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AG Mag Northern Illinois




drop profits in

For farmers, ‘time is money’ isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life.

The longer they’re kept from planting, the closer they come to empty fields, and this year, historic floods that turned their land into lakes has growers worried about their bottom lines

PRSRT STD U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 440 Sterling, IL 61081


AG Mag Northern Illinois


Publisher Don T. Bricker Advertising Director, General Manager Jennifer Heintzelman Magazine Editors Kathleen Schultz & Rusty Schrader Page Design Rusty Schrader Reporters & Photographers Dave Cook, Pam Eggemeier, Phillip Hartman, Michael Krabbenhoeft, Alex T. Paschal, Goldie Rapp, Rachel Rodgers & Lindsey Salvatelli





Articles and advertisements are the property of Sauk Valley Media. No portion of the Northern Illinois Ag Mag may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ad content is not the responsibility of Sauk Valley Media. The information in this magazine is believed to be accurate; however, Sauk Valley Media cannot and does not guarantee its accuracy. Sauk Valley Media cannot and will not be held liable for the quality or performance of goods and services provided by advertisers listed in any portion of this magazine.



Published by Sauk Valley Media 3200 E. Lincolnway Sterling, IL 61081 815-625-3600


Cover illustration Alex T. Paschal


For farmers, ‘time is money’ isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life. The longer they’re kept from planting, the closer they come to empty fields, and this year, historic flooding has growers worried about their bottom lines.


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MRS. DEWALL GOES TO WASHINGTON A Shannon woman may be semi-retired from farming, but that doesn’t mean she’s hanging up her milking stool; now, she’s using it as a soapbox to make her voice heard on issues in the dairy industry, a voice that’s even been heard in our nation’s capital



What do the numbers add up to in Illinois and the Sauk Valley? The 2017 Ag Census report paints a statistical picture of The Prairie State

A Dutch dairy farmer says he’s found a way to help feed the world in a sustainable way – on farms that float

PAGE 35 SEEDS OF KNOWLEDGE Illinois’ lieutenant governor was on the move recently, and her travels brought her to Whiteside County, where she got a first-hand look at farming



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GROWING ANXIETY It’s been a rough time for farmers. Commodity prices are down, flood levels are up, and they’re taking on more debt – and then there’s world trade. Farmers say they’re not competing on a level playing field, but opinions differ when it comes to whether tariffs are part of the solution, or part of the problem


HAVING A GLOBAL IMPACT ON FARMERS When Union Pacific closes its Rochelle intermodal ramp, farmers will be forced to be in things for the longer haul – but local leaders aren’t just sitting around waiting for their shipment to sail; they’re taking matters into their own hands and fast tracking a project to set up their own intermodal



6 Summer 2019

AG Mag


For farmers, ‘time is money’ isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life. The longer they’re kept from planting, the closer they come to empty fields, and this year, historic flooding that turned their land into lakes has growers worried about ...


drop profits in

8 Summer 2019

BY RACHEL RODGERS & DAVE COOK For Northern Illinois AgMag








eing stuck in a rut took on new meaning this season for farmers. A tractor could be spotted sunken COVERSTORY into about a foot of mud in a flooded field in rural Dixon, cropland normally filled with corn instead was filled with water, and thousands of acres across the region were left unplanted as farmers faced difficult choices amid the record rain. Statewide, the average precipitation for May was 8.43 inches, about 3.83 inches above the long-term average, marking 6 consecutive months with above-average statewide precipitation, and ranking as the third wettest May in state history. Spring 2019 is estimated to rank within the top four wettest springs, and Northern Illinois reported rainfall 5 to 8 inches above the norm, with 200 to 300 percent of average monthly rainfall. The resulting oversaturated grounds gave way to the slowest start to a planting season on record. In mid-May, when typically two-thirds of corn should be in the ground, only 10 percent had been planted. In early June, corn planting reached 50 percent, marking the latest date for reaching the midpoint of planting progress in the past 60 years, according to Scott Irwin and Todd Hubbs, agricultural economists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. CONTINUED ON PAGE 104 N ER

Dave Cook/Northern Illinois Ag Mag

AG Mag


3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9 Too much water means fledgling crops aren’t getting as much as oxygen as they would normally, which can result in root damage, crop disease and plant mortality. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos recently traveled throughout the 17th Congressional District to see firsthand the impact flooding had on farmers. While here, she met with Whiteside County farmers in Prophetstown at the farm of Jeff Brooks, who estimated that at least 300 to 400 acres out of 2,850 would likely go unplanted. In early June, only 35 percent of his corn, soybeans and hybrid corn was planted, and he echoed the concerns of other farmers about crop yields and the tariff war between the U.S. and Mexico. “As I travel across our district, I see farmland literally under water and visit with farmers who are unable to plant their crops,” said Bustos, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “From Mother Nature to the president’s tweets, ag producers are feeling a great deal of uncertainty.” This year’s prevent plant acres are estimated to be four times the norm, and will likely beat the 2013 record of 3.6 million acres by a wide margin. CONTINUED ON PAGE 124

Earleen Hinton/Shaw Media

Water stands in a field near Rochelle following a downpour in May. Flooded fields have strained farmers’ patience, and finances, this year.

