By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Kristofer Ehler (right) of Ehler Brothers Seed, Thomasboro, Ill., receives the CCA Soybean Master Adviser award from John Longley, Illinois Soybean Association Production and Outreach Committee chair.

At the top of this week’s news for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, President Trump’s nomination for EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt, was confirmed with the support of agriculture but amidst great controversy over whether he supports the tenets of the Agency. We also have reports summarizing 2017 soybean prospects and events from the Illinois Soybean Summit, along with info on the upcoming Women in Agriculture conference in Rock Island. Please read on …

Pruitt sworn in as EPA chief

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Judging from pre-confirmation endorsements and after-the-fact statements, the 52-46 Senate nomination of Scott Pruitt as director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a slam-dunk for farm groups and the lawmakers who support the industry.

In fact, farmers’ support for the confirmation of Trump appointee Pruitt — who in the past has sued the US EPA 12 times over climate change and clean water policies in his former role as Oklahoma Attorney General — sends an apparent message to the public that Big Ag is content to have anyone at the post who will promise to walk back any current or proposed regulations affecting farming’s bottom line.

Among the first to roll out the praise was K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who said he was pleased with Pruitt’s confirmation. “For too long, farmers and ranchers have suffered from unnecessary, burdensome regulations as a result of EPA overreach. Administrator Pruitt understands that farmers and ranchers are the original, and best, stewards of the land, and I look forward to working with him to provide much-needed regulatory relief for rural America,” Conaway stated.

Closer to home, the Illinois Corn Growers Association issued an immediate and favorable response to the confirmation of Pruitt. Despite his reported ties to the fossil fuel industry, ICGA President Justin Durdan said he is confident Pruitt is supportive of corn-based ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Additionally, Mr. Pruitt has indicated he is prepared to seriously consider rules and regulations that have been promulgated at EPA, or on the other side of things, delayed at EPA, in order to get things moving in a way that is less burdensome to those of us that are actually out in the countryside,” Durdan said in a prepared statement.

“We look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and the EPA under his leadership. There is much that can be done to give farmers the leeway they need to protect the environment while protecting their family’s future on the farm, by making common sense rules and regulations based on sound science and the law,” the Utica-based farmer added.

Study ponders 2017-18 soybean marketing

URBANA — The development of soybean prices over the next year depends on the prospective size of 2017 U.S. crop and the prospects for stocks at the end of the 2016-17 marketing year. With soybean prices remaining relatively high despite large U.S. and world soybean supplies, and exports continuing to stay steady or increase while end stocks are expected to decrease, planted acreage for soybeans is expected to increase by as much as six million over the record 83.4 million-acre record set in 2016. This is according to Todd Hubbs, agricultural economist for the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.

Hubbs projections for the 2017-18 marketing year are posted on the U of I farmdoc website in his essay, “Weekly Outlook: 2017 Soybean Prospects,” and include increased acreage, an increase in ending stocks, and lower prices compared to current marketing year. “The mitigation of a major price decline requires a reduction in 2016-17 ending stocks from the current 420 million bushels or lower production in 2017. The scenario discussed places average farm prices for soybeans in a range of $8.90-$9.10 for the 2017-18 marketing year,” according to Hubbs.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Every dairy cow can produce more than six gallons of milk per day — more than 100 glasses! (St. Louis Dairy Council)

ISA CCA Soybean Master Adviser named

PEORIA — The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) named its first-ever “Soybean Master Adviser” from a group of certified crop advisers (CCAs) involved in an ISA program that helps farmers improve soybean production. Kristofer Ehler of Thomasboro was given the award at the ILSoyAdviser.com Soybean Summit, held Feb. 16 in Peoria.

“Among the many talented crop advisers in Illinois, Kristofer Ehler is clearly one of the most dedicated when it comes to soybean management,” noted John Longley, an Aledo-based farmer and ISA production and outreach committee chair. “He is well-deserving of the first CCA Soybean Master Adviser award.”

Ehler, who works in sales and agronomy at his family’s Ehler Brothers Seed in east-central Illinois, hosts and online community on Facebook — “The Pursuit of 100+ Bushel Soybeans” — that has over 500 current followers. He holds an associate degree from Parkland College and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business/crop science from the University of Illinois.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award because I’m so passionate about soybeans,” said Ehler, who refers to himself as a “soybean nerd” for his passion for achieving high soybean yields. (ISA news)

Women in Ag conference coming up

ROCK ISLAND — Jumer’s Casino and Hotel in Rock Island will be the setting for the March 17 Women in Agriculture Conference, with registration available through the Rock Island County Farm Bureau. Doors will open at 8am, with the day’s programming running through 4 p.m. Session topics include “Playing Offense: Agriculture in the Trump Administration,” “Tough Questions in Tough Situations,” and “Grain Marketing Strategy and Contracting Alternatives,” among others. Keynote speaker Jolene Brown will deliver opening and closing addresses, and lunch will be served.

The conference is sponsored by John Deere, the Illinois Farm Bureau, U of I Extension, First Farm Credit Services and others. To learn more or to register, go to www.womeninagriculture.com or call the farm bureau at (309) 736-7432.