R. F. D. News & Views, May 28, 2014

by Tim Alexander


EPA Partners With U of I to Curb Water Pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force announced last week it would partner with 12 land-grant universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana, as part of the Hypoxia Task Force working to address nutrient pollution and the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The universities are currently conducting research on issues such as soil conservation, water quality and nutrient pathways through bodies of water. In addition, university scientists and policy experts are teaming to provide educational programs for farmers, local businesses and conservation and watershed management professionals.

Previously, individual states have worked with their respective land grant universities on local water quality research, lacking a coordinated focus on goals and activities or a shared process for distributing university or task force research across the 12 states. According to the EPA, this network will make available additional resources to the task force and national policy makers.

For more information on the Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, visit www.water.epa/gov/type/watersheds/named/msbasin/index.cfm. (EPA news release)


Congress Passes Waterways Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 conference report on Thursday, May 22, meaning the crucial waterways bill– which would help fund major lock and dam repair, among other things– is on it’s way to the desk of President Barack Obama. The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 90 to 7, just two days after the House of Representatives approved the final conference report by a tally of 412 to 4.

The news was met with praise from Illinois’ corn and soybean associations, among others. Many are pleased that the legislation promotes the use of alternative financing and public-private partnerships to fund waterways projects. The American Soybean Assoc. and Illinois Soybean Assoc. (ISA) are major proponents of exploring alternative financing options to fund waterways infrastructure projects. The Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act was introduced in 2013 by four lawmakers and was later cosponsored by three Illinois representatives. The act creates a pilot program for the Corps to explore agreements with private entities as alternatives to traditional financing, planning, design and construction models and is supported by the soybean groups.

The Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. (ICGA) pressed Congress to address a proposed increase to the diesel fuel user fee that supports the IWTF. ICGA President Gary Hudson said Thursday’s WRRDA passage by Congress represented only another small step toward updating locks and dams on the inland waterways system. “Passing the WRRDA bill is a small victory, and its provision to change the funding of Olmsted Lock and Dam construction to 85 percent federal will free up IWTF monies to start construction on other locks and dams. However, this is only an authorization bill. Real change is not affected until the appropriations for this spending come from Congress and until we increase the barge fuel user fee to grow available funds in the IWTF,” Hudson said in an ICGA news release.


‘Soybean College’ Heading for Heyworth

BLOOMINGTON – Farm Journal’s popular Soybean College– sponsored by the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) and funded by the soybean checkoff program– is coming to a farm field near Heyworth on July 15, beginning at 7:00 AM. “Soybean College is a great learning opportunity and investment,” says Lynn Rohrscheib, an ISA at-large director and farmer from Fairmount. “It walks you through the different stages of growth, providing tips for managing soybean pests and diseases that can have a direct impact on soybean profitability.”

Farm Journal touts Soybean College as having an agenda packed with practical, take-home production knowledge. Classroom-style general sessions and in-field breakouts with industry-leading agronomists and researchers are included in the $100 registration fee, which includes lunch and a steak dinner. A special focus of this year’s Soybean College will be on pointing farmers towards the coveted 100-bushel per acre goal.

“Soybeans have remarkable yield potential. And, if managed for high yield, 100-bushel soybeans are within reach,” according to Rohrscheib. The agenda and a registration form can be found at www.soyyieldchallenge.com/soybeancollege or by calling (877) 482-7203. (ISA news release)


Schnitkey Issues Soybean-to-Corn Price Ratio Update

URBANA – Regular readers of University of Illinois at Urbana agricultural economist Gary Schnitkey’s essays and those who catch his presentations at U of I Extension events such as the Corn and Soy Classic are familiar with his annual soybean-to-corn price ratio projections. On May 20, Schnitkey updated his projections with an essay posted on U of I’s farmdocDAILY website:

“Both corn and soybean prices have fallen since last summer, with corn falling more than soybeans. Because corn prices have fallen more than soybean prices, the soybean-to-corn price ratio has increased, signaling that soybeans have become relatively more profitable than corn. This leads to speculation that corn acres will decrease in 2014, while soybean acres will increase.

“Acreage shifts may occur. However, high soybean-to-corn prices in the spring do not necessarily signal high soybean-to-corn price ratios at harvest. Therefore, relative returns between corn and soybeans may change.” Continue reading Schnitkey’s article at www.farmdocdaily.illinois.edu.


Illinois Farm Fact:

As of the week ending May 18, 94 percent of central Illinois’ corn had been planted, and 79 percent had emerged. In addition, 64 percent of central Illinois’ soybeans had been planted, with emergence estimated at 25 percent. (USDA-NASS Illinois Crop Progress and Condition Report)


(Tim Alexander is a freelance reporter who writes agriculture, news and feature articles for the News Bulletin, Farm World and many other publications.)