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USDA estimated 95% of Illinois corn and 93% of soybeans had been harvested as of Nov. 15. Check out the crop update story on page 9 for more information. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

County Farm Bureaus, adopted lawmakers busy bridging urban-rural gap
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County Farm Bureaus around the state and their adopted state legislators discussed issues during on-farm and agribusiness tours, virtual visits and fun activities.

Christina Nourie, Illinois Farm Bureau northeast legislative coordinator, shared a roundup of recent county Farm Bureau and legislator visits.

Peoria County Farm Bureau member Rob Asbell hosted a virtual tour for new agriculture students at Rich Township High School in south suburban Olympia Fields, the district of the county Farm Bureau’s adopted legislator, state Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields. After original plans for a virtual combine ride were thwarted, Asbell and the students discussed his work as a grain farmer and he showed the class technology in his combine in a virtual visit. The new ag teacher, Piaget Felix, indicated her students really enjoyed the virtual tour and Meyers-Martin appreciated the county Farm Bureau’s creative visit. County Farm Bureau leaders first connected with Piaget while touring her school during a visit to Meyers-Martin’s district.

Peoria County Farm Bureau member Rob Asbell, seen on the monitor, gives a virtual farm tour to Piaget Felix’s agriculture students at Rich Township High School in south suburban Olympia Fields. The school is in the district of the county Farm Bureau’s adopted legislator, state Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields. Asbell and the students discussed his work as a grain farmer and he showed the class technology in his combine in a virtual visit. (Photo courtesy of Christina Nourie, Illinois Farm Bureau northeast legislative coordinator)

Harvest proved opportune for several legislators, their staff and even family to make farm visits.

LaSalle County Farm Bureau hosted state Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, her 13- and 9-year-old sons and two district staff members for farm visits. Collins toured the Dau family’s beef farm then joined a group of farmers for lunch and conversation. Farm equipment and sheep were next on the agenda at the Over family’s grain and livestock farm.

Richland County Farm Bureau organized a two-day visit for state Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, and her chief of staff, Jessica Genova. LaPointe, who joined the Adopt-a-Legislator program in 2020, and Genova rode in a tractor and combine with Richland County Farm Bureau President Joel Gardner on his Olney farm. They also toured Consolidated Grain and Barge and Fox Creek Vineyards. During an evening meal at Darin Weidner’s farm, the visitors met several Young Leaders and other farmers. Green energy was a focus the next day at Diel farms, a solar hog farm. LaPointe learned more about hog farms and saw how some farms are integrating solar energy.

Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau welcomed state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, and his assistant, Elly, for a first farm visit, starting with Claretta Dairy Farm and hosts, Brent and Amber Mueller. The next stop was the farm of Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau President Julie Newhouse and her husband, Marshall, to learn about cover crops and their work to protect soil. The visit ended with a tour of Edwards Apple Orchard and lunch. Carroll enjoyed his farm visit, especially the tractor ride, and said he couldn’t wait to tell his downstate colleagues about his experiences.

Henry County Farm Bureau hosted its new adopted legislator, state Rep. Chris Bos, R-Lake Zurich, and his young daughter for farm tours, starting with the Weber family beef farm. After lunch, the visitors toured the Wyffels Hybrids facility before taking rides on a tractor and combine on Dennis Verbeck’s farm. Joining in were local legislators, state Reps. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, and Dan Swanson, R-Alpha.

Edwards County Farm Bureau provided a two-day farm/rural tour for new adopted legislator, state Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, D-Chicago, her husband and their 9- and 14-year-old daughters. First, the visitors discussed education issues at the West Salem Grade School and then learned about cleaning, bagging and selling specialty seeds at Baker Seed Co. After lunch, Edwards County Farm Bureau President Jason Balding gave his visitors a driving tour before stopping at Stumpy Hill Hog Farm to discuss livestock issues with farmer Bryan Roosevelt. The evening concluded with local farm families joining their visitors for pizza. Activities the next day included rides in combines, tractor and semis and lessons about cover crops, crop rotation and grain storage on the Lynch family grain farm. After afternoon horseback rides on the Schmittler farm, the representative and her family met other Edwards County families at wiener roast on the Balding farm.

