Senate farm bill savings. “It’s like a matrix: It’s hard to point to any one part of this process and say, ‘That’s going to have the effect,’” Moore told FarmWeek.

Two sections Volume 41, No. 10

The CBO recently arrived at an updated budget baseline for long-term ag spending. Based on revised estimates, it has downgraded projected savings pegged to Senate or 2012 House Ag Committee farm bill proposals by roughly $10 billion. Originally, the Senate and House Ag Committees claimed respective farm bill savings of $23 billion and $35 billion. Proposed food stamp cuts accounted for nearly $12 billion of that gap. However, the Women, Infant, and Children nutrition program is slated for a $333 million sequestration hit (food stamp benefits are exempt), and the CBO has pared back on its food stamp baseline. As a result, “you kind of

have to take the nutrition programs out of the equation,” Moore said. Ag committees thus may have to look to commodity, conservation, or, possibly, crop insurance operation funds for further savings, he said. A Washington USDA Risk Management Agency official warned Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington that day-to-day crop insurance operations could be affected if sequestration cuts continue into 2014. That could impact program implementation and development of new policies and protections, Moore said. First-time leader trip participant Rachel Meinhart from Effingham County perceived “a lot of support” for farmer-

favored policies and crop insurance among Illinois congressional delegates. Ag Committee staffers who met with the leaders argued vulnerable dairy producers would be covered through Sept. 30, when 2008 farm bill extended provisions expire, but they were reluctant to “over-speculate” on budget/sequestration impacts, she said. “I think everybody just wants the House to get its version (of the farm bill) out and the Senate to sit down and haggle out its bill,” DeWitt County leader participant Terry Ferguson said. “I think everybody’s just kind of walking around the edge of sequestration impacts.” Last week, the House passed a new continuing resolution

(CR) to cover federal spending through Sept. 30. The CR extends funding for most agencies at last year’s levels but incorporates sequestration cuts, lowering total funding from $1.043 trillion to $982 billion while adding $570 million for the USDA Forest Service and the Interior Department to address summer wildfires. The Senate is expected to take up short-term budget proposals this week. Beyond food stamp and Conservation Reserve Program spending, Moore stressed “everything at USDA is on the table” under sequestration. However, USDA has had some discretion in determining how to distribute sequestration cuts, he said. See Sequestration, page 3

Quinn blames pension woes for budget cuts

IDOA funding held steady BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Gov. Pat Quinn again challenged lawmakers to reform the state’s underfunded pension system, blaming a $6 billion pension payment for his proposed cuts to education funding in his fiscal 2014 budget. “We all know that we must reform the Illinois public pension system. So, members of the General Assembly, what are you waiting for?” Quinn asked during his short budget speech Wednesday. He described his proposal as an honest, balanced budget. In the budget of $35.6 billion in general revenue, the governor recommends cutting general state aid for K-12 education by $150 million, according to the governor’s staff. He is proposing to reduce higher education funding by about $437 million. The line item that supports ag education was proposed to stay at FY 2013

levels of $1.8 million. While cutting some education funding, Quinn stressed he is protecting funding for early childhood education and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for needy college students. The governor’s proposed cuts to education drew the sharpest criticism from legisla-

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tors in both parties from both chambers. “There are other ways to cut other than education,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago). Sen. David Luechtefeld (ROkawville) scoffed at the idea that Quinn had proposed a balanced budget: “We’re not close.” As for the proposed education cuts, the governor “may be wanting to pressure legislators to get something See Budget, page 2

FarmWeek on the web: FarmWeekNow.com

In his budget message, Gov. Pat Quinn focused on the growing share of general revenue funds going toward state employee pensions. The anticipated $6 billion payment in fiscal year 2014 will consume 19 percent of general revenue compared to 6 percent in fiscal year 2008, according to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

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


Quick Takes

AROUND ILLINOIS

FarmWeek Page 2 Monday, March 11, 2013

IMMIGRATION PUSH — As a former scientist with Northern Illinois’ Fermilab federal research facility, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster witnessed firsthand the global brainpower federal visa programs help bring to the States. The Naperville Democrat now seeks new immigration policies that would assure crucial manpower for Illinois producers. He sees “an excellent chance” of moving a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform package through Congress. “Immigrants from all over the world are becoming more and more a part of the fabric of life throughout the Midwest,” Foster told FarmWeek. “They’re hardworking, and in some rural areas, the only people who are keeping small towns alive. Getting a good legal basis for these immigrants is something both parties can feel good about accomplishing.” The physicist/lawmaker noted the importance of foreign-born talent to the “high-tech workforce” and the concentration of first-generation immigrants in ag research. Illinois Farm Bureau’s immigration “strike force” — a newly assembled group of specialty grower and dairy interests — addressed labor concerns last week in a discussion in Washington with Springfield Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin.

NATIONAL AG WEEK NEARS — The agriculture industry will be in the spotlight next week. National Ag Week will run from March 17 to March 24, highlighted by National Ag Day on Tuesday, March 19. The ag “holiday” was started in 1973 by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), an organization composed of leaders in the ag field, including the American Farm Bureau Federation. ACA believes every American should understand how food and fiber is produced; value the role ag plays in a strong economy; and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the ag industry. For more information, visit the website {agday.org}.

IDOA SEEKING PROPOSALS — The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is accepting applications for federal specialty crop grants until April 15. IDOA is anticipating it will distribute about $600,000. USDA defines specialty crops as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.” Proposed projects should do one or more of the following: increase child and adult nutritional knowledge and consumption of specialty crops, improve efficiency and reduce distribution costs, invest in specialty crop research, enhance food safety, develop new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops, improve pest and disease control, or promote organic and sustainable production practices. Proposal packets are available online at {agr.state.il.us/Grants/specialtycrops.html} or by calling Delayne Reeves at 217-524-9129.

(ISSN0197-6680) Vol. 41 No. 10

March 11, 2013

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 Margie Fraley (mfraley@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) Director of News and Communications Michael L. Orso 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

Four Farm Bureau members named Master Farmers Four Illinois farmers have been selected as 2013 Master Farmers by Prairie Farmer magazine. The four will be honored for their community service and farming abilities at a Tuesday ceremony in Bloomington. Award recipients are Ron Bork, Piper City (Ford County); Neil Fearn, Albion (Edwards County); Doug Scheider, Freeport (Stephenson County); and Jim Sheaffer, Dixon (Lee County). All are Farm Bureau members. Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders, and agricultural Extension specialists from throughout the state. GROWMARK Inc. is a financial sponsor of the award. RON BORK’S ancestors have been farming in the Piper City area for more than 140 years. He was raised on the same Ford County farmstead he and wife, Celia, now call home. After graduating from the University of Ron Bork Illinois in 1973, Ron taught agriculture at Cissna Park High School. It was here he met Celia, who was the music teacher. In 1986, Ron got the call to come back to the farm. Ron’s father, Harold, began gradual retirement and worked with his two sons, Ron and Gene, until he passed away in 2002. The Borks have dealt with a couple curveballs in recent years. The first came in 2009 when a longstanding landlord suddenly wanted out of land ownership. Ron and Gene put together a bid and were able to buy the 400 acres, grain bins, and the home that serves as the center of the operation. A second surprise came the following year when Gene announced he was ready to begin retirement. Ron and Celia completed the purchase last year. They have since been joined in the farming operation of 2,800 acres by Jon Clark, who had been working for a local John Deere dealership. The Borks have two daughters. NEIL FEARN has sage advice about the best decision of his life: “If you don’t have a good wife who enjoys farming, you won’t enjoy farming. And if you’re going to do

it, you’ve gotta enjoy it.” Clearly, he and his wife, Debbie, enjoy farming in their Southern Illinois community of Albion in Edwards County. Neil began his farming career in the late 1970s, when he joined Oak Leaf Neil Fearn Farms, farming with his father-in-law, Leon Harris, and brother-in-law, Mike Harris. Over time, Leon retired and today Neil and Mike operate a partnership. Debbie works off the farm at a local bank but is instrumental in record keeping and financial analysis. In addition to double-crop wheat/soybeans and yellow corn, they grow several hundred acres of white corn. They added three semis, hauling for themselves and others, and they’ve expanded their grain system with 180,000 bushels of storage, scales, and a drive-over pit. They have put a range of conservation measures in place to preserve the land and improve production. They also plant cereal rye and rapeseed as cover crops to prevent erosion and boost production. Neil and Debbie are 4-H leaders, youth group leaders, and strong advocates of their rural church’s Fifth Quarter program. DOUG SCHEIDER chose the opposite path at a time when most Illinois farmers were divesting themselves of livestock and focusing solely on row crops: He moved heavier into dairying. The Freeport farmer’s dairy heritage began more than 150 years ago when his great grandfather’s family immigrated to the U.S., settling Doug Scheider in Pennsylvania. A generation later, his paternal grandmother’s family moved to Illinois. Doug was raised three miles west of the current farm’s location. When Doug’s father, Norman, turned 40, he went back to college, and Doug found himself managing the farm.

