By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Illinois soybean harvest of 2017 is off to a great start, according to the latest Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report issued by USDA-NASS. (University of Illinois Extension photo)

Illinois has been spared the damage, grief and expense associated with the four major hurricanes that have touched the U.S. mainland in the past two months, but that doesn’t mean there exists no connection between Illinois farm families and those in Florida, Texas and elsewhere who have had their lives uprooted by these natural disasters. This week, we will take a good look at how the U.S. farm community,  through USDA, is supporting hurricane victims. For this and more farm news, please read on …

USDA comes to aid of hurricane victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Department of Agriculture is working to provide vital services and resources to those affected by recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is coordinating “hour by hour and day by day” with state and local governments, private and nonprofit sectors, other government agencies and “key international partners” to bring aid to those in need.

USDA agencies and staff are collecting and analyzing data to provide an impact assessment on harvested acreage and agricultural commodities. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has been collecting harvest information for a number of crops in affected states in preparation for this week’s Crop Production report, in order to better assess the full damage impact and provide official statistics for use with damage assessments, payments, research and commodity supply estimates.

NASS is also collecting information on upland cotton, peanuts, soybeans, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, corn, alfalfa and other hay to analyze hurricane damage compared with pre-storm acreage and harvest estimates. In addition, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) is providing weekly Commodity Outlook reports containing information on the impacts of the hurricanes on various farm commodities. These reports are available online in the ERS Newsroom. 

The USDA-led Farm Service Agency (FSA) is offering hurricane recovery support to farmers, foresters and livestock producers through a portfolio of emergency commodity, conservation, livestock and credit disaster assistance, including loans and assistance for conservation, forestry restoration, assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish.

USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) has more than 250 employees in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico working to provide conservation assistance to farmers and ranchers, providing damage assessments and technical advice to individuals and communities. As of Oct. 6, NRCS has fielded more than 1,200 requests for conservation technical assistance related to hurricane impacts, and is working with FSA to set up disaster assistance workshops.

In addition, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) and approved insurance providers have facilitated more than $2.6 million in indemnity payments to affected producers, and has taken proactive steps to “ensure the efficient and reliable delivery of the crop insurance program,” according to a USDA news release. Other USDA agencies coming to the aid of hurricane-stricken farmers include the Forest Service, Rural Development and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). USDA has also supplied more than 40,000 cases of food to volunteer organizations to feed residents in Puerto Rico. Some 500,000 households stand to benefit through the USDA Food Nutrition Service’s (FNS) efforts.

“USDA remains steadfast in its mission to work on behalf of every community in Texas, Florida, Georgia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ensure that life-sustaining resources are available to our neighbors as they begin the hard work of rebuilding their lives and communities following these devastating storms,” Perdue said.

No information was available on USDA aid efforts to those affected by last week’s hurricane affecting Louisiana and other coastal states.

Soybean harvest off to great start

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois soybean harvest of 2017 is off to a great start, according to the latest Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report issued by USDA-NASS. The 30 percent harvested, as of Oct. 2, is double the acreage harvested at the same time last year and reflects a 21 percent increase from soybeans harvested on Sept. 24, 2017. The five-year average for harvested soybeans in Illinois is 21 percent.

The soybean harvest appears to be rather robust, as suggested by farmers participating in the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) ILSoyAdvisor.com Yield Challenge. As combines roll across Illinois, early reports from participants indicate multiple 100-plus-bushel trial plots. Though harvest is well underway, farmers may still register for the Yield Challenge until Nov. 15. Contact Yield Challenge coordinator Mike Scheer at (309) 531-2610 or mscheer@ilsoy.org to participate.

The Oct. 2 NASS report showed corn harvest at 21 percent complete, which lags 19 percent behind last year’s estimate but shows a ten percent increase from the prior week. It is also behind the five-year average of 38 percent complete. Corn condition was rated 4 percent very poor, 10 percent poor, 28 percent fair, 43 percent good and 15 percent excellent.

One reason farmers might have harvested more soybeans than corn this year is that corn in many areas was underdeveloped at traditional corn harvest time due to weather and growing conditions through the summer. With many areas seeing temperatures return to the 80s in recent days, some farmers may have been holding back on harvesting while hoping for more kernel development and fill. Barring poor weather conditions, look for corn harvest numbers to pick up during the coming days and weeks.

Soybean coloring was at 92 percent, according to USDA, compared to 93 percent for the five-year average, suggesting normal maturity for the time of year. Soybeans dropping leaves was at 80 percent, compared to 77 percent last year. Soybean condition was rated 5 percent very poor, 9 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 47 percent good and 12 percent excellent.

In addition, pasture and range condition was rated 24 percent very poor, 28 percent poor, 35 percent fair, 12 percent good and one percent excellent, according to the report.

Illinois Farm Fact:

Save the date: The ILSoyAdvisor Soybean Summit will be held Jan. 11, 2018 at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre in Springfield. (Illinois Soybean Association)