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The reflection of a barn is seen in a flooded field on a farm on Pennington Road in rural Sterling in April. Michael Krabbenhoeft/

3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10 Prevent plan insurance can be an attractive option as expected corn yields decrease the later the crop is planted and costs increase with needing to dry the corn. However, the longer the wait, the more the insurance coverage declines, creating tough choices for farmers. Alicia Tate-Nadeau, acting director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said the flooding has had an “unprecedented reach” to farmers, residents, business owners and entire communities. “This is one of the worst floods to inundate our state in more than a quarter of a

century,” Tate-Nadeau said. “The flood of 2019 has impacted more than 40 percent of state’s population, outside of Cook and the collar counties. In the weeks to come, as the water recedes, we will begin to see the damage of this flood.” The state is taking several steps to secure federal aid for farmers and others affected, including a $400,000 cover crop incentive program for farmers, flood assistance resources centralized on a new state website – – as well as looking to improve logistics concerns for farmers, such as disrupted shipments along the Mississippi River.

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12 “Agriculture is the backbone of our state and to see our grain and livestock farmers and farming communities having to make these tough decisions is heartbreaking,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “I know farmers have had to make difficult planting decisions this year due to extreme weather conditions – I’ve instructed my staff and agencies to provide assistance to help ease the pressures felt by farmers across Illinois.” The federal government approved a $16 billion aid package for farmers hurt by the trade conflict with China, but only those who have planted a crop are eligible to make a claim. There’s also been a $19 billion disaster relief bill that included more than $3 billion for those who lost crops, or were prevented from planting their crops this year. Some are forecasting that fewer acres planted and a smaller yield could eventually cause grain prices to rally, even as unfavorable weather continues to provide challenges to the region’s agricultural community. The federal crop insurance planting deadline was June 5, but Bureau County Farm Bureau President Evan Hultine said his family had set their own deadline of June 20 to get their crops planted.

“It’s been an emotional year so far, and that decision has really weighed on us,” Hultine said on the morning of June 12, just hours after they had finished planting in their fields after a brief respite from rain. Evan “That date was what Hultine we settled on as being Bureau County worth the risk of plantFarm Bureau Presiing and still being able dent said the rush to get a yield that’s to get crops planted on the family farm worth it.” was tough: “It’s Hultine is the sixth been an emotional generation to work year so far.” his family farm. That morning he was speaking to a group of educators who were there as part of an effort to increase agricultural education in Illinois classrooms. “Beans would’ve been a much easier crop this year, but the soybean market is abysmal, and we made the decision last summer to plant corn,” he said. Putnam County farmer George Mattern shared the frustration he has felt this spring while working his family’s Centennial Farm. “The biggest challenge has been trying to make good decisions when the variables are constantly changing, such

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as the weather, prices, insurance, and calendar. What may seem like the best decision today may not be the best decision tomorrow,” Mattern said. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June 17 Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report, the average statewide temperature for the previous week was 66.2 degrees, 5.7 degrees below normal. Corn planted was reported to be at 88 percent, up from the 73 percent of the previous week. Only 74 percent of the planted corn had emerged, up from 51 percent the week before, but a year ago during the same time, nearly all corn had been planted and emerged. It was also reported that as of June 16, only 6 percent of farmers considered their corn crops to be in excellent condition. Only 45 percent thought they were in good shape, and 34 percent rated their corn as in fair condition. Fifteen percent said their crops were in poor or very poor condition. Only 70 percent of soybean crops were reported as having been planted, up from the 49 percent of a week before. Only half of soybeans crops had emerged at this point, up from 25 percent during the week ending June 9. As of June 16, 2018, 99 percent of beans had been planted and 93 percent had emerged. n

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lay land 2017 CENSUS REPORT


of the

What do the numbers add up to in The Prairie State? Older farmers and fewer – but bigger – farms STORY BEGINS ON PAGE 17

16 Summer 2019

Rusty Schrader/SVM illustration



ollowing a nationwide trend, the average age of Illinois farmers continues to increase, according to 2017 Census of Agriculture data released in April. The data, available at AgCensus, also showed a decrease in the total number of farms in Illinois between 2012 and 2017, and an increase in the number of the smallest- and largest-sized farms. Mike Doherty, Illinois Farm Bureau’s senior economist, said the data shows a very slow rate of consolidation among Illinois commercial grain farms. “Compared to non-farm economic sectors, these percentages attest to the continuing tenacity of family-run commercial farming in Illinois, and the success of farm policy and farmer associations for providing ‘size-neutral’ programs and ag policy direction,” he said. The Census of Agriculture, conducted every 5 years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, captures information about a variety of topics – from land use practices and crop insurance to the use of fertilizers and farm labor. New questions attempted to capture changing farming demographics – including veterans, women, and new and beginner farmers.