After graduating from Illinois State University, Doug took a teaching position in Dubuque, Iowa. He was still making trips home to care for the farm. During this time, his father completed his degree and became a pastor, but he contracted kidney disease and died in 1979. That same year, Doug moved home to Stephenson County and began milking 60 cows in a partnership with wife Trish’s parents, Ralph and Maxine Babler. In 1983 Doug and Trish bought a 194-acre farm from his mother, Kathryn. They bought a 154-acre farm just down the road in 1988. Today, Scheidairy Farms milks approximately 650 cows. Doug owns 840 acres and rents another 215 for the dairy’s feed needs. Nearly all of the acres are custom farmed. JIM SHEAFFER believes in getting family members involved. “We’ve always been a family that did a lot of their own work, and the kids — including the girls — all helped as needed,” Jim explained. Today, Jim and his youngest son, Kyle, operate Sheaffer Jim Sheaffer Acres Partnership near Dixon in Lee County. The operation includes a Wyffels Seed dealership. His wife, LouAnn, has been involved since day one. Son Steve helps out in the spring and fall and works at 1st Farm Credit Services. Jim earned the 1976 Illinois Farm Bureau Young Farmer Award, then was named one of three 1977 American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer Award winners. He got his start with 40 acres purchased from his grandfather in 1971. Today, nearly 90 percent of the ground the Sheaffers operate is owned by one of the Sheaffer family members. Jim and Kyle formalized their partnership in 2007, bringing Kyle in as a 30 percent owner in the operation. The Sheaffers took the original 12,000 bushels of storage that came with the farm and increased it to 340,000 bushels. They also added a continuous-flow dryer. “We built half of our grain bins ourselves … we were too cheap to hire anyone else!” Jim laughs.

Continued from page 1 done,” Luechtefeld added. The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s budget for fiscal year 2014 is proposed to stay steady with $20.8 million in general revenue funding. Quinn’s funding plan proposes that the legislature review and reduce “transferout” funds that are distributed to local units of government. Jerry Stermer, Quinn’s senior adviser, admitted that would require changes in state law, but said the governor “is not proposing a specific change.” During a press briefing, the governor’s senior staff repeatedly blamed the need for budg-

et cuts on pension inaction. “We are in the steepest part of the pension (obligation) ramp” of a $6-billion contribution to the state pension fund, said Stermer. He referred to earlier legislation that escalates pension payments. Some lawmakers said they support action on solving the state’s pension problems. “I thought (the speech) was spot on. He addressed pension reform,” said Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake). Sen. Darrin LaHood (RDunlap) said legislators “should be focused on the pension and turning around the fiscal mess that is Illinois.”

“We should be locked in a room until we solve it,” LaHood quipped. In other Springfield action last week, the House voted 657 to cap annual payments to future retirees whose annual salaries exceed $100,000. The bill, as amended, must be voted on by the entire House before it can be sent to the Senate. However, the House did not adopt a proposal to freeze cost-of-living increases for retired workers for 10 years or another proposal that would have required public employees to contribute 2 percent more toward their pensions.

Budget


GOVERNMENT

Page 3 Monday, March 11, 2013 FarmWeek

Farmland assessment system focus Waterway, highway bills of House Revenue Committee hearing on committee agenda IFB staff testify BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

A standing-room-only crowd heard about the state’s method of assessing farmland during a House Revenue and Finance Committee hearing in the Capitol last week Committee Chairman Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) said the committee will have a series of hearings on revenue matters, starting with an overview of farmland assessment. The farmland assessment law is based on the land’s ability to produce crops, said Jim Nichelson, director of legislative affairs with the Illinois Department of Revenue (DOR). DOR works with the five-member Farmland Technical Advisory Board to advise and provide data and technical information needed for implementation

of the law, he explained. Rae Payne and Brenda Matherly, both with Illinois Farm Bureau’s Governmental Affairs and Commodities Division, testified about the methods used to assess farmland and the history of how that method was developed. The state uses an income

capitalization formula to assess farmland just as many other states do, Matherly explained. Illinois’ formula starts with gross income minus non-land expenses and divides that total by current farmland mortgage interest rates. That number is multiplied by one third to get the equalized assessed value. Illinois’ system was adjusted in 1986 to limit annual produc-

tivity index changes up or down to 10 percent. That cap addressed plummeting values, which occurred during the weak farm economy, Matherly noted. Committee member Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) noted IFB has worked with DOR to address disparity issues that have arisen within the assessment system. Matherly and Payne explained that over a period of time, the ratio of certified assessed values of the highest to least productive soils has increased. “Over the course of many years, the ratio has become distorted between the most and least productive soils,” Nichelson agreed. Mautino is sponsoring HB 2651, supported by DOR and IFB, to address the disparity among certified values and to gradually bring those back into alignment.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, right, shares a laugh with Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson and IFB Leaders to Washington participants last week in the U.S. Capitol. The Leaders group visited lawmakers, congressional ag staffs, and USDA officials, addressing topics that included the farm bill, budget issues, global climate concerns, transportation, and crop insurance. (Photo by Adam Nielsen, IFB national legislative director)

Sequestration

Continued from page 1 Furloughs for federal meat inspectors are required under sequestration, raising concerns among producers and packers. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack reported furloughs will be scattered and any resulting disruptions in meat delivery likely will be concentrated in a July-through-September time period. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Illinois spokesman Paige Buck said Washington NRCS officials were “canvassing” individual states regarding short-term conservation program “issues,” to determine “where the hurt is.” “We’re still solvent, as far as we know, and we’re continuing to serve,” she related. Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat, termed sequestration “the last act of one of the

worst congresses we’ve seen in our history.” Mindful of recent concerns about low-water conditions on the Mississippi River, Foster said he is anxious about the impact of sequester on crucial U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations. The American Association for the Advancement of Science projected a 17 percent cut in overall federal research funding under sequester and a possible 30 percent reduction under current House budget proposals, Foster told FarmWeek. “That’s something that I think is just foolish in terms of long-term economic growth, because you cut off the research pipeline,” said the scientist/lawmaker, an advocate of advanced energy research.

BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee prepares to consider the next “highway bill” and a blueprint for the nation’s waterways, American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Andrew Walmsley notes there is “a lot of education going on.” The AFBF policy analyst said he is hopeful Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) will be able to assure Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorization this session. Recent “low-water issues” and the need to accommodate larger “post-Panamax” export vessels underline the need for navigation improvements along the Mississippi River, said Walmsley, who met recently with Shuster’s staff and last week with Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington. He cited committee plans to mark up a water projects bill this spring. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) may move a little quicker on a package, possibly including elements of an industry-backed “capital development plan” to boost available private-public funding for lock upgrades, Walmsley suggested. He sees waterways awareness as a key challenge for Shuster. Walmsley noted nearly half the current Congress was elected after the last WRDA reauthorization in 2007, including Transportation Committee freshmen Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, and Cheri Bustos, an East Moline Democrat. Davis serves on the Transportation Water Resources Subcommittee — subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) has indicated WRDA is “at the top of his mind,” he reported. In a House environment in which lawmakers have outlawed spending for so-called project “earmarks,” reauthorization is crucial to ensure limited funds can be directed toward pressing river needs, Davis maintained. “We have to quit hamstringing our ability to keep the Mississippi River navigation channel open,” Davis said. “Folks don’t understand how crucial that navigation channel is to our economy — to our ag economy, to our coal economy.” Davis also favors new House-Senate proposals that would require the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be used for dredging and channel maintenance. The trust fund is supported through taxes on imports and domestic cargo at U.S. ports, and he stressed the need to block officials from “raiding” it for non-navigation purposes. Meanwhile, Davis anticipates April-May markup of a new surface transportation reauthorization bill, with a possible House vote by September. Last year’s $105 billion measure extended federal highway programs merely through 2014, and Davis campaigned last fall for “a true, long-term transportation bill.” “Transportation reauthorization is crucial to our nation’s infrastructure; it’s crucial to getting our trades and labor folks back to work,” he told FarmWeek.

CME Group, MGEX revise trading hours

The Chicago-based CME Group last week announced it will reduce trading hours for grains and oilseeds from the current 21hour trading day. Electronic and floor trading hours for corn, soybeans and soy-related products, wheat, oats, and rice beginning April 8 will be amended as follows: • Sunday to Friday, electronic trading from 7 p.m. to 7:45 a.m. Central Time (CT). • Monday to Friday, break in electronic trading from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. CT. • Monday to Friday, floor and CME Globex trading from 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. CT. Daily settlements for CME Globex and floor trading of these products will be based on market activity at or around 1:15 p.m. each day. Mini-sized corn, mini-sized soybeans, and mini-sized wheat contracts will continue to trade on CME Globex and on the floor until 1:45 p.m. each day. The Minneapolis Grain Exchange announced it will match CME Group’s trading hours, beginning April 8.


