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A Publication of THE

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The Times - Delivering Your Community

Copper hydroxychloride and weanling pigs Addition to livestock’s diet improves health and performance, says recent U of I research Laura Quinn University of Illinois Extension Copper is an essential element in diets for pigs, and it can be provided in a number of different forms. Copper hydroxychloride is less likely to react with other vitamins and minerals in a premix than the more commonly used copper sulfate, but research on its effects when fed to pigs is limited. Results of recent research at the University of Illinois indicate that including copper hydroxychloride in diets fed to weanling pigs improves growth performance and reduces diarrhea. Hans H. Stein, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I, conducted three experiments, along with Ph. D. student Charmaine Espinosa and Scott Fry and James Usry of Micronutrients USA LLC. The copper hydroxychloride product tested in the experiments was Micronutrients’ IntelliBond C. The team published their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science. In the first experiment, they compared weanling pigs fed diets containing 150 mg/kg copper in the form of copper hydroxychloride with pigs fed control diets containing only enough copper to meet dietary requirements. The pigs in the copper hydroxychloride group had a greater final body weight, average daily feed intake, and average daily gain over the 28-day experimental period than the control pigs. Pigs fed copper hydroxychloride also had less frequent and less severe diarrhea than control pigs.

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Melissa Tatro, of Kent, Wash., feeds three of her pigs. Recent research from the University of Illinois indicates recently weaned pigs fed a diet high in copper hydroxychloride have greater body weight, average daily feed intake and average daily gain, as well as less frequent diarrhea than than those with lower copper consumption. Another experiment confirmed the results of the first. Pigs were fed a control diet as in the first experiment, or a diet containing 100 or 200 mg/kg copper hydroxychloride. Pigs fed either of the copper hydroxychloride diets had greater final body weight and less severe diarrhea compared with pigs fed the control diet. “We know that supplementing copper above their nutritional requirement improves growth performance, but it’s not clear why,” says Stein. “Our hypothesis was that the improvement in growth performance might be due to greater digestibility of gross energy and fat.”

Stein’s team fed the control diet and the 100 or 200 mg/kg copper hydroxychloride diets to weanling pigs for 28 days, and calculated the digestibility of gross energy, ash, and fat. They observed no difference in energy or nutrient digestibility between pigs fed diets containing copper hydroxychloride and pigs fed the control diet. The results didn’t bear out their hypothesis, says Stein, adding that further research is needed to determine the mode of action of copper hydroxychloride in diets fed to weanling pigs. Fry says the growth performance results are

consistent with what his company has seen in more than five trials conducted in the U.S. and EU over the last few years. “When we have looked at copper sources, we see pigs fed copper hydroxychloride are, on average, over 850 g bigger than pigs fed copper sulfate. The cost to switch sources are minimal: less than five cents per pig in U.S. dollars.” The article “Copper hydroxychloride improves growth performance and reduces diarrhea frequency of weanling pigs fed a corn–soybean meal diet but does not change apparent total tract digestibility of energy and acid hydrolyzed ether extract” is published in the Journal of Animal Science. Funding for this research came from Micronutrients Inc. and Agrispecialists Inc.

Speaking of pigs ... Brockman Farms again partnered with the Streator High School agriculture department’s Think OINK program this year to allow students hands-on experience with a sow’s birthing process and raising piglets. This year’s sow, Charlotte, gave birth to nine piglets. She and her litter remain at the high school for now. Follow the program on Facebook at ThinkOINK40 for updates on this year’s piglets as well as frequent pig trivia.

Spring Farm

The Times - Delivering Your Community

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 3

Soil health topic of conservation program Stephanie Henry University of Illinois Extension

University of illinois Extension

Laura Christianson, University of Illinois assistant professor in crop sciences, with a display regarding a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency task force study to develop strategies to reduce agricultural runoff.

New tools improve strategies for reducing nutrient runoff Laura Quinn University of Illinois Extension Every summer, the Gulf of Mexico is flooded with excess nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants and farm fields along the Mississippi River basin. And every summer, those nutrients create a “dead zone” in the Gulf. To address the issue, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formed a task force and required 12 states to develop strategies to reduce agricultural runoff. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, the strategies show promise, and leave room for the addition of certain practical elements that could help decision makers choose specific conservation practices to adopt or avoid. In a new study, the researchers examine nutrient loss reduction strategies from three upper Midwestern states to

