AG Mag A look ahead
What the area agriculture community will be talking about this year: n Planting and prices n The 2018 farm bill n Local solar farm and wind farm projects A Publication of Shaw Media
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Index The 2018 forecast
What does the coming season have in store for local farmers? Local and state experts weigh in.
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BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN Soon, it will be planting season; limited chance for price increases; higher soybean acres expected BY JIM DUNN AND RACHEL RODGERS For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
arge crops and substantial carryover from last year means stagnant commodity prices are likely on the horizon, according to a Princeton-based farm manager. Doug Ray of Ray Farm Management Services has managed farms professionally in the Bureau County area for 34 years. 10 Spring 2018
â€œCorn and soybean price increases will be limited due to large crops and burdensome supplies, unless there are significant weather issues in South America or the U.S.,â€? Ray said. That follows a trend of record-high yields for corn and soybeans but lean margin years from depressed prices. CONTINUED ON 114
4CONTINUED FROM 10 The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 2017 corn yields in Illinois were 201 bushels per acres, up four bushels from 2016, and soybeans yields at 58 bushels per acre, down 1 bushel from 2016. That’s another record-high yield for corn, and soybeans saw a record-high production of 612 million bushels. Nationally, Ray noted, U.S. corn production in 2017 was 14.6 billion bushels (176.6 bushels per acre), and soybean production was 4.39 billion bushels (49.1 bushels per acre). “The improvements in the corn and soybean seed genetics continue to raise yield potential and make a crop failure more unlikely,” he said. However, Ray said, soybean acres increased sharply in 2017. “Higher soybean acres are expected in 2018 as farmers continue to look at ways to control costs and manage risk,” he said.
Forecast for prices Corn and soybean prices are projected to be relatively similar to the past 3 years and lower than the 2007 through
Historical yields (in millions of bushels) Corn Year Illinois Iowa Nation 1997........... 129.......... 138......... 126.7 1998........... 141.......... 145......... 134.4 1999........... 140.......... 149......... 133.8 2000........... 151.......... 144......... 136.9 2001........... 152.......... 146......... 138.2 2002........... 135.......... 163......... 129.3 2003........... 164.......... 157......... 142.2 2004........... 180.......... 181......... 160.4 2005........... 143.......... 173......... 147.9 2006........... 163.......... 166......... 149.1 2007........... 175.......... 171......... 150.7 2008........... 179.......... 171......... 153.3 2009........... 174.......... 181......... 164.4 2010........... 157.......... 165......... 152.6 2011........... 157.......... 172......... 146.8 2012........... 105.......... 137......... 123.1 2013........... 178.......... 164......... 158.1 2014........... 200.......... 178............ 171 2015........... 175.......... 192......... 168.4 2016........... 197.......... 203......... 174.6 2017........... 201.......... 202......... 176.6
Soybeans Year Illinois Iowa Nation 1997............. 43............ 46........... 38.9 1998............. 44............ 48........... 38.9 1999............. 42......... 44.5........... 36.6 2000............. 44......... 43.5........... 38.1 2001............. 45............ 44........... 39.6 2002............. 43............ 48.............. 38 2003............. 37......... 32.5........... 33.9 2004............. 50............ 49........... 42.2 2005.......... 46.5......... 52.5.............. 43 2006............. 48......... 50.5........... 42.9 2007.......... 43.5............ 52........... 41.7 2008............. 47......... 46.5........... 39.7 2009............. 46............ 51.............. 44 2010.......... 51.5............ 51........... 43.5 2011.......... 47.5......... 51.5.............. 42 2012............. 43............ 45.............. 40 2013............. 50......... 45.5.............. 44 2014............. 46............ 51........... 47.5 2015............. 56......... 56.5.............. 48 2016............. 59......... 60.5........... 52.1 2017............. 58......... 56.5........... 49.1
2014 period when the projected price averaged $4.93 per bushel. Planning numbers for farmers remain in the mid-$9 range for soybeans and mid-$3 range for corn, and
fall delivery bids are near $3.60 per bushel for corn and $9.60 per bushel for soybeans. CONTINUED ON 124
Sue and Doug Ray of Princeton stand next to farmland managed by Ray Farm Management Services near Interstate 80 in rural Princeton. Doug Ray said that unless significant weather issues intervene in South America or the U.S., corn and soybean price increases will be limited this year. (Jim Dunn/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag)
4CONTINUED FROM 11 “At this point, futures prices suggest that the 2018 projected (crop insurance) price for corn will be near the 2017 price of $3.96 per bushel,” Gary Schnitkey, an agriculture economist at the University of Illinois, said in December. “The 2018 projected price for soybeans likely will be near but lower than the 2017 projected price of $10.19 per bushel.” Lee Schulz, an agriculture economist at Iowa Gary State University, said many Schnitkey issues surrounding crop markets the past few years are likely to repeat this year. “Large crop supplies have been produced globally,” he said. “Crop demands have reached record levels, but crop stocks continue to build.” Farmers have been able to break even or turn a small profit during the trend, though it’s critical farmers are prepared for another lean year by cutting costs and improving efficiency. “The projected prices in recent years are somewhat of a ‘broken record’ in that the outlook is very similar in each year since 2015,” Schnitkey said. “Given that trend yields are received, projected prices are at levels that, at best, reflect marginal profitably on many farms.” Putting in early and bulk seed orders could help with costs as seed prices continue to rise. Another trend likely to continue this year is converting more and more corn acreage to soybeans, which have a more favorable price ratio for farmers as well as higher yields.