MARKETS

FarmWeek Page 4 Monday, March 11, 2013

Analyst: March crop report not a game-changer BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

USDA on Friday made some minor adjustments to its world supply and demand estimates for corn, soybeans, and wheat. But nothing in the March crop report qualified as a game-changer, according to Jim Bower, president of Bower Trading. Traders in coming weeks mostly will focus on the weather, South American crop production, and the U.S. prospective plantings report that will be released March 28, Bower said during a telecon-

ference hosted by the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. “There was a lot of concern about tightness of oldcrop beans (prior to last week’s report),” Bower said. “But from some reason USDA is hesitant to bring ending stocks for soybeans lower.” USDA on Friday left those stocks unchanged from last month at 125 million bushels for beans and 632 million bushels for corn. Ending stocks of wheat were increased from 691 million to 716 million bushels. The stocks estimates were above trade expectations for

beans and below expectations for corn. Prices on Friday nudged up 3 to 6 cents per bushel for corn and 5 to 6 cents for wheat but posted

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) have recommended Cuba be removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” The State Department reportedly is considering Leahy and company’s request, given Cuba’s role in negotiating peace between the Colombian government and dissident factions. According to Anderson, President Obama’s recent strong showing among south Florida’s Cuban-American voters sends “a tremendous message that there’s space to move on Cuba policy.” “The opportunity here is huge,” Anderson told FarmWeek. “Whether or not U.S. policymakers step to the plate and take that opportunity is still up for grabs. The buzz around (Castro’s announcement) is big; I think the politi-

cal space is there for the administration to take some decisive action.” She argued a shift in U.S.Cuban relations “would raise the U.S.’ image throughout Latin America by several notches.” That’s potentially crucial to commerce in a market where the U.S. and socialist influences such as the Castros and Chavez — who died of cancer last week at age 58 — have struggled for South American influence, Anderson said. New Secretary of State John Kerry has “spoken out strongly” on the need for engagement with Cuba, she noted. The “right-wing early exiles” — older Cuban-Americans who resist engagement with Castro’s Cuba — still have some influence in Congress “but are no longer the

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To listen to Jim Bower’s analysis of the March supply-demand updates from USDA, go to FarmWeekNow.com.

double-digit declines for beans. Soybean supply estimates weren’t tightened despite a record export pace that was due to the anticipation of record crops in South America

(3.1 billion bushels in Brazil and 1.9 billion bushels in Argentina). “There’s a big slug of beans coming out of Brazil,” Bower said. “It’s important soybeans out of South America enter the pipeline as quickly as possible. There are lines (to dump beans) eight to nine days long at ports in Brazil.” USDA left U.S. bean exports unchanged Friday at 1.345 billion bushels. U.S. corn exports were reduced from 900 million to just 825 million bushels, the lowest level since the early 1970s. Feed use of corn, on the

other hand, was raised 100 million bushels due in part to expansion of the poultry sector. Bower said he hopes to see more market action in coming weeks to influence farmers’ planting decisions. He said the March 28 prospective plantings report will be important to set a baseline. “There were no gamechangers in (last week’s) report that will affect producers’ analysis of their crop rotation mix,” he added. “But we still have (supply) tightness providing psychological support to the soybean market.”

majority,” she noted. Cuba’s removal from the terrorist list would eliminate “a huge talking point” from Cuban hardliners. Further, Castro’s heir apparent, current First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, represents a “tremendous generation shift

from the old guard,” she said. “Clearly, (Diaz-Canel is) going to have the same political stance as the current government,” Anderson admitted. “But he’s still a new face and new blood and a new generation.”

New revolution coming in U.S.-Cuban relations?

BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Mavis Anderson, Cuban specialist with the Washington-based Latin American Working Group (LAWG), said he sees promising signs of eventual relaxation of U.S. trade and travel restrictions against Cuba. Cuban President Raul Castro’s planned retirement, the death of Venezuela’s controversial President, Hugo Chavez, and prospects for a new secretary of state who has supported improved U.S.Cuban relations reverberated last week in Florida, Washington, and the Heartland (see accompanying story). Castro, successor to his brother, Fidel, as leader of the 55-year-old communist regime, announced plans to step down in 2018. At the same time, lawmakers led by

CUBA NUMBERS

80 The percent of Cubans estimated to be living in urban areas. Some 600,000 Cubans reportedly are involved in urban ag activity.

200,000 The number of small businesses that have opened in Cuba since 2010 when the government liberalized regulations on private enterprise.

75 percent According to Global Trade Information Services, the U.S. market share of Cuban soybean meal and oil imports in 2006. Now, however, Brazil enjoys more than 75 percent of that market share.

57 The percent of Americans responding to a 2012 poll who called for ending travel restrictions that prevent most U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba.

IFB tourists on Cuba prospects

Last summer, Illinois Farm Bureau toured Cuba as part of its Market Study Tour program. Here are some observations on potential shifts in U.S.-Cuban relations from a pair of tour participants.

Tom Jennings, former Illinois ag director “Regardless of (Secretary of State John) Kerry coming on the scene and his pro-reform stance, we have a real tough row to hoe. “We are years — maybe decades — behind our competitors in terms of trying to gain a foothold in Cuba that would facilitate ‘trade.’ “It seems to me that we want to sell our products to Cuba but may be a little light on the investment in infrastructure needed to enable it to accept our wares. I am encouraged we are changing our stance in policy. “I expect the quality of our products, our robust ability to deliver, the transportation logistics, and all of the positive aspects of trade you can articulate are currently outweighed by our 60-plus years of snubbing our nose at them. Our ability to ingratiate ourselves with Cuba is key to success.” Keith Mussman, Kankakee County egg farmer “I think it’s probably a little early to determine Cuba-U.S. relations under a new regime. I do sense the intense opposition in Florida against the Castros. When they are gone, I would bet dialogue opens up.”

Could U.S. agriculture ‘own’ Cuban market?

At 90 miles away, with key river transportation and commodity containerization capabilities, U.S. producers could virtually “own” the Cuban market, Illinois Soybean Association Chairman Bill Wykes argues. “We’re losing significant market share on our soy exports to Cuba because of restrictions the U.S. imposes on financial transactions with Cuba,” said Wykes, a Yorkville grower who toured Cuba last month. “When it comes to feeding people, we need to put our political differences aside.” Mavis Anderson, Cuba specialist with the Latin American Working Group, said she believes improved U.S.-Cuban relations would greatly benefit U.S. agriculture. The U.S. allowed food shipments to Cuba in 2001, but sales have fallen annually because of administration restrictions. The American Soybean Association favors suspending Cuban trade, financial, and travel restrictions and urges Cuban eligibility for federally authorized checkoff activities, USDA Foreign Market Development and Market Access Program support, and the U.S. Export Credit Guarantee Program. Wykes said he was buoyed by prospects for increased use of U.S. soy products in Cuban hog and poultry production, and the Cuban market offers promise for exports of U.S. chicken leg quarters in low demand on the mainland — a potential boost for U.S. poultry production and thus soy consumption. Further, Cuban officials reported efforts to step up the nation’s school “soymilk program,” Wykes told FarmWeek. One of the most revolutionary changes has been emergence of urban agriculture — city dwellers retraining to supply production co-ops in and around Havana. The co-op system has given rise both to renewed specialty production and minor league capitalism: Novice growers are permitted to sell a portion of their production in local markets. Citing Cuban concerns about corn and soybean production and specialization in fruit and vegetable production, Wykes argued two-way trade would enable “us to do what we do best and trade with people who do what they do best.” And it could facilitate more efficient containerized traffic in U.S. soybeans. Cuba has a growing soybean crush and port container facilities, but container traffic to Cuba today would be a “deadhead” — Cuban goods can’t be loaded onto containers for reshipment back into the U.S. — Martin Ross


GOVERNMENT

Page 5 Monday, March 11, 2013 FarmWeek

EPA pick strong signal President’s pick from the administration? favors broad mix BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Biofuels groups applauded, fossil energy interests were cautiously optimistic toward, and Farm Bureau regarded with interest the White House’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The current EPA assistant administrator, picked to succeed controversial Administrator Lisa Jackson, now heads the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. “It’s a pick that makes sense for the president,” American Farm Bureau Federation regulatory specialist Andrew Walmsley told FarmWeek. “When he wants to go after climate Gina McCarthy change and what he can do in the air (quality) arena, she’s as knowledgeable as anyone.” Walmsley reported McCarthy’s air quality guidance has “drawn some fire” from industry, and some have labeled her the president’s “green quarterback.” At the same time, he noted McCarthy was environmental adviser to former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee member Jerome Paulson argued McCarthy “has demonstrated she can put science above politics.” Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, recently rejected rumors that the administration might quickly crack down on emissions from existing power plants as a tradeoff for approving a

transcontinental Keystone XL oil pipeline with an Illinois connection, he noted. President Obama has blocked Keystone construction for three years, but the State Department released a positive environmental/safety review of the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline on March 1. Whether EPA attempts to ease “the angst of the environmental community” via a deal for approving the pipeline would be a key barometer of McCarthy’s direction as agency chief, Walmsley said. He also noted speculation on EPA’s interpretation of rules for addressing “fine” particulate matter — tiny airborne particles found in industrial discharges or automotive emissions. Livestock interests are concerned about regulation of emissions from farms and a possible EPA focus on ammonia-based particulates. EPA’s Science Advisory Board Animal Feeding Operations Emission Review Panel maintains the agency currently lacks the data to regulate livestock/poultry emissions. “It will be interesting to see if (EPA officials) heed the advice of the advisory board,” Walmsley said. At the same time, he noted McCarthy’s continued biofuels support. McCarthy was key in discussions leading to EPA approval of 15 percent ethanol (E15) blends for 2001 and newer vehicles. “They’ve been staying strong on the RFS, trying to find new pathways for different fuels, getting E15 through,” Walmsley said. “But when it comes to regulation of new power plants and, potentially, efforts to go after existing ones, that gives us concern.”

