Page 1

THE ARMY CORPS OF Engineers reports enough rock has been removed to provide clear navigation on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo. ..........2

THE NEW BATCH OF field moms and the DeKalb County hog farmers they visited recently each said they learned something from the other. .....................................................3

FOOD CHECK-OUT WEEK marked the point at which the average American had earned enough income to buy food for the entire year. ..................................................12

Sequestration’s here: What happens next? Monday, March 4, 2013


Lawmakers evacuated Washington last week after Congress and the White House failed to reach an agreement

Two sections Volume 41, No. 9

on efforts to head off acrossthe-board federal budget cuts. Sequestration kicked in Friday, mandating $85 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 months. The process, directed under 2011 budget legislation,


will require a roughly 8.2 percent immediate cut in mandatory program spending and a 7.6 percent reduction in congressionally appropriated spending. That could translate to a nearly $500 million cut in 2013

John Spangler of Marietta in Fulton County took advantage of rising soybean prices last week and sent a semi load to the ADM facility in Havana. Bean bids were edging close to $15 a bushel as last week came to a close. Spangler said his farm yielded about 50 bushels per acre last year, down about 5 bushels from his average. His Western Illinois region remains dry; field tiles are not running, he said. (Photo by Ken Kashian)

commodity program spending, American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Economist Bob Young told FarmWeek. Young sees USDA providing direct payments for 2013 crops but suggested payments could be “whacked” by about 8 percent. Addressing farmers in Decatur last week, U.S. House Ag Committee member Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, called sequestration “just bad policy.” “This is crazy,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack declared at last week’s Commodity Classic in Florida. Sequestration could slash USDA’s remaining fiscal 2013 operating budget by $1 billion to $1.5 billion, preclude conservation assistance for 11,000 to 12,000 farmers and landowners, impact meat plant inspections, and eliminate $500 million in near-term U.S. “trade opportunities,” Vilsack said. “This shouldn’t be happening in a functioning democracy,” Vilsack said. “This is a tough situation.” Davis argued the prospect of “unpalatable” cuts was designed to “force people to the table to seek commonsense solutions.” However, lawmakers were unable to pass a Senate Democrat “sequester replacement” package that proposed to cut

$27.5 billion in commodity program spending. While Davis deemed sequestration a gesture of “laziness” by the past Congress, he said “the world will not end” as a result of sequestration, and “the pain many in this country will feel will not be immediate.” Davis and Young stressed that while program payments may be reduced, farmers would see no change in 2013 crop insurance premium subsidies. In recent weeks, Vilsack repeatedly raised the specter of budget-mandated furloughs for meat inspectors, resulting in processor plant shutdowns and market disruption. Given limited options for shifting administrative funds, Young believes USDA likely will have to look at “staffing shuffles” to continue providing inspection services. However, he noted many plants are served by multiple inspectors, and suggested USDA could respond by paring back to a skeleton force and/or seeking added processor revenues to fund inspections. “Right now, your taxpayer dollars only pay for those inspectors from 8 to 5,” Young pointed out. “Plants are paying for inspectors who are there outside of normal business hours.” See Sequestration, page 4

Periodicals: Time Valued

Proposed farmland assessment amendment to phase-in changes


The ability of different soils to produce different crop yields would be better reflected in a proposed amendment to

For morel information on the proposed changes to the Illinois farmland assessment law, go to

the state’s farmland assessment law. The current assessment val-

ues seem to suggest that “a higher (productive) soil produces 40 times better than lower (productive) soils, but the actual data in Illinois doesn’t support that,” said Brenda Matherly, Illinois Farm Bureau assistant director of local government. Under HB 2651, sponsored by Rep. Frank Mautino (DSpring Valley), the farmland assessment process would phase in changes to equalized assessed value by soil productivity index (PI). Those changes would not exceed 10

FarmWeek on the web:

percent of the certified assessed value of the state’s median soil PI, which is 111. The changes were proposed by the Illinois Department of Revenue and are supported by IFB because they would maintain fair and equitable assessment of farmland. The PI indicates a specific

soil’s suitability to produce a crop. It is based on crop yields under average farm/crop management. During the recent Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference, Matherly presented a workshop on proposed changes to the farmland assessment law. If the amendment passes, all soils — regardless of their PI — would increase by 10 percent of the median soil PI. The 2013 certified value for a See Assessment, page 3

Illinois Farm Bureau®on the web:

Quick Takes

FarmWeek Page 2 Monday, March 4, 2013

M A J O R S N OW S TO R M B R E W I N G T H I S WEEK — A storm in the Pacific Northwest has the potential to develop into a major snowstorm this week, according to As this storm crosses the Mississippi River today and Tuesday, changes will occur in the upper atmosphere and moisture will begin to feed into the storm from the Gulf of Mexico. Heavy precipitation from snow, rain, and thunderstorms is anticipated from the Ohio Valley states to parts of the South and the mid-Atlantic at mid-week. Illinois is among the states likely to be most hit. Others include Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

E85 APP — Looking for E85? There’s an app for that. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), in partnership with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, is unveiling a newly updated flex-fuel station locator application for iPhones, iPads, the iPod Touch, and all Android devices. The application is free and available at the App Store or the Android Marketplace. The flex-fuel station app will help users pinpoint any station in the United States that offers 85 percent ethanol fuel. New features of the app, which was first introduced in 2011, include a flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) identifier. After inputting make, model, and year of a vehicle, the app will alert users if their car is flex-fuel or not in order to help avoid misfueling. A route planner enables consumers to enter a starting and ending point to determine E85 stations along the route. Consumers also can enter state, city, or ZIP code to determine E85 stations in their immediate area. OPEN LANDS TRUST TARGETS LAND PURCHASES — The state’s Open Lands Trust Program, which recently was in the news, provides grants to eligible local units of government to buy land from willing sellers. The land is to be used for public conservation, open space, and natural resource-related recreation purposes. Under state law, the money may be used only to buy land from willing sellers. Use of eminent domain is not allowed. Recently, the Open Lands Trust provided $2.8 million to buy 547 acres in Pike, McHenry, Ogle, and Vermilion counties. Up to 50 percent funding assistance is available for eligible projects; higher amounts are available in “economically disadvantaged” areas. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will receive a conser vation easement for all property acquired with trust grants.

(ISSN0197-6680) Vol. 41 No. 9

March 4, 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 ( Legislative Affairs Editor Kay Shipman ( Agricultural Affairs Editor Martin Ross ( Senior Commodities Editor Daniel Grant ( Editorial Assistant Margie Fraley ( Business Production Manager Bob Standard ( Advertising Sales Manager Richard Verdery ( Classified sales coordinator Nan Fannin ( 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


Key Mississippi channel cleared, prepped for future BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

It’s basically business-as-usual once again on the Mississippi River. Last week, St. Louis District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen reported completion of rock removal necessary to provide a clear navigation channel in the Thebes-Grand Tower reach of the Upper Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo. Corps-contracted crews removed some 1,000 cubic yards of rock not only in the Thebes and Grand Towers areas, but also from a small midstream outcropping just south of Thebes. Contractors also helped widen the functional river channel. Recent regional storms, meanwhile, have sustained river levels, and shippers again are able to fully — and more cost-effectively — load barges. Low water levels heading into December sparked initial concerns about a shutdown on the river that potentially could have affected spring fertilizer delivery. That spurred federal officials to expedite rock removal and authorize releases from the Lake Carlyle reservoir on the Kaskaskia River to maintain a nine-foot navigation channel. “There’s a bit of a comfort zone right now — a bit of a sense of relief and accomplishment,” Petersen told FarmWeek last week. “We’ve made

permanent improvements. It’s going to be a more reliable channel in the future, no matter what.” Federal funding debate poses the next key challenge for the Corps and Midwest shippers. Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Rich Guebert Jr. warned across-the-board budget “sequestration” cuts likely would result in temporary “furloughs” among Corps staff, possibly reducing operating hours at some low-tonnage locks. Upper Mississippi locks are all above “low use” thresholds and shouldn’t be affected, Petersen said. While the lower-trafficked but commercially crucial Kaskaskia Lock could be affected by funding cuts, he stressed lock officials “have already done so much to shave their budget.” Even under a sequestration scenario, “We still would be able to conduct our most critical operations,” Petersen maintained. Levee safety — or, as Petersen terms it, “life safety” — will remain a top priority, and the Corps also will prioritize regional dredging. “Our dredging program is going to look at the whole (Mississippi) valley,” Petersen related. “Operating the river as a system is what helps keep it open. “That combination of using our locks and dams, our reservoirs, our dredging — all those things that went into the effort to keep the river open this winter — have built a path forward for future low-water conditions.”

2011 flood underlined system Illinoisans deficiencies, funding concerns of the Day The flood of 2011 underlined the need for extensive upgrades throughout the Mississippi River system, as well as the high cost of failed flood protections. The current budget crisis raises concerns about offsetting future costs. The good news is, Illinois’ levee system is well on the road to improved health. According to a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study released last week, Mississippi flooding in 2011 caused $2.8 billion in damages “and tested the system and its individual components like no flood before it.” Spring flooding that year hit 119 Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee counties, affecting more than 21,000 homes and businesses and 1.2 million acres of ag land. Nearly all levees and floodwall systems sustained damage, and floodways at Birds PointNew Madrid in Illinois — as well as a pair of Louisiana floodways — were opened to relieve stress on the system. The Corps spent nearly $60 million fighting the flood from March to August 2011. The Corps plans to use $802 million approved by Congress in 2011 to make necessary repairs. If that work can be completed, “the system will be restored to a pre-flood condition and in some cases be a better system,” the Corps report said.

