R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Graff named state rural director

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

University of Illinois research shows that migratory birds prefer to rest and refuel in fields with cover crops. (Photo courtesy of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences)

President Donald J. Trump completed his promised realignment of USDA rural services last week when he announced a full slate of rural development state director appointments. We have info on Trump’s choice for Illinois, along with dates and locations for fall and winter Illinois agricultural conferences, in this week’s roundup of rural and farm news. Also: How cover crops can provide a helpful B&B for migrating birds. For more, please read on …

Graff named state rural director

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald J. Trump fulfilled his earlier pledge to reorganize state rural development services under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with his appointment of a full slate of Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Directors on Friday, Nov. 3. FSA state directors plan, organize and administer FSA programs in their home states. They also run day-to-day activities in the state FSA office, and are assigned to work to help improve the economy and quality of life for rural Americans.

“They are the initial points of contact for millions of our USDA customers,” said Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, also a Trump appointee, in a news release. “Our goal is to help rural America prosper, and these state leaders will be of great assistance in that task.”

Illinois’ new rural development director comes with plenty of prior FSA experience. William J. Graff was state executive director for Illinois FSA from 2001-2009. From the Springfield area, Graff is a real estate broker and farm podcaster who has owned Graff Land and Livestock, a grain and livestock farm in central Illinois with a purebred Simmental herd of 50 cows, since 1978. The Graff family has farmed the same land since 1824, according to Graff’s LinkedIn page.

The owner of Graff Land Services since 2009, Graff is an Illinois State University alumni who studied agricultural production and animal science.

Farm Assets Conference coming to Normal

URBANA — Todd Gleason, Illinois Public Media agriculture director and conference emcee extraordinaire, wants farmers to quit procrastinating (imagine that!) and go ahead and register for the 2017 Farm Assets Conference on Nov. 21 in Normal. “I get really nervous about making this one work because you all wait until the last moment to register. This is based, I believe, on the idea you might still be in the field,” Gleason pleaded in his WILLAg e-newsletter on Saturday, Nov. 4. “

“I understand this, however, the date chosen is for a particular reason. There are no classes on campus the week of Thanksgiving and this frees up the professors for the day. Please do me a favor and register today. The cost is just $35, and I’ll feel a whole lot better — thanks!”

Details, presentation agenda and registration forms can be found on the conference webpage or at www.WILLAg.org, or by calling (800) 898-1065.

Farm Econ Summit set for five cities

URBANA — The popular University of Illinois Farm Economics Summit is returning for a five-city sweep the week of Dec. 18. The tour begins at DeKalb’s Faranda Banquet Center before moving to Peoria (Dec. 19, Par-a-Dice Hotel), Springfield (Dec. 20, Crowne Plaza), Carlyle (Dec. 21, Bretz Wildlife Lodge and Winery) and Champaign (Dec. 22, I Hotel and Conference Center).

The theme of the Summit for 2017 is “The Profitability of American Agriculture: Managing Financial Stress,” and it is sponsored by the university, Farm Bureau Farm Management, and the U of I Extension. Topics include an agricultural price outlook for 2018, along with “What is up With Soybean Yields,” “Farm Policy Review and Outlook for the 2018 Farm Bill,” “Financial Position of Illinois Farms,” “Habits of Financially Resilient Farms,” and “Crop Economics: Crop Choice and Rental Decisions.”

Lunch is included in the summit registration fee. Contact Nancy Simpson with registration questions at nsimp1@illinois.edu, or call (217) 244-9687.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Soybeans have been more profitable to grow than corn in Illinois for four consecutive years. (Gary Schnitkey/University of Illinois)

Soybean Summit agenda announced

BLOOMINGTON — Breakout sessions and keynote speakers have been announced for the 2018 Illinois Soybean Summit, to be held at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre on Jan. 11, by host organization the Illinois Soybean Association. Topics for the single-day, single-city summit (a change from past years’ events) include boron management for soybean production, risk management and commodity outlook, challenges and solutions in soybean production, habits of financially resilient farmers, how to optimize yield by resource allocation, selecting management strategies for producing high yields, and insights from 2017 Illinois Yield Challenge results, according to the summit website.

In addition, it was announced that keynote speakers will include 2017 ISA Master Adviser Kris Ehler and Dale Durchholz, senior marketing advisor for for AgriVisor LLC. Call (888) 826-4011 or email events@ilsoy.org for more information on the 2018 Illinois Soybean Summit.

Cover crops preferred by migratory birds

URBANA — University of Illinois research is proving that migratory birds prefer to rest and refuel in fields planted to cover crops after harvest. “Here in the Midwest, we’re in one of the major flyway zones for migratory birds, where there once was plenty of habitat for grassland birds to safely forage and rest during their migration. Now that agriculture is the dominant landscape, they’re finding it harder to get the resources they need on the way to their breeding grounds,” reports Cassandra Wilcoxen, a graduate research assistant in the U of I College of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. Wilcoxen likened cover crops to a “bed and breakfast” for migratory fowl.

“We think cover crops, such as cereal rye, likely provide migrating birds with more vegetation and a safe area to escape from the elements and from predators,” she said. “Cover crops also increase insect abundance, another food source for birds. The increased number of insects allows migrants to fuel up faster and move on to their breeding grounds.” (U of I ACES news)


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Graff named state rural director–