R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Perdue touts USDA, Trump accomplishments

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Farm experts from the University of Illinois and Illinois FBFM, led by U of I farm economist Gary Schnitkey (with microphone), field questions from an audience of around 175 farmers and others at the 2017 Illinois Farm Economics Summit. The event was held Jan. 19 in East Peoria. (Tim Alexander photo)

At year’s end, U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue grew reflective over the accomplishments of the first-year Trump administration when it comes to the welfare of farmers and rural citizens; we have highlights of his news release. Also, U of I ag economists toured Illinois last week advising farmers to cut a new notch in their belts so they can tighten them more in 2018. We have their top four recommendations. For these and more news items of interest to Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, please read on …

Perdue touts USDA, Trump accomplishments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Farmers and rural Americans got what they were promised, and more, when they overwhelmingly supported then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump at the polls in November 2016. This is according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a Trump appointee who issued a Dec. 21 news release from the USDA press office touting the first-year accomplishments of President Trump and the agriculture department. Perdue noted that in his first year, Trump’s administration made “breakthroughs in agricultural trade, moved to remove burdensome regulations, responded to natural disasters, and battled through the worst fire season on record.”

Perdue extolled the efforts of the USDA in areas of stakeholder outreach (the ag secretary visited 30 states and six foreign countries since his April 25 swearing-in, and interacted with National FFA and 4-H students), department reorganization (modernizing and streamlining USDA offices and services), trade (gaining approval for new biotech varieties in China), school meals, reduced regulations, rural prosperity, and more (the full news release can be found on the USDA website).

“As 2017 comes to an end, the hard-working civil servants who make up USDA have a great deal to be proud of,” Perdue stated. “Unlike any other federal department, USDA touches the lives of each individual in this country every day. As we look ahead to 2018, USDA will continue our efforts to be the most effective, efficient, and customer-focused department in the entire federal government.”

PCM helping NRCS to enroll conservation acres

CHAMPAIGN — Precision Conservation Management (PCM), a farmer-led service that addresses farmers’ natural resources concerns on a field-by-field basis by identifying conservation practices that effectively address environmental issues in a financially viable way, is working in association with USDA’s Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to enroll more farmers in government farm conservation programs. The partnership was made official through a Dec. 19 news release issued by Illinois State Conservationist Ivan Dozier, who announced that landowners in 12 counties can sign up for 2018 conservation practices through NRCS’ EQIP, CSP and ACEP programs. Cutoff dates for EQIP are Jan. 19 and March 16, 2018. The last day to apply for the ACEP program is January 26, while CSP cutoff dates had not yet been announced.

“(PCM) is a farm management service developed by farmers, for farmers, to help farmers identify the most feasible conservation practices for their farm, customized to their own resources and finances,” according to Laura Gentry, director of environmental research for Illinois Corn. “Another purpose is to increase grower participation in conservation programs, like NRCS programs and Field to Market. Lastly, the purpose of this program is to demonstrate what farmers are doing on their land now, and how they are changing to continually improve.”

PCM membership is centralized within the Mississippi River Basin, with 12 counties in Illinois (Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Macoupin, Sangamon, Vermilion, Christian, Edgar, Livingston, McLean, Tazewell and Woodford) currently participating. For more information on PCM, see your local NRCS field office or send an email to a PCM enrollment coordinator at info@precisionconservation.org.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Actual net farm income for Illinois farms in 2016 was $86,731. (Illinois FBFM)

Experts: Cut input, production costs for ’18

EAST PEORIA — Agricultural economists and farm experts from the University of Illinois and Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM) had two main takeaways for farmers attending any of the five 2017 Illinois Farm Economics Summit events held across the state last week: in 2018, you will still produce crops in a time of low returns and reductions in working capital, and you will still face tough decisions.

According to projections announced by U of I ag economist Gary W. Schnitkey, growers who rent high productivity farmland in central Illinois for $270 per acre will need to receive market prices of $3.63 per bushel for corn and $10.24 per bushel for soybeans to break even next year. This would require yields of 238 bu./acre for corn and 73 bu./acre for soybeans. “If you are going to pay $300 (per acre) in cash rent, you are going to need $4 corn,” Schnitkey told the 175-or-so farmers and others present at the December 19 summit in East Peoria. “You are either going to have to have higher prices or higher yields.”

A common theme for the summit, supported by the seven crop and farm economics experts, was cutting costs. Schnitkey outlined four top expenditures growers should examine for the 2018 crop production year: fertilizer costs, capital purchases, cash rent and seed costs. “You need to reduce family living (costs), but if you don’t fix these (four) problems first it’s not contributing enough,” said Schnitkey. The good news for farmers is that fertilizer costs, which have been declining since 2013, are expected to fall even more in 2018. “Fertilizer is one cost that has come down tremendously,” he added, “but cash rents have not followed the trend (set by lower commodity prices) as quickly.”

Illinois soy growers named to NBB

BLOOMINGTON — Illinois soybean producers Jeff Lynn, of Oakford, and Mike Cunningham, of Bismarck, were named to national leadership positions in the biodiesel industry last week, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) announced. Lynn serves on the ISA marketing committee and has been active in the farm bureau and Menard County Extension youth council. Cunningham has represented farmers in his region on ISA and American Soybean Assoc. boards since 2002. Congratulations to these farmers and their families!



–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Perdue touts USDA, Trump accomplishments–