12 Spring 2018
Bio about Doug Ray Doug Ray was raised on a grain and livestock farm in Warren County and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in ag economics. Ray and his wife, Sue, operate Ray Farm Management Services and have 34 years of professional farm management experience, offering professional farm management and farm real estate services. Ray holds the Accredited Farm Manager Designation of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and is a managing real estate broker. More information can be found at rayfarm1.com. “Since 2012, acres in the U.S. have been shifting out of corn and into soybeans, likely as a result of higher returns for soybeans than for corn,” Schnitkey said. Last year, 7 million less acres of corn were planted than in 2012, whereas soybean acres reached an all-time high of 90 million acres. Corn was more profitable from 2000 to 2012, though that shifted to soybeans in 2014, according to the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management Association. Illinois corn and soybean stockpiles both increased from 2016 – corn stocks totaled 2.08 billion bushels, up 5 percent, and soybean stocks totaled 511 million bushels, up 6 percent, according to the USDA. Prices could take a hit if the nation pulls out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump has suggested, but that remains to be seen. Prices could go up, but it would take a sizable production problem in the U.S. or South America.
Other impacts Ray said farmers will be watching Washington, D.C., in 2018 for not only what happens with trade agreements, but also with the new farm bill and the future for renewable energy. “Ethanol production consumes over 5 billion bushels of corn annually,” he said. “Currently in Princeton, E85 is 90 cents per gallon cheaper than E10.” Ray discussed weed control and weed resistance to Roundup chemistry, which, he said, “is a huge issue.” “Many fields in 2017 had severe weed escapes,” he said. “Farms that have historically been weed-free now have resistant weeds, including waterhemp, marestail, lambsquarter, giant ragweed, etc. “Proactive management strategies are needed by using a strong preplant chemical program with multiple modes of action. Another option is rotating weed control chemistry with products like Liberty and Extend.” Ray said that this year, many operators are ordering all Extend (dicamba resistant) soybeans. That way, they can use dicamba if needed for weed control, and they’ll be insulated from drift damage from neighbors using dicamba. “The Bureau County landscape will change in 2018 with the construction of 106 new wind turbines in the Walnut Ridge Wind farm, 75 turbines in the Green River Wind Farm, and an expansion of the Tiskilwa wind farm,” Ray said. “Bureau County approved the first solar farm in Fairfield Township. Several solar farm companies are looking at possible solar projects in the area. Income from these renewable energy farms will benefit landowners and local schools and other taxing bodies.”
With Lyle Ganther of NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
What’s the biggest decision you have to make in planning for the upcoming planting season? Chip Moodie of Bradford
Kevin Knapp of Magnolia
“How much you will get in federal crop insurance, varieties of corn and beans, and types of chemicals to control weeds in order to keep costs down as much as possible.”
“Whether to plant dicamba-resistant soybeans or not. There is always the question of the mix of corn versus beans.”
Luke Holly of Granville
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High-stakes negotiations Buckle up, it’s farm bill time: Insurance safety nets for farmers a priority for local lawmakers BY JEFF ROGERS AND RACHEL RODGERS For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
uke Sandrock is a partner at The Cornerstone Agency in Tampico, which among other things provides farm and crop insurance. Each year, the agency he works for hosts the annual Farmer Update Meeting in Deer Grove. At the most recent meeting, held Dec. 15, the farm bill was high on the list of topics of conversation. “It impacts every single person in this room,” Sandrock said, “and frankly, everyone in this country.” The farm bill might be to agriculture what the Super Bowl is to football, the Daytona 500 to auto racing. It’s a massive, wide-ranging bill that impacts almost every aspect of agriculture and affects the ways farmers locally and nationally go about their business. CONTINUED ON 154
Photo illustration by Alex T. Paschal/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
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4CONTINUED FROM 14 A new farm bill must be passed every 5 years, and it’s that time again. The current bill expires in September. But legislative work on the next farm bill began 3 years ago. It never really ends. The House Agriculture Commitee, for example, had 117 hearings on the bill’s issues between 2015 and 2017. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat from East Moline sits on the committee, and was at the Farmer Update Meeting to talk, among other things, about the farm bill. The committee is working on the House version of the bill, while the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry work on the Senate version. Bustos said as the state’s top industry continues to evolve, younger farmers are adapting to new arenas in the field, and legislators need to adovate for the agriculture community as the bill is crafted. “We’ve got to start thinking big and bold, and that’s going to come at a cost,” Bustos, who represents the ag-heavey 17th Congressional District, said. She said the biggest challenge facing those in farm bill talks is President Donald Trump’s proposed 21 percent cut to the USDA’s budget. “It’s critical that we start on it very early,” Bustos said. “The closer we are to November 2018 [midterm elections],
Alex T. Paschal/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, speaks Dec. 15 during the 28th annual Farmer Update Meeting at Deer Valley Country Club in Deer Grove. the less our chances to get it passed are.” Even lawmakers who aren’t on the committees forming the next farm bill are talking about it with constituents. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Channahon who represents the 16th Congressional District, met
with members of his citizen group Agriculture Advisory Committee last month in Ottawa. He said getting input from the 27 community leaders from the agriculture industry on the farm bill was a priority. CONTINUED ON 164
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U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, meets with members of his Agricultural Advisory Committee in Ottawa in January.