Producers by ethnicity & race

Source: “2017 Census of Agriculture Highlights”

Here are some highlights from the report: THE AVERAGE AGE OF ILLINOIS FARMERS increased to 58, up from 56.3 in 2012. Nationwide, the average age of farmers was 57.5, up from 2012. “Farms are becoming increasingly multigenerational in their management, as they become larger and more complex as businesses,” Doherty said. “Additionally, much of the back-breaking labor of farming has been replaced with machine operations, which allows older farmers to remain much more productive and

involved in the family farming operations well into their ‘senior’ years.” YOUNG FARMERS, 35 or younger, represent about 9.5 percent of all Illinois farmers. That mirrors nationwide statistics. ABOUT 24 PERCENT OF ILLINOIS FARMERS ARE NEW AND BEGINNING farmers (have 10 years or less experience). Nationwide, 27 percent of all farmers fall into that category. CCONTINUED ON PAGE 194

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Farms with internet access, by county | 2017

Source: “2017 Census of Agriculture Highlights”

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Ag sales by state

THE NUMBER OF FARMS IN ILLINOIS DROPPED to 72,651 in 2017 – about 2,430 fewer than in 2012. The average size of them increased to 372 acres. Iroquois County had the largest number of farms in the state, according to the census, followed by LaSalle and McLean counties. The census defines a farm as “any place from which $1,000 or more of agriculture products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.” THE NUMBER OF FARMS SIZED 1 TO 9 ACRES increased during that 5-year period, as did the number of farms with 2,000 acres or more. All other sized farms declined in numbers. Operations in the Very Small Farm category could be “hobby farms,” greenhouses, small hog operations or beginning organic producers, according to Mark Schleusener, Illinois state statistician. Doherty said the presence of direct marketing outlets, such as farmers markets, and interest in sourcing “locally grown food” also plays a role in the increasing number of small-acreage farms in Illinois. Meanwhile, more than 2,500 farms in Illinois totaled 2,000 acres or more in

Source: “2017 Census of Agriculture Highlights”

2017, and consist of corn, soybeans and wheat. ILLINOIS WAS THE HIGHEST-PRODUCING SOYBEAN STATE in the country in 2017, with 36,681 farms growing 10.6 million acres. ILLINOIS WAS THE LARGEST PRODUCER of pumpkins and horseradish. ILLINOIS WAS THE SECOND-HIGHEST PRODUCER OF CORN in the United States and ranked second in total

crop sales. ILLINOIS HAD THE FOURTH-LARGEST HOG INVENTORY, with 2,153 farms raising more than 5 million hogs. Also worth bragging about: Illinois had the highest response rate for the census, at 78 percent. Schleusener attributed the high response rate to partnerships with organizations such as Illinois Farm Bureau and other commodity groups. The next Census of Agriculture will be conducted in 2022. n


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A V L L K E U Y A S By the numbers

20 Summer 2019







Top 3 crops in acres – 2017 Corn for grain – 203,932 Soybeans for beans – 91,873 Hay/haylage – 9,231 Top 3 livestock inventory – 2017 Cattle and calves – 26,463 Hogs and pigs – 95,495 Layers – 2,168

MARKET VALUE OF PRODUCTS SOLD – 2017 County Population % of producers Total market value of products Rank in state Bureau 32,993 .05 $359,972,000 7 Carroll 14,312 .07 $216,845,000 31 Lee 34,223 .04 $278,872,000 15 Ogle 50,923 .03 $276,378,000 18 Whiteside 55,626 .03 $301,042,000 11




T Top 3 crops in acres – 2017 Corn for grain – 216,805 Soybeans for beans – 91,218 Hay/haylage – 5,484 Top 3 livestock inventory – 2017 Cattle and calves – 25,918 Hogs and pigs – 123,842 Layers – 108,388


Top 3 crops in acres – 2017 Corn for grain – 232,950 Soybeans for beans – 124,632 Hay/haylage – 3,702 Top 3 livestock inventory –2017 Cattle and calves – 11,076 Hogs and pigs – 59,763 Layers – 65,887

