R. F. D. News & Views, January 14, 2015

Tim Alexander

Chemical Use Tops Illinois Consumers’ Concerns

BLOOMINGTON – Though many may be uncertain about the specifics of what they are rallying against, pesticides and chemicals are at the top of Illinois consumers’ list of concerns when it comes to production agriculture. That’s the conclusion from a recent Illinois Farm Families survey of consumers who were asked to rank their top agricultural concerns from a list of nine topics, including animal antibiotics, animal hormones, animal treatment, GMOs, government regulation, sustainable production, fertilizers and labor practices.

The survey’s results have been announced in coincidence with the release of results from the USDA’s 2013 Pesticide Data Program, which shows that overall pesticide residues found on tested foods are at levels below the tolerances set by the EPA in over 99 percent of items tested. Residues exceeding the tolerances were registered in just 0.23 percent of the items tested.
Surveys were conducted on fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, infant formula, butter, salmon, groundwater and drinking water for the USDA test. The EPA uses data from the pesticide data program to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides, said Tricia Braid of Illinois Corn. Ill. Farm Families is comprised of Ill. Corn, Ill. Beef Assoc., Ill. Farm Bureau, Ill. Pork Producers, Ill. Soybean Assoc. and Midwest Dairy. (Ill. Corn Daily Update)


Ag Professor Says Crop Prices Will Remain Strong

PEORIA – Is $5 per bushel corn a thing of the past? Can a “monster” harvest signal the death knell for the “new era” of ethanol-and-export-fueled, post-2006 grain prices enjoyed by farmers? These were the questions pondered aloud by John Newton, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences (ACES), during his presentation at the 2014 U of I Farm Economics Summit in Peoria last month.

Newton noted that U of I ag economist Darrel Good argued in 2008 and 2009 that corn, soybean and wheat prices had ascended to a new era of higher prices, retroactive to around December of 2006. ACES’ issued five-year, new era projections for the price of corn ($4.60), soybeans ($11.04) and wheat ($5.80) in 2008 that held up remarkably well. But now that the new era appears to be in the rearview mirror, can producers ever expect a return to at least “normal” grain prices?

“The likelihood of having higher corn and soybean (price)s in the future remains,” Newton said. “The evidence that the new era of grain prices is over is not there. We can have some low prices, but we’re going to go back to (ACES’ projected) prices. Even though we’ve had a monster crop, we’ve not stepped back to that old (pre-2006) era of prices.”

The reasons? First, the nation’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) acts as a safety net on corn prices, by utilizing millions of acres of corn production for ethanol. Second, Chinese demand for U.S. soybeans is expected to remain very strong. “The Chinese are bringing in over three billion bushels per year, and that’s equivalent to 60 million acres of production– or about 70 percent of our U.S. soybean acres,” said Newton. “And there is a zero chance the RFS is repealed by Congress. So that remains a strong safety net for corn prices.”

For more information about Newton’s presentation,visit www.farmdoc.illinois.edu/presentations/IFES_2014.


ISA Joins Cuba Coalition

BLOOMINGTON – You can count the Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) among the state agricultural associations on board for increased trade with Cuba. The Bloomington-based group joined more than 30 other Illinois and national food and agriculture interests comprising the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) during a trip to the nation’s capitol last week.

The USACC is seeking to advance trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba by re-establishing the communist nation as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports, according to Bill Raben, ISG chairman from Ridgway. “We’re excited to be a charter member of the USACC and provide leadership to this organization. As the nation’s top soybean-producing state, our involvement will only strengthen opportunities for our growers and the people who use our products in Cuba,” said Raben.

ISG officials have met with top Cuban leaders four times since 2012 in order to increase soybean and ag exports. The group has also worked to educate lawmakers and business leaders about the benefits of furthering trade with Cuba, which has been under a U.S. trade embargo for over 50 years.

“As a leading soybean exporting state, Cuba is an important market for Illinois soybean farmers, especially given the soybean, meal and oil export potential,” noted Duane Dahlman, ISG marketing committee chair from Marengo. Dahlman has traveled with ISG to Cuba and was present in Washington D.C. for last week’s announcement. (ISG news)


Cropping Seminars Scheduled

CHAMPAIGN – Three conservation cropping seminars have been scheduled for this winter by the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ill. Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Ill. Dept. of Agriculture, and other sponsors. The seminars, which cost $20 to attend, will be held January 27 at the Dekalb County Farm Bureau in Sycamore, February 4 at Lake Land Community College in Mattoon and Feb. 18 at Western Ill. University in Macomb.

An outgrowth of NRCS’ popular tillage seminars, the conservation cropping seminars will allow local farmers and resource experts to share information and insights on topics such as soil health improvement options, cover crops and nutrient management techniques. Seminars run from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm in an informal networking atmosphere.

“Attendance last year was strong,” said Ill. NRCS State Conservationist Ivan Dozier, in a news release. “Feedback confirmed the topics and innovative speakers we offer at these sessions really meet the needs and interests of Illinois farmers.” To register, visit www.ccswcd.com and click on the “seminars” logo.

Illinois Farm Fact:
Waterhemp has evolved resistance to more herbicide mechanisms of action than any other Illinois weed species in history. (Aaron G. Hager, U of I Assoc. Prof. of Crop Sciences, at the 2015 U of I Corn and Soybean Classic on January 7.)
(Tim Alexander is a freelance reporter who writes agriculture, news and feature articles for Chronicle Media, Farm World, Prairie Farmer and many other publications. He resides in rural Peoria County with his family.)