“The agriculture community values the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and want free trade to be protected on our agriculture goods.” Yes, trade, is part of the farm bill, too. In fact, there are 12 “titles” covered by the legislation. It’s massive, remember?
4CONTINUED FROM 15 “Farmers across the district are concerned about high health care costs,” Kinzinger said after the meeting. “They want support for RFS (renewable fuel standards), E-15 sales, and ethanol.
Price and income supports for farmers on commodities such as corn, soybeans and dairy are one of the most debated portions of the bill. So, too, is crop insurance, which provides premium subsidies to farmers and subsidies to private crop insurance companies that provide federal crop insurance to farmers. And the credit title covers federal loan programs designed to help farmers access financial credit – direct loans, loan guarantees and other tools – they need to grow and sustain their farming operations. But the farm bill also covers conservation, trade, nutrition, rural development, research, forestry, energy, specialty crops, horticulture and outreach programs for the socially disadvantaged. In fact, spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a big part of the farm bill. It’s a lot of money. The 2014 farm bill projected spending on SNAP to be between $75 billion and $80 billion for each of the 5 years of the legislation. That spending has actually been a bit lower – between $78 billion in 2014 and a projected $68 billion this year – because SNAP participation has dropped along with the unemployment rate. CONTINUED ON 174
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4CONTINUED FROM 16 The USDA’s Economic Research Service, using data from the Congressional Budget Office, projects spending on the 2014 farm bill to cost about $489 billion. (It’s worth noting that farm policy constitutes only 0.26 percent of the federal budget.) About 10 percent of those farm bill costs go to crop insurance. That safety net is something farmers, and lawmakers who represent agricultural communities, are hoping to at least preserve, if not boost, in the next farm bill. “What our family farmers are telling us is that, don’t fix what’s not broken, that the crop insurance is working and it’s working well, and first do no harm,” Bustos told Illinois Public Media earlier this month. That safety net may be more critical to farmers locally and nationally now than at any time in recent years. Farmers and ranchers have seen net farm income drop 45 percent over the past 3 years, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Overall, the ERS forecasts a 50 percent drop in net farm income since 2013. That drop impacts everyone, not just farmers. It leads to fewer equipment purchases, higher food prices, reductions in the use of cutting edge technology, and more.
Farmers and the advocacy groups that support them say it is more important now than ever to push back against efforts to cut funding to risk management tools. Kinzinger said preserving crop insurance levels is both the biggest priority and the greatest challenge of upcoming discussions. “It’s what farmers rely on the most, and it gives you the ability to plan and mitigate risk,” Kinzinger said. “That’s the No. 1 priority I’m hearing from farmers.” U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, who represents the 18th Congressional District in north central Illinois, said he wants to make sure crop insurance is protected. “We’ve seen some conservatives and liberals go after crop insurance,” he said during a visit to Macomb in January that was reported by the Canton Daily Ledger. “It’s a safety net for our farmers, but it’s a program over the years that’s been refined and reformed. I think it’s effective, efficient and accountable. But it’s been a target of the past.” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in a blog in January on the committee’s website, said that maintaining crop insurance is a priority. “We are talking about having a safety net that’s not so high that there’s no risk, but not so low that it’s so dangerous people can’t farm again,” he said.
“So, that’s the challenge of the ag committee and Congress to write that farm bill.” Once the House and Senate committees each pass their own bills, they go to the full House and Senate. LaHood said he expects those votes in June or July. Those bills will be different, perhaps vastly so. Which means a conference committee of members of both houses will combine the bills into one that will be voted on by the full Congress, then approved by the president. If all goes well. If a bill is not passed and signed by the fall, Congress can approve extension periods for the existing bill until a new one is finalized. “I understand that in negotiations with the farm bill there are competing agricultural groups,” Kinzinger said, “but it will be critical that we work together even when we disagree. That’s how we will get it done.” Said U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, a member of the House ag committee who once was its chairman: “If you care about the food on your table, if you care about making sure your neighbors have enough to eat, if you care about water quality, air quality, preserving those natural resources, wildlife, if you care about all those things, then you care about the farm bill.”
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a bumper to bumper You can reap the harvest of what they show at the John Deere Pavilion: an up close look at the mighty machines that help feed the world – and a mower with a mind of it’s own, too
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANDREA MILLS For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
he Sauk Valley has a tie to Moline – Deere & Co. – linked through John Deere, who in 1837 invented his revolutionary self-scouring, steel plow in Grand Detour. A few years later, Deere moved his company to Moline, where today visitors can see how a small plow mushroomed into giant yellow and green machines that tower over visitors at the John Deere Pavilion. Just stepping through the doors made me realize this was no longer my great-great-grandfather’s plow. Like a kid, I couldn’t resist climbing the helpful stairs to look into the cabs of the machines that were open to guests. I sat in the driver’s seat of a huge combine and my mind’s eye gazed out over fields and I was ready to tackle my ripe crops – I felt like I could get it done in no time at all.
