R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: U of I partners with Vortex on feed center

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The new, $20 million University of Illinois Feed Technology Center, currently under construction, has received a large materials donation from Vortex. (Phot by Jim Baltz/U of I)

Mystery seeds stalking mailboxes

SPRINGFIELD — The buzz phrase of the week in U.S. agriculture: mystery seeds. Suddenly, it seems everyone is getting them. From the Heartland to the nation’s coasts, the mysterious packages sprouted up in residential mailboxes from mid- to late July, setting off wild speculation as to their origin and purpose.

On July 28, the Illinois Department of Agriculture issued the following statement regarding the mailing of unsolicited seeds:

“We are currently working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to address reports of unsolicited shipments of seeds from foreign countries. Anyone who receives unordered seeds in the mail should contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture by emailing the following information to agr.seeds@Illinois.gov: First and Last Name, Phone Number and the number of packages received. Do not open the package, plant the seeds, or throw them out. Please keep all seeds unopened and with their original packaging and labels, including mailing labels, until further instruction is provided.”

Thoughts, anyone?


Teen’s supply chain video a social media hit

LA HARPE — A 16-year-old Hancock County 4-H and FFA member’s YouTube video on food supply chain delays due to COVID-19 has gathered hundreds of “likes” and caught the attention of the Illinois Pork Producers Association, which posted the five-minute video on its Facebook page. The video was made by Abbie Johnson of LaHarpe, with help from her pork producing family. Abbie, a junior at Illini West High School, was kind enough to respond to my question about how she is reacting to the popularity of the video:

“I am thrilled that my video is reaching so many people! I created the video for my veterinary science video for 4-H. It is also part of my FFA SAE (supervised agriculture experience) project in Ag Literacy. My goal is to educate the general public about agriculture. Last year, I made a beef video.

“I chose this topic this year for several reasons. First of all, it was personal for me. My family raises finishing pigs. We were directly affected as we had pigs almost ready for processing when the packing plants began to shut down. Luckily, we were able to slow their growth by adjusting feed rations. I also wanted the public to understand why there was a meat shortage in stores. There was never a shortage of animals, but a disturbance in the supply chain that affected all areas of meat production. I want to help people understand agriculture. I learned a lot through my research about the packing side of pork production.

“I have gotten lots of positive feedback about my video. Some people who are directly involved in agriculture commented that they have shared it with their non-agriculture friends. I am passionate about agriculture and enjoying sharing with others.”

Great job, Abbie!


Crop quality improving in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Many farmers are concerned that a large, or record, corn and soybean harvest in 2020 could lead to even lower prices for their commodities. Despite weather challenges in some areas of the state, it appears a bumper or record harvest yield could, indeed, be shaping up. This is according to the July 27 USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois Crop Progress and Condition report, which reflects increases in quality ratings for corn and soybeans over the prior week’s report.

Corn rated good (60 percent) and excellent (14 percent), at 74 percent, was up 11 percent from the week of July 20. Soybeans were rated 61 percent good and 15 percent excellent, reflecting an increase of 9 percent for the categories. In Illinois, 5.0 days of the week were rated suitable for fieldwork. Readers can expect harvest reports from the southern part of the state in the NASS reports very soon.


U of I partners with Vortex on feed center

URBANA — The new, $20 million University of Illinois Feed Technology Center will feature a large contribution of Vortex products, including slide gates and diverters that will optimize operations. The Center, located at the U of I South Farms, will accelerate advancements in feed ingredient utilization, processing technologies and food production efficiency. A total of 32 slide gates and diverters are being donated to the Feed Tech Center, along with various accessories, controls and switches, according to a July 27 College of ACES news release.

“We are incredibly grateful to Vortex for this generous gift. The equipment is vital to the everyday operations of the facility,” said Rodney Johnson, head of the Department of Animal Sciences at the U of I. More than 40 faculty members and hundreds of students will benefit from the Center, which is expected to be fully operational by October 2020.


Farm leases, conservation topic of webinar

BLOOMINGTON — The installation and expense of conservation practices on rented land may meet resistance from one or both parties involved. The topic will be the subject of a webinar, “Conservation and Farmland Leasing,” offered by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Soybean checkoff program at 10 a.m. Aug. 20. Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois ag economist, will cover issues related to owner-farmer relationships for conservation, nutrient management and cover crops. Register at:



Illinois Farm Fact:

July was National Hot Dog Month. For the week of July 19, hot dog sales were $62 million, a 16.9 percent increase over the same week in 2019. (Pork Checkoff)