Vilsack: technology, market access vital for agriculture BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

The rural population is at its lowest number in U.S. history. But the importance of farming continues to grow, according to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. Vilsack, during his keynote address at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla., earlier this month said rural citizens account for just 16 percent of the U.S. population. He said he believes it is vital to continue to invest in ag research, technology, and infrastructure improvements and to improve market access so U.S. farmers, who make up less than 2 percent of the population, can feed more people in the future with fewer inputs. “Agriculture not only is a food provider but a job creator,” Vilsack said. “Since 1980, farming is the second-most productive part of the economy, largely due to technology.” Vilsack noted improvements in technology and farming practices helped U.S. farmers last year produce the fifth largest corn crop and seventh largest soybean crop on record despite the worst drought since 1988. “That technology has to continue to be embraced if we’re going to meet the enormous challenge of the future and grow food production by 70 percent (by 2050),” he said. “We must invest more in ag research.” Meanwhile, most energy produced in the U.S. comes from rural America. The increased production of biofuels and other energy sources in rural

America helped the U.S. the past five years cut its reliance on foreign oil from 62 percent to 45 percent. “An ever-increasing supply (of energy) comes from what you produce,” Vilsack told farmers at Commodity Classic. “Reliance on foreign oil is the lowest in a decade.” Elsewhere, the past four years have been some of the best in history for U.S. ag exports. U.S. ag exports for fiscal year 2013 recently were projected to reach $142 billion. “This is expected to be a record year (for exports),” Vilsack said. “We’re seeing new opportunities for beef in Japan, Mexico, and Hong Kong as (trade) barriers come down. “We need a program in the farm bill that allows for (future) market access (and development),” he continued. “Every $1 spent on trade promotion provides a $35 return.” Vilsack said he is hopeful current discussions of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union will create export opportunities for U.S. agriculture. “Agriculture has to be at the (negotiating) table,” he said. “We have serious differences of opinion (about the role of biotechnology in food production).” The FTA with Europe could be of limited use to American ag if commodities, such as soybeans, are held to “outdated sustainability benchmarks,” according to Steve Wellman, chairman of the American Soybean Association. “Traits really hold the key to a more sustainable system and higher-quality soy products,” he said.

The president’s pick for energy secretary is a scientist rather than a politician, but Ernest Moniz has proven savvy in charting both future energy sources and the economic and political realities of energy policy. That’s according to Moniz’s academic colleagues, energy industry representatives, and fellow physicist and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat. As director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, Moniz has led four major studies on potential energy sources. He served as associate science director in the Clinton administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1995 to 1997 and DOE Ernest Moniz undersecretary during the following four years. Moniz is a supporter of renewable and nuclear energy (which he sees as a partial solution to greenhouse gas pollution). He has called for improved oversight of rather than prohibi-

Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington met with Rep. Bill Foster during the organization’s semi-annual tour of Capitol Hill.

tions on natural gas extraction through hydraulic “fracking.” Foster is a long-time acquaintance of both Moniz and retiring Energy Secretary Steven Chu. While Chu focused on securing DOE’s “longterm research portfolio,” the congressman said, Moniz likely will look to “deploy all of our energy assets in a way that helps the economy the most.” “I think you’re going to get a much more business-oriented outlook with Ernie,” Foster, a former DOE Fermilab scientist, told FarmWeek. “Over the last few years, he has served on a number of committees that are actually looking Rep. Bill Foster realistically at the energy options for the United States, very much from an economic point of view. I think you’re going to find that all parties will get a fair and balanced hearing.” Novozymes North America President Adam Monroe, whose company produces enzymes for the biofuels sector, maintained Moniz “understands how the department’s renewable energy programs allow the public and private sector to conduct cutting-edge science and research, leading to more jobs and investment in our economy.” Moniz’s nomination was not universally hailed: Some environmentalists have labeled him a “shill for fracking.” Foster noted environmental and ag groups are concerned about possible groundwater contamination resulting from “hydrofracking” — pumping liquid into shale deposits. However, he sees Moniz as well-equipped to evaluate fracking safety and viability and guide research into “improved, cheaper, and safer nuclear designs” that, ideally, might defuse partisan opposition to low-footprint nuclear power and help nuclear compete with low natural gas prices. — Martin Ross

WASHINGTON HAPPENINGS Emergency services. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded $220,500 to the Fulton County Emergency Medical Association and $39,690 to the Sterling Fire Department in Whiteside County. Since 2001, the DHS Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program has provided $5.25 billion to help agencies purchase equipment, protective gear, training, and vehicles. “These funds will help make sure our brave first responders have the equipment they need to continue to do their jobs and ensure the safety of our local communities,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, an East Moline Democrat who with Springfield Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin helped secure grants. Regulation. Farm Bureau and dozens of other groups signed on to a letter applauding bipartisan House sponsors of the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013. The bill would eliminate new permitting requirements for pesticide applications over water. Farm groups maintain pesticides already are regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Permit compliance requirements “impose resource and liability burdens on thousands of small businesses, farms, municipalities, counties, and state and federal agencies legally responsible for protecting public health,” and expose them to citizen lawsuits, groups stated.


PRODUCTION

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Forecast calls for transition to more spring-like conditions BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Farmers in Illinois likely won’t get the head start on corn planting this month that they did last March. A late-season surge of winter weather dropped as much as 20 inches of snow in Northern Illinois during February. That was followed by a storm last week that dumped 4-6 inches of snow across Central Illinois and another 6-10 inches to the north. “Better late than never, but it was kind of odd,” Jim Angel, state climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey, said of the recent snowy pattern. Most locations in the state, except East-Central Illinois, now have typical snowfall totals for the season after a snow “drought” the first half of winter. Winter snowfall totals typically average about a foot in Southern Illinois, 2 feet in Cen-

tral Illinois, and 3 feet in Northern Illinois. As of last week, snowfall for the season totaled between 15 and 20 inches in Southern Illinois, 20 to 30 inches in Western and Northern Illinois, and close to 40 inches along the Wisconsin border. Much of the recent precipitation was snow because temperatures averaged just 29.3 degrees in February, 1.5 degrees below average. Last week, the statewide average temperature was about 9 degrees below average. Overall, Illinois for the winter months of December, January, and February received 9.1 inches of precipitation, 2.2 inches above average. That made it the 11th wettest winter on record. “The stats are pretty positive in most of the state for rainfall and water content from snow,” Angel said. “The only areas of concern (as of

last week) are in far Northern and Western Illinois.” The U.S. Drought Monitor last week showed a band of abnormally dry conditions in Western Illinois that ran east along the Interstate 80 corridor. Parts of Northwestern Illinois were in moderate drought. The forecast on Friday called for temperatures to return to normal for this time of year, with highs in the 40s and 50s and lows in the 20s and 30s. There was a chance of showers over the weekend. “This year we have a much wetter and more active weather pattern,” Angel added. “It’s a big contrast to last year, when we already were seeing signs of being on the dry side.” Last March was the warmest on record in the state. The warm, dry conditions allowed farmers last year to plant 5 percent of the state’s corn crop in March.

in seed capital for a new Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Ag Rescue Training Fund. Because IFSI operates through the University of Illinois, the rescue fund is administered by the U of I Foundation and thus will accrue an added $1,000 per year. That alone is enough to finance an

additional 158 ag rescue training hours for firefighters statewide, IFSI Corporate Relations Director Dennis Spice told FarmWeek. Given the “low, low” cost of IFSI’s rescue training programs, that boost should prove especially beneficial for cash-tight rural volunteer fire departments, Spice said.

