R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Pandemic assistance available for specialty farmers

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Illinois specialty crops growers are eligible for another round of pandemic-related federal assistance through the USDA. See this week’s RFD News and Views for the details. (Ill. Specialty Growers Assoc. photo)

This week in farm and rural news we have a summary of the September USDA-WASDE report indicating stronger harvest yields for corn and soybeans. We also have info on more pandemic-related assistance available to U.S. and Illinois farmers, and details on how you can nominate a dairy producer for recognition of their service to consumers during the pandemic. Please read on …


WASDE reflects improving crop conditions

SPRINGFIELD — With crop quality improving with increased subsoil and topsoil moisture levels, the new World Agricultural Supply and Demand is reflecting more optimism for a bountiful U.S. and Illinois 2021 harvest. U.S. corn was projected at 176.3 bushels per acre, an increase of 1.7 bushels over the August USDA projection, while soybeans, at 50.6 bu./acre, enjoyed a 0.6 bushel gain over the previous month’s report. Illinois corn, at 214 bu./acre, and soybeans, at 64 bu./acre, were unchanged.

According to last week’s USDA-NASS Illinois Crop Progress and Conditions report, corn dough reached 96 percent, even with the five-year average. Corn dented reached 83 percent, compared to the five-year average of 76 percent. Corn maturity reached 30 percent, compared to the five-year average of 23 percent. Corn condition was rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 43 percent good, and 24 percent excellent.

Soybeans turning color reached 22 percent, compared to the five-year average of 25 percent. Soybeans dropping leaves reached 9 percent, compared to the five-year average of 7 percent. Soybean condition was rated 3 percent very poor, 6 percent poor, 26 percent fair, 45 percent good, and 20 percent excellent, according to the report.


Pandemic assistance available for specialty farmers

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Specialty Growers Association wants specialty and minority farmers to know that USDA announced the investment of $700 million for a Pandemic Response and Safety grant program. Grants will be available beginning Sept. 23 to small businesses in certain commodity areas, including small-scale specialty crop producers and processors, shellfish, aquaculture, and other select producers, meat and other processors, distributors, farmers markets, seafood facilities, and processing vessels. Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants and $50 million is available for SPRS. All of these new programs are funded by the Pandemic Assistance provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Applications are available from Sept. 23-Nov. 8. Visit usda-prs.grantsolutions.gov/usda to learn more about eligibility and application requirements.

On the state level, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced last week the $250 million B2B Grant Program to support the continued recovery of small businesses across Illinois. The program builds on last year’s Business Interruption Grant Program, which provided $580 million to small businesses and childcare providers across the state.

Available funding includes $250 million to small businesses across the state that experienced losses in 2020 due to COVID-19. Grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000 per business and can be used to cover a wide range of operations/staff/overhead costs. The B2B application portal opened on Aug. 18. Visit www2.illinois.gov/dceo to learn more about eligibility and application requirements. (ISGA news)


ISA: Climate reform a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’

SPRINGFIELD — Farmers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advocate for federal investments to address climate change, according to Liz Stelk, executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. With Congress debating a $3.5 trillion climate and infrastructure bill, this budget package could invest billions in helping more farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon in soils and adapt to a changing climate.

Stelk is urging Alliance members to reach out to Congress to invest $38 billion in solutions to the climate crisis through the bill. The funding would include substantial increases to conservation program funding, increased investment in sustainable and organic agriculture research, and funding to improve regional food supply chains and renewable energy — all with a focus on mitigating climate change and building climate resilience.

“Farmers need technical and financial assistance to implement the kinds of conservation practices that capture carbon. USDA provides assistance for farmers transitioning to climate-friendly practices, but fewer than half of Illinois farmers who apply get the help they need,” Stelk said, in an email to ISA members. “This month, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advocate for federal investments to address climate change.” (ISA news)


Dairy award nominations sought

SPRINGFIELD — It’s no secret that dairy farmers have shouldered a lot of the heavy lifting involved in getting consumers through the pandemic. Now you can nominate your favorite dairy producer for recognition of their efforts. The Illinois Milk Producers Association is calling for nominations of individuals to be considered for formal recognition in 2021 for their outstanding contributions to the dairy industry. The Dairy Industry Service Award and the Sustainability Award showcase leadership, stewardship, and excellence in the Illinois dairy industry.

The 2021 Dairy Industry Service Award will recognize an Illinois individual who has shown exemplary service and benefit to the state’s dairy industry. The nominee may be engaged in milk or milk product production, marketing, education, research, promotion, regulation, allied service or any service of genuine merit and benefit to the industry. In 2020, the award went to Leanne Casner of Rosamond in Montgomery County.

The 2021 Sustainability Award recognizes an Illinois dairy farm or dairy farmer who has made outstanding contributions toward innovative technologies and best management practices to improve environmental stewardship and economic viability. In 2020, this designation went to Kilgus Farmstead in Livingston County.

Anyone may submit nominations for these awards. For more information and nomination forms, visit Illinoismilk.org/events . Nominations will be accepted through Sept. 30. (IMPA news)


Illinois Farm Fact:

Current U.S. production estimates as of Sept. 1 increased to 15 billion bushels of corn and 4.37 billion bushels of soybeans. (USDA/WASDE)

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