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Today’s Farm EPORT


The lay of the land in Illinois ers add up to b m u n e th o d at h W ? Older in The Prairie State – but farmers and fewer bigger – farms

ALSO INSIDE Protecting pollination’s bread and butter PAGE 4 Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | A supplement to Sauk Valley Media Rusty Schrader/SVM illustration

Sauk Valley Media • May 7, 2019




2017 census report

The lay of the land in Illinois What do the numbers add up to in The Prairie State? Older farmers and fewer – but bigger – farms

Following 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, 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

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and beginner farmers. Census highlights included: • 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% of all Illinois farmers. That mirrors nationwide statistics. • About 24% of Illinois farmers are new and beginning farmers (have 10 years or less experience). Nationwide, 27% of all farmers fall into that category. • 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. CENSUS continued on 34

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Senior GOP senator supports letting pork industry self-regulate INDEPENDENCE, Iowa – The most senior Republican in the Senate said he supports the Trump administration’s plan to give the pork industry more authority to regulate itself, a plan that includes cutting federal meat inspectors at a time the United States is guarding against a swine virus now hitting China. “It’s similar to what Obama did with chickens and it’s working OK with chickens,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said after a recent town hall meeting in Independence. “I think you’re concluding that just because you have government inspection you don’t have any diseases that get out of control. Don’t always have faith in government inspection because we’ve had a lot of recalls of meat.” During the Obama administration, while former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was U.S. agriculture secretary, poultry plant owners were given more power over safety inspections, though that administration canceled plans to increase slaughter-line speeds. Starting as soon as next month, the Trump administration plans to reduce government inspectors at pork plants by about 40 percent – replacing them with plant employees – and impose no limits on line speeds, according to an article in the Washington Post. Grassley said the United States needs tighter controls at the border to prevent the swine virus from infecting American hogs. During the town hall, Jennifer Hamlett of Aurora got emotional as she described the financial challenges of raising a family and running a dairy farm. “The Farm Bill does not go to farmers like everyone thinks,” she said.

“The government is paying people more money to not work than to work. We need to bring that down a little to make them want to work.” Republicans last fall dropped stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients as part of getting the 2018 Farm Bill passed. “I have sympathy to what you say,” Grassley said. But “if we’d gone along with what the House wanted to do, we wouldn’t have had any Farm Bill at all.” – Tribune News Service

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The latest Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms and ranches in the U.S. has fallen but the remaining operations are larger and are responsible for a higher percentage of agricultural sales. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2017 Census of Agriculture in April, marking the 29th release of the report since the government began collecting the data in 1840. Since 1982, it has been released every 5 years. The census shows there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in 2017, down 3.2 percent from 2012. The average size of those operations was 441 acres, an increase of 1.6 percent. About 75 percent of all sales came from only 105,453 of those farms, down more than 14,000 from 2012. The average age of producers was 57.5. to partnerships with organizations such as Illinois Farm Bureau and other commodity groups. “Thank you to all the farmers and

ranchers that told us about their farms,” Schleusener said. The next Census of Agriculture will be conducted in 2022.


• May 7, 2019

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

Census report: A national snapshot

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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 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 also 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

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SPRINGFIELD – An action plan and a new pollinator habitat unveiled near the Illinois Department of Agriculture building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds provided examples of why Illinois agriculture is considered a leader in saving monarch butterflies. A coalition of 16 organizations and agencies with ties to agriculture presented “2018-2038 Illinois Monarch Project: Agriculture Action Plan” at the fairgrounds April 22. The report, available at, is a summary of efforts taking place in the agricultural industry in Illinois to restore monarch habitats. Also that day, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new pollinator habitat at the fairgrounds. One habitat pollinator plot already was planted recently near the Illinois Department of Agriculture building. “Illinois agriculture has been a leader on the monarch issues, and we’ll continue to play an important role in the future, while providing ideas for all citizens to become more involved in making a positive difference in pollinator conservation,” Richard Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, said to the audience gathered for the Earth Day event. Monarch butterflies are pollinators in that they spread pollen as they move from one flower to another in search for food (nectar). Plants use pollen to produce a fruit or seed, according to Illinois Ag Mag – Pollinator magazine. Many plants can’t reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators. Threefourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. “The actions we take to help monarchs help all pollinators,” said Lyndsey Ramsey, associate director of Natural and Environmental Resources at the Illinois Farm Bureau. “The really important pollinators, like for food crop production, the bees and pollinators that we depend on, will all benefit from us conserving the monarch butterfly.” The eastern migrating population of the monarch butterfly has declined in numbers for several reasons, Ramsey said. “The eastern migrating population of the monarch butterfly has had some severe fluctuations in population since the mid’90s, when they started really tracking it,” Ramsey said. “The monarchs overwinter in Mexico, so the way they count the population is they actually look at the hectares of trees that are covered by monarchs in their overwintering area down in Mexico, and that fluctuates a lot based on weather and storm events, and then there’s been some logging issues down in Mexico. “Basically, there’s a national forest down there that they’re trying to protect, and so we are joining with a lot of other states that have put out these plans to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do for the monarch butterfly.’ “ MONARCHS continued on 54