Don’t like mowing the lawn? Let the Tango do it. The autonomous mower is designed to do the work while its owner goes shopping or does other chores. 18 Spring 2018
GREEN LEFT: A changing display tells visitors about John Deere and his plow, which “sliced through the sticky soil.” The plow was created in Grand Detour before Deere moved to Moline, where the company’s latest equipment can be seen at the John Deere Pavilion. BELOW: The John Deere Pavilion in Moline has a number of machines visitors can view from the floor or from the driver’s seat. This S670 combine is poised in front of crops, making even city folks feel like farmers when they take the controls. Unfortunately, they can’t go anywhere but in the imagination.
If you go … What: John Deere Pavilion Where: 1400 River Drive, Moline When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday Cost: free Information: 309-765-1000 or deere. com/en/connect-with-john-deere/visitjohn-deere/pavilion/ Or maybe that was my own tiny garden that I was picturing. It wouldn’t take much for this mighty machine to harvest my homegrown crops. From the cab of a – surprisingly to me, not green, but yellow – drive loader, I noticed something considerably smaller darting across a display that featured a lawn and a house backdrop. I had to find out what that was, so when I returned to the ground, I went over to the white fence and waited for the gadget to appear again. That’s when I first met the Tango autonomous mower as it appeared in the “yard” and began to mow. Something’s missing, though: a person pushing the mower. With the use of a boundary wire, the Tango automatically mows your grass while you work in the garage or do the laundry. Even better, it does that while you go to the movies. Ah, the good life. I went through the Pavilion to see what else I could find. Not only can kids and adults climb up and onto several machines, but kids can explore the Discovery Zone, where eight exhibits offer hands-on activities. Adults can try give the exhibits a try, too. I did. CONTINUED ON 204
4CONTINUED FROM 19 Other exhibits include vintage machines, forestry equipment and simulators. Across from the Pavilion is the John Deere Store with just about anything John Deere you can think of. Itâ€™s a good place to spend some green on the green.
Factory tour Although not connected to the Pavilion, one of the other John Deere-related activities visitors can enjoy is to arrange for a factory tour. Those taking part must be 13 and older. Visit Deere.com/ FactoryTours to make arrangements. Reservations must be made 48 hours in advance. The factories are Harvester Works in East Moline and John Deere Seeding Group in Moline; call them at 800-7659588. In Iowa, you can visit the Tractor Cab Assembly Operations and Drive train Operations â€“ call 319-292-7668 â€“ and Engine Works â€“ call 319-292-5347 â€“ in Waterloo. Thereâ€™s also the John Deere Ottumwa Works in Ottumwa â€“ call 800369-5689 â€“ and Des Moines Works in Ankeny â€“ call 515-289-3198. Whether you go home wearing green or not, be sure to pay a visit to the Pavilion and see the pride and joy of Deere & Co.
Andrea Mills/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
If you enjoy channeling your inner Hank Hill, the X590 select series lawn-and-garden tractor offers a more traditional way to mow the grass under control, as compared to the Tango autonomous mower. This is one of the machines on display at the John Deere Pavilion.
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PREPARING F FOR FARMING’S FUTURE Putnam County FFA is schooling students through communication, technology
BY DAVE COOK For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
uture Farmers of America, better known as the National FFA, was founded in 1928. In the decades since, many changes have taken place to keep its members at the leading edge of agriculture. Many adaptations revolve around the great strides made through technology and science, and it’s apparent when looking at the curriculum . “The FFA and agriculture education have been at Putnam County High School for more than 40 years, and it’s changed a lot just in the classes offered, including agriculture communications and biotechnology,” said John Heiser, Putnam County ag science teacher. CONTINUED ON 224
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4CONTINUED FROM 21 “The curriculum continues to evolve as agriculture becomes more and more technology and advocacy focused,” Heiser said. Additionally, each year students can participate in the FFA’s Career Development Events and Supervised Agriculture Experiences. Heiser said these educational events let students work with industry insiders and apply what’s been learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios, saying it gives them responsibility and also helps build their resumes. “Students also get to explore different career opportunities by doing CDEs and SAEs,” he said. “They have the opportunity to travel throughout the state, country and to other countries, too. It also prepares them for college and the workforce.” Communication is another big way in which technology has changed the FFA. “Keeping everyone updated with pictures and posts is how we stay in contact, and I see technology becoming a bigger part in our chapter because students are becoming more acquainted with different programs and are wanting to keep up to date with what’s ‘in,’” Heiser said. Nolan Whitner, a junior at Putnam
Dave Cook/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
Putnam County High School FFA students in Hannah Weinzierl’s Ag Business class have studied agricultural marketing as well as the many other aspects of the ever-evolving industry. ON PAGE 21: PCHS students are as likely to learn in a classroom as they are in the field, and the rapid growth of technology crosses over both environments. County High, said: “FFA helped me become a better leader, an overall well-rounded person and helped me realize some of the aspects behind the business of farming. It’s also helped me develop good time management and communication skills.”
