R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: USDA highlights rural investments

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

University of Illinois farm expert Dale Lattz spoke to central Illinois farmers about proven habits of financially resilient farmers during the U of I’s 2017 Farm Economics Summit, held Dec. 19 in East Peoria. The U of I is sponsoring a five-city road series on financial resiliency in February. (Tim Alexander photo)

In this, your inaugural 2018 farm and rural news weekly roundup, now in its second decade exclusively in this newspaper, we have news about how the USDA under President Trump helped rural Americans in 2017 via infrastructure funding. We also have news of how the administration may have let rural Americans down over the net neutrality issue. Also this week: an update on Illinois agricultural prices, farm survival tips, and more … please read on.

USDA highlights rural investments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a year-end news release touting the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding investment in infrastructure and economic growth in rural communities. The news release focused on the more than $40 million USDA invested on 31 rural projects, including one in Illinois.

“USDA is focused on improving America’s infrastructure,” Perdue stated. “Investments such as the ones I’m highlighting today will improve the quality of life, create jobs, grow our economy and foster prosperity in rural areas.”

In Illinois, USDA Rural Development provided the village of Energy with $251,000 to resurface the burg’s major east-west thoroughfare in order to increase safety and attract more businesses, while providing an “essential community service to approximately 1,100 residents in the village,” according to the department. Overall, the investments by USDA will benefit some 265,000 rural residents in 21 states and Puerto Rico in areas of surface transportation, water and stormwater upgrades, and more.

State senator decries net neutrality rollback

TINLEY PARK — It’s widely held that rural customers may be the hardest hit if net neutrality is rolled back. In late December, Illinois State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) took exception with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Trump administration and members of the U.S. Congress for failing to protect net neutrality when the FCC voted in favor of rolling back rules put in place in 2015 to protect consumers’ right to open internet access. Earlier in 2017, Hastings introduced a resolution urging the president and members of Congress to do all they could to protect net neutrality for Illinois residents.

Hastings explained in a Senate Democrat news release that without net neutrality, companies are free to “throttle” traffic, charge for expensive “fast lanes” and completely block sites. Rural customers, who often have only one provider to choose from, could be left at the whim of broadband providers in terms of service, rates, bandwidth speed and content selection, according to net neutrality advocates.

“Big corporate utility corporations will now serve as gatekeepers of the world wide web,” according to Hastings. “The rollback of net neutrality means that the needs of consumers will now be put on the back burner as broadband providers engineer plans to profit and infringe on the privacy of freedoms we once had.”

Illinois Farm Fact:

Compared with November 2016, the November 2017 Illinois Agricultural Prices Received Index is up 9.1 percent. (USDA-NASS)

U of I to host ‘Resilient Farm Roadshow’

URBANA — The University of Illinois is hosting a series of financially-resilient farms presentations at five locations in Illinois from Feb. 13-21. The series serves as a spin-off from the recently concluded, five-city 2017 Illinois Farm Economics Summit, whose theme was “The Profitability of Illinois Agriculture: Managing Financial Stress.”

U of I Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics Professor Gary W. Schnitkey will lead the Roadshow series. Schnitkey and his U of I colleagues examined USDA and FBFM data to identify common characteristics of top-producing Illinois farms over the past few years.

Schnitkey will also reprise his “Habits of Financially Resilient Farmers” presentation during the ILSoyAdvisor.com Illinois Soybean Summit on Jan. 11 in Springfield. For more details on the series, “Resilient Farm Roadshow: Building Habits of the Profitable Farm Manager,” including registration information, visit www.farmdocDaily.illinois.edu/resilient-farmer.

November corn, soybean prices remain low

SPRINGFIELD — The November 2017 Prices Received Index (PRI) for all agricultural production increased 4.2 percent over October 2017, according to the Dec. 28 Illinois Agricultural Prices report issued by USDA-NASS. This was despite continued low prices paid to Illinois farmers for corn, at $3.17 per bushel, and soybeans, at $9.22 per bushel. The November PRI of 91.0 was buoyed by an 8.1 percent gain in the Livestock Production Index (to 101.7), which was slightly offset by a 1 percent decrease in the Crop Production Index (to 81.4).

The drop in the CPI can be largely credited to an 11 cent drop in price for corn from October to November along with a nine cent price drop for soybeans.

In addition to prices, indexes are influenced by the volume change, or monthly movements, of commodities. “Increased monthly movement of cattle, corn, milk and cotton offset the decreased marketing of soybeans, grapes, potatoes and wheat,” stated the report, which also noted the Food Commodities Index, at 99.9, increased 7.7 percent from October to November 2017.

ISA Insight Summit: a glance in the future

BLOOMINGTON — The recently concluded Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) Insights Summit explored challenges and opportunities facing farmers, including precision agriculture, artificial intelligence and machine learning advances. Industry leaders with companies including Microsoft, Iteris, WinField United and Environmental Tillage Systems came together to talk about how they can leverage technologies for a stronger agriculture and soybean industry.

“There is no prize for the highest yield,” said Joel Wipperfurth of WinField. “It’s all about input per bushel. The winning growers will be defined by how well they use technology.” Panelists noted that in addition to improving farming efficiencies, technology can help solve some the pressing problems faced by rural communities, such as broadband access. (ISA news)


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: USDA highlights rural investments–