RFD NEWS & VIEWS: Pork losses, Dairy sisters podcast and more

By Tim Alexander For Chronicle Media

Marcoot Jersey Creamery is located in Greenville, Illinois. The sisters who own the seventh-generation dairy farm are spotlighted in a series of podcasts airing in June, which is National Dairy Month. (website photo)

In this week’s news roundup for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, we have an update on the current ramifications of the Trump administration’s tariff wars on the pork industry. We also have a report on the dairy-producing Marcoot sisters in Greenville, who are sharing their farming story on high-ranking podcasts during June Dairy Month, and news of long-awaited lock and dam upgrades on the Illinois River. For these and more farm and rural headlines, please read on …

Hurt: Pork industry to face large losses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Potential trade retaliation from China and Mexico continues to cast a shadow over the pork industry, according to a respected farm economist. Combined with large pork supplies and rising costs, trade retaliation will result in expected losses for pork producers for the rest of 2018 and 2019, said Chris Hurt of the Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics.

“Those losses will be small this summer, but then the bottom falls out. Losses of more than $25 per head are estimated for the last quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019,” Hurt noted in an essay, “Pork Industry May Face Large Losses,” published on the University of Illinois farmdoc website on June 4. “The pork industry is caught up in trade disputes. The Trump administration has chosen to use threatened tariffs as a means to voice concerns to other countries over trade policies.

“With the U.S. tariffs on imports of foreign metals in place, retaliation has come from the EU, Mexico, Canada and China in the form of tariffs on U.S. exports to their countries. For pork, the gravest concerns are Mexico which purchased 32 percent of U.S. pork export volume in 2017. Canada and China each purchased 9 percent of U.S. pork exports last year. Those three countries purchased one-half of all U.S. pork exports in 2017.”

With large losses possible, Hurt urges pork producers to consider how such losses might impact their business and make advance preparations. (To read my full-length report on how the tariff war is impacting Illinois farmers, pick up next week’s Chronicle newspaper.)

Dairy sisters share story on Oprah podcast

GREENVILLE — Guided by sustainability and innovation, the Marcoot sisters have managed to retain and grow their seventh-generation family-owned dairy farm in Bond County, where they also manuture cheese and other farm products for sale in their general store. The sisters’ style of farming caught the eye of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which produced podcasts featuring the Marcoots for use during June National Dairy Month. One of the recordings aired June 4 on the high-ranking Oprah SuperSoul podcast; another will run June 19 on Gastropod.

The podcasts are airing at a time when the U.S. dairy industry is addressing a myriad of challenges, including continued low prices for milk. The USDA-NASS 2018 Illinois Cattle County Estimates report, issued May 14, counts just 93,000 milk cows present in the state as of January 1, down from 103,000 head in 2008, and 168,000 head in 1993. The most milk cows ever present in Illinois was in 1935, when 1.23 million head grazed Prairie State pastures.   

LaGrange lock project moving forward

BLOOMINGTON — The LaGrange (Cass County) lock and dam improvement project is moving ahead, thanks to Illinois Reps. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville). The two have been pressuring the Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction on the LaGrange lock and other vital waterways project now that a new Water Resources Development Act has been approved. On June 8, the Illinois legislators announced $10 million for funding LaGrange lock repairs, along with $1 million for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the long-stalled Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), which allows for seven expansion projects on the Illinois and upper Mississippi rivers.

“Moving forward with updating LaGrange is long-awaited great news for Illinois corn farmers who have been advocating for such improvements for decades,” said Aron Carlson, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Everyone knows that LaGrange is a ticking time bomb for some type of failure. More than a third of Illinois’ corn production is exported via the inland waterways, so to say any disruption or closure on the system is costly to producers is an understatement.”

Davis said that NESP is critical to updating Illinois’ crumbling lock and dam system and credited the Trump administration for “getting the ball rolling” by making waterways infrastructure a priority. “I will continue to put pressure on the Army Corps to begin construction on these important projects as soon as possible,” he said. LaHood noted that by funding the lock and dam repairs, “we will be strengthening our economy for years to come.” (Illinois Corn news)

Report: CWD found in Illinois reindeer

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced June 8 that chronic wasting disease — a prion disease that causes brain and nerve issues — has been identified in a single reindeer in northern Illinois. A necropsy on the dead cervid confirmed CWD, which produces symptoms that include weight loss, stumbling, excessive thirst, drooling and listlessness. The deer was part of a captive herd, according to the IDOA.

Prior to the diagnosis, CWD had been detected in only one other reindeer herd — a free-ranging group in Norway in 2016. The diagnosis represents the first known confirmation of CWD in a reindeer in North America, perhaps putting an end to the debate over the susceptibility of reindeer to CWD. The captive Illinois herd was placed under quarantine for observation following the confirmation of CWD, and is being managed by the IDOA, USDA Veterinary Service and the herd owner.

There is no evidence of CWD being infectious to humans and does not appear to affect cattle or domesticated animals, an IDOA news release stated.


–RFD NEWS & VIEWS: Pork losses, Dairy sisters podcast and more–