R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Pig farmers tout ‘Bacon Day’ at capitol

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

State Rep. Sonya Harper (second from left) of Chicago meets with past IPPA President Pam Janssen and board members Mike Haag and Chris West at a prior Illinois Bacon Day event in the state capitol building. 2023 Illinois Bacon Day is Wednesday, May 3. (Illinois State Democrats photo).

It was a big week for corn growers as the USEPA announced that summer sales of high blend ethanol would be allowed in 2023, signaling an increased need for Illinois-grown corn. We also have news of a U of I study confirming the ability of cover crops to reduce field nitrate losses and more in this week’s column. Please read on …


EPA green-lights summer E85 sales

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following an April 19 hearing that lasted more than four hours and was attended by Illinois lawmakers and ethanol proponents, EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced late last week that the agency would allow sales of E15 at some 2,300 fuel stations this summer, including around 130 in Illinois. The emergency waiver was granted, in part, as an effort to help tamp down rising fuel prices by bolstering the currently thin supply.

According to Regan, “Allowing E15 sales during the summer driving season will not only help increase fuel supply, but support American farmers, strengthen U.S. energy security, and provide relief to drivers across the country.”

Added U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, “blending our fuel with homegrown ethanol reduces our dependence on foreign oil, supports good-paying jobs in the Heartland and saves consumers money at the gas pump.”

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, D-East Moline, called the EPA decision “a game-changer for Illinois working families and Illinois’ corn industry,” adding that “by expanding the sale of E15, we can lower gas prices, support our corn farmers, and grow our economy in Central and Northwestern Illinois.”

Illinois Corn Growers Association President Matt Rush also approved of the EPA decision, posting: “IL Corn applauds the EPA in making this decision for consumers to have access to an affordable low-carbon fuel choice. Rural Illinois is a key partner for tackling climate and energy issues and today’s decision further illustrates that farmers are here for long-term solutions at the pump.” (Illinois Farm Bureau; Illinois Corn)


Report: Cover crops reduce nitrates by 30 percent

URBANA — A research team, including the University of Illinois College of ACES and The Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois have published the results of a study that indicates widespread usage of cover crops by farmers can reduce nitrates in the state’s tile drainage water by as much as 30 percent.

Utilizing a crop simulation model known as Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer, which allows multi-year growth projections for more than 42 crops, the team simulated both cover crop planting and fertilizer timing under real climatic conditions in Illinois between 2001 and 2020. In addition, the model simulated cover crop effects on cash crop yield and found, overall, that cereal rye had a slight positive impact on corn and soybean under both fertilization schedules.

“Two management implications were revealed in this paper. One is that farmers should apply a winter cover crop, such as cereal rye, to reduce tile water flow and nitrate loss by 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Our data also reinforced that farmers should switch to spring fertilization, if possible. We compared spring versus fall fertilization with and without the cover crop, and fall was worse for nitrate loss in both scenarios,” says study co-author Rabin Bhattarai, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, a shared unit of ACES and Grainger. “Our research shows cover crops work. They have the potential to reduce erosion as well as nutrient loss from our fields, especially with tile drainage. We wanted to explore the benefits on the whole-state level to show what could happen if thousands of farmers adopted this conservation practice simultaneously. The water quality benefits would be significant.”

The article, “Evaluation of long-term impact of cereal rye as a winter cover crop in Illinois,” is published in Science of the Total Environment (DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162956).


Illinois distillers’ contest set

BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Corn has announced that for the fourth consecutive year the American Craft Spirits Association will conduct the Heartland Whiskey Competition in St. Louis. Experts will judge multiple whiskey categories and award a “best of state” trophy to the top-rated whiskey from each sponsored state, including Illinois. Competition is limited to whiskeys that utilize some corn, which is almost all U.S. craft whiskey.

New this year, the competition will feature the debut of a trophy for Top Farmer-Distiller, the top scoring whiskey produced by a distillery whose owner(s) operates a working farm. “It is important and exciting to recognize distillers, an industry that relies on the corn we grow in Illinois,” said Jim Reed, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “We’re especially thrilled to acknowledge a Top Farmer Distiller in 2023, a farmer making an impact in their local community while feeding and fueling the world.”

According to an Illinois Corn news release, the organization’s sponsorship makes the state competition possible by providing funds for the competition. Visit www.americancraftspirits.org/programs/special-events/ for more information on the competition, which will be held Aug. 1-2.


Pig farmers tout ‘Bacon Day’ at capitol

SPRINGFIELD — If you’re reading this weekly column on publication day, which is Wednesday, May 3, you may or may not be aware that today is “Illinois Bacon Day” via a special state Senate resolution. The day was observed by Illinois pig farmers and members of the Illinois Pork Producers Association descending on the state capitol to hand out BLT sandwiches to lawmakers and discuss the economic and societal impact of pork in Illinois — the fourth-largest pork producing state in the country.

In addition, some Springfield restaurants agreed to serve food specials that featured bacon or a pork dish of their choosing. “If you are looking for something tasty and fun to do, pop in to one of the restaurants on May 3 and tell them that you’re there to #BringHomeTheBacon,” stated Lana Shovlin, IPPA communications director, in a Facebook post.

Here’s a link to the text of the fun resolution, which was offered by State Sen. Tom Bennett, R-53rd: www.legiscan.com/IL/text/SR0058/id/2685598.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Craft spirits is a fast-growing U.S. industry — the number of craft distillers has increased 54 percent since 2016. (Illinois Corn)