Most of that work has been slated for completion this year, but Congress and the Corps currently are coping with an acute near-term spending crisis, and several “critical” repair projects are expected to extend into 2015 and 2016. In that regard, Illinois reportedly is in a sound position. Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Rich Guebert Jr., who met last week with Corps officials, reported much of the repairs authorized in Illinois have been completed. “From what we were told, a good part of those dollars are to cover what already has been done and to finish up, whether it’s at Bird’s Point in Southern Illinois or in Pulaski-Alexander counties, where their levees were overtopped in spring 2011,” Guebert told FarmWeek. Even with the military facing potentially deep cuts under sequestration, Guebert believes Corps floodplain operations will continue to be a federal funding priority. At the same time, cuts may delay Federal Emergency Management Agency “remapping” of Mississippi levee districts and, ostensibly, concerns about levee “decertification” that could limit floodplain development. “That would give (districts) an extended timeline to get their levee engineering done to get their recertification,” Guebert said. — Martin Ross

sought for Fair

The Illinois State Fair Museum Foundation is seeking 10 individuals to honor as Illinoisans of the Day during the Illinois State Fair Aug. 818. The program recognizes individuals who make a difference in their communities while demonstrating Illinois spirit through hard work and a dedication to helping others. Winners will be invited to receive gifts and honors during their special day. “Nominating an individual is as simple as the click of the mouse or picking up the phone,” said Pam Gray, the foundation’s board chairwoman. Nomination forms are available by request by calling the foundation at 217-4154408 or by printing them from the museum’s website at {}. The postmark deadline for nominations is June 15. All nominees must live in Illinois. Winners and their nominators will be contacted in late June. The winners will be announced July 13 during the museum foundation’s annual corndog kickoff. The museum foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the heritage, traditions, and legacy of the Illinois State Fair.


Page 3 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek

Springfield happenings

Farmers, field moms learn from each other during tour

Illinois Farm Family field mom Amina Nevels of Chicago asks questions of Sycamore hog farmer Steve Ward, right, during a recent tour of his Old Elm Farms facilities. Looking on in center is veterinarian Dr. Noel Garbes, who also answered the moms’ questions. (Photo by Ken Kashian)


A Chicago-area mom gave hog farmers John and Steve Ward the ultimate endorsement after touring their Sycamore farm Feb. 23. Her family hadn’t eaten pork for four years, but she Elizabeth Rago said she planned to buy pork chops and serve them that evening. Welcome to the second year of Illinois Farm Families (IFF) field moms — a program for Chicago-area mothers who have questions about farming and how food is raised. IFF is a coalition of commodity groups for beef, corn, soybeans, pork, and the Illinois Farm Bureau. John Ward, and his son, Steve, hosted the moms on a tour of their wean-to-finish farm. The elder Ward pointed out the moms weren’t the only ones who learned from the experience. “We got a better idea of our consumers and their thoughts,” he said. “The moms were tremendous and had great questions.” Steve took a direct approach to learn the women’s impression of his farm. He asked whether the facility was better or worse than what they had expected. “They all said it was way better,” he said.

Elizabeth Rago of North Aurora agreed with the group consensus. Rago was struck by the farm’s cleanliness and the amount of care the Wards give their animals, she said. “They (the Wards) felt compelled to let us know they are doing their best to Amina Nevels provide safe food for our families,” Rago said. Amina Nevels of Chicago noted the hogs didn’t shy from Steve when he entered the pens and were inquisitive about their urban visitors. “You could tell he (Steve) seemed to have a relationship with them,” Nevels added. “They seemed happy and contented. The farm looked great.” Nevels said she appreciated the farmers’ willingness to answer any of the moms’ questions. Nevels’ first experience on a farm and learning about the use of artificial insemination and other aspects of farming has raised more questions, she said. She still has concerns about biotechnology and looks forward to asking more questions, she said. Rago connected with the family side of the Wards’ farm. “I love the fact these are regular people like us. We just have different vocations,” she said.

“They’re really making a difference in the lives of people every day.” Steve emphasized the moms’ importance to his farm: “I told the moms, ‘When it boils down to it, you guys are the backbone of our business.’ They need to feel safe about our product or they won’t buy it.”

Legislation and state government actions that took place last week: GOP leaders push funding issues — Republican leaders in the Illinois Senate and House in a letter challenged Gov. Pat Quinn and their Democrat counterparts to address the state’s fiscal problems. “The backlog of unpaid vouchers (bills) remains at nearrecord highs. The inability to pay down the backlog is largely a reflection of unresolved items, which will increase liability beyond available resources,” wrote Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Tom Cross. Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to present his proposed budget at noon Wednesday — the same day gun ownership supporters are scheduled to rally in Springfield. House debates gun control for seven hours — Following lengthy debate, the House adopted an amendment sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), on a 6748 vote last week. Phelps’ amendment was among a dozen

that were added to a bill allowing individuals to carry concealed guns. The bill will continue to remain in the amendment stage on the House floor as continuing discussions occur. Earlier, the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals gave the General Assembly a 180-day deadline to craft new gun legislation. Bipartisan pension reform introduced in House — House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) last week promoted new bipartisan legislation to address the state’s pension problems. Their proposal offers several adjustments for some state employees, including: • Cost-of-living adjustments only for the first $25,000 of the employees’ pension; • Delaying cost-of-living adjustments until age 67 or five years after retirement; • Raising the retirement age on a sliding scale that pushes back retirement for younger employees; and • Increasing employees’ contributions toward their pensions. — Kay Shipman

Farmer, buyer interest growing Assessment

Local food is such a hot issue that not even a snowstorm deterred farmers and buyers from gathering last week at Heartland Community College, Normal. Although the college facilities closed early due to bad weather, nearly every buyer was able to make a pitch for his or her business, agency, or food service program. Afterward, the 35 participating farmers met one-on-one with buyers at the Farm Bureauhosted event. Ford County farmer Randy Arends of Melvin attended his first Meet the Buyer event with a twofold purpose. Arends, a Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureau member, raises and sells all-natural beef and also operates a specialty store. He was interested in finding growers to expand his local produce selection as well as finding potential markets for his beef. “This is a good opportunity to meet with local growers and make contacts — and to find out what is available in the wholesale market,” Arends told FarmWeek. Without a Meet the Buyers event, Arends said he would have had to make many personal visits to meet the same number of people. First-time farmer attendees represented the bulk of the participants, according to Cynthia Haskins, Illinois Farm Bureau manager of business development and compliance. In the past 2.5 years that IFB has hosted buyer-farmer meetings, both the buyers and the farmers have changed, according to Haskins. Participating farmers now are better prepared and familiar with food safety practices and understand industry Good Agriculture Practices — and they are gaining markets, she noted. The buyers, too, are taking note of the farmers’ professionalism. “This is the first time (a) Walmart (buyer) was involved and he was very impressed,” she said. “The farmers are stepping up to the plate, and the buyers are opening their doors,” Haskins said. The final Meet the Buyers event this spring will be March 6 in the DeKalb County Farm Bureau office, Sycamore. Participating buyers will include Shop N Save, Testa Produce, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Goodness Greenness, Fresh Picks, Hy-Vee Inc., Illinois Central Management Services, and Duck Soup, a cooperative retailer. — Kay Shipman

Continued from page 1 soil with a 111 PI is $184.83. A 10 percent change would increase the certified values for all soils by $18.48. That amount would be added to each soil’s 2013 certified value. For example, with an average 7.5 percent tax rate, Matherly estimated a lower productive soil with a 82 PI would have a $1.38 per acre tax increase. The proposed change would impact the 2014 assessed value for taxes payable in 2015. Under the proposal, the certified value changes would be gradual, and Matherly estimated it would take 15 to 17 years before the median values are integrated through the system. Matherly warned if the farmland assessment law isn’t changed, the system’s integrity could come into question, possibly threatening the entire law. IFB is supporting HB 2651 to ensure the integrity of the farmland assessment process is maintained. The problem has developed over time due to the 10 percent limit on value increases and decreases. Last week, county Farm Bureau managers received background information about the changes being proposed and their potential impact.


FarmWeek Page 4 Monday, March 4, 2013

Davis optimistic about odds for fall farm bill


Despite the specter of sequester and continued congressional “polarization and politics,” U.S. House Ag Committee member Rodney Davis last week said he is hopeful he and his colleagues soon would set the stage for a “truly comprehensive” farm bill. Last week, Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (ROkla.) indicated the House farm bill process would begin “some time this spring,” the Taylorville Republican told farmers at a Decatur AgEngage profitability conference. Spring markup should help assure early fall passage of a “long-overdue” five-year bill, he said. In January, Congress extended expired 2008 farm

bill provisions through Sept. 30. “That’s (a five-year bill) something that you, the entire

ag policy development. Consequently, Davis argued it was too early to predict

their framework is, what their budget lines are,” he suggested. “That gives us a better

agricultural community, Central and Southwest Illinois, and America needs,” Davis said. That said, he told FarmWeek the newly enacted budget “sequester” likely would impact the farm bill spending baseline that provides the basis for

potential differences in House and Senate proposals because lawmakers will have to adopt “a different perspective.” For example, “the Senate’s actually going to have to pass a budget” for the first time in four years, Davis said. “We’re going to see what

opportunity to work through regular order, put forth a farm bill, get to conference committee, work out the differences, and come back with a bill that we can actually put in place.” Davis emphasized the need to accomplish that work in 2013, before “the politically

funny season” — i.e., the 2014 congressional election cycle — begins. The Senate last year approved a farm bill proposing $23 billion in commodity, conservation, and food stamp cuts; the House countered with a proposed roughly $33 in savings. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) recently proposed $27.5 billion solely in commodity program cuts to head off sequestration, but now that sequester has kicked in, “what she’s proposing may not be what ends up coming out,” Davis said. In any case, a “strengthened” crop insurance program is a top priority for the next farm bill,” he said.

tics would prevail in current biofuels debate. Ethanol interests and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were absent from the witness list for a House Science Committee hearing

on “mid-level” blends such as E15 (15 percent ethanol gasoline). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used DOE testing to approve E15 for 2001 and later vehicles. Committee Vice Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) argued EPA approved E15 based on a single set of “narrow” tests, leading to a “haphazard transition to E15 usage marked by regulatory confusion, bungled implementation, and lack of consumer education.” Stewart noted proposals by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (RWis.) that would require EPA and the National Academy of Science to assess the need for added E15 research. American Coalition for Ethanol Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty countered that testing by E15 critics used vehicles (including 2001-2009 models) that “already had a history of the type of (engine performance) failure the test purported to be looking for regardless of the fuel it was using.” Lamberty argued “it is inaccurate to say those engines were sensitive to the effects of E20 or E15,” and maintained current E15 debate is “not about fuel quality.” “We’re hopeful the science will win out in the end,” Illinois Corn Growers Association President Paul Taylor, vice chair of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Ethanol Committee, told FarmWeek. “However, given the way things have gone with the farm bill, we know all bets are off in the political environment we’re in. With that in mind, we’re continuing to try to get more

allies” in both the Senate and the House. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (DOre.), a lone Science Committee supporter for E15, noted studies cited in the hearing were funded largely by the automotive or petroleum sectors. Part of the challenge in defending ethanol lies in Congress’ current makeup, Taylor said. He cited estimates that nearly 90 percent of NCGA’s

members hail from 12 states — states that account for a mere 95 of 435 current congressional seats. Further, he reported “we’ve lost a lot of our friends” — congressional biofuels allies that include conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats in Midwest/rural districts. “We just don’t have the outreach, the influence we had two decades ago,” Taylor said. — Martin Ross

