R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Illinois hemp production data sought

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The state is beginning to gather data to calculate hemp production — a move that could lead to federal assistance for hemp producers in the future.

This week’s farm and rural news headlines include Illinois counties receiving a broadband boost, the new hemp production survey, new regulations affecting dicamba applications and new movement on the bid to make higher blends of ethanol available year-round. Please read on …


Illinois counties receive broadband boost

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rural broadband access in four Illinois counties took a giant leap forward last week with the announcement of $63 million to bring high-speed internet access to people living and working in rural areas in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi. The investments include funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $65 billion to expand reliable, affordable, high-speed internet across the rural United States.

As part of Round 3 funding for the federal ReConnect Program, McDonough Telephone Cooperative is receiving an $18 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in Illinois. The network will connect 1,583 people, 274 farms and 41 businesses to high-speed internet in Hancock, Henderson, McDonough and Warren counties. The company will make internet access affordable through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs, according to a USDA news release.

Under the rules associated with ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area that lacks access to service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service with speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area.


Dicamba application window narrows

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced an earlier cutoff date for the application of the controversial herbicide dicamba, which is most commonly applied “over the top,” or in-season, on soybeans by Midwest farmers. Specifically, three dicamba products (XtendiMax, Engenia, Tavium) cannot be applied after June 12 (or the V4 soybean growth stage), according to the new state-specific application restrictions for dicamba-containing products labeled for use in Illinois dicamba-resistant soybean varieties.

“We remind applicators these new restrictions are in addition to the existing application restrictions imposed by the IDOA,” said Aaron Hager, a weed scientist with the University of Illinois Extension. Other application restrictions include a ban on dicamba applications on soybeans if the air temperature at the field at the time of application is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or if the National Weather Service’s forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day of application exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition, the applicator shall consult the FieldWatch sensitive crop registry (https://www.fieldwatch.com) and comply with all associated recordkeeping and label requirements. Finally, application on soybeans of a pesticide containing dicamba shall not be made if the wind is blowing toward any Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site that is adjacent to the field of application; or an adjacent residential area.


Sought: Illinois hemp production data

SPRINGFIELD — Returning Illinois to a legal, industrial hemp-producing state was accomplished by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in August 2019. Now, the state is beginning to gather data to calculate production — a move that could lead to federal assistance for hemp producers in the future.

According to Illinois State Statistician Mark Schleusener, it’s not too late for producers to respond to the 2022 Hemp Production and Disposition Inquiry, which was issued by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS will accept responses through March 8, 2023 to collect confidential information on the acreage, yield, production, price and value of hemp grown in Illinois.

“Every response matters to ensure we have accurate data needed to inform decisions about the hemp industry,” said Schleusener. “This critical survey data could influence producers’ decisions about growing and selling hemp as well as policy decisions that impact them.”

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has begun phone follow-up with survey recipients. Producers can complete their survey through phone interview, securely online at www.agcounts.usda.gov, by mail or fax. All information reported by individuals will be kept confidential, as required by federal law. Survey data will be released April 19, 2023, on the NASS website. (Ill. USDA/NASS news)


Groups renew push for year-round ethanol blends

BLOOMINGTON — As the 2023 summer driving season approaches, leaders from the Illinois Corn Growers Association joined other ag groups and elected officials to renew their push for year-round access to higher blends of ethanol for U.S. motorists. According to the ICGA, Illinois congressmen were joined last week by elected officials throughout the Midwest as they called upon the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget to respond to nine governor requests to expand the use of E15. The urging, which took the form of a congressional letter, came as a followup to an initial request made in April 2022 by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and eight other state governors.

“Therefore, this rulemaking should have been completed in July 2022 and unfortunately, we still have no regulatory certainty for our fuel retailers, fuel blenders, or biofuel producers,” said the Congressional letter, in part.  “Higher blends of ethanol like E15 are a common-sense solution to lower the cost for consumers at the gas pump and to lower vehicle emissions. As we gear up for the summer 2023 travel season, we have the production and distribution infrastructure to meet consumer demand for this lower cost and environmentally friendly fuel option.

“By working swiftly to finalize the governors’ requests, you will bring much needed certainty to our corn growers, fuel retailers, and consumers to enjoy the clean-burning, lower cost benefits of year-round E15 through the 2023 summer driving season.“

Illinois lawmakers Tammy Duckworth, Mike Bost, Nikki Budzinski, Darin LaHood and Eric Sorenson were among 31 members of the House and Senate to sign the bipartisan letter of support for ethanol expansion. Policy members cited national security, economic impact, and lower vehicle emissions as incentives for ethanol expansion.


Illinois Farm Fact:

University of Illinois Extension’s All Day Ag Outlook, an annual tradition in the month of March at the Beef House in Covington, Indiana since 1991, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (U of I/WILL-AG)