R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Farmers sought for NRCS program

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

David Bullock leads the Data Intensive Farm Management research team, working with farmers to conduct field trials on management practices. Bullock’s team received a $4 million grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to support their work. (University of Illinois photo)

The week in agricultural and rural news was led with the announcement that the state has assigned funding from the CARES Act to agricultural relief from COVID-19 related business slowdowns. In addition, farmers are celebrating the restoration of Commodity Credit Corporation funding to the federal budget. For more details, please read on …


Farm groups praise $5 million farm aid plan

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced last week the availability of $5 million in business recovery funding for livestock producers and small meat and poultry plants suffering interruptions as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The funding opportunity, announced Oct. 1, is part of the state’s Business Interruption Grants program, which leverages federal CARES Act money to help small businesses statewide offset losses incurred in connection to COVID-19.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our department has worked closely with the agriculture industry to understand and respond to the challenges they currently face,” said Jerry Costello II, acting director of IDOA. “I’m proud of the way Illinois’ farmers, small businesses and commodity groups came together to keep the food chain secure. These dollars enable farmers’ continuity of operations while providing our small meat and poultry plants the ability to make necessary improvements to expand animal throughput and capacity.”

The Oct. 1 announcement was made with the overwhelming support of Illinois livestock and agricultural organizations, including the Illinois Farm Bureau. “We appreciate the collaborative efforts by Director Costello and the Illinois Department of Agriculture staff to coordinate assistance for Illinois livestock producers with the newly announced Business Interruption Grants program,” said Richard Guebert, Jr., IFB president.

Financial assistance will be made available through three programs administered by IDOA:

  • Swine Depopulation Program: Covers the costs and expenses of swine producers associated with the depopulation and disposal of livestock due to the disruption of the livestock market caused by the COVID-19 emergency on or after April 15, 2020. Applicants are eligible to receive up to $10,000 for losses.
  • Agriculture Business Interruption Program: Covers monetary losses and expenses of livestock producers due to the disruption of the livestock market caused by the COVID-19 emergency during the period of April 15-May 15, 2020. Eligible expenses are costs associated with holding livestock (swine, beef cattle, dairy cattle, lambs, poultry and meat goats) and livestock-related products for an extended period of time. Applicants are eligible to receive up to $10,000 for losses.
  • Meat and Poultry Capacity Program: Covers costs for operations and costs associated with facility improvements necessary to decrease or eliminate COVID-19 related slowdowns and mitigate capacity reductions. Businesses must have no more than 60 employees. Applicants are eligible to receive up to $25,000 for eligible expenses.

In a news release, the IDOA announced that online grant applications are available now through Oct. 31 at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Animals/Pages/Livestock-Management-Facility-Grants.aspx.


Farm bureau lauds CCC restoration

BLOOMINGTON — In order to extend the federal budget and prevent a government shutdown, President Donald J. Trump on Sept. 30 signed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 11. The CR also provides a much-needed reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation. Funds from the CCC support farm programs ranging from conservation to risk management.

The news was enthusiastically relayed by the Illinois Farm Bureau, which issued the following statement thanking state legislators for ensuring CCC replenishment was part of the CR: “Illinois Farm Bureau is appreciative of today’s passage of the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running through Dec. 11, which included replenishment of the Commodity Credit Corporation as Illinois farmers begin harvest. The Illinois congressional delegation played a key role to make sure the Commodity Credit Corporation replenishment was included in the final bill. CCC replenishment is extremely important to maintain the farm safety net and support of USDA operations going forward during the eighth year of hard economic conditions in agriculture.”


Farmers sought for NRCS program

URBANA — The University of Illinois announced on Oct. 2 that it is seeking farmers to participate in a $4 million USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service program to be administered by the U of I’s College of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The study will offer incentives to producers of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton who will agree to employ a data-intensive crop management system based on on-farm precision experiments in reducing nitrogen losses, according to a U of I news release.

Farmers will use the management system to conduct site-specific, data-based evaluations of how yield is affected by the experiments, according to department Professor David Bullock. “The great thing about this award is that it gives us funding to make sure that every year we can increase the profits of participating farmers and their crop consultants,” said Bullock, who leads the Data Intensive Farm Management research team at the college. “We think that the field trials we will be running are truly revolutionary, but we need interested parties and crop consultants to get in touch with us right away so we are ready to go in spring 2021.”

The $4 million awarded to the U of I for the NRCS project is part of $25 million in grants designed to help partners implement and evaluate innovative conservation practices. The U of I grant represented the largest of 14 awards.

“On-farm trials help producers improve the health of their operations while at the same time helping NRCS to build data to show the benefit of innovative conservation systems and practices applied on the land,” said NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton.


Illinois Farm Fact:

The Sept. 11 Crop Production Report from USDA/NASS forecasted a soybean yield average of 62 bushels per acre in Illinois.