help fill the gap. The three state strategies analyzed in the study, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, included science-based assessments of various conservation practices: things like cover crops, conservation tillage, bioreactors, modifications to nitrogen application rate, and more. “We assessed the ability of each conservation practice to be stacked or layered with others and the ability to track the implementation of each practice. This gave us some very practical information that could be used to increase adoption by focusing on those activities that are affordable, easily tracked, and effective at reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. Being able to track our efforts will also aid state and federal efforts in monitoring progress towards Gulf of Mexico hypoxia goals,” says Reid Christianson, lead author on the study and

research assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. The researchers first compared how the three states rated the same practices in terms of their effectiveness, to come up with a consensus figure. For the most part, the ratings were similar across states. But a couple of practices stood out. “Iowa and Illinois have very similar numbers on the cover crop front. But it’s much colder in Minnesota, and they have a hard time getting cover crop seeds to germinate after corn and soybeans have been harvested,” Reid says. Woodchip bioreactors, an edge-of-field practice, were also ranked differently in the three states. The large trenches are typically filled with woodchips, housing microbes that consume excess nitrogen from drainage water.

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A free cooperative program on conservation and soil health will be held take place 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Feb. 28, at University of Illinois Extension on the Illinois Valley Community College campus, Room CTC 124. University of Illinois Extension, Soil Health Partnership, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and USDA/NRCS, are cosponsoring the program. Advance registration is needed by Monday, Feb. 26, by calling University of Illinois Extension at 815-2240889 or by registering online at soilhealthpartnership. org/field-days. If you need a reasonable accommodation, please indicate when registering. Topics and speakers include: u Soil health partnership plot results: Jim Isermann, Soil Health Partnership.

u Tillage transect survey: Joe Bybee, Illinois Department of Agriculture. u Conservation Compliance Provisions: Mark Baran, USDA-NRCS. u Dicamba changes and requirements for 2018: Russ Higgins, University of Illinois Extension. u New soil tests: Haney Test, Jay Whalen, Proharvest Seed. u Farmer panel. For more information, call Mark Baran, Ottawa, 815-4330551, or Daryle Wragge at the Marshall-Putnam Extension Office, 309-364-2356. The Mission of University of Illinois Extension is to provide practical education one can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. Visit the Extension website web.


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4 Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

Continued from page 3 In this case, the differences were in sizing and design methodology in the three states. Laura Christianson, co-author on the study and assistant professor in crop sciences, says, “Some practices, like cover crops, actually work differently north to south, but the other reason numbers varied is because the research was done differently in the three strategies. That represents a human decision process — critical to the state specific strategy effort.” Although the comparison between state strategies was itself novel, the researchers believe their assessment of “trackability” and “stackability” of conservation practices will be even more useful to decision makers. They drew on expert opinions to assign a trackability score to each practice. For example, conversion of land from an annual row cropping system to a woody buffer strip is highly trackable using satellite imagery. But others? Not so much. “Thinking of an in-field practice like how much nitrogen a farmer applies; there’s no reliable way to track that,” Reid notes. There are ways to estimate it, but not directly track,” Reid says. “Because a farmer just decides it and does it,” Laura adds. “And we have x number of farmers across Illinois and the whole Mississippi watershed. How can we track that?” The researchers say it’s important to know how trackable these practices are, because stakeholders investing in nutrient loss reduction need to be able to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not and be able to tell a story of improvement with the resources invested. “We’re working towards developing a framework to keep track of what all 12 states are doing, and how many practices they’re adopting. It’s a big undertaking,” Laura says. “It’s not just research for us. We’re working towards coming up with something states could use for the

next 20 years.” The researchers also considered how easily the practices could be paired up, or stacked. “For example, land use change doesn’t really pair with anything because you’re completely changing the way business is being done. For example, if you’re growing switchgrass, you don’t need a cover crop or conservation tillage. It just doesn’t stack well with anything. But cover crops, bioreactors, and others pair with many practices well,” Laura says. Although the researchers assessed the feasibility of stacking, they still don’t know the potential effects of pairing the conservation practices. “You may have multiple practices on the same acre, but what is the resulting impact on water quality? We don’t know yet - that’s where we need more field research,” Reid says. The study also touched on cost effectiveness of the various practices. For example, nitrogen

management — changing the amount of fertilizer applied — is one of the least expensive practices. It is also relatively easy for farmers, and is highly stackable with other practices. But Laura says it’s important to consider its effectiveness and trackability, too. “So even though it’s relatively cheap, is this something we should be telling states to invest a lot of money in? It’s not as effective as other practices and harder to track. With this study, we wanted to get a handle on how well the practices work, then take it a step further and ask whether the best practices are easiest or hardest to track. And, ultimately, what are farmers going to be interested in?” The article “Beyond the nutrient strategies: Common ground to accelerate agricultural water quality improvement in the upper Midwest” is published in the Journal of Environmental Management. Reid and Laura’s co-authors include Gregory McIsaac, from U of I’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, and Carol Wong, Matthew Helmers, David Mulla, and Moira McDonald. The work was supported by the Walton Family Foundation.