IFB helps kick off new rescue training fund BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

Illinois Farm Bureau and affiliates are helping raise the ag learning curve for Illinois emergency responders and, potentially, the rural community at large. In 2012, IFB, GROWMARK, and Country Financial helped generate $25,000

“If in the future, we can get $250,000, we’ll have $10,000 and be able to do even more,” he suggested. “Our goal is to be able to expand the program so we can train not only firefighters but also grain elevator operators and others in the private sector to the standards the fire service has.” To learn more about or to donate to the training fund, visit {fsi.illinois.edu} on the web. Potentially anonymous online contributions can be made by clicking the site’s “Giving” heading. More than 65,000 firefighters and rescue workers participated in IFSI’s diverse safety courses in 2012, including all Chicago firefighters. Meanwhile, IFSI has divided its grain bin rescue curriculum into more focused components: a four-hour “awareness level” class for first responders who lack confined

The New High Value Crop WANTED:

One tractor, working

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The Illinois Soybean Association created the Yield Challenge three years ago to boost yields. Our goal is to help meet the growing worldwide demand and to make Illinois soybean growers the global leaders in soybean production. Soybeans can be the new high value crop. We are inviting growers from across Illinois to explore, strategize and test new methods and crop protection products. Each district will have a first and second place award of $500 and $250. Plus, each winner will receive a certificate and recognition at the annual Illinois Commodity Conference!

For more details and to register, please visit www.soyyieldchallenge.com or email yieldchallenge@ilsoy.org. Registration Fee: Only $25 per participant!

space training or equipment and an advanced “operations” level class for on-the-ground response teams. “We want to get the right information out at the proper levels,” IFSI Ag Rescue Program Manager Dave Newcomb said. Given grain transportation, storage, and processing facilities throughout Chicagoland, Newcomb stressed rural rescue training has applications for urban areas, as well. He cited a recent incident at a metro cement plant where a worker was engulfed in a mixing vat filled with sand. “They (successfully) used the same rescue technique as in (stored) corn,” Newcomb noted. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Loop or out in whatever county you want to think of — the incidents are out there. There’s risk out there every day.”

The Illinois Fire Safety Institute (IFSI) has put out the call: Wanted, one operating tractor. After years of searching, IFSI recently was able to obtain two tractors for rollover safety demonstrations. Now, the Champaign-based training institute is seeking a tractor with working hydraulics and an operating power takeoff (PTO) to provide advance training in PTO entanglements and related hazards. The institute relies on equipment donations to help provide a rounded ag rescue program for firefighters and other first responders statewide (see accompanying story). IFSI is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and thus machinery contributions are tax-deductible. The institute will certify the donorstated value of the tractor for tax purposes. For further information or to donate a tractor, contact Dave Newcomb, IFSI ag rescue program manager, at 217-333-3800.


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COMMODITIES

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Research shows intensive management key to higher soy yields

Farmers for years have taken advantage of soybeans’ ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Corn following soybeans can yield 25 bushels or more per acre than continuous corn, according to Fred Below, University of Illinois plant physiologist. But what some farmers may not realize is the amount of nitrogen corn removes from the soil and the amount of fertility required to grow optimal soybean yields. Below believes many farmers currently are leaving soybean yield potential in the field

due to gaps in fertility and management strategies. “Farmers aren’t really managing for high (soy) yields, especially when it comes to fertility,” Below said last week at the Illinois Soybean Profitability Summit in Normal. The event was organized by the Illinois Soybean Association. “A lot of farmers put fertilizer on corn and expect soybeans to take what’s left,” he continued. “They don’t realize the needs of a highyield soybean crop.” The seed industry currently is working toward a goal of producing 300bushel corn. Below said the Holy Grail of soybean pro-

duction would be to basically double the U.S. average yield from 42 bushels to 85 bushels per acre. “A lot of people think soybean yields have stagnated. That’s not true,” he said. “An 85-bushel soy yield is possible.” Below highlighted what he believes are the six keys to growing high-yielding beans. The first factor, which farmers can’t control, is weather. But the second, fertility, is a yield-limiting factor that farmers can improve. Below noted cornstalks provide up to two-thirds of the potassium required for a following soy crop, but phosphorous

levels often are lacking in bean fields. “You’re not adequately fertilizing your beans,” he advised farmers at the summit. Other key factors to improve soy yields are increased focus on genetics/variety selection, maintaining foliar protection, the use of seed treatments, and row arrangement. Marion Calmer, a farmer and president of Calmer Ag Research in Alpha, said research on his farm from 2008 through 2011 showed a yield bump of 4 bushels per acre using 15-inch rows compared to 30-inch rows. U of I researchers last

Woodland owners and their trees contributed more than $23 billion to the economy of Illinois in 2010; however, that value could have been even larger, according to Jay Hayek, an Extension forestry specialist at the University of Illinois.

Recently, two forest economists, Ian Munn and James Henderson, analyzed Illinois’ 2010 economic data and wrote a report on the forestry industry impact on the state. Illinois woodland owners sold timber valued at $16.66

million in 2010, but they undersold their timber, Hayek said. “Illinois woodland owners have sold nearly $225 million worth of standing timber since fiscal year 2003, or nearly $22.5 million annually,” he said. However, more than 90 per-

cent of Illinois woodland owners don’t use the services of a trained forester to help them market and administer timber sales, he noted. Woodland owners who work with an independent professional forester frequently earn “25 to 220 percent more revenue and frequently leave more high-quality trees for future timber sales when they work with a professional forester throughout the timber sale process,” Hayek said. Given the economic value of Illinois’ forest sector, the state’s Division of Forest Resources and U of I Extension forestry staff levels should be re-evaluated to grow the forestry-based economic impact, according to Hayek. “It scares me to think just how big this number could have been (with) adequate professional forestry staffing,” Hayek said. For example, the state has not had a forest products specialist for more than 13 years. One of the main complaints Hayek has fielded from the forest products industry is that Illinois is unfriendly to small business owners in terms of taxes and the high

BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

year conducted trials at four locations around the state (Champaign, DeKalb, Harrisburg, and Rushville) that compared intensive management soy production systems focusing on the previously mentioned strategies with conventional systems. The yield response to intensive management systems averaged 9.9 more bushels per acre at all the sites, according to Jason Haegele, U of I research associate. “We get the greatest possible yield gain with a systems approach,” he said. For more information, visit the website {cropphysiology.cropsci.illinois.edu}.

Timber: An Illinois cash crop, but value could grow

TIMBER NUMBERS 13.4 Percent of the state’s total land area covered by timber.

4.78 million Number of timber acres in Illinois.

$16.66 million The value of timber sold by Illinois landowners from their wooded property in 2010. Source: Illinois Forestry Development Council

cost of workers’ compensation. Those two factors combined caused many loggers and sawmills to leave Illinois for Missouri and Indiana. “Sadly, Illinois has lost nearly 225 primary wood-using sawmills since 1961,” Hayek said. “Today, there are fewer than 85 production sawmills left in a state with nearly 5 million acres of forest land.” The forest economic report, commissioned by the Illinois Forestry Development Council, is available online at {ifdc.nres.uiuc.edu/}.

WIU sets annual bull sale Friday

Western Illinois University’s (WIU) beef evaluation station will have its 41st annual performance tested bull sale beginning at 7 p.m. Friday in the WIU Livestock Center, Macomb. Fifty bulls are available for sale. Breeds represented are Angus, Hereford, Red Angus, Simmental, Gelbvieh, Balancer, Charolais-Angus hybrids, and Simmental-Angus hybrids. All bulls are Merial SureHealth-certified and tested free of Johnes disease, PI-BVD and known genetic defects. At the sale date, they will have completed a breeding soundness exam. The WIU bull testing station is open daily for viewing of the bulls prior to the sale. Lowderman Auction Service will auctioneer the sale. For more information and a sale catalog, contact the WIU School of Agriculture at 309-298-1080. The sale catalog and additional information also is available online at {wiu.edu/ag}.


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AG PROMOTION

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Riverton racer’s stock rises fast in NASCAR series BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

It’s no coincidence Illinois native Justin Allgaier has become a formidable race car driver in one of NASCAR’s top series and fan favorite off the track. The easy-going Allgaier honed his racing and people skills while growing up in the Central Illinois farming community of Riverton, a town of about 2,600 people located just east of Springfield in Sangamon County. “I started racing (quarter midgets) when I was 5,” Allgaier told FarmWeek this month at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. “I really don’t know anything other than that. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.” His skills are good not only for the sport but also the agriculture industry. Allgaier, who races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (he was tied for the series lead after the first two of 33 races this season and finished sixth last year), is sponsored by a local-based ag company,

Justin Allgaier, left, a race car driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and a native of Riverton (Sangamon County), chats with Kim Turnbull, a farmer, this month at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. Allgaier attended the event to meet fans and promote his race team, which is sponsored in part by Brandt Consolidated of Springfield. (Photo by Daniel Grant)

Brandt Consolidated in Springfield. The No. 31 Brandt/Turner Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro sports the motto “Professional Agriculture” in the paint scheme. The car even has an FFA logo on the rear quarterpanel. “We’re trying to maintain an image that represents

American agriculture on the track,” said Bill Engel, corporate vice president of specialty formulations for Brandt Consolidated. “Justin, being a small town guy who grew up close to Springfield, is a natural fit.” Allgaier seems to be a natural on the track, as well. The 2009 Nationwide Rookie

of the Year, nicknamed “Little Gator” for his size and ferocity behind the wheel, last year posted 19 top 10 finishes and one victory (NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal). He previously raced in the ARCA RE/MAX series and won a series championship in 2008. In fact, he collected his first ARCA win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds track in Springfield. Allgaier currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., near his race team’s headquarters. But he said he still enjoys getting back to Central Illinois, where his family sells race tires. The competition in NASCAR is “tougher than ever” but Allgaier said he also likes the current direction of the sport. “In our sport (which relies on sponsorships and race attendance), we rise and fall with the economy,” Allgaier said. “All our races (during the opening weekend at Daytona) were extremely well-attended.” The Nationwide Series made national headlines at the

opening race in Daytona when a multi-car wreck sent a car driven by Kyle Larson into the frontstretch catch fence. Parts of the car flew into the grandstand and 28 spectators were injured. Allgaier was in the middle of the crash, Larson’s car ended up on top of Allgaier’s No. 31, but Allgaier couldn’t see much as the hood flew open and blocked his view during the accident. “It was an unbelievable crash. I’ve never been in anything like it before,” Allgaier said. “But all the cars did the job and we all walked away.” NASCAR is evaluating the incident to make future improvements to the cars and tracks. “The stuff (safety equipment) we have on our cars now is the result of other crashes,” Allgaier noted. The Daytona accident certainly didn’t slow Allgaier down, however. He finished third the following week in the Nationwide race in Phoenix.

