By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis (R-13th) chaired a House subcommittee hearing to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2014 Farm Bill as it pertains to specialty crop programs.

In this week’s roundup of news headlines for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, an Illinois farmer offered testimony to a House committee preparing for the 2018 Farm Bill, a central Illinois conservation group wants tighter rules for CAFOs, and the Dept. of Agriculture is holding a mock foot-and-mouth outbreak in Springfield later this month. Also: tips for managing dicamba on in-season soybeans. For more on these topics, please continue reading …

Subcommittee hears about farm bill, specialty crops 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis (R-13th) chaired a House subcommittee hearing to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2014 Farm Bill as it pertains to specialty crop programs. The House Ag Committee’s Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research heard testimony from five specialty growers, including James Field, director of business development for Frey Farms in the Wayne County town of Keenes. Field stepped outside of the scope of the typical farm bill crop insurance and conservation program discussion, delving into the hot-button topic of immigration under the Trump administration.

“There is a high level of uncertainty in agriculture right now as it relates to the future of migratory workers,” said Field, whose company relies on H-2A seasonal agricultural guest workers to harvest and pack the fresh fruits and vegetables the specialty operation grows. Field told Davis and the subcommittee that there is a great need for an effective, legal ag guest worker program to upgrade the H-2A program, which is slow and inefficient. Frey Farms would also support extending the H-2A or its replacement program to undocumented immigrant workers, Field said.

IFCA issues tips for in-season dicamba on soybeans

BLOOMINGTON — Farmers have a new tool in their crop protection arsenal this year with the expanded EPA approval of dicamba herbicides to include in-season spraying. To help farmers prepare, the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) issued a “Dicamba Use On Soybeans” one-sheet of best management practices, stressing that the pesticide product label is the law and applicators must strictly adhere to its instructions. The following are bullet point highlights from the one-sheet:

  • Do not apply any other dicamba herbicides to Roundup Ready to Xtend soybeans. It is a serious violation of the Illinois Pesticide Act.
  • Utilize a pre-emergence weed management program to help ensure effective early season control, minimizing the need for in-season applications.
  • Do not use Engenia and XtendiMax as a rescue treatment.
  • Do not tank mix Engenia or XtendiMax with any other products without seeking approval at www.engeniatankmix.com.
  • Consider weed height, wind speed, spray nozzle selection, boom height, required buffer zones and product use restrictions, and scout for sensitive crops before applications.
  • Consult www.fieldwatch.com and access their DriftWatch program to identify locations of known, registered specialty crop areas.

For questions regarding the proper use of dicamba herbicides or the Illinois Pesticide Act, farmers can contact Jean Payne, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association president, at (309) 827-2774 or jeanp@ifca.com.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Total estimated losses resulting from the introduction of foot and mouth disease to the U.S. pork and beef industries: $12.9 billion per year. (Center for Agricultural and Rural Development/Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute)

Illinois group seeks CAFO reform law

PEORIA — Citing a concern for the environment, public health and individual property rights, central Illinois group Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW) is calling for the negative impacts of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to be addressed through state legislation. The ICCAW is suggesting county boards be allowed to convene meaningful hearings and issue binding recommendations to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) on the siting of new operations. Currently, county boards can issue only non-binding recommendations to the IDOA.

The group also asks that setbacks be created separating CAFOs from existing surface waters. “As it stands now, a livestock facility can be built on top of a waterway in Illinois, as there are no setbacks under the Livestock Management Facilities Act,” according to the group. ICCAW would also like to all CAFOs to be required to register with the Illinois EPA to help the agency “actually develop and maintain an accurate location database.”

ICCAW said it wants legislators to draft reform measures that would bring Illinois up to the same level of regulation as some of its neighboring states. “If regulations can be followed in other states, they can be followed here as well. This is not just a matter of concern for rural areas. Streams polluted by animal waste flow into rivers and drinking water for residents downstream may be affected,” the group stated in an essay posted in the March edition of the Heart of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Tallgrass Sierran newsletter.

Livestock disease crisis drill planned

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Mark Ernst, Illinois State Veterinarian, and Jennifer Tirey, executive director of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), will host a Foot and Mouth Disease Crisis Drill Meeting March 28 at the Illinois Department of Agriculture building on the State Fairgrounds. The first of its kind study, funded by the pork checkoff program, will bring together representatives from the military, state agriculture offices and national and state pork associations to participate in an interactive, tabletop exercise training session designed to simulate the emergency response to the introduction of a highly contagious foreign animal disease, such as foot and mouth.

The exercise walks participants through a mock disease outbreak focusing on the efforts at the local level and the communications and operations that must occur to contain, manage and eradicate the disease. Participants, which will include this humble columnist, will become a part of the response effort from diagnosing the first case, mobilizing the local response, and controlling and eradicating the disease. I hope to share a photo and some notes from the drill with readers in my April 5 column.