R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: County boards passing pro-ag resolutions

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The many facets of Cook County agriculture were recognized through a recent county board resolution that called attention to the economic and societal contributions of the area’s farmers and food production workers. (Cook County Farm Bureau photo)

You may not think of Cook County as a leader in agricultural production, but a new resolution is calling attention to farming’s role in the Chicagoland economy. We have this news and much more from the field of Illinois agriculture in this week’s news roundup for farmers and rural dwellers. Please read on.


Cook County agriculture recognized

CHICAGO — The role of agriculture in largely urban Cook County was recently recognized by local leaders and the Illinois Farm Bureau. To celebrate its agricultural history, the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a new resolution acknowledging farming’s role in the local economy.

“I think most people don’t believe that there is agriculture in Cook County,” said Josina Morita, Cook County commissioner. “I think it’s important for the Cook County board to recognize that agriculture exists and use our platform to educate residents about agriculture in Cook County, but to me this is just the beginning. To me, what comes next is setting goals about how Cook County government can help support agriculture, can help support our local farmers and help grow the agriculture industry across Cook County.”

According to the IFB, in addition to traditional row crop farming there are numerous examples of urban agriculture throughout Cook County, such as the raising, cultivation, processing, marketing and distribution of food in urban and suburban settings. Urban agriculture also involves outdoor and indoor vertical farming, indoor warehouse farms, greenhouses, rooftop farms and hydroponic and aquaponic facilities, an IFB news release noted.

In addition, Cook County agriculture includes a broad spectrum of livestock, including horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 Census of Agriculture ranked Cook County second in the state for equine production with a sales volume of more than $1.5 million.

“Agriculture is absolutely thriving in Cook County,” said Bona Heinsohn, Cook County Farm Bureau director of governmental affairs and public relations. “We truly have a little bit of everything, it’s just that, because of how urban we are, it looks different.”


County boards passing pro-ag resolutions

BLOOMINGTON — Cook County is not the only Illinois county to pass pro-farming resolutions in the past couple of years. As of March 27, 26 county governing bodies approved pro-agriculture resolutions and the number continues to grow. In 2022, 14 county governments passed pro-ag resolutions.

They’re doing so partly because of IFB’s Allies in Agriculture program, which encourages county Farm Bureaus to build partnerships and help county government officials to better understand and support agriculture. The program includes county Farm Bureaus working to secure pro-agriculture resolutions from their governing county boards.

“This is an opportunity to work with local officials to remind them of agriculture’s impact on the county and its citizens,” according to Ryan Whitehouse, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of local government and political action. County Farm Bureau leaders can access online information and resources associated with the initiative at ilfb.org/alliesinag.


Pilot program looks at rural bridge stabilization

BLOOMINGTON — The Soy Transportation Coalition and rural Knox County recently partnered on a pilot project in which PoreShield, a soy-based concrete enhancer, was applied along road and bridge joints on a county road. The purpose? To enhance the life of rural bridges that farmers rely on to move their crops and animals to market.

According to Knox County engineer Duane Ratermann, the penetration of salt, water, and other materials into a road – particularly in areas with a freeze-thaw cycle – can result in significant damage and diminished longevity. The application of a concrete enhancer, like PoreShield, can provide a barrier to such penetration and significantly increase the useful life of the road or bridge, he said.

“One of my priorities as a county engineer is to maximize the longevity of our roads and bridges without compromising safety,” said Ratermann, in a news release from the Illinois Soybean Association.  “One of the effective ways to protect concrete from degradation is to treat the joints with a sealant in order to create more resistance to water and salt penetration. I was pleased to partner with soybean farmers in doing a demonstration project utilizing PoreShield. The product is designed to provide long-term protection of concrete, and because it is largely comprised of soybean oil, it is environmentally sustainable. I look forward to continuing to monitor the performance of PoreShield in the future.”

Because PoreShield is 93 percent produced from bio-based products — mostly soybean oil — it is safe to apply and environmentally sustainable, according to Mike Steenhoek, STC executive director. The product is included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program.


Benefits of early planting questioned

URBANA — When weather conditions are optimal, many farmers choose to plant their crops as early in spring as possible. But is there a proven benefit to early planting? “Although we place a great deal of emphasis on the need to plant early and spend a lot for equipment to allow us to do that, statewide planting progress and yields are not as tightly linked as many people believe they are,” said Emerson Nafziger, Dept. of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. However, should farmers ever intentionally choose to plant later in spring?

“We have some evidence that the yield loss with delayed planting … is considerably less than it was with older hybrids, especially on a percentage basis. So it may make sense to some to delay planting, especially if it’s still April, and the forecast is for a cold front to drop two or more inches of rain, then warm, dry weather to follow that,” Nafziger concluded, in an essay published last week. For more, read the essay Nafziger, E. “Planting corn in 2023.” Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, April 8, 2023.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Cook County agriculture contributes nearly $20 billion to the local economy, and more than 4 percent of the county’s total workforce is employed by an agricultural-related job, including food handling and processing. (Illinois Farm Bureau)