R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Illinois Future Farmers leadership elected

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Major state FFA officers — (front row, from left) Thaddeus Bergschneider, president; Riley Kessler, secretary; Eric Wisely, vice president; (back row, from left) Benjamin Bremmer, treasurer; and Cooper Nelson, reporter — were elected during the 95th Illinois FFA Convention, held June 15 at the Bank of Springfield Center. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

Drought remains at the top of the list of the week’s agricultural news headlines. How long will it last? We’ll also share reports on who was elected to Illinois FFA’s major leadership positions at last week’s state FFA Convention, and a “very early” projection for 2023 Illinois corn yields. Please read on …


Much of Corn Belt in drought status

SPRINGFIELD — An alarming 57 percent of U.S. corn acres and 51 percent of all soybean acres are currently considered in drought status, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. With little rain in sight across most of Illinois in the coming week, many farmers are beginning to become seriously concerned about crop quality and yields.

In Illinois, topsoil moisture supply fell to 31 percent very short, 42 percent short and 27 percent adequate during the week ending June 11. Subsoil moisture supply was rated 27 percent very short, 41 percent short, 31 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus, according to USDA’s latest Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report. The report rated corn condition as 2 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 43 percent fair, 41 percent good and 7 percent excellent. Soybean condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 7 percent poor, 44 percent fair, 40 percent good, and 7 percent excellent.

In addition, winter wheat condition was rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 49 percent good and 14 percent excellent. With 6.6 days rated suitable for fieldwork, many Illinois farmers spent the week cutting hay.

Talon Becker, University of Illinois Extension crop educator, said conditions remain dry in Champaign County. “Soil moisture data show levels below the plant wilting point at 2-inch and 4-inch depths, however, at least where these instruments are in place, plant available moisture is still present at 8 inches and deeper,” Becker reported on June 16 in the U of I Bulletin’s weekly Illinois Crop Update. “The lack of soil moisture at the shallower depths is evident when driving around the countryside. Corn plants in drier areas of fields are showing rolled leaves even in the morning hours. By the afternoon, the signs of moisture stress are more prevalent.”


‘Very early’ analysis predicts state corn yield

URBANA — The University of Illinois farmdoc team has published results of a Kansas State University study that offers “very early” projections for corn yields in the 18 major corn producing states. The analysis, largely gleaned by comparing historical USDA weekly crop reports with final yields, concluded that Illinois farmers will harvest an average of 198.5 bushels per acre of corn in 2023. This would fall well below USDA’s initial projection of a historic 214 bu./acre corn harvest in Illinois. Corn production is projected at 2,146 million bushels.

“This is the earliest a national estimate can be calculated using the USDA crop condition reports,” according to the farmdoc team. “Because it is so early, the model accuracy is very low. Readers should expect changes to the estimates as the season progresses and perhaps even significant changes depending on the amount of rain received over the growing season.”

The analysis, “A Very Early Estimate of Corn Production From the 18 Leading Corn States,” can be accessed through the farmdocDAILY website.


Hartman named NCGA next vice president

  1. LOUIS — Fifth-generation grain farmer Ken Hartman Jr. was elected as next first vice president by the National Corn Growers Association Corn Board last week. Hartman currently chairs the NCGA Finance Committee. He also serves as a member of the NCGA Commodity Classic Committee, co-chairing the event in March. Hartman, who was honored by Prairie Farmer magazine with the Master Farmer award in 2021, is a past president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association and past chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

“I’m honored to serve America’s corn farmers in a new way with NCGA,” said Hartman. “I look forward to working with my fellow officers as we tackle issues that are critically important to corn growers and rural America.”

In addition to traditional grain crops, Hartman and his family have also raised specialty crops such as tofu soybeans and white corn, while also being early adopters of precision farming technologies. (ICGA/NCGA news)


Illinois FFA leadership elected

SPRINGFIELD — Top statewide leaders were elected during the 2023 Illinois FFA Convention. held at the Bank of Springfield Center on June 15. The following individuals were elected to major state office:

  • President: Thaddeus Bergschneider of Franklin (Morgan County); Franklin FFA Chapter
  • Vice President: Eric Wisely of Oakdale (Washington County); Nashville FFA Chapter
  • Reporter: Cooper Nelson of Canton (Fulton County); Canton FFA Chapter
  • Secretary: Riley Kessler of New Douglas (Madison County); Staunton FFA Chapter
  • Treasurer: Benjamin Bremmer of Pearl City (Stephenson County); Pearl City FFA Chapter

Asked about his goals for his year-long term, 2023-24 FFA State President Bergschneider responded: “As new FFA president, I really think that our association and agriculture need to be united. There’s a lot of separation sometimes between people that come from traditional ag backgrounds and people who don’t. The truth is no matter where you came from, I’m here to serve agriculture and to push the industry forward. Whoever you are and whatever your background, our goal is to be ready to serve.”

Thaddeus is the son of Paul and Janie Bergschneider and a 2023 graduate of Franklin High School. Congratulations to all of the new 2023-24 FFA State Officers!


Illinois Farm Fact:

I’d like to end this week’s column with an admission and a personal note: in nearly 21 years of covering Illinois agriculture, last week marked the first time I had ever attended the state FFA Convention in Springfield. As a guest of the Illinois Farm Media Association, it was my honor to bear witness to the traditions, the excitement and the pageantry of the FFA Convention, which brought together many of the state’s outstanding young people in celebration of agriculture and leadership. I came away with many lasting impressions, but I’ll share just one: I challenge those who bemoan the “state of today’s youth” to attend just one state FFA Convention. I guarantee your mind — and your perspective on America’s youth — will be changed. Though this was my first-ever state FFA Convention, it won’t be the last. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. —Tim