– Lindsey Salvatelli, for Northern Illinois Ag Mag




Top 3 Top 3 crops in acres – crops in acres – 2017 2017 Corn for grain – 241,210 Corn for grain – 133,944 Soybeans for beans – 145,109 Soybeans for beans – 44,470 Hay/haylage – 3,385 Hay/haylage – 7,195 Top 3 livestock inventory – 2017 Top 3 livestock inventory – 2017 What did the lay of the Hogs and pigs – 63,711 Hogs and pigs – 62,661 Cattle and calves – 9,996 Cattle and calves – 31,100 land look like locally? Layers – 21,225 Layers – 649 During the period covered in the Census report, from 2012 to 2017, Ogle, Whiteside, Bureau, Carroll and Lee counties were home to 4,467 of Illinois’ 72,651 farms in 2017, a drop of 325 farms from the 4,792 reported in 2012. Where were the losses in the Sauk Valley? Whiteside took the biggest drop, with 151 fewer farms, though the average farm size increased by 24 acres. The smallest drop was in Lee, with only 3 fewer farms and an increase of 29 acres in the average size. In Bureau and Carroll, there were fewer, and smaller, farms. Bureau went from 1,056 to 1,038 farms, with the average size dropping from 426 to 421 acres; In Carroll, the number of farms dropped from 643 to 627, and the average acres dropped from 398 to 392. In Ogle, there were fewer farms — 1,148 in 2012 and 1,011 in 2017 — with average acreage increasing from 328 to 351. Statewide, the number of farms fell from 75,087 in 2012 to 72,651 in 2017, and the average acreage increased from 359 to 372. As for the type of farms in the state, there was a drop in the number of family farms, from 64,927 in 2012 to 61,398 in 2017; farms classified as partnerships numbered 4,597 in 2017; corporate farms increased from 3,716 to 3,972; the remainder, 2,684, were classified in the “other” category (estate or trust, prison farm, grazing association, American Indian Reservation, etc.) Sauk Valley’s five counties averaged 94% family farms. Four out of five counties – Ogle, Whiteside, Bureau and Lee – ranked in the top 20 for product sales in the state. There was a decline in the total market value of products sold by Sauk Valley farms. Whiteside County took the hardest hit with a 31 percent decrease. Even with the decrease, it ranked 11th in the state for crops sold and ranked 6th for its sales in livestock, poultry and products sales. Elsewhere for total market value of products sold, Bureau saw a 14% drop, Carroll a 20% drop, Lee a 23% drop and Ogle a 15% drop. The average government payment per farm in Bureau County increased 106% from 2012 to 217, from %10,484 to $21,614. In Carroll, the amount decreased from $13,162 to $9,473; in Lee the amount increased from $13,008 to $15,747; in Ogle, the number took a 105% drop, from $12,243 to $5,972; in Whiteside, the payments increased from $13,118 to $18,156.

AVERAGE FARM SIZE FROM 2012 TO 2017 County # of farms – 2017 # of farms – 2012 Acres – 2017 Acres – 2012 Bureau i 1,038 1,056 i 421 426 Carroll i 627 643 i 392 398 Lee i 832 835 h 471 442 Ogle i 1,011 1,148 h 351 328 Whiteside i 959 1,110 h 387 363

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S Source: “2017 Census of Agriculture Highlights”

Top commodities, 2017

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Farmers’ average age

Source: “2017 Census of Agriculture Highlights”

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g n i w o r G y t e i anx n, rices are dow p y it d o m m o C e for farmers. ’re taking y m e ti th h , g s u k o ro o a b n cord It’s bee one for the re n e ers say they’re e b rm s a a F h . r e e d a th tr a e d w rl o the then there’s w differ when it d s n n a io – t in b p e o d t u re b on mo l playing field, f the problem e o v rt le a p a r n o o , g n n o ti ti not compe part of the solu re a s ff ri ta r S ON PAGE 25 e th STORY BEGIN comes to whe

24 Summer 2019

BY PAM EGGEMEIER For Northern Illinois Ag Mag


teadily declining commodity prices have sent farmers into a long down cycle during which they’ve seen farm income drop by 50% in the past 5 years. This year, add trade wars, tariffs, historically wet weather and growing debt and it’s easy to see why farmers believe they are facing the most uncertain times since the farm crisis of the 1980s. As was the case in the 1980s, record production has led to the precipitous drop in commodity prices. After the 1979 U.S. grain embargo against the Soviet Union, U.S. exports dropped more than 20 percent between 1981 and 1983. Combined with the oversupply situation, farm debt soon doubled from 1978 to 1984 – hitting $215 billion. Interest rates and oil prices were high, and with a strong dollar, the perfect storm was created, leading to a record number of farm foreclosures nationwide. Evan Hultine, a Bureau County farmer, and president of that county’s Farm Bureau, wisely paid attention to his father’s recollection of the 1980s crisis. “Ever since the conversations about trade wars and tariffs started, my dad talked about how they would take a lot longer than you thought at the beginning, so I prepared for the long haul,” said Hultine, who grows corn and soybeans northeast of Princeton. A combination of the relentless rain and trade uncertainties took farmers to the brink in deciding if and what to plant this spring. Many farmers who didn’t get their anhydrous in early enough for corn opted for soybeans at the last minute, as anticipated. The rush into soybeans has lifted corn prices of late. Hultine usually goes half and half or 60/40 corns and soybeans, but the unusual circumstances took him in a different



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direction this time – one away from the soybean traffic flow. “We had some stressful and tough decisions to make, but I decided to go all corn with the implications of the trade war and I found an opportunity to plant in June,” Hultine said. “I switched to short-season hybrids and put in a lot of long hours from about June 8 to the 12.” Hultine said he was one heavy rain away from not getting anything planted, but a few days with higher temperatures made a big difference in opening that small planting window.

