By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

While attending the first day of the Farm Progress Show, Illinois Farm Bureau President Rich Guebert Jr. signs the Illinois Corn Marketing Bureau’s “Drown the Rule” petition that urges Congress to roll back the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. (Tim Alexander photo)

This week: We have several reports from last week’s 64th Farm Progress Show in Decatur to share, including news about farmers’ efforts to reduce field chemical runoff, the WOTUS rule, and an early forecast for 2018 planting intentions. For these reports and more, please plow ahead …

IFB chief: Sign WOTUS repeal petition

DECATUR — Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) President Rich Guebert Jr. sat down for a public Q&A with “Prairie Farmer” editor Holly Spangler at the 64th Farm Progress Show on Aug. 29 in Decatur, providing insight on numerous topics, including the dicamba controversy, the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, and more. During the interview, Guebert admitted that he had damaged some of his own non-Xtend soybean varieties by spraying them with hose nozzle tips that had not been disassembled and washed after using them to apply dicamba herbicide to tolerant soybean varieties. He also said that the affected plants, though “ugly,” are setting pods and flowering and “should be fine.”

As to WOTUS, Guebert noted that two years ago farmers wanted to “ditch” the rule, but today are looking to “drown” it. “And we’re doing real good,” he said. “I want to thank all those in Illinois who have signed the petition. I think we are at a little over 2,400 signatures. If you have time, go to your i-phones and text 52886, follow the instructions and sign the petition to help drown the rule.”

Guebert praised new U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, saying the Trump appointee wants to bring “common sense” back to the agency. “He will get things back to where they need to be and maybe repeal a number of the rules that have been put in place over the last seven, eight, nine years. We need rules, but I think common sense goes a long way,” Guebert said.

Guebert also announced a contribution of $90,000 to the IFB Agriculture in the Classroom program made by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB) during the Farm Progress Show. After the interview Guebert headed up Sixth Progress Street to the Illinois Corn Marketing Board tent, where he signed the ICMB’s WOTUS repeal petition. The U.S. EPA recently extended the public comment period for WOTUS overturn (available through the EPA website) until September 27.

State unveils first nutrient loss program study

DECATUR — The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) used the stage of the Farm Progress Show to announce the results of the first, biennial Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) report. The report showed that Illinois farmers are adapting positive, voluntary soil and water conservation measures — including cover crops, split nutrient applications and other best management practices espoused by the NLRS — in impressive numbers. The ultimate goal of the NLRS is to achieve 45 percent loss reductions in both nitrate-nitrogen and phosphorus, with the interim loss reduction goals of 15 percent in N and 25 percent in P by the year 2025.

IEPA Director Alec Messina said that in the two years since the implementation of the NLRS by the state of Illinois, the impact of the strategy on state water quality is apparent. “The collaborative efforts of our stakeholders are resulting in real improvements in Illinois’ waters and we look forward to future improvements that will be gained as additional practices are implemented,” he said.

The report showed that the agricultural sector invested around $54 million in nutrient loss reduction for research, outreach, implementation, and monitoring. It’s issuance comes on the heels of worldwide headlines proclaiming that the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone is currently at its largest size in decades. The NLRS report will be available on the IEPA website, a spokesperson said Aug. 29.

Survey: Soybeans losing their luster?

DECATUR — The first day of the Farm Progress Show (Aug. 29) also saw the release of Farm Futures’ first survey of 2018 planting intentions. After boosting soybean acreage to new all-time plateaus the last two years, the survey shows that farmers may be ready to take a breather on beans. Instead, growers will seek to boost corn and wheat while cutting back on beans, cotton and sorghum.

The survey of 1,183 growers from 41 states wrapped up on Aug. 2. Since then, noted Farm Futures senior grain analyst Bryce Knorr, prices for both corn and soybeans have dipped. Initial survey planting intentions for corn came in at 92.8 million acres, up 2.1 percent from the 90.9 million acres planted in the spring. Soybean acres, at 86.1 million acres, would be down almost four percent from the 89.5 million acres planted this year.

The survey also found that farmers intend to seed 48.1 million wheat acres in 2018, a 2.5 million acre or 5.4 percent boost over this year. Around 90 percent of the increase would come in winter wheat seedings.

Sorghum production, after enjoying a resurgence fed by Chinese processors, is projected to fall in 2017. “The bloom of that rose has long since faded, and the popularity of the alternative feed grain is in retreat” due to increased Chinese purchasing of U.S. corn, the survey proclaimed.

Grower says Tazewell pumpkins looking good

MORTON — Tazewell County produces a majority of the canned pumpkin sold on supermarket shelves throughout the world, and Morton farmer John Ackerman has grown his share. The co-owner of Ackerman Farms agritourism business said that despite reports from the University of Illinois of fast-spreading downy mildew striking pumpkin patches in Kankakee County, his pumpkins had been spared of the disease as of last week.

“Downy can turn real nasty really quick,” Ackerman said, “but we have seen only a little bit of powdery mildew. Things are looking really good, pretty well normal.” The Mortonite added that he expects his corn and soybean harvests to not be as robust as his past couple of years’ row crops, but not as dismal as some local crop survey results have projected.    

Illinois Farm Fact:

70 percent of Illinois farmers are knowledgeable about Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) conservation practices. (USDA-NASS 2016 survey)