After working in the FFA biotechnology class, sophomore Cassie Johnson was asked about what role she thought GMOs will play in farming’s future. CONTINUED ON 234
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4CONTINUED FROM 22 “I think GMOs will create more nutritious and faster-growing products to help support our growing population,” Johnson said. “Farmers will be able to grow more crops on one piece of land than they would with non-GM seeds. This will help them make money, so they don’t have to pay more for land.” She added scientists have been able to create crops with additional nutrition, such as golden rice. However, she said, there isn’t enough research to support any real drawbacks and that the research done so far is inconclusive and biased. “Therefore, the only drawbacks are that consumers are very misinformed about what GMOs are and how they’re developed,” Johnson said. Putnam County FFA students have also designed solar water heaters in their ag engineering class. “It’s a good idea to incorporate renewable energy because it’s great to find different ways to produce energy without wasting fossil fuels,” sophomore Carter Trone said. “We’ll soon run out of fossil fuels, so the more we incorporate it now, the better.” Students were also asked about the increasing popularity and need for conservation programs, soil and water practices, and natural habitat restoration. The answer received provided a clue as to how the FFA may next adapt to the future. “Most people my age don’t know what they are. I think they need to be talked about more in school and to the younger generation,” senior Kindra Shawback said.
Dave Cook/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
The PCHS FFA has several fundraising events throughout the year, including grilling pork chops at a variety of local events. The proceeds help sponsor the trips and projects which further the chapter’s educational opportunities. LEFT: Proof that you’ll never know what will turn up at the annual PCHS FFA Auction – a sailboat sits in the large lot of donated items waiting to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Common things seen at the auction include antique farm equipment, furniture, yard and light farming implements, bicycles, decorative and household items, tools, hobby and leisure equipment and more.
HERE COMES THE SUN! T
BY KATHLEEN A. SCHULTZ For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
here’s quite a crop of renewable energy projects in discussion, or actual production, in and around the Illinois Valley. Wind and solar energy companies have been showing an interest in the Sauk Valley for years, with wind companies gaining the first toehold. Thanks to the state’s new Future Energy Jobs Act – which, among other
Illinois renewable crops: Solar and wind power proects abound in region
things, mandates that 25 percent of ComEd’s and Ameren’s power come from renewable sources by 2025, while also providing incentives and tax credits – several solar companies also have been making the rounds throughout the area trying to line up projects. CONTINUED ON 254
PRINCETON Jeff Townsend 24 Spring 2018
4CONTINUED FROM 24 In anticipation of this sunny new crop, most counties have put or are putting solar ordinances on their books. The numbers are tempting. One of the most active solar companies is Cypress Creek Renewables, based in Santa Monica, California, which has or is developing solar farms in 15 states, and appears to be laser-focused on Illinois. It recently set up agreements with landowners in Ogle, Boone, Will and Peoria counties, while also showing interest in Whiteside, Lee, DeKalb, Grundy, Kankakee, McHenry, Winnebago, and Stephenson counties. Its goal is to install enough solar panels to generate 200 megawatts of electricity in Illinois in 2018 and 2019. CCR senior developer Scott Novack said the solar farms will generally produce between 2 and 20 megawatts of electricity each and take up an amount of land proportional to the capacity of the installation. A 20-megawatt farm occupies about 200 acres. All CCR needs to build a site is 10 to 20 continuous acres in close proximity to power lines or substations. Leases, typically 20 years or so, can bring up to $800 per acre, compared to $160 to $180 in crop yield, and according to the company’s website, ccrenew.com, the entire process, from signing the lease
to completing construction, takes only about 18 to 24 months. In addition, the property tax revenue generated likely will be higher than that generated by farmland.
Solar in Bureau County CCR scored its first area victory in Bureau County, where, in midDecember, the County Board approved conditional-use permits for a $31 million solar farm to be built in the northwestern part of the county, near New Bedford in Fairfield Township. Hoover Solar LLC will be built on 313 acres on the east side of 300 East St., a quarter mile south of 3000 North Ave. The facility, the first to be approved in Bureau, Lee, Ogle or Whiteside counties, will produce about 17 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power more than 5,700 homes, and generate about $120,000 in taxes a year, said Matt Kauffman of Tiskilwa, a Cypress Creek rep. Meanwhile, another California-based clean energy company is interested in building a community solar project atop Princeton’s closed landfill. Princeton City Council unanimously voted Feb. 5 in favor of a resolution allowing Terra Navigator to complete a study seeking feasibility for the project plans. City Manager Rachel Skaggs said if the project is found to be workable,
the company will then propose a lease agreement to the city. According to a letter sent to the city by Peter DeFazio, vice president of corporate development for Terra Navigator, the company would work to structure a land lease agreement that provides annual revenue to the city over the next 30-plus years while assuming responsibility for vegetation management and site security. Skaggs confirmed the city will not have to invest any money to prepare the land for the project. She said Terra Navigator would likely connect with Ameren to provide the electricity source to the community. Skaggs said the study will take about 90 days to complete. Once an agreement is proposed, the council will then discuss whether or not it’s comfortable moving forward with the project. The closed landfill includes about 15 acres and is located near the intersection of 1600 North Avenue and West Epperson Road, west of Princeton.
