By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has proclaimed Aug. 6-13 to be National Farmers Market Week. This is the eighteenth year USDA has supported local producers by encouraging families to meet, and buy from, the farmers and other vendors at their local farmers market.

In this week’s farm news roundup, Illinois corn farmers are celebrating an important court decision impacting ethanol production, while urging the EPA to increase the amount of renewable fuels it allows in the nation’s fuel blend in 2018 and beyond. Also, there is a new buyer for Tremont-based Precision Planting, just weeks after a deal to sell to John Deere and Company fell through. We’ve also got news about National Farmers Market Week and the upcoming Farm Progress Show. For more, please read on…

Illinois corn farmers to EPA: increase RFS numbers!

BLOOMINGTON – Illinois Corn was just one state corn growers’ commodity group that has been keeping a keen eye on developments out of the nation’s capitol regarding the future of ethanol and biofuel blends allowed in the nation’s fuel supply.

A late-July decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit handed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a crushing blow when it was ruled that the agency erred in lowering 2014-16 Recommended Volume Obligations (RVOs) for renewable fuels in the nation’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The court vacated the EPA decision.

“There was never a supply side issue, but the EPA’s faulty methodology gave them the reason they were looking for to roll back the RVO numbers for the last three years,” said Justin Durdan, a Utica farmer and president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “As corn farmers, we always knew that we had enough corn supply to meet the Congressionally mandated level of renewable fuel in the nation’s fuel supply.”

The ruling set the stage for an Aug. 1 EPA hearing that included testimony from a wide range of state and national farm commodity groups and renewable fuel proponents, most of whom came to urge the EPA to increase RVOs across the board for 2018 and beyond.

Illinois farmers stand to benefit greatly if the EPA agrees. According to the Illinois Renewable Fuels Association, Illinois ethanol capacity stands at 1.98 billion gallons at 13 energy plants across the state. $3.8 billion worth of Illinois corn is purchased by the plants each year for ethanol production, enough to displace 35 percent of the state’s petroleum usage.

The ethanol industry provides $37 million in state or local revenue, as well as $39 million in federal revenue. In addition, 6.25 million tons of distillers dried grains and solubles for livestock feed are produced, worth $1.375 billion, in the Land of Lincoln.

AGCO buying Tremont-based Precision Planting

TREMONT – AGCO announced on July 26 it had reached a deal to acquire central Illinois-based Precision Planting LLC, a specialty tillage equipment business based in Tremont currently owned by The Climate Corporation (TCC), a subsidiary of Monsanto Company. The transaction to acquire the high speed, precision tillage equipment manufacturer was announced in an AGCO news release.

“Precision Planting is a strong business that plays an essential role in the growth and adoption of innovative precision ag practices that help farmers enhance their productivity,” stated Mike Stern, TCC chief executive officer. “As a leading global equipment manufacturer, AGCO is uniquely positioned to enable broader distribution of Precision Planting technology and will continue the development of innovative products that improve the efficiency and productivity for farmers around the world.”

According to Martin Richenhagen, AGCO chairman, president and chief executive officer, “The acquisition of Precision Planting will solidify AGCO as one of the global leaders in planting technology and strengthen our position as a full line partner for professional farmers across the globe.”

Terms of the agreement were not announced, but both companies said TCC’s Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform will retain connectivity with Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense monitor.

Illinois Farm Fact:

AgriAbility of Illinois promotes independence in agriculture for people with disabilities and their families. Illinois is one of 24 states with grant funding for the program. (U of I Extension)

Farmers Market Week Aug. 6-13

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Illinois is home to approximately 329 farmers markets, according to the National Farmers Market Directory, with the most, 93, located in Cook County. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is urging you to visit one — or any of the thousands located across the nation —  in honor of National Farmers Market Week Aug. 6-13.

Farmers markets contribute around $9 billion each year to the U.S. economy and “serve as significant outlets by which small-to-medium, new and beginning, and veteran agricultural producers market agricultural products, generating revenue that supports the sustainability of family farms and the revitalization of rural communities nationwide,” Perdue noted in his official Farmers Week proclamation, issued Aug. 3.

A USDA news release highlighted the department’s National Farmers Market Directory (found at usdalocalfooddirectories.com), which makes it easy to locate farmers markets in towns and neighborhoods. This is the 18th year USDA has recognized and supported local farmers and producers by encouraging consumers to meet and purchase food from farmers and other local vendors found at farmers markets.

AgriAbility to coordinate FPS health and safety tent

URBANA – The University of Illinois Extension’s Illinois AgriAbility Unlimited program will host a tent at this year’s Farm Progress Show (Aug.  29-31, Decatur) that will provide resources for disabled farmers, free health screenings and information on farm safety and overall health. The tent will feature a 32-foot grain bin lifeline simulator that demonstrates how to establish a lifeline in an existing grain bin to protect workers from grain entrapment, as well as a Dodge 3500 pickup equipped with a lift system to transfer a person from the truck’s driver’s seat to the seat of a combine or tractor and other adaptive equipment.

Decatur Memorial Hospital will be on hand to provide free first aid kits to tent visitors as well as offer information about a wide variety of health issues that affect farmers.

Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health will present causes, effects and prevention of whole-body vibration caused by farm machinery, among other exhibitors of interest to health-conscious or disabled farmers. Other exhibitors are planned. (U of I College of ACES news)