The Brandt Consolidated No. 31 race car, driven by Riverton native Justin Allgaier, leads the pack during a recent NASCAR Nationwide Series Event. (Photo courtesy of CIA Stock Photography, Tommy Grassman)

Tuesday: • Ag weather with Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis • New Master Farmers Ron Bork, Ford County Farm Bureau; Neil Fearn, Edwards County Farm Bureau; Doug Scheider, Stephenson County Farm Bureau; and Jim Sheaffer, Lee County Farm Bureau Wednesday: • Karen Fraase, Bureau of Marketing and Promotion, Illinois Department of Agriculture • Jeff Mays, Illinois Business Roundtable • Samantha Schultz, field mom with Illinois Farm Families • Terry Smith, Adam County Farm Bureau Thursday: • Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon • Derek Dunkirk, president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association • Nic Anderson, director of the Illinois Livestock Development Group • Josh Darr, meteorologist with Chesapeake Energy Friday: • Sara Wyant, Agri-Pulse publisher • Mike Orso, publisher of Illinois Farm Bureau Partners • Story time with Alan Jarand

To find a radio station near you that carries the RFD Radio Network, go to FarmWeeknow.com, click on “Radio,” then click on “Affiliates.”


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FB IN ACTION

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PORK LESSON

The Schuyler County Farm Bureau conducted 24 Ag in the Classroom pork lessons with Washington and Webster students at Rushville during the month of February. Students in pre-K through second grade listened to a book about pigs and learned pork facts, then made a pig valentine. Third and fourth grade students participated in Pork Bingo. They listened to a definition of a pork fact and marked the pork vocabulary word on their Bingo sheets. When someone yelled OINKO, the students received a product made from pork. Prizes consisted of sausage sticks, Vienna sausage, pork rinds, crayons, and JELL-O. Students learned the many things that are made from pigs. All classes were served pork pizza snacks made from crackers, pizza sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. Pictured is Mrs. Jane Howard’s first grade class as they were making pig valentines. (Photo submitted by Farm Bureau manager Kelly Westlake)

County Farm Bureaus rewarded for ag literacy

Six Illinois county Farm Bureaus were rewarded last week for their ag literacy efforts by the American Farm Bureau Federation Foundation for Agriculture. The foundation awarded $500 mini-grants each for agricultural education efforts. The grants are funded through the WhiteReinhardt Fund for Education program and are awarded for new projects or to extend existing ones. The county Farm Bureaus and their projects are: • Adams County Farm Bureau, ag literacy kids with access to accurate agricultural information for students and teachers; • Cook County Farm Bureau, a four-part summer program encouraging children to read and experience agriculture in urban Cook County, including field trips, reading, and activities; • Lawrence County Farm Bureau, expansion of resource library and initiation of an Ag in the Classroom “book of the month” club; • Lee County Farm Bureau, a “sub tub” that provides substitute teachers with alternative ideas, allowing the substitutes to engage students in meaningful discussions about agriculture; and • Menard County Farm Bureau and Sangamon County Farm Bureau (combined award), 167 copies of the book “Who Grew My Soup?” to distribute among public and school libraries that offer summer programs based on the book. The winners were selected based on the effectiveness of their programs to encourage students to learn more about agriculture and to make a strong link between education and agriculture.

Growers: Remember to register for Prairie Bounty of Illinois

Specialty growers may reach buyers and consumers through the online Prairie Bounty of Illinois that is provided by the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Specialty Growers. Prairie Bounty is a directory of direct-from-the-farm sellers, farmers’ markets, and agritourism businesses and is online at {specialtygrowers.org/prairie-bounty.html}. The directory contains contact information and locations for more than 900 farmers across Illinois who produce fruit, vegetables, and herbs. The directory is searchable by city, county, or ZIP code. Prairie Bounty is updated constantly as growers add their names and markets to the system. To add a name and business to Prairie Bounty of Illinois, contact Diane Handley with the Illinois Specialty Growers at 309557-3662 or email her at dhandley@ilfb.org. Instructions on how to register also are available at {specialtygrowers.org}.

LIVING FARM HISTORY

Rick Trahan, a blacksmith and site supervisor at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, heats metal to make an ornamental leaf. The working blacksmith shop, a replica of Deere’s original shop, is one of five components at the site, which is operated by the John Deere Co. The site is open from May through October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. (Photo by Ken Kashian)


FROM THE COUNTIES

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ROWN — Farm Bureau and Two Rivers FS will cosponsor a Farm Bureau day from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Mt. Sterling Fast Stop. Drawings, kids’ games, and free food will be available. UREAU — The Young Leaders Committee farm pool listing is complete. The list of residents interested in full or part-time agricultural-related labor is available at the Farm Bureau office. Call the Farm Bureau office for more information. • Farm Bureau, the University of Illinois Extension, and Ag View FS will host iPad Basics and iPad for Agriculture classes from either 3 to 5 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 18, at the Bureau County Extension office in Princeton. Cost is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Registered 4-H volunteers and Bureau County teachers who are using Ag in the Classroom may attend for $10. Call the Farm Bureau office at 875-6468 or email bcfb@comcast.net to register or for more information. • Bureau County Farm Bureau and Illinois Farm Bureau will cosponsor a multi-county trucking regulation and crop insurance seminar at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Geneseo Moose Lodge. Advanced registration is requested. Call the Farm Bureau office at 8756468 to register. HRISTIAN — Farm Bureau’s trivia night will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23. Cost is $50 per team. Registration deadline is March 15. • The Young Leader kickoff meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Call the Farm Bureau office at 824-2940 to register. • Farm Bureau will sponsor an estate tax information meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at the Farm Bureau building. Call the Farm Bureau office at 8242940 to register. DGAR — The Farm Bureau Foundation will sponsor a trivia night at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Farm Bureau building. Proceeds will benefit Foundation education scholarships. Contact the Farm Bureau office at 4658511 for more information. ULTON — Farm Bureau will host a Farmer’s Share breakfast to celebrate Agriculture Week from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the Farm Bureau office. Cost will be 63 cents. ACKSON — The Young Farmers will host a tractor drive for Cardinal

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Glennon Medical Center at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at the David Canning Auction Service in Murphysboro. Call the Farm Bureau office at 684-3129 for more information. • The Young Farmer’s Committee will provide free oak saplings. Call 684-3129 to order. Saplings will be bundled and ready for pickup on April 12. • Farm Bureau will sponsor a defensive driving course from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, March 25, and Tuesday, March 26, at the Farm Bureau office. Advanced registration is required. Call Bob Tyson, instructor, at 684-5643 to register. Participants 55 and older will receive a discount on their auto insurance. ANKAKEE — Farm Bureau and the Kankakee Public Library will cosponsor a speech by Orion Samuelson at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kankakee Public Library. ASALLE — Farm Bureau and the University of Illinois Extension will sponsor an iPad for Agriculture class from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the Farm Bureau office. Cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Participants must bring their own iPad. Call 433-0371 to register. • The county Farm Bureau board of directors will host a call-a-thon from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 21, to collect ideas, concerns, and needs of the membership. Members not receiving a call should contact their Farm Bureau district director or manager Jeff Hartman at 4330371. • Businesses celebrating National Ag Week, March 1822, with extra savings are: Frank’s Lock & Safe Service in Ottawa, $5 service call; Hammer’s Hearing Care Center in LaSalle, $500 off any wireless hearing aid (not valid with any other discount offer); Wendy SandersMaubach, O.D., P.C. of LaSalle, 40 percent off sunwear; and Annette Barr Photography Studio in Ottawa, 50 percent off any photo session. EE — Farm Bureau will sponsor a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the Farm Bureau office for members who would like to serve on the county Farm Bureau’s 100th Anniversary Committee. Contact the Farm Bureau office at 857-3531 or email leecfb@comcast.net if you are interested in helping. ERCER — Foundation scholarship applications are available to

