R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: State fair theme is tribute to farmers’ resilience

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Phil Borgic, an Illinois pig farmer, is standing up to a federal court’s recent decision to slow pork processing production lines. (National Pork Producers Council photo)

This week’s drone’s-eye view of Illinois agriculture includes reports on President Joe Biden’s proposed 2022 budget, rising steel prices and tight supplies affecting new grain facility construction, a call to action from the pork sector and info on the announced ag-related theme for the 2020 Illinois State Fair(s). Please read on …


Biden budget directs $1.5 billion for climate smart ag

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget, delivered to Congress last week, contains many items of interest to farmers. In his proposal, Biden calls for large increases in funding for food security including the USDA’s Women, Infant and Children program. In addition, Biden’s 2022 proposed budget contains funding for the following:

  • Increasing funding for climate smart agriculture, climate resilience and clean energy by nearly $1.5 billion. This funding supports effective land management decisions and partnerships with local communities and Tribal Nations to address climate adaptation, conservation, and ecological resilience. This work will address the underlying conditions of drought that are leading to longer, hotter fire seasons, according to the Biden administration.
  • The president’s budget request provides $4 billion for USDA’s research, education, and outreach programs focused on making investments in agricultural research to put science and data-driven tools and American technologies in the hands of farmers.
  • $700 million is being requested to provide access to quality broadband to rural residents and address challenges for Tribal communities. According to the Biden administration, high-speed internet would serve as an economic equalizer for rural America while creating high-paying union jobs in rural America. This investment also builds on the $100 billion of funding proposed in the American Jobs Plan.

“Enacting the budget policies into law this year would strengthen our nation’s economy and lay the foundation for shared prosperity, while also improving our nation’s long-term fiscal health,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a May 28 USDA news release. For more information on the President’s FY 2022 Budget, visit: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget.


Will steel and labor shortage spell storage issues?

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Farm Bureau’s RFD Radio (not affiliated with this column) reported last week that in addition to farmers dealing with a nationwide lumber shortage, issues acquiring steel for grain bins — and the necessary labor to build them — could lead to grain storage shortages in an expected bumper crop year.

“We’re seeing steel prices more than 2.5 times (higher) than what they were a year ago,” said Travis Bressner, GROWMARK customer service manager for grain systems. “Many times we’re out into or past harvest on different items (for delivery). It’s more so a function of a raw material supply and the labor supply are putting restrictions on manufacturers. It’s really hampering their capacities.”

USDA currently projects that farmers could produce 14.99 billion bushels of corn this year, up from 14.18 billion last year, and 4.4 billion bushels of soybeans, compared to 4.14 billion in 2020.

“From a storage standpoint, if you don’t have an order already, you’ll be hard-pressed to get (a grain bin), let alone built this year,” Bressner added. “It’s not that easy to get as much steel as you maybe want right now.”


IPPA urge USDA to appeal production line decision

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Pork Producers Association and Raymond, Illinois pig farmer Phil Borgic are asking the USDA to appeal a recent federal court decision that struck down a provision of the Department’s New Swine Inspection System, which gives the OK to pork facilities to operate their processing lines at higher speeds. According to Borgic, who has served in a number of leadership positions for state and national pork producer groups, the court ruling affects 2,153 Illinois pork producers and trickle down throughout the economy.

“If small hog farmers are forced out of business, we will see a more consolidated pork industry. This could reduce competition, drive industry consolidation, and concentrate more power in the hands of pork processors — all with the stroke of a judge’s pen,” Borgic wrote, in an op-ed piece distributed to media by the IPPA. “We can avoid these damaging outcomes. We need USDA to stand up for Illinois hog farmers and producers across the country by both appealing the federal court decision and seeking a stay, halting the competitive pork production system, and the significant economic benefits it provides to our communities around the country.”

The federal court ruling will result in $82.3 million in reduced income for hog farmers and a 2.5 percent loss in pork packing plant capacity nationwide, according to Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University economist.


State fair theme is tribute to farmers’ resilience

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Agriculture and Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week that the 2021 theme for the Illinois State Fair (in Springfield and Du Quoin) will be “One Illinois,” a tribute to farmers’ resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and the reunification of residents at the state fairs.

“Illinois’ proud agricultural tradition has long been the force that drives our state forward, and the last 18 months have been no different. In March of 2020, when the world seemed to come to a halt, our state’s number one industry kept right on going,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker. “While the COVID-19 pandemic demanded a temporary pause to the State Fairs, communities across the state will once again have a chance to come together as ‘One Illinois’ this August to celebrate our number one industry and the people that keep us all going.”

The motto “One Illinois” will be displayed throughout the Springfield and Du Quoin Fairgrounds, as well as on the 2021 Illinois and Du Quoin State Fair logos and merchandise, and mobile COVID-19 vaccination sites will be located at both state fairs, IDOA announced.

“If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we are all Illinoisans,” said Jerry Costello II, IDOA director. “This underscores the importance for everyone to get vaccinated. Everyone doing their part will ensure the safety of fairgoers, vendors and staff when we gather to celebrate this summer.” (Illinois e-News)


Illinois Farm Fact:

The state’s hog industry contributes more than $13.8 billion to the annual Illinois economy. (IPPA)