Solar in Lee County California-based Cenergy Power wants to build two 10-acre solar farms at Dixon Municipal Airport and enter into a 21-year lease for the land, paying the city $2,000 per acre each year. CONTINUED ON 264
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This map shows where California-based Cenergy Power wants to build two 10-acre solar farms (outlined in red) at the Dixon airport in Lee County. 4CONTINUED FROM 25 In December, the City Council decided to wait until an actual contract was drawn up before deciding whether to move forward with the project and agreed that one of the proposed locations, 10 acres northeast of the airport off of state Route 38, would not be good for aesthetics. The other site would take up 10 acres south of the airport near the railroad tracks. In January, the city received preliminary contracts, which will take time to review, Public Works Director Matt Heckman said. “It’s not something the city is going to rush into. We want to make sure it’s the right thing for the city.” In fact, building a solar farm at the airport could mean the city would need to draft a new airport layout plan with the Federal Aviation Administration that would declare the acreage as excess land before a long-term lease
can be made, which could cost around $300,000. Sauk Valley Community College trustees also are considering building solar panels on top of the college off state Route 2 in Dixon. The Lee County Board, which recently approved its first ordinance regulating solar farm development, also is being pursued by a company that wants to build a solar farm across 200 acres. More than a year ago, a few companies were interested in building solar farms across about 400 to 500 acres along the Interstate 39 corridor, but the board didn’t think a solar farm would be able to pass the Land Evaluation Site Assessment that protects the prime farmland in that area. LESA doesn’t automatically disqualify a solar farm because it’s not incompatible with agriculture, though. According to the ordinance, “the Lee County Board must not follow the LESA system blindly, but rather, must base its zoning and rezoning decisions on the
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Solar in Whiteside County Whiteside County approved its solar farm ordinance in April, in response to several inquiries that have been made over the past several years by various companies, including Cypress Creek Renewables, Dedicated Community Solar Energy, and Silver Farms. Areas that are being shopped include about 80 acres at the Prairie Hills county landfill in Morrison, 40 acres at the former Stanley building just outside of Rock Falls, and some acreage at the Whiteside County Airport. “The potential for our region in renewable energy is enormous, and it’s something we have to tap into,” said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director. CONTINUED ON 274
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Lyle Ganther/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
The northern part of Bureau County will start to look more like the southern part, shown here, now that work has begun on building 106 turbines, part of the Walnut Ridge Wind Farm project. 4CONTINUED FROM 26 One business has been serious about setting up a leasing arrangement in Whiteside County, but it’s too soon to reveal the partner, Camarano said in December.
Wind farms These renewable energy projects could be at the forefront of the area’s economic development agenda this year. The Green River Wind Farm project, started in 2009, initially included Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties, but most of the turbines now are set to go up in Lee County.
The Bureau County turbines became part of the Walnut Ridge Wind Farm, and only four of the 66 turbines will be in Whiteside County. Whiteside County will, however, be home to a transfer station that will bring energy from both Walnut Ridge and Green River to the grid. BHE Renewables, the Walnut Ridge developers, bought 44 acres of land on Jersey Road near Deer Grove to house the transfer station. “The power companies don’t like having too many of these stations, so BHE and Geronimo would both be using this one,” Whiteside County Board Chairman Jim Duffy said. Geronimo Energy’s request for a building permit for an operations and
maintenance building and road-use agreement was granted in December, and if all goes according to plan, the maintenance building will be completed June 1, the turbines will start going up in July, the switch yard will be operational by September, and everything will be connected to the grid in October or November. Bureau County granted building permits in August that allowed BHE Renewables to start construction on its Walnut Ridge Wind Farm. Permits are needed for each turbine, and 116 will be built on 14,000 acres that include parts of Ohio and Walnut, and Greenville, Manlius and Bureau townships.
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GOING HOG WILD! A 2,450-head hog barn was built last year on the Krogman farm in rural Shannon in Carroll County. The facility received its first load of pigs the week of Dec. 4, and it was full as of the week of Jan. 22. (Michael Krabbenhoeft/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
More processing, more pigs, more barns being built
BY PHILLIP HARTMAN For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
ore ability to process American pork is helping drive growth in the construction of new pig barns in Illinois. The Krogman family near Shannon in Carroll County and the Meurer family near Ashton in Lee County both recently opened new pig barns. Statewide, there were 89 notices of intent to construct pig barns filed with the Illinois Depart-
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ment of Agriculture in 2017, said Illinois Pork Producers Association Executive Director Jennifer Tirey. “We have seen an increase in the number of wean-tofinish barns. We’ve found that’s a more cost-effective way, when you become a contract grower, to bring the next generation back to the farm,” Tirey said. CONTINUED ON 294
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4CONTINUED FROM 28 The 89 notices of intent in 2017 is up from 67 the previous year, said Jennifer Jackson, communications director with the IPPA. Part of that increase is fueled by five new pork processing plants being added – two in Minnesota, and one each in Michigan, Missouri, and Iowa. “Once they’re all on line, there will be an additional 10 million spaces for pigs, available for processing. We’re seeing an increase in barns being constructed to meet that demand,” Tirey said. The ability to pass on the new barns to a new generation of farmers is another factor. Chad and Julia Krogman had an open house on Nov. 29 for their 2,450-head wean-to-finish pig barn. The family moved in 2015 to the Shannon area, and Chad said the barn will be a legacy for his sons, Hezekiah, Titus, and Brayden. CONTINUED ON 304
Michael Krabbenhoeft/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
A look inside Dave Meurer’s 2,400-head hog barn in rural Ashton. Meurer said he had it built because the “life expectancy” of his finishing barn at the time was up. “It made more sense to build new as opposed to rehabbing the old building,” he said.