Whiteside County Farm Bureau welcomed back adopted legislator, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester; his wife, ShawnTe, and their children, Tyler and Marley. Welch has visited the county nearly every year since 2013 when he was elected. The Welch family visited Dale and Sue Sterenberg’s cattle farm to discuss livestock and animal care. Next, they stopped at Don and Karen Temple’s grain farm to ride combines and learn about corn and soybean harvest and sample hot chocolate and donut snacks in the field.

Carroll County Farm Bureau hosted state Rep. Joyce Mason, D-Gurnee, a member of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, for her second farm visit. Mason learned about farm chemical applications and anhydrous ammonia safety training at the Carroll Service Co. The Stoner family grain farm provided Mason with her first combine ride. The representative ended her visit at Hunter Haven Dairy where she learned about the farm’s methane digester.

Jefferson County Farm Bureau welcomed state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, for his first farm visit. Peters was joined by his Springfield legislative assistant, Trish Rebbe, and local state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro. The tour started with a combine ride on John and Nancy Howard’s farm. After lunch, the visitors toured the Gateway FS grain elevator to learn about the grain industry. The visitors finished their day at Jeff Kiselewski’s cattle farm where they helped feed cattle and discussed livestock issues.

State Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado, D-Chicago, second from right, handles an egg during her recent farm tour host by the Clinton County and Marion County Farm Bureaus. Her visit included combine rides to harvest corn and soybeans. (Photo courtesy of Christina Nourie, Illinois Farm Bureau northeast legislative coordinator)

Clinton County and Marion County Farm Bureaus jointly hosted adopted legislator, state Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado, D-Chicago. Her tour started at Meyer VMS Dairy, a robotic dairy operation. Later, she joined several county Farm Bureau members for lunch and conversation on the farm. That was followed by corn harvest and a combine ride with farmer Bryan Henrichs and a visit to Main Street Pastures, a direct-to-consumer farm that provides pork, beef, lamb and eggs to local consumers. Delgado helped the Headley family harvest soybeans with a second combine ride and ended her day chatting with farmers during dinner on the Headley farm.

Douglas County Farm Bureau welcomed newly adopted legislator, state Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, for her first farm tour. On the farm of Douglas County Farm Bureau President Dan Meyer, the representative learned about the planning, work and equipment needed for soybean production, and she climbed to the top of a grain bin to learn about grain storage and farm safety. After a tailgate-style lunch, Rep. Stoneback climbed into a combine to help Meyer harvest soybeans. She also toured the ADM grain elevator in Tuscola and learned about domestic and international markets.

Fayette County Farm Bureau hosted state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, her husband and their two children for a weekend farm visit. The family learned about cover crops and crop rotation at B & L Buzzard Farms and were able to take a combine ride. Next, they toured the Cripe Grain Co. and learned how is delivered, stored and marketed. Livestock was next on the agenda with a visit to B. Willenborg Farms, a dairy. That evening, the senator and family joined the Albert family and other County Farm Bureau members for a campfire and wiener roast with beef from the family farm.

EPA, Army Corps to revert back to pre-2015 WOTUS rule
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The Biden administration on Thursday floated returning to a broader interpretation of the federal government’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) while agencies work to replace the Trump-era rule.

The new rule, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would re-establish the definition of “waters of the United States” to what was in place from 1986 to 2015.

“In recent years, the only constant with WOTUS has been change, creating a whiplash in how to best protect our waters in communities across America,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement.

Michael Regan

“Continuity with the 1986 regulations will minimize confusion and provide regulatory stability for the public, the regulated community, and the agencies, while protecting the nation’s waters,” the agencies said.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall in a statement said the organization is “disappointed” in the agencies’ decision.

“Overreaching regulations create major permit backlogs for the federal government and result in long delays for farmers and ranchers who are working to keep America fed,” Duvall said.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations crafted their own WOTUS rules, which for years were tangled in litigation before being withdrawn by later administrations.

The Obama-era rule sought to broaden the federal government’s CWA jurisdiction, while the Trump-era rule, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” narrowed the government’s scope. The Biden administration earlier this year said it would reverse and revise the Trump-era rule.

Duvall took issue with EPA reinstating the significant nexus test, which “threatens to unfairly regulate large areas of private land miles from the nearest navigable water,” Duvall said.

Zippy Duvall

“It’s troubling that EPA is putting a framework in place before completing the promised stakeholder engagement,” he added. “Administrator Regan pledged to listen to the needs of farmers and ranchers and committed to a rule that is not overly burdensome. We urge him to stay true to his word.”