Trade war casualties The trade war has been particularly difficult for soybean and hog producers. China is the largest consumer of U.S. soybeans, buying nearly 60% of America’s exports, valued at $14 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Chinese have threatened to slap a 25% tariff on soybeans as part of its retaliation for $50 billion in tariffs threatened by the Trump administration. China has put a 62 percent levy on U.S. pork, making it nearly cost-prohibitive for Chinese consumers. American pig farmers stand to lose about $8 a head and a total of $1 billion in exports from the trade war. While many farmers still say they are willing to absorb some short-term pain in exchange for fair trading practices in China, they fear losing market share. Another lesson learned from the farm crisis of the 1980s is that when export opportunities are lost to other countries, it can take a long time to regain them. “After this has become a yearlong process, China already is going other places and investing in other countries as suppliers – and that’s a big concern,” Hultine said. CONTINUED ON PAGE 264

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 Because to the tariffs, the hog situation in China is a lost opportunity for making progress in fixing the U.S. trade imbalance. China can’t come close to meeting its own demand for pork, and an African swine fever epidemic has reduced its pig population by half. China’s pork exports are projected to rise by more than 40% and that extra business is going to competitors like Mexico, Canada and Germany. The length of the trade dispute is trying farmers’ patience, and the president should be feeling a sense of urgency to strike a deal with an election year looming. The general consensus among farmers, however, is that as long as a good deal is hammered out before year’s end, their political support that went a long way in carrying Trump to the White House should continue in 2020. Bureau County farmer Donna Klostermann of Sheffield, who is also a grain originator at Michlig Grain in Manlius, has kept close tabs on the impact China’s tariffs have had on the grain market. While she blames tariffs for poor market prices, she’s also firm on her stance that low commodity prices, especially soybean prices, are due to having huge carry-outs. “I think a huge misconception is when we fix this tariff problem that beans are just going to go up in droves, but there’s more to the story than that,” she said. “Everyone wants to blame it (on) the tariffs, but there’s also a component of excess supply.” Klostermann said farmers are split on their views when it comes to the trade war with China. “About half of them are OK with this, because they think we need to hold China accountable, and the other half say we just need to get this taken care of so we can get on with our lives,” she said. “But most certainly, we’re taking it on the chin throughout this



Goldie Rapp/Northern Illinois Ag Mag

Bureau County farmer Donna Klostermann of Sheffield, who is also a grain originator at Michlig Grain in Manlius, is keeping close tabs on the impact China’s tariffs have made on the grain market. While she blames tariffs for poor market prices, she’s also firm on her stance that low commodity prices, especially soybean prices, are due to having huge carry-outs. whole tariff thing.” Klostermann said there are some schools of thought that China will drag its feet going into the next election cycle, especially with their ability to buy soybeans from Russia, but she added that one has to remember, “No socialist country will outproduce capitalism.” Klostermann is apprehensive about the next summit between the two world powers, which takes place in July, uncertain that any kind deal will be made between the U.S. and China. CONTINUED ON PAGE 274

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 26 “The market is not going to react until we see something, because we’ve been through this song and dance already,” she said. “We almost had a deal and then it didn’t go through. Hopefully, China won’t drag it out through another election cycle, because I think Trump wants to get this done. It’s part of what he ran on, so he needs to get it done.”

Lawmakers’ views “When it comes to China, most farmers still support what the president is doing,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon. “There has been a cost to themselves, but they see the bigger picture.” Farmers have been more concerned about the trade situations in Mexico, Canada and Europe, and progress has been

made on those fronts, Kinzinger said. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, has been reached as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the administration will be challenged to move it through Congress. There are many layers of the agreement to sift through before it could have a chance to receive bipartisan support. “The trade ambassador is meeting with a lot of people, trying to get to a point where we get a suitable replacement for NAFTA. It must protect workers, and we’re looking at getting drug prices down and addressing environmental concerns,” said U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D- East Moline. Critics of the USMCA say that the agreement in its current form would protect big pharmaceutical companies from generic competitors, which would lead to increased prescription drug prices. CONTINUED ON PAGE 284

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27 The congressman said, that while he doesn’t have a crystal ball, he expects to see major progress with China before the end of the summer. He also believes that the U.S. is negotiating from a position of strength. “Neither side wants this, but China is impacted much more than we are – they have to feed more than a billion people and keep them happy, “ Kinzinger said. While he supports most of the president’s efforts to level the playing field for U.S. trade, there is one area he would have handled differently. “I would be looking for other trade agreement,” Kinzinger said. “I would have plugged into the TPP from a position of strength.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was a trade agreement signed by 12 nations, including the U.S., Mexico and Canada, in February 2016. American withdrew, however, and the pact was never enacted. Bustos, who has served on the House Agriculture Committee since she has been in Congress, says she has witnessed a lot of angst among farmers in her district. “The president was on a podium in Des Moines and said he would end the war with American farmers. Now we’re in a trade war with our biggest trading partners, he pulled us out of NAFTA, and along with the weather, the farm economy is on life support,” Bustos said. The White House has also put added stress on the ethanol industry with its failure to clean up abuses of the ethanol exemption, Bustos said. “The Trump administration has been passing out waivers to big oil companies like candy,” Bustos said. “These exemptions were to be used only by small companies and it’s inexcusable.” Feeling the heat from farmers during a recent Midwest tour,