The Times - Delivering Your Community

What is a ‘dead zone’ and how does runoff affect it? During rainy seasons, fertilizer, animal waste, sewage and other nutrient pollutants wash into the Mississippi River and empty into the Gulf of Mexico (shown above circa 2011). Nitrogen and phosphorous from farm runoff also travel to the Gulf and feed algae growth. As algae blooms, it draws oxygen from the water, creating what scientists call oxygen depletion hypoxia. Sea life eventually vacates the area to avoid suffocation, creating a “dead zone.” In 2011, PBS reported the Gulf had a dead zone the size of the state of New Jersey.  Source: PBS


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Cattle inventory growth slowing down Beef production still increasing

The surprisingly quick rebound in meat supplies over the last four years could pressure retail meat prices and, in turn, prices received by producers,” he adds. Supplies of meat facing U.S. consumers are dependent not only on U.S. production levels, but also on movement of meat products through export channels as U.S. supply estimates are net of all imports and exports. Where beef and cattle prices wind up in 2018 will depend in part on the strength of both domestic and export demand. Domestic beef demand showed signs of strengthening in the third quarter of 2017, which is the most recent data available. Strong growth in the U.S. economy, resulting in improving consumer disposable incomes, bodes well for meat demand in general, and beef in particular, Mintert explains. “Looking at the meat supplies facing U.S. consumers, odds would favor somewhat weaker prices for beef and cattle in 2018 than observed in 2017. Additional strength in domestic beef demand as a result of a strong U.S. economy could soften the impact of rising

Stephanie Henry University of Illinois Extension The United States Department of Agriculture released its annual cattle inventory report last week and the report confirmed that although the U.S. cattle herd was still growing during 2017, the rate of growth slowed sharply compared to recent years, says Purdue University Extension economist James Mintert. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated the Jan. 1 inventory of all cattle and calves totaled 94.4 million head, up less than 1 percent compared to a year earlier when the inventory was 93.7 million head. This compares to inventory increases of nearly 2 percent during 2016 and just over 3 percent in 2015. Increases in the beef cow inventory the last two years have been somewhat larger than in the all cattle and calves inventory. For example, during 2016 the beef cow inventory increased 3.5 percent followed by a 1.6 percent increase during 2017. Still, it is clear that cow herd inventory growth slowed sharply during 2017 compared to the peak inventory growth years of 2015 and 2016. “Record profitability among cow-calf producers in 2014, coupled with improving forage conditions, encouraged the nation’s beef cow operations to start increasing the size of their beef cow herds,” Mintert says. “But data from the Kansas Farm Management Association indicates that, after setting a record in 2014, profitability declined sharply for cow-calf operations in 2015 and many average cost operations actually struggled to cover their variable production costs in 2016 and 2017. The result was relatively rapid inventory growth in 2015 followed by a slowdown,

The Times | file

The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated the Jan. 1 inventory of all cattle and calves at 94.4 million, which is less than a 1 percent increase from 2017, which counted 93.7 million. especially in 2017, as producers responded to the decline in profitability.” NASS estimated the 2017 calf crop at 35.8 million head, an increase of 2 percent (716,000 head) compared to 2016. This was the third consecutive calf crop increase and the calf crop increases are fueling increases in cattle slaughter. Commercial cattle slaughter during 2017 totaled 32.2 million head, an increase of just over 5 percent compared to a year earlier. Compared to 2015, when cattle slaughter bottomed out at 28.8 million head, the slaughter volume in 2017 was 12 percent larger. Beef production during 2017 did not increase as rapidly as cattle slaughter since cattle dressed weights averaged 1.4

percent below a year earlier. As a result, beef production during 2017 rose 4 percent compared to 2016. “Increases in the supply of beef facing U.S. consumers in 2018 will be compounded by rising supplies of competing meats,” Mintert says. “Per capita supplies of red meat and poultry provided to U.S. consumers bottomed out in 2014 at 202 pounds and have been increasing steadily since then. In 2017, per capita red meat and poultry supplies reached 217 pounds and are forecast to fall in the 221 to 223 pound range during 2018. “If domestic meat supplies reach the upper end of that range, it will set a new record for meat supplies in the U.S.

supplies, but probably not eliminate it.” Prices for slaughter steers in the Southern Plains averaged near $121 per cwt. (live weight) in 2017. Rising slaughter cattle supplies and the resulting increase in beef supplies facing U.S. consumers in 2018 are expected to push prices lower in 2018, with the annual average price ranging from about $115 on the low end to about $120 on the high end. For prices to reach the high end of the range, domestic and export demand would both have to be very strong. “Prices for steer calves in the Eastern Corn Belt could also average below 2017’s annual average, but the decline in the annual average could be mitigated by the fact prices were so weak in early 2017. For example, recent weekly average prices for 500- 600-pound Kentucky steer calves have been nearly $25 per cwt. above year-ago levels. In 2017, the annual average price for a 5 to 6 cwt. Kentucky steer was about $149 per cwt. This year’s average is expected to be in the $142 to $148 range,” Mintert says.