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Dave Meurer stands outside his hog barn (pictured below) in rural Ashton. “The building’s had almost no complications at all,” Meurer said.
Photos by Michael Krabbenhoeft/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
4CONTINUED FROM 29 “I’m originally from the Lena-Winslow area, and I’ve always loved the area down there [near Shannon],” Krogman said. The facility received its first load of pigs the week of Dec. 4, and it was full as of the week of Jan. 22. Pigs will come in about 12 pounds and stay on-site until they reach a market weight of about 280 pounds. “They won’t get shipped out until midMay or June. It’s going real good,” Krogman said. The Meurers constructed a 2,400-head
barn, with an open house and ribbon cutting Dec. 6. Meurer said the existing finishing barn was due for a major update. “Its life expectancy was up. It made more sense to build new as opposed to rehabbing the old building. Also, my son, Levi, is at college getting an ag degree. ... I wasn’t feeling like it was a short-term investment,” Dave Meurer said. The barn had 1,300 pigs as of Dec. 7, with the second half expected to arrive in late January. “With the first pigs in, [it’ll be] April or May when they’ll be going out. The building’s had almost no complications
at all,” Meurer said. The Meurers aren’t new to the Ashton area. Dave said he’s been around there for 50 years, with the family around the area for more than a century. The decision to build a new barn isn’t one farmers tend to rush into. Tirey said the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture still have very strict regulations. However, the demand for pork is quite high, and two of the largest markets are in North America. “Our strongest markets are Mexico, China, and Japan. Canada is number 4,” Tirey said.
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Teaching his trade Mendota worker honored for his work at Lee County Ag Expo Kevin Moore, who has been with Del Monte for more than 40 years, works at the company’s plant in Mendota. (Scott Ide/ NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag)
BY CODY CUTTER For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
el Monte has been a constant in Kevin Moore’s life. So has a certain “volunteer gene.” Moore grew up helping his father and grandfather raise foods in the Mendota area for Del Monte, and has worked for the company for more than 40 years. Along with his current work as senior field supervisor at Del Monte’s Mendota plant, Moore volunteers time to teach the basics of agriculture to students each April at the Lee County Ag Expo. Not one looking to get attention for his work, Moore was more than surprised in December when he was one of three recipients of the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom Volunteer of the Year Award. He didn’t know such an award existed. “It was quite a deal,” Moore said. “I didn’t feel like I deserved it, though, because those gals [at the Ag Expo] do so much work. We’ve been working with them for almost 11 years now.” CONTINUED ON 324
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309 +/- acres in Lynn Township. 307.9 +/- acres tillable. 231 +/- acres in Cedar Township. 210.8 +/- acres tillable. 160 +/- acres in Cedar Township. 136.7 +/- acres tillable. 45 +/- acres in Cedar Township. 44.2 +/- acres tillable.
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4CONTINUED FROM 31 Moore credits much of his drive for teaching to one of Del Monte’s harvest bosses, Dave McLachlan. While Moore teaches Lee County fourth- and fifth-graders about how food goes from fields to plates, McLachlan demonstrates some of the machinery used in the process – such as how peas come apart from a pod. “He’s real good with kids,” McLachlan said. “He’s real big in trying to promote agriculture. A lot of the kids have no idea, and think [food] just magically appears on the grocery shelf.” Most of Moore’s teaching is based on kids’ questions, sometimes while eating a complimentary fruit cup. Otherwise, he said, they don’t get involved. “Mostly, they just want to know where their food comes from, and how it gets to their table,” Moore said, “and to encourage them to think about working for us some day. We like to plant
Take a tour Kids can walk around the property, tour the fields, and see harvesters at work. Adults can take scheduled tours of the plant. To schedule a tour of Del Monte’s Mendota plant, email Moore at kevin. email@example.com, or call him at 815-615-4130. that seed when they’re young, and make a career in agriculture.” The agricultural field will be growing as more technology is applied. America has the safest and cheapest food in the world, Moore said, and a lot goes into that to make it more of a reality. “There’s going to be a lot of demand,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of technology in agriculture now, and there’s a lot of tracking that we have to do. There’s a sustainability part of that to try to maximize every acre that you have, and not deplete your resources.”
Scott Ide/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
Kevin Moore, a senior field supervisor at Del Monte’s plant in Mendota, shows the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom Volunteer of the Year Award he received in December. Moore was one of three award winners statewide. Each April, he teaches students about agriculture at the Lee County Ag Expo.
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Take comfort Hearty recipes to try while we wait for spring
BY LUCAS PAULEY For NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
’ve really come into my own as a 30-year-old home cook. I don’t pretend to be a chef, but there are a few things I was put on the planet to do, and cooking comfort foods is one of those things. I enjoy eating healthy and I think it’s important, but comfort foods like chili, barbecue pulled pork and Italian beef sandwiches, soups and pastas need love, too. CONTINUED ON 344
Barbecue pork meatloaf was a nice, tasty twist on the traditional American dinner favorite. (Lucas Pauley/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag)
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4CONTINUED FROM 33 They can warm you up during nights when the temperature is still hovering around or below freezing. We need these foods. If you’re asking me, we need these foods even when it’s July and sweltering outside. You’re thinking to yourself, “Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches during the summer? Sure. But chili? This guy’s nuts.” I keep trying to tell people: I have an unhealthy obsession with chili. I’m working on it. But, while it’s still cold outside and cooking heavier dishes like chili, soups and meatloaf is still acceptable to all, let’s get cooking!