‘ (A comprehensive farm bill is) something that you, the entire agricultural community, Central and Southwest Illinois, and America needs .’ — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis Taylorville Republican

E15 facing unfriendly congressional environment A renewed battle against E15 continued last week as a House science panel challenged the science of ethanol testing, and an Illinois corn industry spokesman questioned whether science or poli-


Ted and Janet Mottaz, Illinois Farm Bureau members from Elmwood, check out a display of soybeans at the Syngenta exhibit during last week’s Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. The annual event, coordinated by the American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, and National Sorghum Producers, attracted 6,080 attendees — including 1,004 for the first time — and 1,010 exhibitors, which are all new records. (Photo by Daniel Grant)


Continued from page 1 He agreed conservation will be “nicked” by sequestration, possibly resulting in a cutoff in any further new producer contracts for 2013. The White House anticipates Illinois would lose about $6.4 million in clean water/air quality funding through sequestration. Young raises the possibility of “nips and tucks” in ongoing USDA Ag Research Service projects. Even studies already funded through competitive grants could be affected, he said. Vilsack foresees $35 million in reduced ag credit availability and some 600,000 individuals being placed on the waiting list for Women, Infants, and Children food support under forced cuts, the secretary warned. In the long ter m, sequestration “changes the baseline of the entire federal budget,” and thus potentially affects resources for new programs under the next far m bill, Davis told Far mWeek.


Legislative happenings in the nation’s capital last week. Immigration. An updated ag guest worker program is needed so U.S. farmers can continue growing food, tending livestock, and contributing to the economy, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman told the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee. “We want to keep these jobs in America for U.S. workers, not outsource them,” Stallman testified. Farm Bureau urged lawmakers to enact a “market-based” program under USDA. Chris Galen, whose National Milk Producers Federation is allied with AFBF in a labor reform coalition, said he hopes bipartisan lawmakers maintain a currently positive “kumbaya attitude” toward immigration and “don’t get bogged down in details.” “We just want a program that allows for workers on dairy farms and other agricultural operations,” he told FarmWeek. Internet taxes. Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act to promote fair competition between “main street” retailers and Internet-only sellers by allowing states to apply sales tax laws across the board. Enzi’s bill and companion House legislation would allow states to enforce existing sales tax laws on remote sellers but does not create new or increase existing taxes. Farm Bureau supports the legislation as a field-leveler for local businesses that provide goods and services to farmers. Illinois Farm Bureau led discussion of the issue during recent AFBF policy debate in Nashville, Tenn. Rail competition. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has asked the administration to address a perceived lack of competition in the freight rail industry. Glenn English, chairman of Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), a coalition of rail-dependent shippers — those who must use rail but face a lack of carrier competition — applauded “a call to action that we strongly urge the president to follow.” “We can’t compete globally and create good jobs here at home when faced with exorbitant and unnecessary transportation costs,” English stated. — Martin Ross


Page 5 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek

County yield averages reveal impact of drought BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

The county yield estimates recently released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) revealed the true impact of last year’s historic drought in Illinois. Yields in 2012 were a pleasant surprise at some locations. But in many cases, yields were disappointing and even disastrous, particularly in Southern Illinois. Statewide, yields averaged 105 bushels per acre for corn, which was the lowest yield since 1988 (73 bushels), and 43 bushels per acre for soybeans, which was the lowest yield since 2003 (37 bushels). “We had disastrously low yields for corn,” said Mark Schleusener of the NASS Illinois field office. “Southern Illinois and parts of Central Illinois were impacted (by the drought) the most. There were 22 counties (that averaged) 50 bushels per acre or less.” In fact, the average soybean yield last year was higher than the average corn yield in six counties (Cumberland, Fayette,

Jasper, Marion, Richland, and Washington). The largest spread of soybean yields above corn yields was in Jasper County (10.4bushel difference), where the soybean yield averaged 39.3 bushels per acre compared to 28.9 bushels per acre for corn. Overall, the average corn yields in the state ranged from a low of 19 bushels per acre in Marion County to a high of 180.1 bushels per acre in Mercer County. Average soybean yields statewide ranged from 22 bushels per acre in Washington County to 59 bushels in Carroll County. “Northern and western parts of the state had some decent yields,” Schleusener said. Yield averages could have been worse, but farmers in Illinois abandoned or chopped for livestock feed 130,000 acres of beans and 550,000 acres of corn. “A lot of double-crop beans were planted at the peak of the drought,” Schleusener said. “Many of those acres were abandoned.” Soil moisture conditions in

Illinois have improved significantly from last year but some dryness still lingers. Topsoil moisture in the state last week was rated 79 percent adequate or surplus and 21 percent short or very short.

Subsoil moisture last week was rated just 42 percent adequate and 58 percent short or very short, NASS reported. “All eyes are on these weather conditions and how well our crops grow the next six to eight months

in the Corn Belt,” said Mike Doherty, Illinois Farm Bureau senior economist and policy analyst. The county yield estimates were based on farmer responses to the county agricultural production survey.

GRIP-HR payouts promising; 2013 policy prospects good? BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

The prospect of high 2012 crop insurance payouts and the possibility of a large 2013 corn crop may make county-based crop insurance again an attractive option for Illinois farmers. With National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) 2012 county yield estimates now out (see accompanying story and map), USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) can estimate payouts for county-based Group Risk Income Plan with harvest price option (GRIPHR) policies. Most Illinois counties will have GRIP-HR payments for corn, and many will have large payments, University of Illinois economist Gary Schnitkey reported. Many Southern Illinois and several Central Illinois counties have estimated payments above $1,000 per acre, as would be expected in a drought year for a policy with a harvest price trigger. Fewer counties triggered GRIP-HR payments for soybeans. Producers will not receive GRIP-HR payments for 2012 losses until estimates become official in mid-April. GRIP-HR includes a guarantee that increases if the harvest price exceeds the spring base price; it is the most popular county-level insurance product. Most individuals take policies at the 90 percent coverage level.

March 15 is the sales closing date for federal crop insurance policies. Schnitkey said he sees the possibility of a major corn price decline this year, given anticipated plantings and the prospect of more average yields. “Were that to happen, the county-based programs — GRIP and GRIP-HR — would both pay very well for 2013,” Country Financial crop insurance coordinator Bob Dewey told FarmWeek. “These yield numbers tell farmers how much of a pastseason loss they’ll potentially have on those county-based plans of insurance. That’s one of the disadvantages of the county-based plans of insurance — they don’t pay until the next crop year.” GRIP-HR sales have declined in recent years as a result of higher premiums relative to individual policies such as Revenue Protection (RP), which provides a harvest price guarantee as the default option. GRIP-HR premiums are not as heavily subsidized as those for RP. Increased subsidies for “enterprise” coverage units and availability of the Trend Adjustment-Actual Production History (TA-APH) option — which allows producers to increase individual yields used in calculating crop insurance guarantees — have attracted many growers to individual policies over the past two years, Dewey suggested.

Spring crop premiums may be close to those in 2012 Based on USDA crop price/risk calculations, this season’s Illinois crop insurance premiums overall should track close to 2012 policy costs. The price discovery period for corn and soybeans — the basis for 2013 crop insurance premiums and rates (a percentage applied to insurance guarantees) — ended last week. As of FarmWeek’s Friday deadline, USDA-projected price guarantees were $5.65 per bushel for corn and $12.87 per bushel for soybeans. Meanwhile, the corn “volatility factor” — USDA’s calculation of potential near-term price risk, also affecting insurance costs — was expected to be slightly lower than in 2012. The soybean volatility factor was expected to track closely with 2012. Add to that USDA’s Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) recent statewide “re-rating,” based on past premium-to-payment ratios. Rates

in general are down from 2012, “especially for Central and Northern Illinois counties,” University of Illinois ag economist Nick Paulson noted. “Premiums will probably be very similar to 2012 premiums for corn, or slightly lower,” Paulson told FarmWeek at last week’s AgEngage profitability seminar in Decatur. “The premium effect for soybeans might be a slight increase because of the higher projected price. But overall, premiums should be really similar because we got RMA’s rate reduction coupled with slightly different prices and volatility factors.” March 15 is federal crop insurance sales closing date. U of I’s iFarm Crop Insurance Payment Evaluator, Premium Calculator, and Crop Insurance Decision Tool, available at {}, can help farmers gauge the best policy and coverage choices for 2013 spring crops. — Martin Ross


FarmWeek Page 6 Monday, March 4, 2013

USGC focuses on rebuilding corn export demand The export picture for U.S. farmers looks rosy on the surface. USDA recently projected U.S. ag exports will set a new record for value at $145 billion. That’s due in large part due to Chinese demand for soybeans and cotton. U.S. corn exports, on the other hand, continue to stumble as a tight supply and subsequent high prices have prompted many buyers to source corn from other countries. “All our lives we’ve dealt with surpluses (and lower prices),” Don Fast, chairman of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and a farmer from

Montana, told FarmWeek last week at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. “So this (current situation) is kind Don Fast of an anomaly. It inhibits exports.” USDA’s most recent estimate of U.S. corn exports for 2012/13, at 900 million bushels, would be the smallest since 1971/72. “Our biggest issue with high prices is we lose market share,” Fast said. And regaining lost market share isn’t as easy as flipping a switch once U.S. farmers

rebuild supplies. USDA recently projected U.S. farmers this year will produce a record-high 14.5 billion bushels of corn. “Once you lose market share, it’s very tough (to regain),” Fast said. “There are competitors in the Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, and even India who are ramping up production.” USGC, therefore, is focusing on customer service and promoting crop quality to foreign buyers. The strategy is to promote corn, even at higher prices, while assuring customers more corn likely will be available from the U.S. in the near future. “We (U.S. farmers) can react

really quickly with these … prices,” Fast said. “We’ll be seeding a lot of corn (this spring).

