By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Applications of dicamba, a mid-season herbicide commonly used on soybeans and cotton, is now temporarily banned in two states. Could Illinois, which has now received six complaints of off-target drift damage from farmers with non-dicamba resistant crops, be next? (Tim Alexander photo)

A busy week for farm and rural news is topped by the Illinois legislature’s passing of the state’s first full budget in over two years. How does it affect ag programs? Also, there are now six registered dicamba drift complaints in Illinois. Will the state be the next to ban the sale of the in-season herbicide? In addition, we examine how the increasingly dry weather may be affecting crop growth. For this and more, please read on …

State budget benefits ag programs

SPRINGFIELD — A level of certainty and stability was achieved with the passing of a bipartisan, balanced Illinois state budget last week. The new budget, achieved through a General Assembly veto override, includes $3 billion in cuts to close the nearly $5 billion budget hole Governor Bruce Rauner sought to close, but provides state funding for human services, education, and construction projects. Presumably, the budget agreement will prevent Illinois from falling into “junk bond” status, which could have prevented the state from conducting financial business.

The FY 2018 budget will also benefit agricultural programs within the state, the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) reported. Some underfunded or depleted agricultural programs gained funding in the newly approved budget, according to Kay Shipman, IFB Farm Week reporter. IFB President Richard Guebert, Jr., seemed to confirm that agriculture had not been forgotten during the budget compromise.

“From the beginning, (IFB) has called for a compromise to end the budget impasse,” Guebert said. “Given the political gridlock, it was clear any solution would include items that are not desirable. Despite that, Illinois can now hopefully move forward and begin to address its unpaid bills while valuable programs for agriculture also receive funding.”

Look for more details on how the compromise budget shakes out for Illinois farmers in this column in the coming weeks.

Arid weather stresses soil moisture levels

URBANA — Lack of adequate precipitation combined with arid and breezy conditions combined to produce a total of 34 “large active fires under full suppression management activity” in the west, the National Water and Climate Center reported July 6, with more than 224,000 burned acres. So far in 2017, more than 30,000 fires have burned over 3 million U.S. acres, according to the USDA agency.

While Illinois, overall, is not considered a traditional “hot spot” for wildfires, below normal rainfall and warm, dry conditions are manifesting in the Land of Lincoln in the form of below-normal soil moisture levels — much to the worry of many farmers. “Areas that missed out on rains in the last 30 days could be in for a rough ride in July,” Illinois State Meteorologist Jim Angel noted on July 6. “Several areas in central and southern Illinois have had less than 50 percent of their normal four or so inches.”

Illinois’ topsoil moisture supply stands at 3 percent very short, 25 percent short, 69 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supply is rated 2 percent very short, 18 percent short, 77 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus, according to the most recent Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report issued by USDA-NASS. Illinois’ soil moisture ratings are not usually this high in the “short” category, Angel pointed out in his weekly weather blog.

“As a result of the below-normal rainfall, crops and vegetation have had to rely more heavily on soil moisture to grow. This is causing a rapid deterioration of soil moisture in the top eight inches. As those reserves are used up, roots will have to go deeper to tap into soil moisture at lower levels,” Angel said, adding: “Corn and soybeans have much deeper root systems than lawn grass and can do fine after the grass has turned brown. On a side note, my grass never turned brown in 2015 or 2016 thanks to plenty of rainfall and moderate temperatures. It has been a different story this summer.”

Illinois Farm Fact:

To date, the Pork Power program has donated nearly 570,000 pounds of pork — enough for nearly 2.9 million meals — to families throughout Illinois. (IPPA)

Six dicamba spray complaints in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — The farm community is abuzz with news of hundreds of dicamba-related spray drift complaints across the southeast and Corn Belt resulting in temporary bans of the in-season herbicide in Arkansas and, as of July 7, Missouri. Now, the problem seems to have “drifted” east of the Mississippi River; also that day, an Illinois Department of Agriculture spokesperson told this columnist that six off-target dicamba spray complaints had been received by Illinois farmers growing non-dicamba resistant crops. This is up from zero complaints just a couple of weeks ago.

Farmers looking for help in managing this key, post-emergence crop protection tool have a myriad of sources in Illinois to turn to for help. In addition to seeking best management practices guidance from the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. (www.ifca.com) or University of Illinois Extension, GROWMARK offers an internet-based dicamba management slide presentation on their website. Additional dicamba information, including free tools and lessons from the field, may be accessed on the Illinois Farm Bureau website. County farm bureaus or farm chemical dealerships may be a good first resource for some growers.

As of press time, more than 550 suspected dicamba drift incidents resulting in crop damage to neighboring fields has been reported in Arkansas, where the herbicide is widely used on in-season cotton and soybeans, In Missouri, more than 130 complaints have been received.

Foodbank gets 600-pound pork donation from farmer

PEORIA — The Illinois Pork Producers Assoc., along with the Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Corn Marketing Board, recently donated 600 pounds of pork products to the Peoria Area Food Bank under its “Pork Power” program. The donation, generously provided by Cuba, Ill. farmer Jillian Reed, was an “exceptional gift,” remarked Linda Smith, co-director of Peoria-area food pantry Helping Hearts.

“(Our clients) felt so special that they were chosen to receive this and that someone thought of them,” said Smith. Along with the high-quality pork, clients received information on the important nutritional, mental and physical benefits of a protein-rich diet. (IPPA news)