R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: LaHood sponsors broadband boost

By Tim Alexander For Chronicle Media

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, IL-16th, recently cosponsored legislation that would enhance USDA’s ReConnect broadband program. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

After a week of much-needed rainfall, crop-busting derecho winds and other weather calamities, we have a look at the scope of last week’s Canadian wildfire crisis. Could there be impacts to crop production? We’ve also got a look at falling food prices — but by how much, exactly? Please read on …


Canadian wildfires impact human health, agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service noted that more than one-third of Americans were impacted by smoke from Canadian wildfires carried as far south as Alabama. As of June 29, more than 19 million acres of Canadian forestland had been scorched, with little containment in sight.

“The upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions currently have the worst air quality in the country, but states as far south as Alabama are being impacted. Residents are encouraged to spend as little time outside as possible, especially people with respiratory conditions. Short-term relief may occur as wind patterns shift, but the impacts are expected to continue until the fires are contained,” the NRCS noted in last week’s USDA Weather and Climate Update.

That same day, DTN meteorologist emeritus Bryce Anderson noted that smoke from the wildfires could impact developing crops — though not necessarily adversely.

“Crop impact appears to be mixed, depending on the thickness of the hazy sky screen and how long it lasts,” Anderson said. “And there is even the potential for some benefit from the haze. Writing in the Journal of Geophysical Research in January 2020, environmental scientists Kyle Hemes of Stanford University, Joseph Verfaillie of the University of California-Berkeley and Dennis Baldocchi, also of UC-Berkeley, noted that haze can benefit plant leaves by scattering the incoming sunlight. The published article reads in part:

‘While we know that wildfire smoke has negative health impacts for humans, there is evidence that it could increase plant productivity. This occurs due to the way that smoke scatters incoming sunlight, allowing the sun’s energy to reach further into dense plant canopies. … We find that smoky conditions increased the efficiency by which these plant canopies photosynthesized, leading to productivity increases, depending on trade-offs with total light and other pollutants.’”

The potential for crop damage from smoke appears to be the ozone content in the smoke, Anderson said. “When high concentrations of ozone are present in the atmosphere, it enters plants through their stomata, and can interfere with photosynthesis. These impacts can occur hundreds of miles from the area that’s actively burning,” he stated, quoting a University of Minnesota Extension article. (Progressive Farmer/DTN & USDA/NRCS)


ISAP updates carbon market comparison

SPRINGFIELD — Farmers who are interested in the expanding private carbon market can now consult an updated comparison of programs, requirements, FAQs and pay rates. The Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership announced the publication of “An Overview of Voluntary Carbon Markets for Illinois Farmers,” to assist farmers and farm advisers in their evaluation of market opportunities available in Illinois.

“Row crop farmers are uniquely positioned to advance climate goals by both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil while producing valuable food, fuel, and fiber,” said Megan Miller, Agronomy Program Manager for the Illinois Soybean Association and Co-chair of ISAP’s Science Committee. “We’re proud to have contributed to ISAP’s work in developing this important resource which will help Illinois farmers better understand and access financial opportunities to further support their contributions to the climate solution.” ,

Farmers and farm advisers can access the carbon market overview of 15 companies on ISAP’s website at www.ilsustainableag.org/ecomarkets.


AFBF: Food prices falling for Fourth of July

BLOOMINGTON — Illinois food prices have fallen by 3 percent from record highs one year ago but remain well ahead of 2021 prices. This is according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s survey of food costs for the typical American Independence Day celebration, which found that Illinois consumers are still paying 14 percent more for food than just two years ago. However, Illinois families are expected to see grocery store prices slightly lower than the national average. The AFBF survey reported the average Fourth of July cookout costs $67.73 in the Land of Lincoln.

“Families in Illinois and across America are struggling with higher prices at the grocery store, and farmers are no exception,” said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. “That’s why Illinois Farm Bureau continues working with our legislators on passing the 2023 farm bill, which includes necessary programs to secure our domestic food supply and nutritional programs to ensure the most vulnerable have access to healthy, affordable food.”

AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan said consumers shouldn’t assume farmers come out as winners from higher prices at the grocery store. “(Farmers are) price takers, not price makers, whose share of the retail food dollar is just 14 percent. Farmers have to pay for fuel, fertilizer and other expenses, which have all gone up in cost,” said Cryan. (IFB news)


LaHood sponsors broadband boost

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-16th, is touting a bill he helped introduce that would amend and make permanent USDA’s ReConnect Program. The ReConnecting Rural America Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by colleague Erik Sorenson, D-17th, and others, would enhance the ReConnect Program, which offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations facilitating broadband deployment in underserved areas of rural America.

In addition to making the ReConnect program permanent, the act would establish continued funding authorization parameters and prioritize communities with the greatest need for higher speeds of broadband.

“Reliable and consistent broadband is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, in a LaHood office news release. “This essential service is integral to keeping rural communities thriving. Broadband is needed to attract the next generation of producers into agriculture and for keeping rural residents in rural communities.”


Illinois Farm Fact:

There are at least 200,000 Illinois households without high-speed internet infrastructure. (Illinois Office of Broadband)