By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The street outside the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center in downtown Peoria was roped off on June 17, for an antique CAT equipment parade and exhibit. Machinery showcased included a 1929 CAT model Ten crawler owned by Robert Sterling of Andover, Ill. (Tim Alexander photo)

In this week’s rural and farm news roundup, we have details of the biggest purchase in John Deere and Company’s 180-year history, and how that deal puts them in position to take advantage of the Trump administration’s infrastructure enhancement push. We also have information about new U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s shakeup of the USDA, particularly in rural development. For this, that and more, please read on …

John Deere purchases road construction leader

MOLINE — John Deere and Company has bought its seat at the transportation infrastructure upgrade table with the purchase of an international leader in the road construction equipment industry. Deere’s June 1 purchase of the Germany-based Wirtgen Group represented the biggest deal in the company’s 180-year history, and came at a time of growth in Deere’s forestry and construction sector.

The deal fits nicely for Deere because the limited construction product line its Worldwide Construction and Forestry Division produces dovetails nicely with the equipment manufactured under the Wirtgen Group’s five premium brands, which have earned market-leading positions across the entire road construction sector. The Wirtgen Group produces road construction equipment for milling, processing, mixing, paving, compaction and rehabilitation for certified vendors in more than 100 countries.

The deal was announced on the heels of strong reported first-quarter earnings by the Green Machine. Deere and Company reported better than expected earnings on strong international farm equipment sales and higher demand for construction equipment, which helped support its profit forecast calling for a doubling of profits during 2017. Sales in construction and forestry equipment rose 7 percent for Deere in the quarter, with a 13 percent increase in sales forecast for the remainder of the year. And that was before President Donald Trump doubled down on his call to begin a $1 trillion national public-private infrastructure upgrade, and Deere acquired the Wirtgen Group.

Perdue names rural director, announces task force

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Of interest to all rural Americans is news of President Donald Trump’s USDA budget cuts and personnel shakeups, from new Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue down to state rural development directors and office personnel. Perdue made significant announcements regarding rural development last week, including the development of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity and the naming of an Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, a new title under Trump’s USDA shakeup.

At a meeting last week, the task force discussed their vision “to develop a streamlined method of interagency cooperation to achieve a broad range of goals,” according to a June 15 USDA news release. “The Task Force is working to improve quality of life for people living in rural areas, develop a reliable workforce, spur innovation and technology development, and roll back regulations to allow communities to grow and thrive. By directly engaging stakeholders to develop an action plan for legislative reforms and regulatory relief, the Task Force is expected to accomplish a great deal for rural Americans.”

Perdue also announced last week the naming of Anne Hazlett to lead the rural development agencies at USDA. Hazlett, whose previous position was as a counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, assumes the role of Assistant to the Secretary of Rural Development, which represents “an elevation” from Rural Development as Hazlett will have authorization to report directly to the Secretary of Agriculture, according to USDA.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Al Warren Oil uses 100,000 gallons of B20 biodiesel blends in 39 fleet vehicles each year, which reduces CO2 emissions by roughly the same amount as planting 4,130 trees. (Ill. Soybean Assoc./B20 Club)

Asmark-AGCO applicator training center opens

BLOOMINGTON — A unique training center for aspiring farm chemical applicators both commercial and private opened on 10 acres of land just west of Bloomington last week. The Asmark-AGCO Open Training Center for Beginning Applicators held an open house June 12 that was attended by 186 guests, including member-retailers with the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA), Illinois Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Warren Goetsch, and farmer-leaders representing state commodity associations.

This columnist was honored to be among the invited guests, who enjoyed catered food and beverages before touring the facility, which includes a 12,000-square-foot technical center, classroom and offices, and a mile-long training track where students can acquire hands-on experience navigating and operating large sprayer vehicles under a variety of simulated conditions.

IFCA President Jean Payne said the opening of the training center, which is currently enrolling applicators for four-day instructional courses, is unique in the Midwest and will attract “students” from surrounding states as well as Illinois. “The students are recruited nationally, through ag retail channels as well as through exposure they will receive from business with AGCO and other application equipment suppliers,” Payne explained. “IFCA will certainly promote the course with our members as will other state associations. Like the Asmark Ammonia Technician Course, it will attract students nationwide since it is the only hands on training facility of any kind specialized for pesticide applicators.”

ICGA, ISA commend ethanol, B20 supporters

BLOOMINGTON — With renewable fuels again expected to be fighting for leverage in 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, Illinois’ state corn and soybean associations separately acknowledged elected leaders and businesses supporting renewable fuels last week. The Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) commended Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth for joining with senators from other states June 14 to support the removal of one of the many regulatory barriers to market access for higher blends of ethanol — the Reid Vapor Pressure waiver, in Congress.

On June 15, the Illinois Soybean Association recognized Al Warren Oil Company, which does business in Chicago, Indianapolis and Hammond, for its work in reducing motor vehicle emissions, and welcomed the company to its “B20 Club” in conjunction with the American Lung Association in Illinois.