USDA recently projected U.S. farmers this year will plant 96.5 million acres of corn. “The tools we have are unbelievable,” Fast said. “Because of genetics, the Corn Belt is expanding north, west, and south.” The lack of a five-year farm bill, however, could make it more difficult to rebuild corn and other U.S. farm exports.

The future for USDA market access funds currently is murky. USGC also receives funding from USDA. “If we can’t count on that, it’s difficult to plan for the future,” Fast said. Congress’ inability thus far to appropriate funds for lock and dam upgrades on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and updates to ports also could make it more difficult to increase exports, according to Garry Niemeyer, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Auburn. “We’re losing market share overseas right now,” Niemeyer said. “We have to stop that. Infrastructure improvements are essential.”

Wild swings in crop prices in recent years have been blamed on everything from the oil market, as more crops are used for biofuels, to increased speculation. But the main driver of recent market swings and record-high crop prices last year still comes down to basic supply and demand, according to ag industry representatives speaking at the recent USDA Ag Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. The theme of the event was

“Managing Risk in the 21st Century.” “We’ve seen since 2008 a draw on world stocks,” said David Baudler, president of Cargill AgHorizons. Joe Glauber, USDA chief economist, said global stocks as a percent of use for 2012/13 are projected to be the lowest for corn since 1973/74, the lowest for wheat since 2008/09, and below 2010/11 levels for soybeans. Scott Irwin, University of Illinois economist, said large stocks

typically act as shock absorbers for the crop markets. Therefore, when stocks are low and there’s nothing to absorb production shocks (such as the 2012 U.S. drought), prices are much more volatile. “If you’re drawing down stocks and then have a surprise reduction (in crop production) some place in the world, the market has to convince you and I to consume less,” said Irwin, who was a featured speaker at the forum. “It takes larger price increases.”

Irwin said he believes crop markets will remain highly volatile until a production response rebuilds world crop stocks. Stocks have been drawn down due to growing demand for soybeans in China, increased use of corn for ethanol, and weather-related production issues, he said. Irwin and Baudler urged farmers to use various forms of risk management to protect their businesses from extreme price fluctuations. “Make optimal use of the crop insurance program,” Irwin said. “We saw last year how dramatically important that was to cushion the effects of the drought.” He also encouraged farmers to do some forward selling when prices are attractive. Bryan Durkin, chief operating officer of the CME Group, also encouraged farmers to use futures contracts, options, and other mechanisms to protect

against downside risk and take advantage of upswings in various markets. “Lately, prices have come down for corn and wheat about 20 percent from the summer highs,” Durkin said. “Risk management is a critical resource.” The use of corn and wheat futures contracts in the past decade has increased from about 100,000 contracts per day to more than 600,000 per day at CME Group in Chicago. The increased market activity has been blamed for more extreme price volatility. But Irwin said there still is no clear evidence to pin the blame for market volatility on the rise in financial speculation. “I can’t find scientific evidence that (proves) speculators are causing unwarranted changes in prices,” Irwin said. However, he said he believes there are legitimate questions about the efficiency of price discovery in the market that should be examined. — Daniel Grant


To listen to Don Fast’s comments about the prospects for U.S. corn exports, go to

Markets expected to remain volatile until global crop stocks rebuild

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Price and value remain important in consumers’ meat-buying decisions, but the emphasis on price is not as strong as in the past two years, according to the annual Power of Meat survey published by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and released last week. Consumers continue to want more convenience, as demonstrated by interest in heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat meats. Consumers also base meat-buying decisions on ease and time of preparation. AMI and FMI commissioned the in-depth report and in December 2012, a national online poll of 1,425 consumers was conducted. Trends that surfaced: • For the first time in eight years, grocery shoppers’ cooked fewer meals each week that contained a serving of protein. • After the recession ended, natural and/or organic meat and poultry purchases increased 26 percent. Most notably, 73 percent of shoppers bought organic/natural meat at their primary store, the highest level in eight years. • Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they would consult online resources for preparation information compared to 23 percent who ask family members. The consensus among shoppers (72 percent) was that the industry provides adequate tools to help them make informed decisions, up from 57 percent in 2009.

Page 7 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek


FarmWeek Page 8 Monday, March 4, 2013

Commodity groups uneasy about status of farm bill BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Leaders of the American Soybean Association (ASA) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said their top priority this year is the same as last year. Farmer-leaders of the two organizations last week at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla., called on Congress to pass a comprehensive, long-term farm bill. “Our top priority is the need for a (five-year) farm bill,” said Danny Murphy, president of ASA and a farmer from Mississippi. “So far, we haven’t been able to get that done.”

Congress recently extended the 2008 farm bill for one year. But the short-term extension leaves too much uncertainty in a business in which long-term planning is essential to survive its cyclical nature. “A one-year extension is certainly better than nothing,” Murphy said. “But it doesn’t provide the certainty (farmers) need to make long-term investments, such as buying equipment or land.” Pam Johnson, president of NCGA and a farmer from Iowa, said last year’s drought is a prime example of why farmers need a long-term farm bill complete with a safety net, pri-

marily in the form of federal crop insurance. “In some respects, we’re in the same place we were last year,” Johnson said. “We’re anticipating a bumper crop (which could drive crop prices down)” and there still is great uncertainty about the future of farm programs. “We do have a farm bill extension, but that’s not what we wanted to see,” she continued. “We’re still really pushing for a five-year, comprehensive farm bill.” The farm leaders understand the need for the federal government to cut spending. But they’re also concerned about any possible lopsided

cuts expected of agriculture. A recent proposal called for a $27-billion cut in farm bill spending to come entirely from commodity programs. “We realize the stark financial challenges (facing lawmakers) and accept they’ll likely reduce or eliminate direct payments,” Murphy said. “What we can’t accept are lopsided cuts in one area that aren’t mirrored in other areas.” The farm leaders also believe the Conservation Reserve Program should target just the most environmentally sensitive land, which would free up more land for crop production. ASA and NCGA also called

on Congress to authorize spending for market access programs, food and ag research, infrastructure improvements, and to extend the biodiesel tax incentive beyond this year. “If we’re going to feed nine billion people by 2050, we have to continue to fund (food and ag) research,” Murphy said. Commodity Classic is coordinated by ASA, NCGA, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and National Sorghum Producers. Leaders of the farm groups met with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at the event to discuss their priorities.

benefit farmers and other taxpayers. MILC payments are triggered when the Class I fluid milk price in Boston falls below $16.94 per hundredweight. The base payment rate

bad program for a dairy producer my size,” said Pollard, who milks 100 cows. But it provides little or no protection for a “common” Illinois farm three to four times larger, he said.

care of that with extension of the farm bill, I guess. But … they’ve just kicked the can down the road, instead of addressing the real problem.” Prices have dropped below the MILC threshold this winter, “but not by a large amount,” NMPF spokesman Chris Galen reported. MILC includes a slight “feed cost adjuster” that kicks in when targeted feed prices rise, but Galen said payments fail to adequately address rising cost margins. Amid high corn, soybean, and even forage costs, “you could have a relatively high milk price and still lose money,” Galen told FarmWeek. Lack of an effective, margin-based safety net could

reduce U.S. dairy numbers, potentially raising milk prices, and boost cheese and dairy ingredient imports from Europe or New Zealand, he warned. “It’s not so much that prices would spike hugely, like we might have seen under the fiscal or dairy cliff,” Galen argued. “Longer-term, we’d see attrition in our industry.”

Dairy reforms key to maintaining domestic sector?


Rockford-area dairyman Brent Pollard is concerned about what Congress will do with respect to dairy policy. Where Congress ultimately goes could set the direction for future U.S. production and consumer choice. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) continues to push for a five-year farm bill which includes what Pollard terms “margin insurance” — a voluntary safety net aimed at protecting dairy producers from rocketing feed prices. NMPF argues the new program, which would replace the existing Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and dairy price supports, would

Illinois Farm Bureau hosts this week’s Illinois Milk Producers Association meeting in Bloomington. IFB livestock specialist Jim Fraley is IMPA manager.

is the difference between $16.94 and the Boston price, times 45 percent. Payments are limited by production: Producers may receive payments on 2.985 million pounds per fiscal year. MILC, recently extended through Sept. 30, is “not a

“There was a lot of talk about the ‘dairy cliff ’ when the (2008) farm bill expired,” Pollard told FarmWeek. “The minute we were threatened with milk in the store going to $8 a gallon, that got everybody’s attention. “They (Congress) took

age of 2.5 percent last year. Food categories with the largest projected price increases this year (3.5 to 4.5 percent) are fruits and vegeta-

prices increased 5.5 percent. Mike Doherty, Illinois Farm Bureau senior economist and policy analyst, said the impact of the drought on

USDA projects modest food price inflation

USDA recently projected retail food prices will increase at a higher rate than last year. But the situation isn’t expected to have a major impact on U.S. consumers as food price inflation is expected to remain modest, even after the worst drought in a quarter-century. “Retail food prices are going to increase. It’s already begun,” Richard Volpe, economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service, said recently at the USDA Ag Outlook Forum. “Eventually, higher corn and soybean prices filter to grocery shelves. “But it’s not going to be so bad,” he continued. “It (food price inflation) is less than what consumers have seen in recent history (including 2007, ’08, and ’11).” USDA projected overall food price inflation this year will average between 3 and 4 percent compared to an aver-

‘Food pr ices are influenced by all kinds of other factors that have nothing to do with commodity prices.’ — Richard Volpe bles and dairy products. The price of fresh vegetables was projected to increase 4 to 5 percent. Meat prices were projected to climb another 3 to 4 percent this year after posting large gains last year. Beef and veal prices last year increased 6.4 percent, due in part to high production (feed) costs and low inventories, and poultry

USDA economist

food prices is significant, but much less than previously forecast by some media. “This (estimate of a 3 to 4 percent increase) is well within the normal price fluctuations of U.S. food prices,” Doherty said. “It is significant to the consumer. But it’s nothing on the level of the sort of hysteria we heard in the mainstream press over and over again last year.”