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The Times - Delivering Your Community

When it comes to sweet corn, workhorses win Laura Quinn University of Illinois Extension When deciding which sweet corn hybrids to plant, vegetable processors need to consider whether they want their contract growers using a workhorse or a racehorse. Is it better to choose a hybrid with exceptional yields under ideal growing conditions (i.e., the racehorse) or one that performs consistently well across ideal and less-than-ideal conditions (i.e., the workhorse)? New research from the University of Illinois suggests the workhorse is the winner in processing sweet corn. “Experts say the ideal cultivar would have exceptional yield regardless of the weather, and across a large area, but it’s unknown if such cultivars are commercially available,” says Marty Williams, an ecologist with the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I and USDAARS. Williams says a number of crops have been studied for yield stability, a cultivar’s ability to produce consistent yields across inconsistent environments. The work has resulted in several recommendations about where to grow specific cultivars for the best results. “Stability analysis is valuable, particularly given the increased weather variability we’re facing. However, previous studies always stopped with recommendations. No one appears to have quantified if such recommendations are followed. Our work is about how yield stability of individual hybrids actually relates to hybrid adoption in sweet corn,” he says. Although the focus is on sweet corn, the study is the first to link a cultivar’s yield stability with adoption in any crop. Williams obtained data from an anonymous vegetable processing company, representing more than a decade of sweet corn hybrid assessment trials across the upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. He pulled the number of cases produced per acre — a yield metric

important to processors that he calls ”case production” — from each trial, and then incorporated environmental data to calculate yield stability for 12 of the most commonly planted hybrids grown for processing. Performance of each hybrid was related to all other hybrids across a wide range of growing conditions. This enabled Williams to assign each hybrid to categories of high, average, and low stability and high, average, and low yield. He found 10 hybrids were average for both stability and yield. A few hybrids had above-average yield or above-average stability, but none had both, suggesting the ”ideal” sweet corn hybrid does not yet exist. Williams then analyzed another dataset representing nearly 15,000 processing sweet corn fields over a period of 20 years. He was able to calculate the acreage planted in each of the 12 hybrids from the hybrid assessment trial. Those 12 hybrids accounted for most of the acreage planted to sweet corn over the 20-year period for the processor. Most hybrids accounted for 1 to 4 percent of the planted

“When sweet corn is ripe, it must be harvested. Moreover, unlike grain corn which can be stored prior to use, sweet corn must be processed and preserved immediately after harvest,” Williams explains. “Midwest processors want to have their plants running at capacity throughout the approximately three-month harvest window. A plant running significantly above or below that capacity is costly. I suspect a racehorse hybrid is problematic because it’s difficult to predict its performance when the weather deviates from ideal growing conditions, which is common in Metro Creative Graphics the Midwest.” Is it better to choose a hybrid with exceptional yields under ideal Evidence that vegetable processors prioritize stability growing conditions (i.e., the racehorse) or one that performs consistently well across ideal and less-than-ideal conditions (i.e., the could inform future sweet corn breeding programs, and, workhorse)? New research from the University of Illinois suggests according to Williams, it could the workhorse is the winner in processing sweet corn. provide a sense of security for growers. “Growers are more acreage. However, he found growers — choose the hybrid likely tasked with growing a a single hybrid was planted for each field. Processors need workhorse over a racehorse. on disproportionately more hybrids that lend themselves That decision buffers them, as acres: 31.2 percent, to be exact. to machine harvest, ears that well as the processor, from lessThat hybrid was the only hold up to processing, and than-ideal growing conditions,” one exhibiting above-average kernels that maintain quality stability across variable as a finished product. Williams he says. growing conditions. says vegetable processors also The article “Genotype adoption in In processing sweet corn, consider the capacity of their processing sweet corn relates to stability in vegetable processors — not processing facilities. case production” is published in HortScience.


