By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Illinois counties of Kane, Kendall, LaSalle and Will have been added to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service list of regulated areas for the gypsy moth. (Illinois Department of Agriculture photo)

In this week’s roundup of news for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, we focus on the slow recovery from abysmal field conditions across the state hampering planting progress with the latest crop progress numbers. Also: USDA-APHIS has added several Illinois counties to its gypsy moth regulated area; the pending deal for John Deere to purchase Precision Planting has been terminated; and the Illinois Ag Coalition defines exactly what is a “CAFO” in the eyes of the EPA. Please read on …

Illinois counties added to gypsy moth area

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Illinois counties of Kane, Kendall, LaSalle and Will have been added to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) list of regulated areas for the gypsy moth, meaning populations in the countries has reached the threshold to trigger the alert. The federal order was issued May 8, signaling an end to all interstate movement of gypsy moth-regulated articles from the counties unless handled in accordance with the Plant Protection Act. A parallel state quarantine was also established by APHIS.

The gypsy moth is a destructive insect that is known to destroy as many as 300 types of trees and shrubs. Brought to the U.S. in 1869 in a failed attempt to start a silkworm industry, the insects soon spread throughout the northeastern U.S. and Canada via their ability to travel — like legendary gypsies — attached to items moved from area to area. The gypsy moth is now a major pest to several U.S. states and southeastern Canada.

The insects’ larvae emerges in early spring through mid-May and immediately begins its quest to defoliate trees of leaves, mainly during nighttime hours. Feeding continues until mid-June or early July, until the larvae enters pupal stage and later emerges as a moth. They feast on deciduous hardwood trees such as maple, oak and elm, but will also settle for apple, alder, birch, poplar or willow. Continued attacks can kill or fatally weaken a tree by leaving it susceptible to other diseases or predators, according to GypsyMoth.com.

Deere-Precision Planting deal called off

MOLINE — The John Deere Company’s two-year long quest to purchase Tremont-based Precision Planting LLC, a specialty tillage equipment business now owned by Monsanto subsidiary The Climate Corporation (TCC), reached its terminus when TCC rescinded its agreement to sell the company to Moline-based Deere on May 1.

“We are deeply disappointed in this outcome as we remain confident the acquisition would have benefitted customers,” stated John May, John Deere president of agricultural solutions and chief information officer. “With an opportunity to see this to conclusion, we believe it would have been clear the challenge to the transaction was based on flawed assessments of the marketplace.”

Deere had responded to a pending U.S. Department of Justice antitrust suit filed last year by claiming farmers would benefit from the sale through better and faster innovation, with no loss to the competitive marketplace for specialty tillage equipment.

“Competition in precision agriculture is strong and growing … as companies around the world continue developing new technologies,” Deere wrote in its October 2016 response. “The acquisition will enable broader access to these advancements by ensuring farmers have the choice to either buy new machinery or retrofit older planting equipment with the latest innovations. When the transaction is finalized, Deere will preserve Precision Planting’s independence in order to ensure innovation and speed-to-market and will invest in additional innovation efforts at Precision Planting to benefit customers.”

Deere had alleged that the DOJ’s decision to pursue federal antitrust action blocking the sale was designed to protect an unnamed “specific competitor” for Precision Planting rather than to protect the concept of market competition. “The DOJ initially cleared Deere’s acquisition of Precision Planting,” Deere Director of Global Public Relations Ken Golden told this reporter in November 2016. “However, a competitor to Deere protested, and the DOJ opened a new investigation and filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the sale.”

Wet conditions still slowing crop progress

SPRINGFIELD — With another year comes another set of challenges for growers. So far in 2017, the top consideration for farmers who planted early has been above average late April early May precipitation, which flooded the Illinois River valley and pooled in crop fields in many areas of the state. Producers were still reporting ponding and flooding in fields the week ending May 7, according to the latest USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service ‘Illinois Crop Progress and Condition’ report.

Only 0.6 days were suitable for fieldwork during the week, the report stated, with average precipitation recorded at 1.89 inches, 0.92 inches above normal. Amounts varied from 0.63 inches recorded in northwest Illinois to the 3.68 inches measured in east-southeast Illinois.

Corn planted was at 65 percent, two percent above the five-year average. However, just 29 percent of corn had emerged by May 7, compared with the five-year average of 32 percent and the 43 percent emergence by this time last year. Soybeans, at 14 percent planted and 1 percent emerged, are slightly short of recent averages, as well.
With many farmers facing replants of partial or full fields due to flooding, it will be interesting to see how planting and emergence percentages are tracking in the coming weeks.

Do you own a CAFO?

SPRINGFIELD — Does your animal feeding operations qualify, in the eyes of the Illinois EPA, for classification as a CAFO? If so, it must be operated within the Illinois EPA Livestock Rules, enacted in 2014. Find out if your farm must be operated under these provisions by obtaining a free resource guide detailing the rules from the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Milk Producers Association, or Illinois Beef Association — the members of the Illinois Ag Coalition.

Illinois Farm Fact:

In Illinois, “large” CAFOs are classified as buildings containing 2,500 swine weighing 55 pounds or more, or 10,000 or more swine weighing less than 55 pounds, housed on a single site. (IL Ag Coalition)