Normal food price inflation is about 2.5 to 3.5 percent per year in the U.S., Volpe noted. “We’re looking at modest food price inflation (this year),” Volpe said. “It’s above normal, but we’re not looking for a dramatic spike.” The U.S. still maintains one of the lowest portions of disposable income spent on food in the world, about 10 percent. Volpe also pointed out farmers and agribusinesses receive just 11 percent of the consumer dollar spent on food compared to 34 percent for food service, 18 percent for food processing, 13 percent for retail trade, and 10 percent on energy and transportation. “Food prices are influenced by all kinds of other factors that have nothing to do with commodity prices,” he added. — Daniel Grant


761 Dairy operations across Illinois, as of January, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That’s roughly half the number of Illinois operations in 2000 and a 223farm drop since mid-2008.

1.8 billion Pounds of milk produced in Illinois last year. That was up 3.9 percent over 2011 despite continued reduction in farm numbers.

604 Average annual U.S. per capita dairy consumption in pounds of milk equivalents — fluid milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, and other products. Illinois dairy producers reportedly supply only 23 percent of Illinois’ needs. Illinois thus must ship in product from as far as 1,500 miles away.

$18.13 Estimated average Illinois cost of production per hundredweight of milk sold in 2011. Feed on average accounted for $13.63 of that cost. Average gross value of production that year was $19.46 per hundredweight.


Page 9 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek

Grain safety coalition offers farmers a lifeline BY MARTIN ROSS FarmWeek

The Illinois-based Grain Handling Safety Coalition (GHSC) is developing muchneeded guidelines for grain bin “lifeline” use and extending its potentially lifesaving outreach via new funding. An unsecured worker in a grain bin can become completely submerged in corn within 12 seconds and suffocate in a few more. A lifeline — a rope and individual harness anchored inside a bin above the grain surface — can prevent engulfment and help rescuers extract trapped workers. GHSC, a growing Midwest consortium which provides community farm safety training and “train the trainer” education, is developing a lifeline curriculum. GHSC participant and Illinois Fire Service Institute ag/ethanol program manager David Newcomb expects to have lifeline materials in place for local spring training sessions. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require elevators to use a lifeline when workers enter a bin. However, OSHA offers “no example” for using harness gear, Newcomb noted.

“You have to have one, but there’s no real detail on how to make this happen,” Newcomb told FarmWeek at a GHSC planning session in Bloomington. “We’re trying to come up with a uniform guide — whether you’re in the smallest bin at home or a 500-footdiameter bin at an elevator, here’s the simplest manner for making entry with a harness on

a line. “The goal is to keep you from sinking into the grain past your waist, should something out of the norm go wrong.” At the same time, GHSC has received $30,000 in “outreach” funds for general educationtraining programs from the Great Plains Center for Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health, located at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago. Newcomb argued the lifeline system is designed for use essentially as a “last resort” to prevent grain engulfment only when bin entry is deemed necessary. Farmers or workers should

Anhydrous safety training available via IFCA website BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Farmers and their employees may test their anhydrous ammonia knowledge with a free online safety video program. The video is available on the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) website at {}. The voluntary project was funded by a grant from the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), which receives money from a 75-cent assessment per ton of fertilizer sold. In addition to viewing the video, individuals will receive a practice quiz after each of the five training modules and a final test. After successfully completing the training, each participant will be emailed a completion certificate. “A lot of the information they will already know, and the assessment is to just reinforce what they learned,” said IFCA’s Kevin Runkle. IFCA worked on the project with Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture. IFB’s audio visual staff filmed the

safety footage near Shirley using Evergreen FS equipment. “It’s a refresher (course). We’re looking to raise awareness of safe handing” through the online training, said IDOA’s Jerry Kirbach. Runkle estimated the training program would take about an hour to complete. It involves answering 20-some questions. Individuals are able to stop the program and return without having to start at the beginning, he noted. Those taking the training program are asked to submit their names and email addresses so they can receive certificates. Another part of anhydrous safety involves reporting spills to emergency services. Under the law, spills of 100 or more pounds of anhydrous must be reported to local emergency responders and the emergency planning committee, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), and the National Response Center (NRC). The reporting number for IEMA is 800-782-7860 and the reporting number for NRC is 800-424-8802.

never enter a bin while augers or other equipment are running, and GHSC guidelines will emphasize “lockouttagout” procedures that ensure machinery not only is shut

down but also securely deactivated during bin entry. “Lifeline’s only one component of bin entry,” Newcomb stressed. “We have to have machinery shut off; we have to

monitor the bin to know our air quality going in. We have to have an attendant. You don’t go in by yourself; there has to be somebody at the entry point to work (the lifeline) with you.”

Winter safety: Crust and dust in steam-cleaning equipment can damage eyes or The need for planting and harvest safety for skin. Plus, frozen water on machinery can cause farmers is a given. Winter safety is equally crucial, falls, resulting in serious cuts or broken bones. University of Illinois ag safety specialist Robert “Use a ladder to work above equipment,” Aherin Aherin warns. advised. A key winter hazard is “bridging,” or crusting of • Gear up. Proper protective gear is crucial for stored grain, which can create the illusion of solid spring chemical use. Sturdy chemical gloves shield footing for producers working in the bin. hands and forearms; goggles or face shields are “This is when the problems start really developessential when handling anhydrous ammonia or ing,” Aherin told FarmWeek. “Grain has been put in toxic insecticides. at high moisture or hasn’t been adequately dried down, and farmers are starting to move grain out of the bins to prepare for the fall harvest. Illinois Farm Bureau is a charter partici“This is when we see some of pant in the Grain Handling Safety Coaliour significant dangers, as we try to go in and break up crust — people tion and hosted the coalition’s Februar y falling into grain, having grain avameeting. lanche on top of them.” Respiratory gear is important for farmers Producers frustrated by clumping may attempt to break up crust while augers are running, exacerbat- exposed to “toxic dust” in enclosed spaces, where augers are agitating grain or in livestock confineing entrapment risks. ment. Mold and other dusts are less than one Aherin stressed workers who fall through crusted micron in size and can accumulate in the lungs, grain must be “stopped very quickly” and, ideally, potentially contributing to respiratory disease. within a foot. That amplifies the need for lifeline Farmers require a double-strapped mask labeled equipment (see accompanying story), he said. specifically for toxic dust — a disposable, singleAherin offers added winter safety tips: strapped mask provides little protection against smaller • Learn how to lift. Farmers preparing for tillage particles. The letters “TC” and the words “dust” and or planting risk injury by using hydraulic systems to “mist” normally appear on a proper mask or packaging. elevate machinery. Mechanical jacks and/or blocks A chemical cartridge respirator, equipped with a also should be employed to offer reliable protection charcoal filter, is necessary when handling chemicals against equipment falling and crushing a worker that contain organic solvents. Dust filters can be underneath. • Watch the water. Highly pressurized water used added to double protection. — Martin Ross


FarmWeek Page 10 Monday, March 4, 2013

County Farm Bureaus targeting horse owners’ needs BY KAY SHIPMAN FarmWeek

Farm Bureau offers horse owners resources and education, while the equine sector offers potential members and allies, according to four county Farm Bureau managers. During the recent Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference, Jill Frueh, Bureau County Farm Bureau manager; Garry Jenkins, Williamson County Farm Bureau manager; Tammie Obermark, Massac and Pulaski-Alexander County Farm Bureau manager; and Brad Uken, Champaign County Farm Bureau manager, shared their experiences with horse-related membership activities. “There are horses in every county,” Jenkins said. “The (horse Farm Bureau) committee can be anything to help serve those members.” In Southern Illinois’ Farm Bureau District 18, the county Farm Bureaus work together on horse-related events and formed a districtwide horse committee with each county represented by two members.

District 18 encompasses Alexander, Gallatin, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, and Williamson counties. Last fall, the district committee sponsored a free horse education event for young people at the Massac County fairgrounds. Obermark noted several participants traveled many hours to attend.

Jenkins estimated between 40 and 80 horse owners have joined the Williamson County Farm Bureau because of its involvement with horse-related events. Bureau County Farm Bureau also partners on horse activities with the Farm Bureaus in Henry, Stark, Marshall and Putnam counties. Area fall workshops include

a “fun” session and another on serious topics, such as manure management and horse-related regulations, Frueh said. The abundance of horse owners in Champaign County is evidenced by the 570 individuals on the county Farm Bureau’s mailing list for horse issues, according to Uken. To provide horse owners with information, the county

Farm Bureau has compiled a local directory of goods and services related to horses. The Champaign County Farm Bureau also has offered an equine garage sale with horse-related items. “We learned our equine members and our traditional members have a lot in common,” Bureau County’s Frueh said.

Cripe, the wife of Fayette County Farm Bureau President Ken Cripe, received one of two $1,500 scholarships from AFBF for exceptional ag literacy volunteers. She will use it to attend the national AITC conference in Minneapolis, Minn., in June. “You get so many ideas when you meet with people from other states. It’s a lot of fun,” Cripe said last week. She previously attended a national AITC conference in St. Louis. When they gather, ag literacy volunteers and teachers from across the country share ideas about lessons, materials, and resources, Cripe explained.

During a breakfast event, representatives from different states each shared an item from their state and brainstormed ideas, she added. Cripe has served as the Fayette County Farm Bureau AITC coordinator since 2006 and works with 650 students in first through fifth grades at five area schools. Cripe’s dedication to her students doesn’t stop if she has to take time away from making presentations. Recently learning she would miss some time because of upcoming surgery and would have only a month

of the school year remaining, Cripe worked extra hard to finish so the kids wouldn’t miss anything. In addition to Cripe, Cathy Britts-Axen, a middle school special education teacher in Kane County, also received one of 10 $1,500 scholarships for exceptional educators. BrittsAxen, who teaches at Central Middle School in Burlington, was the runner up 2012 IAITC agriculture teacher of the year. Britts-Axen integrates the importance of agriculture into lessons about food, clothing, and shelter. — Kay Shipman

Illinois AITC volunteer wins AFBF scholarship

State teacher also honored

Martha Cripe of Vandalia is dedicated to teaching Fayette County school children about agriculture. She now has an American Farm Bureau Federation Martha Cripe (AFBF) scholarship to add to her education accolades.