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Illinois researchers contribute to public agronomy database Project ranks among most comprehensive agricultural datasets Laura Quinn University of Illinois Extension Data from the USDA-funded Sustainable Corn Coordinated Agricultural Project, which includes contributions from University of Illinois scientists, are now publicly available at datateam.agron. Comprising data from five years and 30 field research sites in the Midwest, it has been called one of the most comprehensive agricultural datasets ever to be published. The research was funded from 2011-17 with a $20 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant. The research included nine states, 11 institutions and a 140-member team, which was led by Lois Wright Morton and Lori Abendroth from Iowa State University, and included U of I researchers Maria Villamil and Emerson Nafziger, both in the Department of Crop Sciences. “The team focused on management practices that could build resiliency to weather variability while maintaining crop yields and reducing negative environmental impacts,” Abendroth says. “It was our goal to make the data available to other scientists in a collaborative effort to advance our understanding of the interactions between the crops we grow, local soils, changing climate, and management decisions.” The research areas included agronomy, soil science, greenhouse gas, water quality, drainage, and entomology. Data was collected at different frequencies ranging from yearly to sensor-based measurements collected in 15-minute intervals. The U of I portion of the project was conducted at two Western Illinois sites where

Nafziger established crop rotation and tillage studies in the mid-1990s. “These studies have produced valuable data on long-term effects of crop rotation compared to continuous corn and soybean, and on how tillage affects yield and yield stability within different crops and rotations,” Nafziger says. Villamil and her team focused on soil factors associated with different crop rotation cycles, including soil as a source of greenhouse gases. “We found that crop rotation, as opposed to continuous corn, helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and also helps to boost the yields for each cash crop,” says Gevan Behnke, graduate student in crop sciences at U of I and member of Villamil’s research team. Nafziger adds that the use of nitrogen fertilizer on corn is the major factor in greenhouse gas emissions, so finding more emissions with continuous corn was not unexpected. “The major practical drawback for continuous corn in the experiment was that it yielded less than corn in rotation with other crops, and so was less profitable,” he says. Standardized protocols were developed, as well as standards regarding data structuring and consistency for end-users. A data dictionary describes the measurements taken along with detailed field management data and notes to help users properly interpret the data. “This real-world data can be used in classroom exercises to better understand the responses and relationships inherent in agriculture. In addition, data can be used to train students in data sciences including visualization, analysis and interpretation,” Abendroth says. “It’s public data; anyone can use it. I’m very proud of having been part of that effort,” Villamil says. The team posted the data to the USDA National Ag

Library Ag Data Commons, ADC/1411953, which is a longterm repository and provides additional access to the data. Teams receiving USDA-NIFA funding are required to make

data publicly available once a project has ended. The Sustainable Corn CAP team encourages others to use the data to generate added value for research applications and educational purposes.

The Sustainable Corn CAP was a transdisciplinary team funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA, Award No. 2011-68002-30190).

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The Times - Delivering Your Community

Study shows where and how to grow cellulosic biofuel crops Laura Quinn University of Illinois Extension

University of Illinois Extension

According to a recent ruling by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel must be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply in 2018. Although this figure is down slightly from last year, the industry is still growing at a modest pace. However, until now, producers have had to rely on incomplete information and unrealistic, small-scale studies in guiding their decisions about which feedstocks to grow, and where. A new multiinstitution report provides practical agronomic data for five cellulosic feedstocks, which could improve adoption and increase production across the country. “Early yield estimates were based on data from small

research plots, but they weren’t realistic. Our main goal with this project was to determine whether these species could be viable crops when grown on the farm scale,” says D.K. Lee, associate professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and leader of the prairie mixture portion of the study. The project, backed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative, began in 2008 and includes researchers from 26 institutions. Together, they evaluated the bioenergy potential of switchgrass, Miscanthus, sorghum, energycane, and prairie mixtures in long-term trials spanning a wide geographical area. Due to shortages in plant materials, Miscanthus and

energycane were grown on smaller plots than the other crops, but researchers say the new results are still valuable for producers. “Although making real-world decisions and recommendations based on performance data from small plots is less desirable than from field-scale plots, we feel comfortable with the Miscanthus results since they were based on 33 data sets collected from five sites over seven years,” says Tom Voigt, professor in the crop sciences department at U of I and leader of the Miscanthus portion of the study. Crops were grown for five to seven years in multiple locations and with varying levels of nitrogen fertilizer. Although most of the crops

are known to tolerate poor soil quality, the researchers found that they all benefitted from at least some nitrogen. For example, Miscanthus did best with an application of 53.5 pounds per acre. “When we didn’t fertilize with any nitrogen, yields dropped over time. But if we used too much, 107 pounds per acre, we were increasing nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching,” says Voigt. “There is some need for fertilization, but it should be tailored to specific locations.” Prairie mixtures, which were grown on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), also benefitted from added nitrogen. Yield kept increasing with the addition of up to 100 pounds per acre, but Lee says producers

would have to weigh the yield benefit against the cost of the fertilizer. “Even though it increased yield, it is economically not profitable to use more than 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre.” And although most of the crops are somewhat droughttolerant, precipitation made a difference. “Miscanthus production was directly related to precipitation,” Voigt says. “In areas where precipitation was down, yields generally dropped. However, it did depend on timing. If there was a good amount of water in the winter, plants could get going pretty well in the spring. But if we had little rainfall after that, that hurt yields.”