The WOTUS definition would include:

  • traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, and the territorial seas, and their adjacent wetlands
  • “most impoundments of ‘waters of the United States’
  • “tributaries to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, the territorial seas, and impoundments that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard
  • “wetlands adjacent to impoundments and tributaries, that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard”
  • “other waters” that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard”

The agencies said they interpret relatively permanent standard to mean “waters that are relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing and waters with a continuous surface connection to such waters.”

The significant nexus standard would mean “waters that are either alone or in combination with similarly situated waters in the region, significantly affect the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, or the territorial seas.”

EPA , Army Corps to revert back to pre-2015 WOTUS rule

The proposed rule would also retain a longstanding exclusion for prior converted cropland, albeit modified to match language first introduced and codified in 1993 “providing certainty to farmers seeking to conserve and protect land and waters pursuant to federal law,” the agencies said.

While the NWPR retained the exclusion, it also largely broadened the definition of what qualifies as prior converted cropland to an area that was not used for “agricultural purposes” in the last five years.

The proposed rule would amend that definition and require landowners to obtain a USDA prior converted cropland certification to receive the exclusion.

Public hearings on the proposed rule are set for Jan. 12, 13 and 18. Illinois Farm Bureau plans to participate in those meetings, said Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of environmental policy.

Risk management critical as farmers face margin crunch
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Farmers should develop risk management plans, if they don’t already have some in place, to deal with the likelihood of tighter margins ahead.

That was a focal point of the Agricultural Bankers Conference, hosted by the American Bankers Association at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati.

“This decade will be defined by financial and business IQ (to complement improving production capabilities),” said David Kohl, ag economist/professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, who spoke in his sixth different decade at the event dating back to the 1970s.

“The last couple years, and during the economic supercyle (from 2008-2013), dollar bills came flying out of the air,” he continued. “Now, (farmers) are going to be managing by nickels and dimes and maybe even pennies.”

USDA estimates net farm income increased by $15.5 billion from 2019 to 2020 and it’s forecast to grow another 19.5% this year.

However, farm production expenses jumped $26.1 billion this year, to $383.5 billion, and continue to escalate while government payments trend lower. USDA projects a $17.7 billion decline in government payments this year compared to 2020.

“I’d say people are kind of anxious,” Kohl said. “We’re coming off probably one of the best years we’ve had since the economic supercyle and there’s some strong balance sheets.

“But, people are very concerned with what’s ahead in 2022 with these inflationary costs and another element of uncertainty is global trade,” he noted. “To put the odds in your favor, you really need to zero in on financials, marketing and risk management.”

The consumer price index shows the price of consumer products and services jumped 6.2% from October 2020 to October 2021, the fastest 12-month increase the past 30 years.

Mark Gold, right, founder/lead strategist for the Top Third Division at StoneX Financial, discusses marketing tips with Alex Wagner at the Agricultural Bankers Conference in Cincinnati. (Photo by Daniel Grant)

“It’s hard to believe we won’t see continued inflation with the supply chain issues,” said Mark Gold, founder and lead strategist for the Top Third Division of StoneX Financial. “We’ve seen volatility in commodities go through the roof.”

Gold also advises farmers to consider risk management strategies to market their commodities.

“Quit speculating. What I know is there’s risk out there (of prices slipping below the cost of production),” Gold said. “Use options to put in a floor. If the market goes down, you can protect $5 corn, $7 wheat and $12 soybeans.”

Gold encourages farmers to consider buying a 28-cent put for December 2022 corn and wheat, a 36-cent put for November 2022 soybeans and $3-$4 per hundredweight protection in the cattle and hog markets as of Nov. 15.

“It’s like insurance. You’ve got to manage options as an asset,” he said. “Let the market determine what you want to do out there.”

The strategist sees a significant amount of risk in the soybean market in the year ahead as Brazil is on pace for a record crop. U.S. farmers could also plant more soybeans in 2022 due to high input costs of corn, which could boost supplies and pressure prices.

“Everyone’s talking about farmers planting less corn and more beans this coming year, although new-crop prices don’t justify a switch,” Gold said. “I’d be surprised if the switch is more than a million acres.

“But, whatever decision they make will affect the market.”

Listen: David Kohl discusses ag economics at the Agricultural Bankers Conference hosted by the American Bankers Association in Cincinnati