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Farm Bureau members or a child of a Farm Bureau member. Applications are available at {mercercfb.org} or by email at mcfb1@frontiernet.net. Up to seven $1,000 scholarships will be awarded. Application deadline is March 31. • Farm Bureau will host an iPad training class from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Farm Bureau office. Chris Zimmerman, Black Hawk College, will teach the class. Cost is $10 for members and $20 for non-members. Call the Farm Bureau office at 582-5116 or email mcfb1@frontiernet.net to register or for more information. ONTGOMERY — The Prime Timers will conduct a corned beef and cabbage lunch at noon Wednesday, March 20, at the Farm Bureau building. The Hillsboro High School choir will perform after lunch. Cost is $9. Call 532-6171 by 4:30 p.m. Friday for reservations or more information. NION — Farm Bureau will offer free oak saplings. Call 833-2125 to order. Sapling bundles will be

M U

ready for pickup on April 12. • Farm Bureau will sponsor a defensive driving course from 1 to 5 Wednesday, March 20, and Thursday, March 21, at the Farm Bureau office. Call Bob Tyson, instructor, at 684-5643 to register. Participants 55 and older will receive a discount on their auto insurance. AYNE — Farm Bureau’s annual meeting will be at 6 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Fairfield. Alan Jarand, RFD Radio Network director, will be the speaker. The official notice of the annual meeting is available in the February edition of the Wabash Valley Ag News or at {waynecfb.com}. Call the Farm Bureau office at 8423342 for reservations. • Wayne, Clay, Crawford, Edwards, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, and White County Farm Bureaus will sponsor a grain handling safety seminar from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Wabash Valley College. Contact your county Farm Bureau office to register. • The Young Leader Committee will collect non-perish-

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able food donations on Friday at the annual meeting as part of the Harvest for All program. Food will be donated to a local food bank. • Farm Bureau Foundation and Young Leader collegiate scholarship applications are available at {waynecfb.com}. Application deadline is Sunday, March 31. HITE — Farm Bureau Young Leader collegiate scholarship applications are available at {whitecfb.com}. Application deadline is Sunday, March 31. OODFORD — Farm Bureau will sponsor a state legislative meet and greet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, in the Farm Bureau auditorium. Call the Farm Bureau office a 4672347 for more information.

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“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.

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PROFITABILITY

FarmWeek Page 14 Monday, March 11, 2013

Aflatoxin strategy: Get it cold, stop the mold

For those of you who still have stored grain in your possession, the battle with our archenemy, aflatoxin, is far from over. We continue to hear reports of producers and elevators discovering significant contamination of grain that seemingly was fine when put into storage. Mild winter temperatures and inadequate cooling of the grain mass have allowed the Aspergillus flavus mold to reactivate. This is causing many bins to go out of condition and potentially become contaminated with aflatoxin. RANDY HOLTHAUS

Aflatoxins usually are present in highest concentrations in the foreign material (FM) and broken, cracked kernels. We have been doing some testing with gravity cleaners, and reducing the FM has been successful in reducing contamination levels. However, research has also shown that aflatoxin levels are not always reduced by cleaning. This is because aflatoxins can be present at high levels in kernels that appear sound and undamaged. The frustration with this entire aflatoxin dilemma is in the lack of clear, straightforward solutions.

According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Extension Service publication ID-59, Aflatoxins in Corn, aflatoxin production by the A. flavus fungus is suppressed below 55 degrees Randy Holthaus Fahrenheit (F). The fungus can still grow below 55 degrees F, but it does not produce aflatoxin. The conservative approach is to assume that the harvested

crop is contaminated with A. flavus spores and handle it so as to minimize the risk of aflatoxin development. Even though we can control the aflatoxin threat when we get the grain below 55 degrees F, the mold can remain active. This generates heat, which warms the grain mass and kick-starts the process all over again. Your stored grain can become a runaway train in a matter of days or hours if the mold growth is not controlled. The goal right now is get it cold. We don’t recommend freezing grain — just abovefreezing temperatures are opti-

Randy Holthaus is GROWMARK’s grain systems operation manager. His email address is rholthaus@growmark.com.

Crude oil production increased by 790,000 barrels per day between 2011 and 2012, which was the largest increase in daily oil output since the beginning of U.S. crude oil production in 1859. The administration forecast oil output will increase by 815,000 barrels per day this year and by 570,000 barrels per day in 2014. “Crude oil reserves were on

a downtrend from 1980 to 2009,” Sieminski said. “But since then, (crude reserves) have taken a sharp upward turn. “We think domestic oil production, which was about five million barrels a day three or four years ago, by the end of next year could be eight million barrels a day,” he said. The boost in oil production, which also created a boom in natural gas output, has been due in large part to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The new techniques have allowed producers to drill in tight rock formations in states such as North Dakota and Texas. Consumption of oil and gasoline, meanwhile, is expected to decrease due to increased fuel economy standards and growth of non-traditional fuel use such as ethanol, biodiesel, and liquefied natural gas. “We could see heavy-duty

trucks running on liquefied natural gas in the not-too-distant future,” said Sieminski, who believes the U.S. could be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020. So why did fuel prices jump in recent months despite rising oil supplies and softening demand? “We think it’s partly attributable to higher crude prices and higher crack spreads (margins for gasoline),” Sieminski told FarmWeek. “We think another thing causing it is unexpected refinery closures.” Fuel prices are expected to stabilize and possibly decline in coming weeks due to increased imports from Europe. “We think, from what we know now, the worst (of the current gas spike) is over,” Sieminski said. EIA recently posted a report on its website {eia.gov} that provides more details about the recent jump in fuel prices.

mum right now. As the season warms, try to keep your grain below 50 degrees F. Inspect your stored grain at least once a week for signs of surface wetting, heating, or crusting. Don’t plan to store corn from 2012 into the summer months if you can avoid it, especially if you suspect or find mold activity and aflatoxin contamination. For more information or assistance, contact your FS grain systems specialist.

EIA chief: Oil production rising, gasoline demand declining BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek The recent run-up in the price of regular gasoline and diesel fuel could add to spring planting costs for farmers who haven’t booked their fuel needs. The national average retail price of regular gasoline so far this year increased about 45 cents per gallon to $3.75 (as of last week). The average price of diesel fuel, $4.16 last week, was up 20 cents from a year ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported. But the high prices aren’t expected to linger this year, which could produce more fuel-buying opportunities, as oil production and gasoline

demand continue to trend in opposite directions in the U.S. “Crude oil production is rising sharply and likely will continue,” Adam Sieminski, administrator of EIA, said recently at the USDA Ag Outlook Forum.

M A R K E T FA C T S Feeder pig prices reported to USDA* Weight 10-12 lbs. 40 lbs.

Range Per Head $32.25-$45.00 $61.02

Weighted Ave. Price $39.58 $61.02

This Week Last Week 81,877 87,400 *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 NA $70.36 NA $52.07

Change NA NA

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

This week NA NA

Prev. week $128.04 $127.87

Change NA NA

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 NA $138.87 NA

Lamb prices Slaughter prices - Negotiated, Live, wooled and shorn 100-198 lbs. for 105.30-135 $/cwt. (wtd. ave. 118.72)

Export inspections (Million bushels) NA

Tight crop supplies, drought concerns linger

Some market analysts don’t believe the crop markets will nosedive anytime soon, despite the fact that USDA recently predicted record crop production this year. In fact, the markets could rally this spring or early summer as end users deal with tight old-crop supplies, according to Darin Newsom, Telvent/DTN senior market analyst. “All the talk of record production (of soybeans in South America and the U.S.) doesn’t mean this market is coming to an end,” Newsom said last week at the Illinois Soybean Profitability Summit in Normal hosted by the Illinois Soybean Association. “There’s still a great deal of concern about sourcing supplies to meet demand this spring. “I think we’re going to have some marketing opportunities going forward,” he said. USDA last month predicted U.S. farmers this year will produce a record 14.5-billionbushel corn crop (up 35 percent from last year) and 3.4 billion bushels of beans (up 13 percent from a year ago). The forecast was based on a return to normal weather and trend line yields of 163 bushels per acre for corn and 44.5 bushel for beans. “It’s way too early to worry about growing the largest corn crop in history,” said Steven Johnson, Iowa State University Extension ag economist.