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Sauk Valley Media • May 7, 2019





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state of Illinois, and, of course, across the country as well,” Sullivan said. Sullivan said that he and his wife, Joan, bought a farm in 1989 in Schuyler County and that in 1990 a nearly 2-acre plot of native grasses and pollinator plants were planted. “(Joan) recognized early on – I didn’t really want to take it out of production – but she convinced me it was the right thing to do, and I’m really glad that we did it,” Sullivan said. Guebert said that a farmer’s job goes beyond planting, growing and harvesting crops. “We’re responsible for the land our crops grow in, the water our crops and livestock need and the wildlife and pollinators that help the ecosystem flourish,” Guebert said. “We care for the natural resources that Mother Nature provides, and we’re all doing this to ensure that we are leaving the land in better shape than when we got it for generations to come.”

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• May 7, 2019

The Illinois agriculture coalition has been working for more than 2 1/2 years to develop a practical plan for monarch conservation. The unveiling of the action plan on April 22 focused on the agriculture portion of Illinois’ plan for monarch butterflies. “The full Illinois plan will probably be out closer to the end of 2019, but we thought that on Earth Day, we might as well get out here and talk about what we’re doing,’ “ Ramsey said. Because monarchs can’t survive without milkweed (their caterpillars eat only milkweed plants and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs) the state of Illinois has set a goal of adding 150 million additional milkweed stems, along with appropriate nectar sources by 2038

Another seven plots will go in at the fairgrounds either this fall or early spring next year. “We’ve always wanted to do this, and it was four or five individuals, and we just all kind of realized we all had the same plan in our head, so we came together,” Rennecker said. “We have great support from our director John Sullivan, so that’s when we figured out we could collaborate with the monarch initiative to get it kicked off for April 22.” John Sullivan, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said that the pollinator plots will be functional and educational. “We here at the Department of Ag, we’re going to use this pollinator plot and others around the fairgrounds ... to help educate the public as to why it’s important to plant the types of plants that are highlighted ... and how we’re going to use this to try to rejuvenate and revive and bring back the monarch population across the

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in an effort to restore monarch habitats. “Nobody has any idea what that actually looks like, but we need to add a bunch of milkweed to the landscape. We need to add other wildflowers to support the monarchs as they come up from Mexico and as they head back down,” Ramsey said. “They really spend a lot of their summer here with us in Illinois and some of the other states in the Midwest.” Brian Rennecker, acting bureau chief of Land and Water Resources for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said there’s a 3-year plan to plant 20 to 25 different pollinator plots throughout the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The one pollinator plot providing food and shelter for butterflies and bees planted near the Illinois Department of Agriculture building includes swamp milkweed, whorled milkweed, rattlesnake master, bee balm, spotted bee balm, purple coneflower and more.

Tags: They’re not it



Sauk Valley Media • May 7, 2019

USDA sets timeline for farmers to replace livestock tags with high-tech system that will help them keep track of their herds DANIEL GRANT

DES MOINES, Iowa – The USDA is pushing hard to wean bison and cattle farmers off metal ear tags used to keep track of their herds. The agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently announced plans to advance the animal disease traceability (ADT) program, and they’ve set deadlines for farmers to comply. The main thrust of the upgrades includes a plan to gradually move away from the use of metal ear tags in the cattle and bison industries to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Gregory Ibach, USDA undersecretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory programs, and Jack Shere, USDA chief veterinary officer, discussed the program in April at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) annual conference in Des Moines. NIAA involves a wide range of industry and government members, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and Illinois Farm Bureau. “Traceability is something that’s important as you look at all the different animal diseases we’re dealing with or worried about,” Ibach said. “A disease of top concern at the moment is African swine fever (ASF), for which we don’t have a vaccine,” Ibach said. “If you look at the numbers, we believe the impact to China’s pork production could be as much as 50 percent. It has a significant opportunity to be disruptive to the food supply and world trade.” TAGS continued on 74

The USDA wants farmers to stop using metal ear tags, and instead use radio frequency identification tags. The RFID system transmits information about livestock using a unique sequence of numbers or letters.





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required for beef and dairy cattle, and bison moving interstate. Animals previously tagged with metal ear tags will have to be retagged with RFID ear tags. Feeder cattle and animals moving directly to slaughter are not subject to RFID requirements. “We’re pushing forward hard to move on these initiatives,” Shere said. “We want everything to go electronic and digital eventually.” USDA will provide cost share assistance for the electronic tags. The Ag Department already retired about 4 million metal ear tags and has reduced the average time to trace tags from 490 hours to 47 hours. But the U.S. still has a lackluster ADT system compared to other countries.