Edward Murphy of Farmersville poses with his granddaughters, Isabella, left, and Sophia and the tool box he won at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Farm Bureau)

Montgomery County farmer wins prize from Grainger

While attending the 2013 American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in

Nashville, Tenn., in January, Edward Murphy of Farmersville in Montgomery County decided to take advantage of the Farm Bureau discount offered by Grainger. He located the booth at the trade show, where he met Brian Hicks, the south region manager, from Nashville. Murphy placed his order and was registered in a drawing for a tool box. Upon arriving home from the conference, Murphy found his order

already had been delivered. Three weeks later, Murphy received a phone call from Hicks informing him that he was the winner of the tool box, valued at more than $1,500. Hicks and his family drove to Central Illinois to personally deliver the tool box to Murphy at his farm. While in Central Illinois, the Hicks family spent time in Springfield visiting the Lincoln sites, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and they visited the St. Louis Arch.

Bob Lentz, manager of Montgomery County Farm Bureau, provided information for this article. He can be reached at


Page 11 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek

IFB board endorses Industry’s, educators’ focus: expansion of county to ready kids for ag careers FB SMV safety program A campaign to save lives and prevent farm machinery-traffic accidents will be expanding statewide now that the Illinois Farm Bureau Board of Directors endorsed the project. The “Caution, Slow Down, Share the Road” campaign started as a county Farm Bureau idea in West-Central Illinois with help from the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Transportation. The campaign was launched during the 2012 Illinois State Fair. Last fall, large banners with the safety slogan were posted along heavily traveled roads during harvest. The expansion will entail spring and harvest activities. More details will be announced at a news conference March 13 in the IFB Building — Kay Shipman

Nominations sought for McCloy program

Illinois Farm Bureau has the opportunity to nominate one Farm Bureau leader or staff member between the ages of 28-40 for the 2013 John J. McCloy Foundation program. The program aims to improve understanding of German and American agriculture through a three-week funded educational program of travel in Germany. Travel will occur between August and November. Complete details, including an application template, have been emailed to the county Farm Bureaus and to current and past leaders throughout the state. For more information on the program, contact IFB program manager Peggy Romba at 309-557-2007 or Applications are due March 12. At its March meeting, the IFB board will select the Illinois nominee and forward that application to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) for its selection process. Each state Farm Bureau may submit one application to AFBF for the program. AFBF President Bob Stallman will select nominees to forward to the American Council on Germany, which makes the final decisions. The McCloy Fund of the American Council on Germany was established in 1975 as a tribute to John J. McCloy, soldier, statesman, lawyer, banker, and the first civilian U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. McCloy worked continually to strengthen friendship and cooperation between Germans and Americans.


March 6 2013 Illinois Cattle Feeders meeting, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Ogle County Farm Bureau, Oregon. Call Travis Meteer at 217-823-1340 or email to register. For more information, go to {} Governor’s budget speech, noon, Capitol, Springfield. Meet the Buyers event 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., DeKalb County Farm Bureau, Sycamore. Registration deadline is March 4. Call DeKalb County Farm Bureau at 815-756-6361 to register. March 8 Women changing the face of agriculture, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Call Erin Spaur at 309-268-0306 or email to register or for more information. Bioenergy Crops in Central Illinois, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Fairbury First Baptist Church. Contact Cristina Negri at or call 630-252-9662 for more information. March 8-9 University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences ExplorACES, Urbana. March 12 IFB Crop Insurance and Truck Regulations seminar, 8 a.m., Geneseo Moose Lodge, Geneseo. To register, go to {} at least three days prior to the event. For more information, email or call 309-557-3207.


Illinois students are gaining more information about careers in the agriculture, food, and natural resources sector, but their preparation will be more than classroom instruction, agriculture leaders heard last week. Members of the Vision for Illinois Agriculture (VIA) heard from Jeff Mays, president of the Illinois Business Roundtable, and Jess Smithers, state coordinator for the Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE). VIA made expansion of an educated, trained workforce for the agriculture industry one of its priorities. Mays outlined developments in private-public partnerships that will align and leverage existing workforce training and economic development resources. The initiative, known as the Illinois

Pathways, will prepare students for college and careers. “I think it’s really going to change education as your kids

students taking agriculture courses, Smithers noted. One focus is to improve students’ opportunities for

know it,” Mays said. Industry-specific efforts are part of the pathways initiative. The agriculture, food, and natural resource sector was identified as one of nine key economic sectors in Illinois. Smithers showed new ag career information materials, including online materials and a free smartphone app. Illinois is experiencing an increase not only in the number of schools offering agriculture education, but also an increase in the numbers of

work-based learning, he added. Another effort is integrating agriculture information into other curriculums. For example, ag educators are developing ag-based math materials that will meet new math learning standards, known as common core. “We’re helping to improve student achievement through agriculture,” Smithers said.


FarmWeek Page 12 Monday, March 4, 2013

Food Check-Out Week event

Scavenger hunt one of many activities to benefit charities

Since 2001, Cook County farmers and the Cook County Farm Bureau have been celebrating Food Check-Out Week, collecting thousands of dollars and tons of food to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and northwest Indiana. This year, the Farm Bureau members and their charity partners raised nearly $18,000 and donated more than 10,500 pounds of food to the charities. Ronald McDonald Houses provide a free “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment in Chicagoland area hospitals. The food is used to help feed families staying at the houses. Several entities partnered with the Farm Bureau this year and donated enough food to feed 982 people. Through Food Check-Out Week, Farm Bureaus throughout Illinois and the nation strive to help

consumers find solutions to eating healthy on a stretched budget. As part of the Cook County Food Check-Out event, the Farm Bureau scheduled a match between two competing sportscasters at Dominick’s in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. All proceeds from that scavenger hunt went to the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital. CBS sportscaster Ryan Baker took the shopping prize during the scavenger hunt. He edged out ABC sportscaster Mark Giangreco by six items. The entire shopping list, which was developed from the Ronald McDonald House of Chicagoland and northwest Indiana “wish list,” was matched by Dominick’s in addition to the grocery chain’s $10,000 donation. Bona Heinsohn of the Cook County Farm Bureau provided information for this article. She can be reached at

Carroll County farmers again generous givers

Farmers in Carroll County continue to impress the Carroll County Farm Bureau Young Leaders with their generosity. This year during the Young Leaders annual Harvest for All donation drive, more than 3,880 bushels of corn were collected. That, combined with the more than $8,150 in cash donations, brought the total value of the donations to $37,517. This year’s donation tops last year’s record-setting year by more than $12,000. “Each year, we believe we have reached the ceiling in the amount of donations that we receive, and yet each year the farmers in Carroll County surpass our expectations,” said Carroll County Farm Bureau Young Leader Chairman Ed Livengood. In all, 63 farmers donated to the cause. The proceeds will be split among the four food pantries that serve Carroll County. The total raised since the Young Leaders started participating in the Harvest for All campaign in 2005 is nearly $161,000.

From left are Doug Porter, chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and northwest Indiana; Lori Sanders from Dominick’s corporate office; Ronald McDonald; Mark Giangreco, ABC News, Chicago; and Ryan Baker, CBS News, Chicago. Baker was celebrating collecting more scavenger hunt items than Giangreco. (Photo courtesy of Cook County Farm Bureau)


Chas Welch is manager of Carroll County Farm Bureau. She can be reached at 815-244-3001.

Case IH equipment incentive offered

Far m Bureau members can now take advantage of Case IH equipment discounts thanks to a new membership value program. Eligible Far m Bureau members will receive an incentive discount — from $300 to $500 — when purchasing qualifying Case IH equipment from participating dealers. The discount is stackable, meaning it can be used with other discounts, promotions, rebates, or offers that may be provided by Case IH or a Case IH dealership. A current Far m Bureau

membership verification certificate must be presented to the Case IH dealer in advance of product delivery to receive the incentive discount. The discounts are as follows: • $300 per unit on Farmall compact tractors (A and B); round balers, small square balers; disc mower conditioners; sickle mower conditions; and Cash IH Scouts. • $500 per unit on Farmall utility tractors C, U, and J series; Maxxum series and Farmall 100A series; self-propelled windrowers; and large square balers.

Kent Zimmer of Z100 (WOOZ-FM) radio and Ashley Smith from WSIL 3 News pose with the $1,300 worth of food they gathered collectively in a 90-second shopping spree. The food products were donated to the 4 C’s Food Bank in Harrisburg. (Photo courtesy of Saline County Farm Bureau)

Saline ‘90-Second Haul’ labeled huge success

than $1,600 worth of food products were donated to the 4 C’s Food Bank in Harrisburg. In other activities, Farm Bureau volunteers handed out flyers about eating healthy on a budget and appeared on local news programs to promote the week and to educate consumers about the origin of their food. Food Check-Out Week is celebrated the third week of February to mark the point at which the average American has earned a sufficient amount to buy enough food for the year.

Food Check-Out Week in Saline County had a bit of a twist from previous years with a feature called the “90-Second Haul.” The Farm Bureau invited Kent Zimmer of Z100 (WOOZ-FM) radio and Ashley Smith from WSIL 3 News to compete for 90 seconds to collect as many food items as possible at the Harrisburg Kroger store. At the end of the mad rush, Zimmer had collected $900 worth of food and Smith $400, and when that was combined with food products that hit the floor during the scramble, more

Jody Hughes, manager of the Saline-Gallatin Farm Bureau, supplied information for this article. She can be reached at

Tickets remain available for a global agribusiness summit scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, in Decatur. Featured speakers are to include Brett Begemann, president of Monsanto; Mary Shelman, director of the agribusiness program at Harvard Business School; Cory Reed, vice president of global market services at John Deere; and Colleen Callahan, director of USDA Rural Development in Illinois. Rita Frazer of the RFD Radio Network

will moderate a panel discussion of the four after they give their presentations. The event, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., will focus on the future of technology, policy, equipment, and consumer issues. Illinois Farm Bureau is one of the sponsors. Proceeds will benefit Illinois Ag in the Classroom. Tickets, which cost $10, are required and may be ordered online at {} or by calling 217-424-6318.

