R. F. D. News & Views, January 7, 2015

Tim Alexander

IIllinois Ag: More Than Corn and Beans

SPRINGFIELD – When considering Illinois agriculture, it’s not unusual to think immediately of corn and soybeans. After all, Illinois consistently ranks among the top-producing states for both commodities. But as Illinois State Statistician Mark Schleusener pointed out in a recent essay, “Prairie State” farmers produce a wide variety of crops.

“For example, you can probably thank an Illinois farmer when you open that can of pumpkin pie filling this Thanksgiving. With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States,” says Schleusener, who is employed by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Illinois office. “Also, to help you spice up your table, Illinois growers rank number one in horseradish production, harvesting nearly 1,800 acres– more than half of all U.S. acreage– of this vegetable in 2012.”

Schluesener also acknowledged Mason County, Ill. farmers for ranking first among all U.S. counties in acres planted to popcorn. What ties the statewide success of all of these crops together is Illinois’ rich and abundant soil, the ag statistician continued.

“(Soil) is one of our best agricultural assets and our farmers take great care of it. There are 6.1 million acres of cropland on which no-till practices are used in Illinois. Another 7.7 million acres are under conservation tillage practices. Lastly, Illinois producers planted more than 300,000 acres of cover crops. All of these techniques help to preserve the great soil of Illinois for future generations of producers,” Schleusener said, citing 2012 Ag Census statistics.


USDA Seeks Input From Organic Growers

SPRINGFIELD – Mark Schleusener, state statistician of the USDA-NASS Illinois office, reached out to organic product producers last week with an advisory that the USDA is currently conducting the 2014 Organic Survey. The survey takes on added importance each year, Schleusener noted, after organic product sales by U.S. farms and ranches increased by 83 percent since 2007.

“The Organic Survey comes in direct response to the continued interest in organics among consumers, producers, businesses, and others,” Schluesener said in a news release. “This is an opportunity for organic producers to provide more detailed data to help provide the industry with a reliable source of information to use in justifying research projects and fund requests for the continued growth and sustainability of organic farming and ranching in the United States.”

The survey will be mailed to all known organic producers in the country in early January. It will query producers on topics such as production and marketing practices, income and expenses. In addition to seeking input from experienced organic producers, the survey is also intended for those making the transition to organic agriculture.

“The results of the survey will help shape future decisions regarding farm policy, funding allocations, availability of goods and services, and other key issues. In addition, the information can help producers make informed decisions about the future of their own farming operations,” said Schleusener.


2015: Year of Drone Etiquette?

BLOOMINGTON – A recent blog post by Illinois Corn’s Tricia Braid points out how the popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)– or drones– was one of the top technological stories for agriculture and beyond during 2014. But “hobby” UAV operators are literally clogging the skies and forcing stringent government regulation of drones, which could occur sometime in 2015. Braid, mirroring the stance of the National Corn Growers Assoc., feels that better “drone etiquette” would go a long way towards a harmonious ushering in of the personal UAV era.

“Drones are at the top of many people’s Christmas list. In fact, some high dollar drone prototypes were stolen from a store in California this week, proving their growing worth to hobbyists and others. Farmer interest in the technology comes from a business standpoint, though, and hobby fliers may be endangering the availability of the technology in the future,” Braid posted on www.ilcorn.org on December 23.

“The Federal Aviation Assoc., in partnership with industry, have kicked off a public awareness campaign designed to teach users how to appropriately handle the vehicles in the sky. Such common sense notions of avoiding aircraft and not endangering people on the ground seem to be eluding more and more people.”

The key points of the FAA campaign, titled “Know Before You Fly,” include: don’t fly drones above 400 feet altitude, within five miles of an airport or near a stadium.


Farm Program Decision Deadline Nears

PEORIA – Crucial 2014 Farm Bill program decisions are upcoming, University of Illinois Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences professors Gary Schnitkey and Jonathan Coppess reminded farmers attending the U of I 2014 Farm Economics Summit, held December 16 at the Peoria Civic Center. First, producers must elect from among three commodity support programs and a new crop insurance policy. Farmers and landowners are also allowed a one-time opportunity to reallocate base acres and update payment yields for each Farm Service Agency farm.  These decisions cannot be changed for the duration of the five-year, 2014 Farm Bill.

Key 2015 farm bill program decision deadlines include Payment Yields and Base Acres, February 27, 2015, and Program and Crop Insurance Decisions, March 31, 2015. A program selection must made by producers between Agriculture Risk Coverage, County Option (ARC-CO), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), ARC-Individual Farm Coverage (ARC-IC) and Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO).

“Failure to make a (program) decision by that deadline will result in forfeiture of any 2014 payments and the FSA farm beginning with the 2015 crop year,” said Coppess.


Illinois Farm Fact:

The first agricultural census was collected in 1840, providing the first nationwide inventory of production. (USDA-NASS)


(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.)