Continued on page 9

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Continued from page 8 Lee says prairie mixtures, which are normally made up of hardy grasses, suffered from the severe droughts in 2012 and 2013 in some locations. “In one year in our Oklahoma location, they didn’t even try to harvest. Yield was too low.” No one feedstock “won” across the board. “It depends so much on location, nitrogen application rate, and year variability,” Voigt says. Instead of highlighting specific yields obtained in good years or locations, a group of statisticians within the research team used field-based yield and environmental data to create maps of yield potential for the five crops across the U.S. Dark green swaths on the maps represent areas of highest yield potential, between 8 and 10 tons per acre per year. According to the new results, the greatest yield potentials for lowland switchgrass varieties are in the lower Mississippi valley and the Gulf coast states, whereas Miscanthus and prairie mixture yields are likely to be greatest in the upper Midwest. Lee says the prairie mixtures, which are typically grown on CRP land to conserve soil, didn’t live up to their potential in the study. “We know that there are higher-yielding switchgrass

University of Illinois Extension varieties today than were included in the CRP mixtures in the study. If we really want to use CRP for biomass production, we need to plant highly productive species. That will bump yield up a lot higher. “One of the biggest concerns now is that CRP enrollment is shrinking. When we started, we had 36 million acres nationwide. Now we’re down to

26 million. Farmers feel they could make more money by using that land for row crops. We need to find some solution if we want to save the soil. Biomass could provide revenue for farmers, if they were allowed to harvest it,” Lee says. Energycane could reach very high yields, but in a relatively limited portion of the country. However, the

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crop that shows the highest potential yields in the greatest number of locations is sorghum. The annual crop is highly adaptable to various conditions and might be easier for farmers to work with. “It fits well in the traditional annual row-crop system; better than perennial crops. It may not be environmentally as desirable as perennial crops, but people could borrow money in winter to buy seed and supplies, then plant, and sell in the fall to pay back their loans. It’s the annual cycle that corn and beans are in,” Voigt says. Lee adds: “In terms of management, sorghum is almost the same as corn. It germinates and grows so quickly, weed control is not a big issue. If you plant by early June, it will be 15-20 feet tall by September. It also has good drought tolerance.” Downsides to the biomass champ? It’s wet at harvest and can’t be stored. It also requires nitrogen and can lodge, or collapse, prior to harvest in wet or windy conditions. “Still, it’s a really spectacular plant,” Voigt says. The researchers made all the raw data from the study available online for anyone to access. Lee says it can be useful for everyone: scientists, policymakers, and producers. “It should be helpful for number of different stakeholders,” he says.


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After giving Trump their vote, farmers look for a return Some of president’s stances contrary to those espoused by nation’s Farm Bureau Alan Bjerga Bloomberg News (TNS) WASHINGTON — Farmers are looking for a sign from President Donald Trump that their issues mean as much to him as their votes do, even though there are policies his administration is pursuing that run counter to some farm interests. “It doesn’t get any better than to have the president recognize the importance of farmers and ranchers to the rural economy,” said Kalena Bruce, a 32-year-old rancher from Cedar County, Mo., where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by a 5-to-1 margin in the 2016 presidential election. “Rural America still supports President Trump.” The president is struggling to fulfill his campaign promises to segments of his voting base, including farmers, and his approval ratings have been stuck at historically low levels. Several of his policy stances — from threatened withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, to immigration restrictions that could choke the flow of migrants to harvest U.S. crops, to cutting cropinsurance payments popular in agriculture — run contrary to the positions represented by Farm Bureau, the biggest U.S. farmer organization. Still, Trump’s ties to rural voters are far from broken despite some strains, said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb. An event that brings together individual farmers and representatives of major agribusinesses gives him a venue to shore up support. “A lot of farm interests have felt overlooked or ignored in the first year of the Trump administration,” he said. “Farm Bureau is the place where you can get the most people in one place and rally the troops.” The Farm Bureau has a far

