RFD News & Views: Loss of state fairs ‘heartbreaking’ to FFA kids

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The cancellation of the 2020 Illinois State Fair means that FFA and 4-H members will miss out on a chance to show livestock and other special projects on the state’s biggest stage, according to Unit 5 FFA adviser Liz Harris. (2019 ISF photo by Tim Alexander)

The week in agricultural news was capped by the revelation that corn farmers could lose up to $89 per acre in value on their 2020 crop due to the novel coronavirus. Also in the news: angry reaction continues to pour in from agricultural leaders over an appeals court’s decision to immediately disallow dicamba use and purchase, along with sad reaction to the determination to cancel the 2020 Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair due to COVID-19. Please read on for details …


Report: 2020 corn crop could lose $89 in value

URBANA — Significant revenue losses are projected for corn farmers’ 2020 crop due to market effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study commissioned by the National Corn Growers Association led by University of Illinois agricultural economist Gary Schnitkey. John Linder, who chairs the NCGA COVID-19 task force, told Brownfield Ag News the analysis projects a $59 per acre average revenue decline for the 2019 corn crop and an $89 per acre decline for the 2020 crop, when compared to pre-pandemic economic conditions. The analysis predicted the impacts will likely continue into 2021 and beyond.

Results of the economic impact study will likely be shared with lawmakers who could influence future economic aid packages for farmers whose livelihoods are affected by the pandemic, Linder indicated. “We are reaching out to Congress, sharing with them numbers, and letting them know that this isn’t over. It is going to have a long tail and we need to be part of the conversation,” he said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Schnitkey had predicted that Illinois farmers could lose as much As $50 per acre in corn value from their 2019 crop due to the virus.


USDA, IFB leaders rally dicamba support

BLOOMINGTON — After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advised farmers to disregard a U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision to vacate the registration for dicamba, it didn’t take long for agricultural leaders to react in support. Speaking out in support of the EPA, which was ordered to rescind its licensing for the controversial herbicide after its registration was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity, was U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue:

“USDA supports the actions taken by the EPA to respond responsibly to the decision of the 9th Circuit regarding dicamba. At a time when the security of the food supply chain is paramount, the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies seek to cripple American farmers and further limit their ability to feed, fuel and clothe this nation and the world. The 9th Circuit should not allow plaintiffs’ hostility against the American farmer to cloud the fact that the EPA’s actions follow both legal precedent and common sense.”

In a letter of guidance to farmers, EPA Administrator Edward Wheeler advised farmers to continue to use the dicamba they paid for and own until July 31, in full defiance of the court’s 56-page ruling. In response, some conservation and farming groups are calling for Wheeler to be charged with contempt of court. The chaos comes at a time when farmers are making herbicide applications to their growing crops, noted Illinois Farm Bureau President Rich Guebert Jr., who has not publicly endorsed Wheeler’s guidance for dicamba use.

“The court decision has caused tremendous confusion and fear among our over 74,000 farmer members across the state,” Guebert said in a recent letter to the EPA. “The chaos comes at a time when our members are planting soybeans and intending to apply the herbicide today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks. The court’s decision adds insult to injury, and simply put, the loss of these products would create irreparable financial damage to our farmer members who chose to invest in the technology.”

Dicamba herbicides Bayer Xtendimax, BASF Engenia and DuPont FeXapan by Corteva were ordered off retailer’s shelves on June 3. According to the ruling, dicamba products purchased by farmers on or before that date must remain in their containers.


Loss of state fairs ‘heartbreaking’ to FFA kids

NORMAL — Last week’s decision to cancel the Illinois and DuQuoin state fairs due to COVID-19 concerns was met with sadness across the FFA and 4-H communities, including at Normal Community West High School.

“The cancellation of the Illinois State Fair is heartbreaking for both me and our FFA members. These students work with their projects year-round in order to have the chance to compete on our state’s largest stage,” said Liz Harris, NCWHS FFA adviser. “Personally, in my 28 years of life, I’ve never missed an Illinois State Fair. Of course, it’s about the livestock, but it’s also about the people. My family has shown purebred pigs at the state fair for over four decades, and more than anything I will miss spending two weeks with my ‘show family’ for our annual ‘family reunion’ this year.”

Youth members who raise and show livestock, vegetables, fruit and participate in other general projects will not go unrewarded, however. Due to the cancellations of the fairs, the Department of Agriculture will host a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September, for Illinois exhibitors ages 8-21 to show their animals. The 4-H General Project Show will take place virtually, with premiums and ribbons to be distributed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Details regarding entry and operations are forthcoming.

Harris said the experience of guiding and participating in FFA during the COVID-19 pandemic would leave the 92-year-old institution in better shape than before the virus prompted mass event cancellations and inspired online participation and learning. “Illinois FFA members and agriculturalists are resilient. We will preserve and rise stronger in the future,” she said.


ISA offering free farm management webinars

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program is sponsoring a series of free summer agribusiness management webinars for farmers. The new Agribusiness Management Program will offer eight webinars from July 8 through Aug. 5, in partnership with Illinois Farm Business Farm Management and the University of Illinois farmdoc team.

Interested farmers can learn more about the series at www.ilsoyadvisor.com/on-farm/ilsoyadvisor/amp-summer-webinar-series.


Illinois Farm Fact:

Prior to 2020, the Illinois State Fair was canceled from 1942-45, 1893 and 1862. Do you know what those dates represent? Answers in next week’s column.