BARBECUE MEATLOAF Prep time: 25 minutes Cook time: 60 minutes Serves: 8 2 lbs of ground pork 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 2 large eggs 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 1 yellow onion, diced 1 orange or yellow pepper, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced Seasonings to taste: Salt, pepper, oregano, Tony Chachere or other Cajun seasoning Note: You can use your favorite storebought barbecue sauce or create your own. I always like creating my own barbecue sauce. For this creation, I mixed traditional barbecue sauce with ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper and other assorted spices. I rarely have exact measurements when making sauces, because it’s not that type of process. Play around with it. Add your own flare! 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. In a bowl, combine pork, seasonings, bread crumbs and eggs. Mix well by hand until everything is absorbed. Prepare onions, pepper and garlic. 3. Add oil into pan, and saute onions and peppers. Add garlic near the end. 4. Add cooked contents to the pork mixture and some of the sauce. Mix well. Spray non-stick loaf pan and place pork in pan. 5. Press pork to form it evenly in pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until internal temperature of meatloaf is 165 degrees. 7. Remove meatloaf from oven and add remaining barbecue sauce to top of meatloaf while it rests. Cut and serve with vegetables. (Mashed sweet potatoes and fresh green beans paired nicely with this hearty dish.) – Adapted from heb.com recipe 34 Spring 2018
Lucas Pauley/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
Shredded pork is the star in the hearty soup, which Northern Illinois Ag Mag reporter Lucas Pauley calls the Pork Taco, Enchilada or Something Like That Soup.
PORK TACO, ENCHILADA OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT SOUP Prep time: 1 hour Cook time: 12 hours Serves: 10-12 2 lbs pork loin, shredded 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock 2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes 1 15.5 oz can great northern beans 1 6 oz can tomato paste 1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes 1 onion, diced 1 red bell pepper, diced 2 jalapeños, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 cups frozen corn 1 tbsp olive oil Seasonings for pork and soup: Cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper (Can also just use taco seasoning packet from store.) For toppings: Chips or crackers, shredded cheese, sour cream and green onions 1. The day before making the soup,
you’ll need to cook the pork loin for 10-12 hours on low. It’s a tougher cut of meat, but healthier than a pork shoulder and perfect for this soup. Shred the pork, let cool and refrigerate. 2. The next day, saute diced vegetables in olive oil until tender. 3. Add shredded pork, vegetables, the contents in all of the cans, and your seasonings into the slow cookers. Let it cook on low for 10-12 hours. While it’s cooking, taste it here and there, add seasonings as you see fit. (Note: I’m not a fan of telling people how much pepper, salt, oregano or whatever to use when cooking. Everyone is different and likes things different ways. Start with a little, and go from there. That’s part of the fun.) 4. Serve in bowls and top with whatever you’d like: chips or crackers, shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions or avocado. – Inspired by recipetineats.com recipe CONTINUED ON 354
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LJP’s CHILI 1 pound ground beef 1 pound ground pork 1.5 pound pork or beef boneless stew meat 2 green peppers, chopped 2 yellow or orange peppers, chopped 2 poblano peppers, chopped 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped 1 yellow onion, chopped 4 cloves of garlic, grated 2 12-ounce jars of chili sauce 2 14.5-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano (Aldi) 2 10-ounce cans of mild Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste 2 tablespoons of hot sauce (your choice) 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons of butter 4 tablespoons of brown sugar Other seasonings to taste: chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, red pepper flakes,
Lucas Pauley/NorthCentral Illinois Ag Mag
I’ll admit, yes, I’ve shared a chili recipe probably 100 times over the past few years with readers of our daily newspapers. That’s because chili recipes change over time. I think I’m close to perfection with this one. salt, pepper 1. Set your slow cooker on low. Add the chili sauce, tomato paste and can of crushed tomatoes. Drain the cans of Rotel and diced tomatoes, and pour the contents into the slow cooker. 2. Separately, in a large skillet, cook the ground pork, ground beef and stew meat (in whatever order you’d like) over medium heat. I
generally season each with salt and pepper, and add Worcestershire sauce while I’m cooking. After each is done, drain the fat and put them in the slow cooker. 3. While those are cooking, chop the vegetables and set them aside. 4. After the meat is done, in that same skillet pan, cook the veggies until they are tender. I usually cook the pob-
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lano and the green and jalapeno peppers together, seasoning with salt and pepper, and then the yellow/orange peppers and onion, with a few tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper. Grate some garlic over the pan when you’re nearly done. Pour that all in the slow cooker. 5. Now, it’s time to add all the seasonings or hot sauce you wish to include. The amount you use should be based on who you’re cooking for. If you’re like me, this is going to be cooking for at least 8 hours, so there’s always time to add more and adjust. If it gets too spicy, add a little more brown sugar. 6. Now, I hope you’ve made this a day before you plan to eat it, because that’s always the way to go. Maybe I should’ve said something before now, but ... surprise! Seriously though, chili is always best after it’s cooled down and been stored in the fridge overnight. Something magical happens. Then, the next day, put it back in the slow cooker and set it to low. When it’s nice and warm, enjoy!
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