Trump ordered the EPA and USDA to review the policy of giving oil refineries exemptions from the mandated blending of ethanol into the fuel supply. Trump did give final approval on May 31 for year-round sales of E15, gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol. To counteract the pain inflicted on farmers by his trade war, Trump asked the USDA to design government aid packages for farmers struck hardest by retaliatory tariffs. A $16 billion trade relief package was announced May 23, on the heels of the release of $12 billion that was made available last year. “There is a lot of money in the treasury from tariffs, but farmers would rather be working in the fields and not have to worry about trade wars,” Kinzinger said. The second round of aid will come in three forms. The first is through direct payments to farmers growing several commodities that include corn, soybeans and wheat. The payments will be based on a formula in which county rates will be multiplied by a farm’s total plantings. Eligible plantings can’t exceed what was planted the previous year. Farmers are still waiting for the county rates, which will be set according to the assessed amount of trade damage inflicted by the trade war. The second form of relief comes from the Food Purchase and Distribution Program. The government has targeted $1.4 billion for buying affected surplus commodities such as vegetables, fruits, beef, lamb, poultry and milk. Those products will then be distributed to food banks, schools and other conduits to low-income recipients. The third tier of help comes in the form of $100 million dedicated to the Ag Trade Promotion Program, where it will be used to develop new export markets for U.S. farmers. n – Goldie Rapp of North-Central Illinois Ag Mag contributed to this story

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Global impact on farmers

When Union Pacific closes its Rochelle intermodal ramp, farmers will be forced to be in things for the longer haul — but local leaders aren’t just sitting around waiting for their shipment to sail; they’re taking matters into their own hands and fast tracking a project to set up their own intermodal


AG Mag



BY RACHEL RODGERS For Northern Illinois AgMag

nion Pacific Railroad’s closure of intermodal ramp operations in Rochelle could create a greater strain for area farmers shipping their yields. The intermodal Global III facility opened Aug. 1, 2003, providing the region’s farmers and companies with access to transfer container freight to outgoing trains, and incoming freight to trucks for final distribution. With the railroad’s plans to shutter operations in July and put more focus on cutting down shipping congestion in Chicago, farmers will need to travel farther for their transportation needs, likely to Joliet, Rochelle Economic Development Director Jason Anderson said. “The main economic impact is going to be to the region’s agriculture,” Anderson said. “There are hundreds of containers of grain that go through Global III, and the UP is going to force farmers to drive to Joliet. The added cost and labor is going to put a squeeze on local feed and grain.” But if there’s a silver lining to be found in UP’s move, it’s that the city is speeding up its efforts to create an intermodal with the City of Rochelle Railroad, with its eyes on prime development land in Lee County. In August, the city broke ground on a

“The main economic impact is going to be to the region’s agriculture. There are hundreds of containers of grain that go through Global III, and the UP is going to force farmers to drive to Joliet. The added cost and labor is going to put a squeeze on local feed and grain.”’ Jason Anderson

Rochelle Economic Development director Submitted

$7 million rail expansion project that’s expected to open up more than 1,000 acres in Lee County to new development. The “multi-modal” project, expected to be done this summer, includes a 3-mile extension of the city’s rail system, a fourtrack rail bridge over John’s Creek and a loading yard built for moving goods that require more than one method of trans-

portation. City officials have been looking into the feasibility of developing their own intermodal rail operations for a couple of months with a rail consultant, and the UP announcement has accelerated their efforts, he said. CONTINUED ON PAGE 314

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 30 They were looking to “test the waters” with outfitting an existing rail yard to handle an annual intermodal traffic of 3,000 to 4,000 containers, but now will look more at the 100,000 to 150,000 range. “Now our vision is much, much larger,” Anderson said. They also have contacted state and national legislators to help advocate for funding for the project and help preserve jobs and development opportunities, he said. “We’re disappointed [with UP’s decision], but we think this will be a great opportunity for us and our entire region,” he said. “We didn’t have any inkling that this would happen, but it folds right into our plans to expand our rail system.” In a general announcement to customers about intermodal changes, including closing Global III in Rochelle, UP said: “Operating six facilities with a variety of equipment at each creates complexity for Union Pacific (equipment issues, additional switching), as well as our customers (complex drayage arrangements and vendor management), creating a greater

likelihood of supply chain failure. Therefore, we will be idling the Global 3 (G3) Intermodal Ramp in early July, and the Canal Street Container Depot will follow shortly thereafter.” The Rochelle Global III facility covers 1,200 acres and includes a large switching yard; operations will be re-directed to its Global IV intermodal in Joliet. “Union Pacific and the city of Rochelle have been partners in bringing economic development opportunities through Global III for more than 15 years, with dozens of local industries utilizing the UP’s intermodal service,” Mayor Chet Olson said in a news release. “The City Council and staff are already at work to keep the jobs related to intermodal services in Rochelle,” Mayor-elect John Bearrows added in the release. “We are expanding the possibility of the city of Rochelle Railroad providing intermodal services.” The city and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corp. started building its own rail system in 1986. It connects local industries to the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the nation’s largest railroads. n

