R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: It’s flooding again and is it 2019 redux?

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Residents along the Illinois River in South Rome (Peoria County) are again dealing with record floodwaters (left). These residents near River Beach Drive are likely feeling a sense of deja vu from the spring of 2019 (right). (Photos by Tim Alexander)

This week’s news for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers includes more details on how farmers can apply for emergency relief funding under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, beginning May 26. We also have info for livestock producers seeking financial assistance with herd depopulation expenses. In addition: if it’s springtime in Illinois, it must be flooding somewhere; we have the latest information on how floodwaters are again impacting rural Illinoisans. Please read on …


Farmers can apply for CFAP funds this week

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This will undoubtedly be a busy week for Farm Service Agency employees, who will be busy processing applications from farmers and ranchers who have suffered economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic beginning May 26.

Agricultural producers will be seeking their share of $16 billion in direct support to cover losses in the cattle, pork, dairy, specialty crop, row crop and other sectors.

“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus. President Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in a USDA news release. “These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination.”

A payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined has been imposed. However, applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions, as determined by USDA.

Report: Packing plants at 74 percent capacity

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Pork Producers Association is continuing to demonstrate solid leadership and guidance for its members during the coronavirus pandemic. In a May 21 update, the IPPA reported that U.S. pork packing plants are now open at approximately 74 percent capacity nationwide. In Illinois, the JBS plant in Beardstown is processing around 19,000 head of its 22,000 head capacity, while the Monmouth Smithfield plant is at 10,200 of 12,200, and Rantoul Foods at 4,000 of 6,800 capacity, according to IPPA.

A processing breakdown is to blame for pork shortages at supermarkets, rather than a shortage of product, the IPPA noted. “We have more than enough live animals, it is a lack of packing capacity. We are still producing 70-75 percent of expected amounts of pork, but experiencing a slow down to grocery store shelves. Retail shelves depend on the supplier that the store purchases their meat from. That will likely determine which cuts and quantities are available at the given time, which changes day to day,” the IPPA stated in its update.

Also of note to pork producers: funds from $4.9 billion allocated to Illinois agriculture through the CARES Act may be used by the livestock industry for herd depopulation and disposal during COVID-19, per the U.S. Treasury’s updated guidance. Along with other state agricultural organizations including the Illinois Farm Bureau, IPPA is submitting a request to Governor JB Pritzker and state legislative leaders urging the release of CARES Act funding to Illinois producers forced to depopulate their herds.


It’s flooding again: 2019 redux?

SOUTH ROME — The Illinois, Rock, Fox, Vermilion, Spoon and Mackinaw rivers are once again spilling over their banks, sending river-bottom dwellers scrambling for higher ground and compounding the headaches of farmers who will, once again, be forced to replant waterlogged crop fields. In north Peoria County, frazzled residents of normally bucolic River Beach Drive and other low-lying neighborhoods enacted their now-routine emergency plans to combat — or accommodate — seasonal floodwaters from the Illinois River. Just up the road in Henry (Marshall County), the water level reached 30.64 feet on May 24, which is more than 7 feet above flood stage and just 2 inches below the 32.87-inch all-time record, set in April of 2013.

Central Illinois wasn’t the only area affected by flooding. The Illinois Farm Bureau reported that northern points along the Illinois River crested 7-10 feet above flood stage last week. “Having another record flood is a hard pill to swallow,” Justin Daws, of the Emergency Management Center in Scott County, told RFD Radio Network. “It’s almost unbelievable to think we’re at this point again, already.”

On May 21, Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated nearly 60 Illinois National Guardsmen to help fight flooding in counties, including Grundy, Pike, Scott and Morgan. Rainfall was expected to continue to fall with a 40-60 percent chance of likelihood in central Illinois from Monday through Thursday of this week, with high temperatures in the 80s. May 29 through June 2 are expected to be sunny and mild with highs in the 70s, according to Weather.com.

USDA predicts record corn; soybean demand increases

URBANA — USDA is predicting a record 15.9 billion bushel U.S. corn crop in 2020, with a national yield average of 178.5 bushels per acre. Soybean production will also grow from 2019’s aberrant total to 4.125 billion bushels this year, with a yield estimate of 49.8 bu./acre. USDA also raised projected 2020-21 exports for corn and soybeans by 375 million bushels each, boosting the U.S. market share up from a multi-year low for corn and a record low for soybeans during the 2019-2020 marketing year.

Soybean exports are forecast at 2.05 billion bushels for 2020-21. Projected export totals at that level imply that the U.S. recoups some market share of Chinese buying, according to Todd Hubbs, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. “Increased Chinese purchases for delivery this year provide hopeful signals of meeting this year’s projection and possibly even the next marketing year’s large export forecast,” Hubbs noted in a May 18 article published by the U of I ACES News.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Corn planted in Illinois is at 83 percent complete, compared to 2019’s soggy spring when just 20 percent had been planted by May 18. (USDA-NASS)