“We’ve got problems in the western Corn Belt (including the driest subsoil moisture profile for this time of year since 1955),” he continued. “It’s a stretch to think we’re going (from a drought) to trend line yields.” Newsom also questioned USDA’s yield projections for this year. He believes a national corn yield average of 145 to 150 bushels per acre is more realistic. “The drought is still with us (in the western Corn Belt),” he said. “It’s still a concern.” Newsom also noted that historically high corn plantings likely will mean more corn will be planted in less productive areas such as the Dakotas, the Delta, and the Southwest, which could drag down the national yield average. “If we see an acreage increase, it will make it more difficult to hit trend line yields,” he said. In the near-term, Newsom predicted crop prices could push back up to the mid-$7 range for corn and close to $14 for beans. But, long-term, crop prices likely will soften due to increased production, diminished demand, or a combination of the two. “A lot of people think another drought would be bullish (for crop prices),” Newsom added. “But another drought, long-term, would do more damage to prices than if we have a relatively large crop. We’d lose more demand.” — Daniel Grant


PROFITABILITY

Page 15 Monday, March 11, 2013 FarmWeek

CASH STRATEGIST

Corn Strategy

ü2012 crop: Nearby contracts continue to demonstrate the most strength, as old-crop supplies remain extremely tight. Nevertheless, we’ve lowered our target to make catch-up sales to $7.20 on May futures. Plan to add to sales if prices reach that level. Check the Hotline. ü2013 crop: Upside potential for rebounds has declined because of the depth of the break. Use rallies to $5.70 for catch-up sales. We may add a sale if December hits that level. Check the Hotline. vFundamentals: The corn market has lacked any fresh fundamental news to spark a rally back to the upside. Downside risk in the nearby contracts continues to be limited on tight old-crop inventories. Deferred contracts are feeling pressure from expectations for large corn acres this spring. In addition, wheat prices have fallen to a level allowing wheat to compete with corn as a feedstuff in the world and in the U.S. as well.

Cents per bu.

Soybean Strategy

Export sales remain a key focus

Export activity remains a key focus, as demand for some commodities has shown signs of improvement. Wheat sales have been sluggish but recently gained momentum. It appears the break in U.S. wheat prices finally made wheat attractive in the international market. In addition, with the current corn/wheat price ratio, wheat is competitive as a feed alternative. However, sales are going to have to continue to improve if they are to reach or

exceed the current USDA forecast. Soybean sales have experienced an uptick recently, following some unexpected demand out of China. It appears logistical problems in South America have resulted in some business being shifted back toward the U.S. However, this is expected to be short lived as South America soon will become the No. 1 sourcing option. If the current trend holds, there should not be any problem reaching USDA’s forecast. Corn exports have been fairly lackluster over the winter months and currently are not showing any signs of increasing. There have been some scattered sales reported over the past couple of weeks but nothing of significant value.

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ü2012 crop: Soybeans continue to benefit from logistical problems in South America. That is pushing export business back toward the U.S. However, business soon will be diverted back to South America once those issues are resolved. Use rallies to $14.70 on May futures for catch-up sales. ü2013 crop: New-crop prices remain weaker than old crop on expectations of a significant increase in supplies. Use a rally to $12.80 on November futures for catchup sales. vFundamentals: The soybean market is benefiting from the combination of tighter U.S. supplies and aggressive buying out of China. The U.S. continues to benefit from logistical bottlenecks at Brazilian ports. However, Brazil is harvesting a record large crop, and once the logistical problems are resolved, fresh supplies will replenish the pipelines. Evidence of strong export demand was seen in recent weekly export sales

coming in at 1.38 million metric tons (51 million bushels) vs. trade expectations for 700,000 to 1.1 million metric tons.

Wheat Strategy

ü2012 crop: Technical features suggest a near-term low for wheat may be in the making. Use rallies above $7.25 on Chicago May futures to make catch-up sales. ü2013 crop: Wait for Chicago July to trade above $7.28 before making catch-up sales. New-crop sales stand at 35 percent complete. vFundamentals: The

wheat market continues on its downward trend. It simply has lacked any fresh fundamental news. In addition, over the past month, three significant winter storms moved across the Southern Plains and brought much-needed moisture. Certainly the critical time period still lies ahead when the crop breaks dormancy this spring. However, it appears the recent break in prices has attracted fresh export demand. This was evident in weekly export sales exceeding trade expectations and coming in at 618,100 metric tons.


PERSPECTIVES

FarmWeek Page 16 Monday, March 11, 2013

Fueling agriculture’s productivity to new heights

Today’s farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the history of our nation. By embracing innovation, farmers of many crops today are able to produce more than ever. Meanwhile, our producers, foresters, and rural landowners are undertaking modern TOM conservation VILSACK practices that help them achieve three to five times the benefits of older techniques. At USDA, we’re working to support America’s farmers and ranchers in making the next big advances in agriculture and conservation.

First and foremost, we will continue to strengthen agricultural research. In his State of the

Union address, President Obama discussed a critical need to invest in the best ideas. We know that investing in agricultural research helps the economy and strengthens agri-

culture. Every dollar invested in this research generates $20 in economic benefits for our nation, while giving our farmers and ranchers new tools to mitigate risk and increase production. We also intend to further strengthen conservation efforts while helping farmers adapt to a changing climate. Over the coming year, USDA will build up additional technical assistance and provide new tools to help producers mitigate the effects of extreme weather patterns. Because the impacts of cli-

mate change will vary across the country, we’ll explore ways to organize our efforts by region — with an aim to provide appropriate help for folks in every part of the country. We will continue to support development of environmental markets for water quality and other natural services, which have the potential to enhance conservation and provide new revenue sources. And we will further explore the benefits of multi-cropping production, which could expand business opportunities, strengthen infrastructure for biofuels, and provide additional conservation benefits for producers. Finally, USDA will take steps this year to support a diverse and vibrant agriculture sector. From February and

continuing into the next year, we will follow up on many of the recommendations provided last year by an advisory committee to strengthen coexistence within American agriculture. Our farmers and ranchers have made tremendous gains over recent decades — producing more than ever before, and taking new steps to protect our natural resources. We can continue this progress into the next generation of American agriculture by making smart investments today. By working together, we can feed even more people around the world, further enhance our natural resources, and create even more jobs.

Tom Vilsack is the U.S. secretary of agriculture.

Insects have played many mystical roles through history

Throughout recorded history, the relationship between humans and insects has been a bit frosty. Probably for good reason. Insects, it seems, have the audacity to help themselves to whatever they want, even if it is a human possession. Or even more dastardly, using us for a meal. Modern research has shown that 5 percent of humans have a phobia about insects, 15 percent fear them, and 50 percent are apprehensive when they see one of the little six-legged creatures. So 70 percent of us, we can TOM reasonably say, do not TURPIN like insects. But in spite of our historical disdain for these small creatures, some have squeezed their way into our religious beliefs anyway. One of the first to do so has an unlikely name to be held in high regard by humans — the dung beetle. Dung beetles, also known as scarab beetles, literally rolled their way into our good graces some 4,500 years ago in ancient Egypt. These beetles have an unusual behavior that begins when they construct a ball out of mammal manure. The dung beetles then roll the ball around as they seek a place to bury it. Once buried, the ball is used as a food source by immature beetles. The ancient Egyptians viewed the dung beetle as the earthly symbol of the sun god Khepri who rolled the sun across the sky each day. Khepri came from nothing, as the dung beetle appeared to do, and the dung ball the beetle rolled around was symbolic of the sun. Consequently, the dung-ball-rolling scarab became the symbol of transformation and resurrection in ancient Egyptian religious practices. On the other side of the world and during about the same time period, beetles also were associated with the beginning of the earth. A Cherokee Native American myth held that in the beginning all was water and no earth.

A diving water beetle was said to have established the land by carrying soft mud from below the water. That mud expanded once it touched the air to form the earth’s land mass. The Cochiti Pueblo Indians of the southwest U. S. also associated a beetle with a creation myth. These Native Americans believed that this beetle, now classified scientifically in the genus Eleodes, had the job of transporting a bag of stars that would be placed in the sky one at a time. But there is more to this myth. Eleodes beetles have the interesting behavioral habit of appearing to try to stand on their heads. Based on the myth, the reason for such behavior was that the beetle that had been entrusted with a big and important job got a little careless. The beetle dropped a whole batch of stars, an accident that resulted in the Milky Way. According to the myth, the Eleodes beetles are expressing their embarrassment over the incident by trying to bury their heads in the sand! Christian religious traditions also include insects. There are some 120 references to insects or their products in the Bible. In general, such references can be classified into two groups: benefits of insects or problems with insects. On the positive side, honey is referenced more than 50 times. Sweets were certainly prized in ancient times, and that relationship shows up in biblical references. Even today we might be inclined to say something about a land “flowing with milk and honey.” A second food item mentioned in the Bible is manna. Today we will still hear references to “manna from heaven.” Most likely the biblical manna was crystallized honeydew. Honeydew is the excreta produced by scale insects, some species of which were very common at the exact time and in the geographical location described in the Bible. A third food item from biblical times would be locusts, a type of grasshopper that has been a human food source in some parts of the world throughout his-

tory. These same locusts, though, were also major pests. The eighth plague inflicted upon Egypt consisted of a great mass of locusts. Insects also caused two other biblical plagues. The third plague was lice. The fourth plague was flies. But leave it to wise old King Solomon to point out that we can learn a few things from insects. He said, “Go

to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6). What did Solomon want us to learn? Aesop captured the same idea in his fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper”: Work hard and plan ahead!

Tom Turpin is an entomology professor at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. His email address is turpin@purdue.edu.

FarmWeek March 11 2013.pdf  

FarmWeek March 11 2013.pdf

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