Before Union Pacific decided to close intermodal ramp operations in Rochelle, city officials had been looking into developing their own intermodal rail operations. Now, with UP’s announcement, the city is speeding up those efforts with the City of Rochelle Railroad, with its eyes on prime development land in Lee County.

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Mrs. DeWall goes to Washington

red from farming, but A Shannon woman may be semi-reti ; she’s making her voice that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down s in the dairy industry, heard when it comes to tackling issue our nation’s capital in ard he en be n eve s ha ice vo t tha d an


BY PHILLIP HARTMAN For Northern Illinois Ag Mag

rdath DeWall is just as comfortable on Capitol Hill as she is at home in Shannon. “I belong to an organization called American Agri-Women. I’m a past president. It is the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women, with more than 50 state, commodity, and business affiliation organizations from across the nation,” DeWall said. Ardath and her husband, Verlo, both 77, are semi-retired from dairy farming, but still have about 400 head of cattle, counting dry cattle and replacement heifers, on 220 acres. They have help from a tenant farmer, Rob Gunderson. DeWall brings years of farming experience when representing Carroll County. She was born near Shannon, and her work in the dairy field led her to join the nonpartisan American Agri-Women. She joined other members of the organization on a June fly-in to Washington, D.C., to talk to legislators about various issues. “This year, we focused on trade and transportation, ag labor, and immigration,” DeWall said. CONTINUED ON PAGE 334




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DeWall also presented Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, with the American Agri-Women Champion of Agriculture Award this year. The group presents the award to one Democrat and one Republican each year. “I religiously read the Farm Week News, which is Farm Bureau’s newspaper. I noticed recently how she had introduced legislation to expand trade opportunities for farmers and manufacturers. It was the Cuba Agricultural Export Act. She co-sponsored this bill to help the U.S. compete in foreign markets,” DeWall said. DeWall noted two specific issues she’s concerned about that the dairy industry faces, the first being the price of dairy products. “Selling our milk for $15 for 100 gallons is terrible,” DeWall said. She also shared her concerns over plant-based milk products. She said American Agri-Women lobbied for better labelling on milk products. “In the grocery store, you will see almond milk, all the plantbased milk products. They are promoted very freely. The plantbased products do not compare to the nutritious milk product that you drink. Milk products have 9 nutrients. A plant-based beverage isn’t milk,” DeWall said. While in Washington, American Agri-Women received a unique distinction this year. The group was the first to be addressed by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Susan Combs after her confirmation by the Senate. “We have our President’s Council, where the president always plans a symposium, which is part of our fly-in. This year, we focused on private and public land issues. It was held at the Department of the Interior. She (Combs) was just confirmed by the Senate,” DeWall said. While the DeWalls remain active in farming, their children are employed in other agricultural areas. “We have two sons. They are not farming in the operation. They have jobs in the dairy industry. Our younger son, Jeffrey, works for Dean’s Foods in Rockford,” DeWall said. The DeWalls’ older son, Steven, works for Genex in Wisconsin doing sire analysis for breeding cows. “We have two grandsons and two granddaughters. None of them are really looking to [get into agriculture so] far,” DeWall said. When she’s not on the farm or lobbying, DeWall is involved in the annual Stephenson County Ag Breakfast, which takes place on the fourth Sunday in June. The meal draws between 2,000 to 2,500 people. “We had eggs, beef bacon, sausage, milk, cheese, coffee cake, and ice cream,” DeWall said. n

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Rep. Cheri Bustos recently was awarded the American AgriWomen Champion of Agriculture Award. Bustos (center) is shown here with Shannon dairy farmer Ardath DeWall (left) and American Agri-Women president Jeanette Lombardo, who presented her with the award.