Agribusiness summit slated March 13


Page 13 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek


HRISTIAN — Foundation scholarship application deadline is March 15. Applications are available at {}. • The Young Leader kickoff meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12. Call the Farm Bureau office at 8242940 to register. Children may attend. • Farm Bureau’s trivia night will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23. Cost is $50 per team. Registration deadline is 4:30 p.m. March 15. LARK — Farm Bureau will cosponsor a truck seminar at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Kansas School in Kansas in Edgar County. Kevin Rund, Illinois Farm Bureau senior director of local government, will be the speaker. OOK — Farm Bureau members are eligible to purchase discounted theater tickets. Call the Farm Bureau office at 354-3276 to purchase tickets or for more information. • The Illinois Agricultural Auditing Association will provide income tax return services for members. Call Katie at 3543276 for pricing and to schedule an appointment. OUGLAS — Farm Bureau will sponsor farmer appreciation breakfasts at 7:30 a.m. the week of March 11. There is no cost for members who fill out a brief survey. Dates and locations include: Monday, March 11, Country Junction, Newman; Tuesday, March 12, Deb’s Café, Villa Grove; Wednesday, March 13, Yoder’s Kitchen, Arthur; Thursday, March 14, Downtown Diner, Tuscola; Friday, March 15, Dutch Kitchen, Arcola. DGAR — Farm Bureau will sponsor a transportation seminar from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Kansas High School in Kansas in Edgar County. Kevin Rund, Illinois Farm Bureau senior director of local government, will be the speaker. Call the Farm Bureau office for reservations. ORD-IROQUOIS — Farm Bureau will sponsor a Viewpoint breakfast meeting at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the Happy Days Diner in Roberts. • Farm Bureau’s annual meeting will be at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Farm Bureau building. AMILTON — Farm Bureau will sponsor a Viewpoint meeting at 8 a.m. Friday at the Wabash Valley FS plant in McLeansboro. Reservations are requested. Call Doris or Chris at 643-2347 by Thursday for reservations. ENRY — Henry, Bureau, and Stark County Farm Bureaus and the






Grain Handling Safety Coalition will sponsor separate grain handling safety training sessions from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Black Hawk College Community Education Center. Call the Farm Bureau office at 9372411 to register or for more information. • Farm Bureau will cosponsor a weather and market outlook meeting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Moline Viking Club. Mike McClellan, Mobile Weather Team, and Mike Schaver, Gold Star FS, will be the speakers. Cost is $20 in advance and $30 at the door. Call the Farm Bureau office at 937-2411 to register. • Farm Bureau will host a crop insurance and truck regulations seminar at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 12, at the Geneseo Moose Lodge. Registration is requested. Call 309-557-3207, go to {} (CITR Regional Seminars), or email to register. ASALLE — The Stockman’s Association will sponsor a commodity outlook meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at Celebrations 150 in Utica. Dave Dickey, WILL Radio AM 580; Jacquie Voeks, Stewart Peterson Group of Indiana; Curt Kimmell, Bates Commodities of Normal; and Mike ZuZolo, Global Commodity Analytics of Indiana, will be the speakers. Call 252-3077 by Saturday for reservations. • Foundation scholarship applications are available. One $1,500 scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior who will be enrolling in an ag-related field of study. One $1,500 scholarship will be awarded to a student who currently is enrolled in an ag credited college in an ag-related field of study. Call the Farm Bureau office at 433-0371 or go to {} for an application or more information. EE — Farm Bureau will sponsor a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, 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 if you are interested in helping. • The deadline to pay membership dues was March 1. A $10 late fee will go into effect on April 1. Call the Farm Bureau office at 857-3531 if you did not receive a dues notice. • The Public Relations Committee will sponsor the Farmer’s Share of the Food Dollar breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Loveland Community Building in Dixon. Cost




will be 50 cents. ACON -- Farm Bureau will host an Ag Week breakfast at 7 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the Pride of the Prairie Building at the Macon County Fairgrounds. Complimentary tickets are available at the Farm Bureau office or by calling 877-2436 by Friday. Call Jennifer Loveall at 877-2436 or email for more information. ERCER — Foundation scholarship applications are available to Farm Bureau members or a child of a Farm Bureau member. Applications are available at {} or by email at 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, March 14, 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 to register or for more information.



ONTGOMERY — The Prime Timers will host 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. March 15 for reservations or more information. EORIA — The Farmers Share of the Food Dollar breakfast will be from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Exposition Gardens in Peoria. Cost is 85 cents. • Farm Bureau will host a weather and market outlook meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 12, in the Farm Bureau auditorium. Pete Manhart, Bates Commodities, and Chuck Collins, WEEK and WHOI meteorologist, will be the speakers. • Farm Bureau will sponsor an equine roundtable at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, in the Farm Bureau auditorium. Jay Solomon, University of Illinois Extension, will be the speaker. OCK ISLAND — Farm Bureau will cosponsor a market outlook meeting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday



at the Moline Viking Club. Mike McClellan, Mobile Weather Team Inc.; Mike Schaver, Gold Star FS; and Tyson Schulte, FFA state treasurer will be the speakers. Cost is $20 in advance and $30 at the door. Call the Farm Bureau office at 736-7432 for reservations. ANGAMON — The Young Leaders Committee will host a rural roads safe driving class on Friday at the Tri-City High School for driver’s education students. TARK — Stark and Peoria Farm Bureaus will host culinary expert Bill Turney of From the Field Cooking School from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, March 18, at the Princeville Heritage Museum. Turney will speak on vegetable gardening. Cost is $30. Call the Stark County Farm Bureau office at 2867481 or the Peoria County Farm Bureau office at 686-7070 to register. Registration deadline is Friday.


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


FarmWeek Page 14 Monday, March 4, 2013

Keeping an eye on the seasonal patterns in corn

Seasonal patterns in corn futures prices historically have been a good indicator of when to make new-crop sales. Futures prices tend to peak in the March and April timeframe, at planting time, and then fade as the Aaron Curtis calendar moves toward the fall harvest. A 15-year seasonal pattern is a common tool used to show this. However, a shorter version of this tool tells a different story. The five-year seasonal shows a tendency for new-crop corn futures to rally through the summer, experience a downturn in September, and then bounce back again in the late fall. This has made forward selling BY AARON CURTIS

more difficult and has rewarded the patient producer. So why then the change in pattern? It can be tied mostly to yield. The national corn yield has been below trend for the past three consecutive years. After setting a record yield in 2009 of 164.7 bushels per acre, the following three years experienced decreased yields of 152.8, 147.2, and 123.4 bpa. Weather has been the single most contributing component to the yield downgrade, but the widening of the Corn Belt also has been a factor. The ethanol segment of the corn demand balance sheet has grown to account for nearly 40 percent of total demand today. In simplistic terms, this demand growth has caused the footprint of corn planted acres to expand. These non-historical

corn growing regions are more susceptible to growing condition problems; subsequently bring down the national yield. The current tight ending stocks environment is set to encourage additional corn acreage expansion. USDA will issue its prospective plantings report on March 28, and then the first look at the 2013-2014 corn balance sheet will be released on May 10. Many private estimates are suggesting a record or near record acreage of corn will be planted this coming spring. Taking a look at the accompanying chart, you can see what the different yield scenarios could mean for ending stocks. Demand will recover somewhat if the production is present but not nearly enough to offset the large production potential. If the weather cooperates and

Forum last month predicted crop production this year could top 14.5 billion bushels of corn and 3.4 billion bushels of beans, both of which would be records. Crop prices subsequently could slip below $11 per bushel for beans and $5 for corn if production reaches those record levels, the Ag Department projected. Such a scenario likely would

have a ripple effect in the farmland market. “Farmers are the primary buyers (of farmland), particularly at auctions,” Jason Henderson, vice president and branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said at the Ag Outlook Forum. “There could be challenges supporting higher incomes if (crop) prices fall.” Lower crop prices also could reduce revenue guarantees for crop insurance for 2014, Henderson noted. He also is concerned farmers could finance more purchases if there is less cash on hand. “Farm leverage increases as farmers use debt, not income, to finance investments,” Henderson noted. The financial picture looks good for agriculture, for the time being, though. USDA recently projected record-high cash income for farmers in 2012. And the debt-to-asset ratio in agriculture is historically low at about 11 percent, Henderson said. “My concern is not so much today, but what the debt picture looks like in two or three years,” Henderson said. “What happens if interest rates increase going forward? Assets of all types, including farmland, usually come down.” David Oppedahl, business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, agreed lower crop prices could weigh on farmland values. “There certainly is a chance we could see some changes in crop prices given the large expected plantings (USDA projected farmers this year will plant 96.5 million acres of corn and 77.5 million acres of beans) and if we’re really out of the drought

tern would once again reward the historical approach to marketing grain and we encourage you to be mindful of all possibilities.

a trend yield is achieved, there is real potential for very large ending stocks, which would still be negative to current prices. So keep in mind, while the short-term trend has argued for a wait-and-see approach, a return to a more normal weather pat-

Aaron Curtis is a MID-CO Commodity risk consultant. His email address is

in Illinois,” Oppedahl told FarmWeek. “2014 really is where the concern might be (for the farmland market).” Farmland values in the Chicago Federal Reserve district, which includes all or parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin, last year increased 16 percent for good farmland. The value of good farmland in Illinois last year increased 18 percent. And for the past three years farmland values in the Chicago

district increased 52 percent, which matched the fastest gain of the 1970s boom. Surveys by the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and St. Louis predicted farmland values will continue to trend higher for the next three months. “With potentially lower crop prices (later this year), I think farmers will be aggressive (in the farmland market) early this year and take advantage of high (crop) prices, now,” Oppedahl added.

