R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: USDA water projects, black vultures and more

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

In your weekly farm and rural news roundup, we look at two USDA-funded water infrastructure projects slated for rural Illinois announced last week by Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett. We also have an economist’s impression of what midpoint crop prices might portend for 2018 crop revenues, and a report on black vulture concerns in southern Illinois. Please read on …

Rural Illinois to benefit from USDA water projects

ILLIOPOLIS — Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett used her keynote address at the Arkansas Rural Development Conference to announce the United States Department of Agriculture will invest $256,000 in 81 rural water infrastructure projects in 35 states, including two in Illinois farm country. The projects will improve water and wastewater infrastructure through USDA’s partnerships with state and local officials to improve the quality of rural life.

“No matter what ZIP code you live in, infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity,” Hazlett said. “Through strong partnerships, USDA is ensuring that rural communities have the modern, reliable infrastructure they need to prosper.”

In Illinois, the United Regional Cooperative is receiving a rural investment that includes a $3.06 million grant and $9.2 million loan for construction of a water treatment plant for a newly organized water cooperative near Illiopolis in Logan County. Water will be supplied through high-production well fields near Illiopolis, with treated water sold to the communities of Harristown, Latham, Mount Pulaski, Elkhart, Illiopolis, Broadwell and Niantic. The project will serve more than 600,000 rural Illinoisans.

In addition, a $100,000 loan will be granted to the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District for completion of the Stratton East phase of the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District project, which will extend water lines to serve 19 new users in Edgar County. (USDA news)

Are midpoint crop prices cause for optimism?

URBANA — Recent World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate reports for 2018-19 corn and soybean supply and use may provide a source of optimism for producers, according to a University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics farm economist. The WASDE midpoint market year average (MYA) price for corn was $3.80 per bushel, while soybeans were estimated at $10 per bushel. Along with trend yields, the projections result in U.S. per acre crop revenue above 2017 levels but below 2007-17 averages, the U of I economist concluded.

“Obviously, these estimates will change. Still, they are useful for framing 2018 expectations,” said Gary Schnitkey, who advised tempering optimism with caution when projecting 2018 incomes. “2018 revenues are projected below 2007-17 averages. Moreover, commodity title payments likely will be lower for 2018 compared to recent years, offsetting a portion of the potentially higher crop revenues. Still, there is a bit of optimism for 2018 incomes. Obviously, much will be determined over the next several months as actual plantings and yields come into clearer focus.”

To read Schnitkey’s May 22 essay, “What do $3.80 Corn and $10 Soybean Midpoints Mean for 2018 Crop Revenues,” visit the farmdocDAILY website.

Illinois Farm Fact:

In Illinois, 2018 soybeans planted are at 81 percent, compared with 44 percent last year and the five-year average of 42 percent planted. (USDA-NASS Crop Progress Report May 21, 2018)

Illinois USDA: Be wary of black vultures

SPRINGFIELD — Farmers in southern Illinois need to be wary of “aggressive” black vultures and take measures to protect vulnerable newborn livestock and pregnant animals. This is according to Scott Beckerman, director of Illinois USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services program. Beckerman told the Illinois Farm Bureau news service that farmers located in or south of the Mount Vernon area — which is the furthest north the southern-U.S. based predators-scavengers have been tracked in Illinois — have been calling wildlife services and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources wondering what to do about the birds.

“The wildlife biologist described the black vultures’ ‘learned’ behavior as several birds pecking, especially on newborn animals’ eyes, and continuing until the newborn dies. Black vultures also prey on vulnerable females while they are giving birth,” reported Kay Shipman for the IFB’s Farmweek publication.

Beckerman, who will address farmers and ranchers on best management practices for keeping black vultures at bay on July 25 at the Jackson County Farm Bureau office in Murphysboro, recommends removing dead tree limbs or even dead trees where black vultures congregate near livestock areas. He also advised farmers to promptly remove any carcasses and properly disposing of them to prevent attracting vultures.

A final option is to shoot the birds, which requires a USDA Fish and Wildlife Services federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permit — and that will cost $50. This permit may come with a recommendation for the farmer to hang one or two of the dispatched vultures upside down as an “effigy” to deter other birds from congregating in the area, according to Beckerman.

Kimmel to address Peoria farmers

PEORIA — No, it’s not Jimmy. The Peoria County Farm Bureau’s popular market outlook dinner returns to Farm Bureau Park south of Kickapoo at 6:30 p.m. June 19. A ribeye sandwich meal will be served by Raber Packing, followed by a market update with Curt Kimmel of Bates Commodities. The founder and author of the Grain Field Report offered by Zwicker Consulting, Kimmel was raised on a grain and livestock farm near Carlock and received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture production and a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from Illinois State University. He has worked in the brokerage business since 1982.

In addition, the PCFB will host a commercial driver’s license qualification course the following morning at 9 a.m. June 20 in the farm bureau auditorium in Peoria. For more information or reservations contact the PCFB at (309) 686-7070 or visit www.peoriacountyfarmbureau.org.


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: USDA water projects, black vultures and more–