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of the

A Dutch dairy farmer says he’s found a way to help feed the world in a sustainable way – on farms that float

BY MIKE CORDER Associated Press

eter van Wingerden’s dairy smallholding smells just like any other farm – the rich aroma of cow manure and grass hangs in the air around the unusual stable housing the cattle. The farm itself is far from traditional. Moored in a small harbor in Rotterdam’s busy port in the Netherlands, the farm is a futuristic threestory floating structure where one robot milks the cows and another automatically scoops up the manure that gives the enterprise its familiar smell. Manure is processed for use as fertilizer. Its roof collects rainwater and a raft of solar panels floating alongside produces 40% of the energy the farm needs. The cows, gazing out over ships transporting gas and yellow cranes unloading ships, eat a mixture of grass cut from a local golf course and the field used by Rotterdam’s top soccer team, grain used by a local brewer to make beer and potato peelings – all automatically cut, mixed and transported to food troughs by conveyer belts. CONTINUED ON PAGE 364

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Peter van Wingerden’s floating dairy farm is moored in a small harbor in Rotterdam’s busy port in the Netherlands. Van Wingerden said he built the futuristic farm in response to a growing need for a sustainable way of producing food close to where most of it is consumed – in the world’s cities. “Transporting all this food all over the world is really polluting the world. It’s doing damage to food quality, it creates food losses. “So we have to find a different model. We have to bring it much closer to the citizens.”

3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 35 As countries around the world seek to meet the challenge of feeding growing populations in a sustainable way, Van Wingerden believes the farm, which opened in May and cost about 3 million euros ($3.4 million), demonstrates a new sustainable way of producing food close to where most of it is consumed – in the world’s cities. “Transporting all this food all over the world is really polluting the world. It’s doing damage to food quality, it creates food losses,” he said in a recent interview. “So we have to find a different model. We have to bring it much closer to the citizens.” The fully-functioning showcase of circular-economy farming combines Dutch expertise in recycling, building on water and automated agriculture is drawing interest from around the world. Van Wingerden said he is already discussing floating farms in Singapore and China. A group is looking into locating one in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “We should stop exporting food, but we should start exporting knowledge and technology,” Van Wingerden said. When the herd reaches its target capacity of 40 cows – there are currently 35 – it will produce 211 gallons of milk each day. The brown and white cows are a breed called Maas-Rijn-Ijssel – named for three rivers that flow through the Dutch region they originate from. The farm pasteurizes the milk and turns some of it into yogurt on the middle floor of the pontoon. Jan Willem van der Schans, a senior researcher at Wageningen Economic Research who specializes in urban farming and circular economy issues, said floating farms could be the future for some sectors of agriculture such as fruit and some vegetables in some parts of the world. But he thinks that the level of automation and the unnatural surroundings of the cows may create opposition to the project. CONTINUED ON PAGE 374 36 Summer 2019

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3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 36 “These are animals that we all like and then we like to see them in a meadow,” he said. “And then we bring them into a very industrial environment and I think that’s something that many people think is not the right direction for livestock farming to go into.” Van Wingerden said that animal welfare is his top priority, pointing to many design elements in the construction that are intended to make life as

easy as possible for the cows such as rubber floors and poles in the stable. A small meadow of grass speckled with wild flowers grows on land next to the pontoon. Once fencing is completed, cows will be free to walk down to graze in more natural surroundings. “Animal welfare is for us design criteria No. 1,” he said. “We wanted to create the best stable – comfortable stable, solid stable – for the cows, and that’s what we did.” The cows appear comfortable on the water. On a recent hot, sunny, day

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some lay in the shade, others stood, eating from the food troughs that overlook the busy Merwe Harbor, while others milled around the milking robot. The pontoon rose and fell gently on undercurrents caused by the movement of nearby ships. The movement didn’t appear to affect the cows. “The cows are on four feet, so that helps a lot,” Van Wingerden said. “So they haven’t got any problem at all. They don’t get seasick.” n

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AG Mag


Seeds of knowledge Illinois’ lieutenant governor was on the move recently, and her travels brought her to Whiteside County, where she got a first-hand look at farming


RACHEL RODGERS Northern Illinois Ag Mag

hen a self-proclaimed city girl – and the state’s lieutenant governor – wanted to learn more about Illinois’ leading industry, she sought out experts in the field. And some of those fields were in Whiteside County. During a recent visit to the county, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton found herself behind the wheel of a John Deere tractor, part of her goal learning about agriculture through first-hand experiences with farmers and other members of the ag community.

Things were looking up at Rock River Lumber and Grain Co. in Sterling, where Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton scoped out the silos during her April visit to Whiteside County.



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Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton tours Rock River Lumber and Grain Co. in Sterling during a visit to Whiteside County in April.

3CONTINUED FROM PAGE 38 Stratton made several stops in Whiteside County on April 29 as part of her “Lieutenant Governor on the Move” series. “The best way for this city girl to learn about Illinois agriculture is to spend time with the experts: Illinois farmers,” she said. Her visit included Rock River Lumber and Grain Co. in Sterling as well as Sandrock Farms and Sauk Valley Angus near Rock Falls. Stratton learned the interworkings behind shipping grain and its reach on a global scale. She spoke with Whiteside County Farm Bureau President Don Temple as well as other members about several farming issues, including the need for agriculture graduates from colleges and universities and the unseasonably wet planting season. She said she was glad to spend the day seeing the economic impact that agriculture has on the state and in local communities. “Illinois is a leading producer of corn, and our agriculture industry generates more than $19 billion per year,” she said. n

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