“We have the least coverage for traceability in the world. We have more traceability on animals coming from Mexico than we have in our own animals,” Ibach noted. “We haven’t done the job we need to do to help producers understand the reality of what’s going on.” Along with quicker response to disease outbreaks, many food retailers plan to require animal traceability systems similar to the produce industry in the future. “Many retailers are telling us they want traceability in the system,” Ibach added. “We have to get out and talk to cow/calf producers, who probably are the most reluctant to traceability, and show how valuable it is to them.”

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The USDA continues to work with the pork industry to maintain and upgrade protocols to protect the domestic hog herd from ASF. If a disease outbreak occurs in the U.S. swine industry, the animals can be traced through the Swine ID Plan. More than 95 percent of swine farms have a standard premise identification number. That’s not the case for the cattle and bison industries, though, which still rely heavily on metal ear tags for identification. USDA this month unveiled a timeline to shift those industries to the use of electronic

tags to speed the information capture and sharing processes. “If we don’t put a timeline on it, we don’t seem to make progress,” Shere said. “There’ll be a discontinuation of metal ear tags by the end of the year.” Here are the three key dates of upgrades to the ADT system: Dec. 31, 2019 – USDA will discontinue providing free metal ear tags. Approved vendors will still be permitted to produce official metal tags for 1 additional year.    Jan. 1, 2021 – USDA will no longer approve vendor production of metal ear tags. Accredited veterinarians or farmers can no longer apply metal ear tags for official ID.  Jan. 1, 2023 – RFID ear tags will be

TODAY’S FARM | Sauk Valley Media



Sauk Valley Media • May 7, 2019



Illinois soybean researchers adjust following funding cuts CARBONDALE (AP) – Some Illinois soybean researchers are struggling to continue with their work after a board’s decision to invest in areas other than research where the board believes they’ll have a larger impact. The Illinois Soybean Association is focusing on opening new foreign markets to soybeans and advocating for infrastructure improvements, and that means less money for research. Soybean farmers across the country contribute 0.5% of their crop sales to research. The funds are split between state, regional and national soybean boards, which then distribute the funds. The Illinois Soybean Association’s board, which is comprised of 24 elected farmers, allocated about $12 million last year. Of the money, most of it went toward promotion. The association spent 41% of its 2017-2018 budget on promoting Illinois soybeans, 24% to helping farmers adopt new technology to improve yields and sustainability, 17% to improving transportation efficiency, and 16% to outreach to corporate groups and Illinois farmers. The association believes private industry donors, chemical and seed companies, and the national United Soybean Board have a

larger impact on research, Lynn Rohrscheib, the association’s chairwoman, said. The funding cuts have forced researchers to seek funding elsewhere and adapt their research approach, said Jason Bond, a plant pathology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “Today, I’m a better researcher for it,” Bond said. Bond said his team adjusted their research project to pursue funding from other sources. “You need to have research that’s important to the Illinois grower, and to the wider region,” Bond said. “We looked at projects that could get other universities involved, and we built teams across states.” SIU Carbondale Professor Stella Kantartzi said she started off with about $170,000 of funding from the association, which has now completely been cut off. “I felt that I was fully supported by ISA, and I needed that support and the yearly communication with the farmers,” Kantartzi said, to continue her work. “Now, we feel pretty isolated.” Kantartzi said the decrease in communication means stakeholders don’t know what researchers can do and researchers don’t get as much feedback on their work.



There’s still time to apply for USDA natural resource funding program CHAMPAIGN – Farmers who missed the first deadline to apply for funding from the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program still have time to make the second deadline. Money can be used to address natural resource issues, such as installing structures to address gully erosion, improving soil health by increasing organic matter with cover crops and creating or improving monarch butterfly habitat with strands of milkweed or nectar plants. Hundreds of Illinois producers have already used EQIP to address natural resource issues on their farm. Some EQIP activities include installing structures to address gully erosion, improving pastureland diversity using interseeding techniques, and improving soil health by increasing organic matter with cover crops. A special Illinois funding pool also targets monarch butterflies by creating or improving monarch habitat with stands of milkweed and nectar plants. EQIP also funds plan development, such as comprehensive nutrient management plans, grazing plans, drainage water management plans, and more. To participate, producers can apply for EQIP throughout the year; however, Illinois’ Natural Resources Conservation Service has established two application deadlines; one, April 19 has already passed, and the second is May 17. Those interested can contact their local NRCS field office or go to for more information. Applicants must meet program eligibility requirements to participate in EQIP. Local Natural Resources Conservation Service field office staff will work with applicants to determine eligibility and answer ranking questions. If an application is ranked high enough to be funded, staff will work with each applicant to develop a contract.

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