R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Duckworth fights, Undeniably Dairy, blockchain apps and more

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

A three-person inspection crew was lowered via crane into the mangled remains of a grain elevator at Heartland Grain Cooperative in Eureka on Aug. 4. The cooperative was damaged in late July by an explosion and fire inside a bin, which resulted in a flare-up fire last week. No one was injured in the early morning explosion. (Tim Alexander photo)

Many farmers who historically vote Republican have found a fierce protector in Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. We have details on how the first-term lawmaker, who unseated Republican Mark Kirk in 2016, went to bat for farmers again last week. We also have university analysis of how the uncertain commodity market and trade issues could influence cash rents in 2019, dairy notes from the Illinois State Fair, and more … please read on:

Duckworth fighting to protect RFS

BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Corn is once again singing the praises of Sen. Tammy Duckworth for her actions defending farmers. This time, it was for her confrontation of Scott Wheeler, who was named acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency, following Scott Pruitt’s July 6 resignation, over small refinery exemptions that weaken the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Illinois Corn feels that the EPA, under the leadership of former administrator Pruitt, granted small refinery exemptions that effectively undermined the RFS and provided a backdoor out of the obligation to meet the congressionally mandated volume of renewable fuel blending in this country,” stated Illinois Corn communications director Tricia Braid, in an Aug. 1 news release. “In effect, by failing to reallocate those exempted gallons, the actual corn-ethanol inclusion rate will likely drop below 14 billion gallons, clearly short of the 15 billion gallon goal of the RFS.”

At a Senate hearing, Duckworth asked Wheeler to report to congress on how refinery exemptions to the RFS are being made. “EPA has been undermining the RFS and abusing the small refinery exemptions,” she said. “We need to understand how EPA is making decisions on granting those exemptions.”

Duckworth further asked for EPA to provide public notice on exemption decisions to bring greater transparency to the process, to which the acting EPA director replied: “Absolutely. In fact, we were developing a dashboard so the whole public can see what we’re doing on the issue and when and how we’ve granted the waivers … we want to make sure we release as much information as we can, be very transparent and let everyone know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.” No timetable was apparently offered for when the EPA’S new transparency “dashboard” will be online during the exchange.

2019 cash rents face more downward pressure

URBANA — Landowners and farmers will soon be considering 2019 cash rent levels with the current trade uncertainty as a backdrop to their negotiations. A pair of agricultural economists noted in an essay that the possibility of trade disruptions — along with downward commodity price movements — has added negativity and uncertainty to the process.

“In this environment, re-evaluating long-run income potential from farmland seems warranted,” noted Gary Schnitkey of the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences, and Carl Zulauf of The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics. “In particular, taking losses on 2019 production in the hopes of higher returns in the future has become a riskier and more questionable strategy for farmers. Flexibility in setting 2019 rents is more of a priority than in recent years.”

The economists suggest such flexibility can be exhibited through variable cash rent arrangements. “Another alternative is to wait to set cash rents till later in 2018 or early in 2019 in the hopes that some trade and price uncertainty. Of course, the wait strategy could result in changed cash rents from those that would be currently negotiated,” the pair noted in their essay, “Setting 2019 Cash Rents with Price Uncertainty due to Trade Disputes,” published Aug. 2 on the U of I’s farmdocDAILY website. A discussion and graphs associated with the article are offered on a YouTube video.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Each year, the Illinois State Fair celebrates the more than 550 dairy farmers in the state who are contributing more than 40,500 jobs and delivering an economic impact of about $22.93 billion for dairy products sold in Illinois. (Midwest Dairy)

“Undeniably Dairy” traditions on display at ISF

SPRINGFIELD — Marla Behrends, Midwest Dairy’s Illinois State Fair project manager, wants families attending the fair this week to know that in and around the Dairy Building, kids of all ages can still enjoy ice cream and cream puffs, milk a cow and visit the Butter Cow display. “We are excited to share with visitors — new and returning — our undeniably dairy traditions,” said Behrends, who will be on hand when the 2018 Butter Cow is unveiled at 3 p.m. Aug. 9. “Dairy farmers are proud of their contributions to the fair, including the variety of dairy treats offered. My favorite is the fresh fruit raspberry sundae because I can’t get it anywhere else.”

In support of the dairy community’s national “Scoop it Forward” campaign, which encourages “random acts of ice cream,” anyone purchasing ice cream will have the option of donating the leftover change to the area’s Ronald McDonald House. (Midwest Dairy news)

Soy Leaders talking blockchain apps

CHICAGO — Blockchain and its impact on the agriculture industry was the topic of discussion at the Illinois Soybean Association Insights Summit, held in late July in Chicago. “With consumer interest in their food at an all-time high, transparency is key,” noted Issac Olvera of Informa Economics IEG, who added that 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a company that can show transparency of their supply chain.

“Blockchain supports the full digitization of a supply chain’s workflow,” said Tanner Ehmke of CoBank. “Blockchain is a type of distributed or shared ledger system that will develop immense efficiencies in many industries.” ISA chairwoman Lynn Rohrscheib, recently elected to a second term by her industry peers, understands that technology adoption and innovation has many implications for agriculture. “This event opened my eyes to what will be coming,” she said in an ISA news release. 

“Agriculture is going to undergo a large transformation within the next decade,” added ISA CEO Craig Ratajczyk. “Those who adapt, improvise and overcome will be around while others will face challenges.”


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Duckworth fights, Undeniably Dairy, blockchain apps and more–