reach, with offices in 2,795 of the nation’s 3,144 counties. It’s long been recognized as the top farmer group in Washington, where agribusiness is listed as the 10th-biggest industry in campaign contributions, just behind energy and ahead of construction, transportation and defense, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. The Farm Bureau spent more than $3 million on lobbying in 2017, second only to Monsanto Co. among organizations that serve farmers. It’s also long been associated with conservative politics, holding more influence in Republican administrations. Farmers, though, are also swing voters, especially in states such as North Dakota and Indiana, where incumbent Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly are up for re-election in 2018. Trump won both states by wide margins last year. While other parts of the U.S. economy are going strong, farmer finances have struggled since the end of a commodities boom in 2013. Profits in 2017 are estimated at less than half the record levels of four years earlier. Crop prices have been stable, but low. Futures for corn, the most-valuable crop, closed last year at just over $3.50 a bushel, a fall of 0.4 percent from the previous year. Livestock has fared better, with cattle futures traded in Chicago up 4.7 percent, but well below boomtime prices. That has farm-state members of Congress calling for more generous payments under a new law governing farm subsidies due this year. Farming is one of the few sectors of the U.S. economy with a trade surplus, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has touted the benefits of the NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico, even as Trump has threatened to scrap the deal. The sluggish

of things, but members of Congress can’t get on the same page.” Josh Ogle, a 40-year-old grower of cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat in Lincoln County, Tenn., just north of the Alabama border, said he is “very pleased with the president’s first year.” His county gave Trump 78 percent of its vote in 2016. “Secretary Perdue at USDA, Scott Pruitt at EPA, just to see these men in charge who are bullish about rural America and want to know your concerns. They’re taking a common-sense approach to rural America’s problems” by lowering taxes and relaxing regulations to create jobs, he Minneapolis Star Tribune | Aaron Lavinsky | TNS said. Those moves are more Farmers are looking for a sign from President Donald Trump that important to him than their issues mean as much to him as their votes do. controversial tweets, accusations of collusion with economy and at-odds position Volga, South Dakota, 50 miles Russia, or other daily conflicts on trade and other issues, such north of Sioux Falls. He cited from the White House, he said. as immigration, that many White House moves to roll “I don’t dwell on it,” said farmers see as necessary for back a water rule detested by Ogle, who said he spends 15 to their harvests, means farmer many farmers and his support 20 minutes a day on Twitter support for Trump can’t be for corn-based ethanol as two and cited Fox News and ABC taken for granted, said former examples of Trump having as news sources. “You try to Senator Richard Lugar, an agriculture at heart. The decipher who you can read and Indiana Republican who served president would get more done who you can trust.” as chairman of the Senate if Congress were more aligned He said he’d like more details Agriculture Committee. with him, VanderWal said. on the new tax law. “There are Other than a June speech “Everyone is frustrated with a lot of unknowns on that, and in Iowa in which he called for Congress,” said VanderWal, scare tactics from groups across investment in rural broadband, whose county, which includes the country that don’t want Trump hasn’t talked a lot about a state university, gave Trump anything President Trump does farmers, Lugar said. 53 percent of its vote. “The to be seen as positive,” he said. “Somebody probably said to president has tried to do a lot “I really try to go for facts.” the Trump hierarchy that the president better go to Farm Bureau and show some interest in agriculture,” Lugar said. “Changes to the corporate tax may create jobs, but this is not reflected in the lives or outlooks of many farmers.” Bruce said she’s looking for “reassurance that we aren’t going to lose our exports,” and hopes that Farm Bureau might help sway Trump a bit on trade while he’s in Nashville. But she, and other farmers planning to attend the speech, said they have plenty to like. 32527 N 975 East Rd. “One of Trump’s campaign Streator, IL 61364 promises was he would get regulations off our back, and you can see that happening,” said Scott VanderWal, a corn and soybean grower near

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Should ‘USDA Organic’ seal require better animal welfare? Farm industry is divided on issue Rick Barrett Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS) A Trump administration decision aimed at scrapping higher animal welfare standards for organic poultry and meats, has created a rift in the farm community. At issue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn its support for a rule that would have, among other things, required more outdoor space for hens on organic egg farms. The rule would have closed a loophole in the current regulations that allows large poultry farms to use screenedin porches as outdoor access. It also would have prohibited some practices such as “tail docking” where a cow’s tail is partially removed. The rule was adopted two days before former President Barack Obama left office, in January 2017, but Trump’s Agriculture Department called for further review, saying the rule exceeded its statutory authority. Last week, a public comment period ended with more than 47,000 comments received by the USDA, and all but a few favoring the changes that would require “USDA Certified Organic” meat and poultry producers to abide by stricter animal welfare standards. Still, large farm groups said the proposed changes went too far in dictating how farmers must treat their livestock, and the Agriculture Department seemed to agree. “With USDA’s wise decision to withdraw this rule, organic livestock and poultry producers can rest assured that they will not be forced out of business by another costly and burdensome regulation,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a statement. “By withdrawing this rule, the Trump administration

