R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Lock repairs will boost farm income

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Starved Rock Lock and Dam repairs continue on Oct. 10. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

With a bountiful, if not record-breaking harvest underway, lock and dam repair projects are wrapping up on the Illinois River. The Illinois Soybean Association expects this to fuel transportation efficiency for their members’ products. Also in the news this week: along with the harvest, farm safety is on everyone’s mind. In addition, an Illinois Farm Bureau study shows outgoing water quality can be improved by installing denitrifying bioreactors on field edges. Please read on for more …


ISA: Lock repairs will boost farm income

BLOOMINGTON — The rapid advancement of the 2020 harvest — which is over or at 25 percent complete for both corn and soybeans, according to the Oct. 5 USDA Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report — is being paralleled by repair work being done on five Illinois River locks and dams. The Illinois Soybean Association is banking on the repair work to move soybeans more efficiently to market in the future.

“Once this year’s repairs are completed and the second planned repairs closure finishes in 2023, navigation delays and subsequent costs from unscheduled closures will be reduced significantly and the cost of managing the risk of catastrophic failure lessened,” said Todd Main, transportation and infrastructure lead for the ISA.

A 2019 USDA study showed that delays caused by antiquated locks and dams can cost up to $739 per hour for an average tow, amounting to more than $44 million per year. Further, an unplanned closure to the LaGrange Lock and Dam, for example, would affect commerce in 18 states, threaten the primary soybean export path and lead to a $2.2 billion loss in farm dependent incomes, according to the National Waterway Foundation.

“With combines rolling, harvest is a good time to focus on the improvements that will ultimately keep Illinois farmers competitive on the world stage,” said Elliott Uphoff, an ISA district director and farmer from Shelbyville.


Study touts efficiency of woodchip bioreactors

BLOOMINGTON — State water quality stewardship can improve through the installation of woodchip bioreactors on tiled crop fields, according to a study in Henry County that will soon expand to include three other counties. The project, which began in 2017, examines how woodchip bioreactors — essentially a trench of woodchips — can achieve water quality improvements over a number of years.

“Our research team is focused on data that will provide solid evidence of how well these kinds of conservation practices work and how to make them work better so they are more worthy of time and investment,” said Dr. Laura Christianson, assistant professor of water quality for the University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences. “Taking an active role in environmental stewardship is important so that Illinois farming remains sustainable far past any one generation’s time here.”

The project, a partnership between the U of I, Illinois Farm Bureau and others, applies tenets of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy of 2015, which aims to help farmers reduce loads of phosphorus and nitrogen into public waterways. Following installation of the denitrifying bioreactors, the devices are monitored to collect data and study the improvements made to water quality.

“If we can work together to connect our farmers with these projects that contribute to science, support water quality research, refine conservation practice standards and help address the financial needs of installing bioreactors for private landowners, then everybody wins,” said Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of environmental policy. To view a discussion of the Henry County study and woodchip bioreactors, visit www.ILFB.org/FieldDays. (IFB news release)


Lawmakers honor National Farmers Day

SPRINGFIELD — In honor of National Farmers Day on Oct. 12, Senate Agriculture Chairman Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, and State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, praised the hard work and dedication of local farmers and agricultural workers.

“Farmers are passionate about the work they do, and this day is an opportunity to acknowledge the work of the men and women devoted to feeding our community,” said Bennett, who spends the harvest season helping out on his family’s farm in Gibson City. “This is the perfect time to thank farmers young and old, past and present.”

Bennett and Joyce are encouraging people to show gratitude to farmers by supporting local farmers’ markets or making charitable donations to area farms. “While we appreciate and support farmers each and every day, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a new appreciation for the agriculture sector,” said Joyce, a fourth-generation farmer and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Today, we thank our farmers for their contributions to a healthier society and economy.” (Ill. Senate Democrats news release)


Grain bin safety stressed by IDOL

SPRINGFIELD — An anticipated bin-busting harvest is leading the Illinois Department of Labor to stress grain bin safety when operating in or around the silos that cost several farmers and workers their lives each year. There were 38 grain entrapments leading to 23 deaths in 2019, according to national data compiled by the Purdue University Agricultural Safety and Health Program. Only three entrapments occurred in Illinois last year, though 11 have already been reported in 2020 with four fatalities.

“As the busy harvest season continues, it is vital that farmers and other agricultural workers put safety first, especially when working around grain storage facilities,” said Micheal Klenik, IDOL director. “Grain bin incidents are also dangerous for first responders.”

Workers should avoid entering grain bins when possible. However, when a worker must enter a grain bin one of the most important measures is to turn off and lock out all powered equipment such as augers.

“If farmers shut off the loading systems before entering and do enforce a lock out-tag out system, we’d probably cut the number of entrapments in half,” said Dave Newcomb, ag program manager with the Illinois Fire Institute. “I preach that we must break the culture of working alone. If you are going out to the bin, take someone with you even if it is just to call for help.” (Illinois e-News release)


Illinois Farm Fact:

The 2021 Illinois Pork Expo in-person event has been canceled. Instead, the Illinois Pork Producers Association will host a four-week producer-focused video series and virtual meeting in February. (IPPA news release)