Lower crop prices could pressure farmland market BY DANIEL GRANT FarmWeek

Farmland values are expected to remain strong, at least for the first half of this year. But the seemingly runaway market could lose some momentum later this year or into 2014 if U.S. farmers produce record corn and soybean crops and crop prices decline, as predicted by USDA. USDA at its Ag Outlook

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-$48.32 $62.50

This Week 87,400 *Eastern Corn Belt prices picked up at seller’s farm


Weighted Ave. Price $41.51 $62.50 Last Week 101,361

Eastern Corn Belt direct hogs (plant delivered) Carcass Live

(Prices $ per hundredweight) This week Prev. week $70.36 $75.26 $52.07 $55.69

Change -$4.90 -$3.63

USDA five-state area slaughter cattle price Steers Heifers

(Thursday’s price) (Thursday’s price) Prev. week Change This week $128.04 $123.00 $5.04 $127.87 $123.00 $4.87

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 $138.87 $140.62 -$1.75

Lamb prices Slaughter prices - Negotiated, Live, wooled and shorn 119-183 lbs. for 107.24-123 $cwt. (wtd. ave. 118.17)

Export inspections (Million bushels) Week ending Soybeans Wheat Corn 2/21/2013 27.3 21.2 11.6 2/14/2013 40.8 23.7 9.7 Last year 39.4 10.2 28.8 Season total 1106.5 668.2 348.3 Previous season total 875.2 726.3 804.9 USDA projected total 1345 1050 950 Crop marketing year began June 1 for wheat and Sept. 1 for corn and soybeans.

Milk price posts another drop

The Class III price for milk adjusted to 3.5 percent butterfat for the month of February was $17.25 per hundredweight, 89 cents lower than the previous month. This marks the lowest milk price since last summer. Milk prices are showing a considerable amount of weakness as production continues to creep higher. Illinois’ milk production was up more than 3 percent in 2012, and the higher production number is keeping a lid on prices. Producers also are heading into the “spring flush” time period when cows naturally start to give more milk as the weather warms up.


Page 15 Monday, March 4, 2013 FarmWeek


Chinese soybean imports in focus

Amid the constant barrage of news about soybean shipping delays out of Brazil and the switch of near-term loadings to the U.S., the scale of Chinese soybean imports has been lost. Since the beginning of the world marketing year (October through September), Chinese soybean imports are lower than the cumulative pace of the last two years. So far, they have imported only 30 percent of their expected 63 million metric tons of imports. On average they import 32 percent in the first four months of the marketing year. Last year’s pace was just a little beyond that. Two years ago, they had imported nearly 38 percent of their needs by the end of January. The willingness to import aggressively two years ago probably was tied to relatively low prices. This year, like last year, prices were high when imports began. The slower-than-expected early pace this year might have been tied to tighter world supplies that impacted the ability of the Chinese to import as much as they would like. To supplement their needs, they could have used more of their 2012 crop for crushing.

Sources indicate that processors have been working down stocks, anticipating buying cheaper soybeans when South American supplies begin to flow into the world pipeline. Port stocks are thought to have dropped to four million metric tons from 6 million metric tons to 7 million metric tons a couple of months ago. At the same time, crush margins have improved to profitable levels. February import data might offer some insight into what lies ahead. It’s typically the month with the slowest imports because it is tied to the transition from importing U.S. soybeans to importing beans from South America. Preliminary data will be out later this month. If those imports are as large as they were last year, it would reinforce the theory that tight supplies have constrained Chinese imports so far. That would bolster the potential for imports to reach USDA’s 63 million metric ton target. But if imports are something less than 3 million metric tons, it suggests Chinese imports may fall short of forecasts. That happened two years ago when imports fell 5 million metric tons short of earlyseason expectations. This year, with the large crops coming out of South America and the prospects of a large U.S. crop, any indication that demand from the key buyer is falling short will add to negative price expectations.

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Corn Strategy

ü2012 crop: The plight of the cor n market is tied to wheat, with wheat again competing as a feed grain in the world trade. Still, the technical attributes for both point to near-term price strength. 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 $5.75 for catch-up sales. We may add a sale if December hits that level. Check the Hotline. vFundamentals: Wheat prices have fallen to a level allowing then not only to compete with corn as a feedstuff in the world but here in the U.S. as well. On the plus side, ethanol grind profitability has improved slightly, slowly lifting the pace of corn grinding. The biggest plus for corn is the relatively tight supply. There have been indications of Chinese buying, but it appears to be focused on new-crop delivery.

Cents per bu.

Soybean Strategy

ü2012 crop: The delay in shipping soybeans out of Brazil is garnering the most attention. But do not lose sight of the fact that South America is going to have a big crop. Use rallies to $14.50 on May futures for catch-up sales. ü2013 crop: New-crop prices remain weaker than oldcrop prices on expectations of a significant increase in supplies. Use a rally to $12.70 on November futures for catch-up sales. vFundamentals: T he trade is primarily focused on the slow early shipments out of Brazil, a situation shifting short-term demand to the U.S. The fact that South America is going to have a large crop is being lost. Soybeans that aren’t exported now will only compete later. The prospects for improving supplies will stifle the willingness to buy soybeans at these prices, other than those needed for immediate shipment. But with Brazil’s harvest closing in on a third complete,

our exports could soon begin to fade.

Wheat Strategy

ü2012 crop: Technical features suggest a near-term low for wheat may be in the making. Use rallies above $7.40 on Chicago May futures to make catch-up sales. ü2013 crop: Wait for Chicago July to trade above $7.47 before making catch-up sales. New-crop sales stand at 35 percent complete. vFundamentals: T he recent strength in the wheat market could be linked to

expectations that demand for U.S. wheat could finally be experiencing an uptick. Thus far this winter, demand has been lackluster. But it now a p p e a r s t h e b r e a k i n U. S. wheat prices finally has made them competitive in internat i o n a l t r a d i n g. H o w e ve r, upside potential is being stifled by improved conditions in the U.S. Great Plains with recent winter storms bringing muchneeded moisture. However, the critical time period will come this spring when the crop breaks dormancy with moisture reserves still lacking.


FarmWeek Page 16 Monday, March 4, 2013

Consumers have bought mislabeled imports before

Skillful application

Illinois Farm Bureau Director Brad Temple, right, says similar skills are applied when giving placing reasons in livestock judging and stating reasons in the IFB Young Leader Discussion Meet. (FarmWeek file photo)

If you judged livestock contests, you have Discussion Meet skills

What does the Young Leader Discussion Meet have in common with a livestock judging contest? A lot actually! Stop and think about the dynamics involved in each — stating your viewpoint and backing it up through your reasons. We all have opinions. Some of us are freer to share them than others. A Discussion Meet is an exchange of ideas between the contestants, just as a judging contest is an opinion of placings — backed up with reasons. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Blast from the Past” Discussion Meet, at the BRAD Illinois Young Leader ConferTEMPLE ence. Four of us “old-timers” got to provide a light-hearted demonstration of a Discussion Meet for conference attendees. I hope the audience had as much fun as the contestants did. We did this to show that a Discussion Meet is not a BIG SCARY event, but rather a discussion with friends around a table. My challenge to many of you young leaders is this: If you have ever taken part in a livestock judging contest, whether it be through 4-H or FFA or in college, consider competing in your district Discussion Meet late this summer/early

fall. It is a natural fit with your past experiences. In livestock judging, you have to analyze and prepare your thoughts. You do the same thing in a Discussion Meet. Analyze the topic, do a little research, and prepare your thoughts. Standing in front of the reasons judge is like standing to present your opening and closing statements. The time in between those statements? It is like a conversation at the local co-op. You and the other contestants are just tr ying to solve the world’s problems one at a time. There are no right or wrong answers, just thoughts and opinions. Of course, like any judging contest, Discussion Meets are subject to the “official” results from a committee of judges. While you might not be placing a set of fat steers or Duroc gilts, you will be discussing issues that are impor tant to ag riculture. Ever y year, topics that are seen as directly affecting ag riculture are chosen. So give it a tr y, the worst thing that can happen is that you lear n something along the way or make some new friends. I look forward to hearing your set of “reasons” at the Young Leader Discussion Meet finals this December. Brad Temple of Serena represents District 4 on the Illinois Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Temple also is a professional livestock judge and an IFB Discussion Meet winner in 1996.

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A daytime telephone number is required for verification, but will not be published. Only one letter per writer will be accepted in a 60-day period. Typed letters are preferred. Send letters to: FarmWeek Letters 1701 Towanda Ave. Bloomington, Ill., 61701

Mislabeling food products has consumers up in arms in the U.S. and Europe. You can understand the customers’ concerns. Stop at the supermarket and pick up some beef stew. You would be angry to find that it was really horse meat stew. If you order red snapper fish in your restaurant and find out that it is really tilapia, you wouldn’t like that, either. Europe has horse meat showing up in dishes that are supposed to be beef, and it appears that as much as one third of the seafood sold in the U.S. is mislabeled. Mislabeling meat is not new. When I was secretary of agriculture one morning in 1983, my chief of staff JOHN came into my office and said, “We have BLOCK a problem. We have discovered that an Australian meat company that imports beef into the U.S. has been labeling the product beef but it is really kangaroo meat.” Well, needless to say, the Australian plant was shut down. One thing that I would say about the current mislabeling scandal is that it’s not really surprising. If you can sell cheap tilapia fish as expensive red snapper, you make more money. And, in Europe, any time you can slip in a little cheap horse meat for beef, you make more money. How do we fix the problem? One way would be for us to butcher our own beef, cut it into steaks and roasts, etc., and freeze it. That’s what we did when I was a boy. Of course, we’re not going to do that now. Some would suggest that the Food and Drug Administration should have more inspectors checking the DNA of meat. That’s not going to work, either. We can’t afford to hire that many inspectors. I think the retail store chains like Safeway and Walmart have the incentive to ensure that what they sell is not mislabeled. Same goes for McDonald’s and other big foodservice restaurants. They have a reputation to protect. We will never completely fix the problem. Feeding the world is too complicated and complex. At least the mislabeled substitutes, although cheaper, won’t hurt you, and they will taste better than kangaroo meat.

John Block, former U.S. agriculture secretary, is a senior policy adviser with the Washington, D.C., firm of Olsson, Frank, Weeda, and Terman. His email address is

FarmWeek March 4 2013.pdf  

FarmWeek March 4 2013 pdf

FarmWeek March 4 2013.pdf  

FarmWeek March 4 2013 pdf