is again demonstrating its commitment to deregulate rural America,” Roberts said. Yet some of the rule’s strongest supporters are in the $43 billion organic food industry, where Wisconsin is second only to California in production. Consumers expect higher animal welfare standards from organic agriculture, said John Brunnquell, founder and president of Egg Innovations that has a farm in Cedar Grove, Wis. “This is about consumer confidence,” Brunnquell said, adding that most people who buy organic eggs believe the chickens have access to the outdoors, fresh air, sunshine and a natural diet of things like bugs and worms. “The withdraw of this rule is one of the most foolish things the USDA could do. It’s the classic reason why consumers don’t trust big agriculture,” he said. Egg Innovations, a network of 65 farms in five states, says its chickens get a minimum of 22 square feet per bird access to the outdoors, much higher than the current minimum USDA standard that allows for small screened-in porches. “We have more than a million birds doing this,” Brunnquell said. About half of the organic eggs produced in the United States are from chickens that get outdoors and can express their natural behaviors, such as scratching in the dirt for bugs and taking dust baths, according to Brunnquell. “So we think it’s a fearmongering statement that costs would explode, and that family farms would go out of business,” from a higher animal welfare standard, he said. Much of the debate has been centered on organic poultry and eggs. “People buy organic because they think these birds are living a better life, and that they’re not in a cage, but some of these aviary systems are nothing more than glorified cages,” said Mark Kastel, director of The Cornucopia

Institute, which closely follows the organic industry. “The USDA has never enforced language in its rules that says all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors,” Kastel said. The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, based in Tucker, Ga., did not return Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls asking about its position on the organic rule. Other farm groups, however, said they worried that it would set a precedent for the livestock industry, reversing years of USDA policymaking that mostly separated animal welfare from the definition of certified organic products. “We work with a host of specialists, from animal scientists to nutritionists, to manage our farms in the best manner possible to ensure wholesome, healthy food. This rule, on the other hand, has been about pushing an agenda rather than advancing food safety or animal welfare,” American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. Some of the rule’s provisions would conflict with environmental and food-safety regulations, said Karen Gefvert, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. “And we don’t think that animal welfare standards should be tied to the organic label,” Gefvert said. Years ago, according to the National Pork Producers Council, Congress laid the groundwork for organic livestock products by setting parameters around how animals could be fed and what types of medications would be used. “Animal welfare is not fundamental to organic production simply because consumers are misinformed about, or have non-germane expectations, for an organic label,” the pork producers said in comments to the USDA about the proposed rule. Organic programs are for marketing, “and therefore are not the place to prescribe

animal welfare practices,” the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in its comments. Organic Valley, a farmerowned brand, says it supports the animal-welfare rule as part of the USDA’s organic standards. A lot is at stake for the reputation of the organic food industry, according to George Siemon, chief executive officer of CROPP Cooperative, the farmers’ co-op that owns Organic Valley. “Consumers expect that livestock raised and labeled organic has been grown in a certain way, with no antibiotics, no hormones, and eating food that is pesticidefree and GMO-free. They also expect the livestock to have access to the outdoors, including soil, grass and sunlight. In a word, they expect strong animal-welfare standards,” he said. “The organic label has been incredibly positive for us. … We are a unique group that wants to go to Washington, D.C. and ask for additional standards. Not many farmers ask for more rules and regulations.” The Obama administration could have implemented the rule in early 2016 but instead pushed it off to Trump, according to Siemon. “I think that shows you the power of what’s called the ‘barnyard coalition’ in

Washington, which is all of these livestock processing companies saying they don’t want animal welfare standards to enter the USDA,” he said. South of La Crosse, Wis., Mike McCarty has an organic egg farm with a total of about 7,500 chickens housed in three buildings. In the organic poultry business, he says, that’s a small operation. His chickens can get outdoors, where they have about 12 square feet of space per bird, and McCarty says they’re healthier for it. He favors animal welfare standards as part of the USDA Organic seal. “Keeping birds cooped up in a shed all the time isn’t good for them,” McCarty said, adding that he believes hens produce better eggs when they have access to the outdoors. The growth in organic foods has kept small poultry farms in business, according to McCarty, who says that without the premium price consumers pay for the eggs, he and his wife couldn’t make a living from their operation. Still, a handful of large farms control about half of the U.S. organic egg industry, according to those in the business, and the trend has been toward industry consolidation. “We got back a piece of our pie, with organic, but now our slice is shrinking again,” McCarty said.

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