THE POST PLANTING TO-DO LIST

After the long stressful days of watching the weather, avoiding as many break-downs as possible, and moving equipment from field to field are over a grain farmer’s work is over, until harvest, right?

Think again!

That is just the beginning.

Planting is a stressful and vulnerable time for farmers, not only because Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants to, but because they are about to risk a large chunk of change by planting little seeds into a big black field of soil. Many weeks, if not months, go into prepping for planting. Farmers must pick their seed variety, purchase the seed, cultivate their fields (unless they no-till), and eliminate all the weeds they can before nestling the seeds into a cozy bed.

Here’s a list of what farmers do after their planting is finished. As you will see a Farmer’s work is never truly finished.

Check for sprouting/ swelling seeds

Farmers must keep a close eye on their seeds and the amount of moisture they are taking in. If a seed takes up water it will begin to swell and if temperatures aren’t high enough the seed will not germinate and will rot in the ground.

“The seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed imbibes the water, takes it in, but doesn’t germinate because it’s too cold,” says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa.

If it has rained, check the soil for crusting

A soil crust forms after rain droplets cause the soil to break into individual particles. The small particles then get washed together and join together into a hard crust, preventing moisture from going in and seeds from going out of the ground. Farmers need to be aware of a crust forming and will have to use appropriate tillage equipment to break the crust if necessary.

Confirm the seed population

Many pocket knives are used for this job. I remember watching my PawPaw get down on one knee and dig through the rich dark soil to look for seeds. Farmers do this to authenticate that their planters released the right about of seeds, not to overcrowd the plants or not use the land to its full potential.

Monitor plants for insect damage

Insects want to munch on the corn and there aren’t many options to prevent this, except spraying pesticides. Check out what this farmer has to say about using pesticides to protect his yield.

Look for weed pressure-if present decide if spraying is necessary

Weeds are a huge hindrance on the growth of a farmer’s crop. Therefore monitoring the amount of weed growth is important, if they are overcrowding and stealing nutrients from the plants a farmer will need to consider spraying his field.

Check color of plants

This may seem strange but the color of the crop will tell you a lot about how it is maturing. Yellowing crops aren’t healthy and need attention, or possibly less rain.

Take a deep breath and relax

I doubt this will be very easy for farmers as they follow grain prices on the roller coaster until the crop is ready to harvest. They can take this down time to get all of the equipment ready for the approaching fall.

 

jessica tJessica Telgmann
University of Illinois

PLAY BALL!

It is that time of year again!

The Normal CornBelters had their season home opener on Tuesday, May 19th.

The final score was 9-2 with a victory for the CornBelters.

Corn Belters

“Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
I don’t care if I never get back
Let me root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out
At the old ball game”

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW …

 

Exports (trade) really is so important to the Illinois economy.  Illinois ranks among the top 5 state exporters in 41 industries, including first in railroad rolling stock ($957 million) and second in ag & construction machinery ($8.0 billion), oilseeds & grains ($4.2 billion), and engines & turbines ($2.6 billion).

Between 2009 and 2013, Illinois goods  exports have increased by 53 percent and services exports by 32 percent.  That’s a lot of economic activity during the U.S. downturn and a budget and revenue crisis in Illinois!
exports by the numbers

 

source: http://tradebenefitsamerica.org/sites/default/files/IL_TRADE_2013_0.pdf 

IS THE U.S. ON AN UN LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?

trade agreements

Just 20 of the world’s 260+ trade agreements include the U.S. It’s time to pass Trade Promotion Authority!

Also loving this update from Mitt Romney on Facebook today.  If someone like Gov Romney is in favor of giving President Obama authority over trade, maybe we should all be in favor!

“It probably wouldn’t be a bad rule of thumb to oppose anything President Obama supports. But Trade Promotion Authority is an exception. Admittedly, his ham-handed rally at Nike gives pause–he should instead have visited New Balance, which still makes some of its shoes in the United States. But putting Obama’s missteps aside, TPA is good for America.

Global trade happens. The old Soviet Union tried to wall itself off from trade and got poorer and weaker as a result. In the modern world, if you can’t compete, you can’t survive and thrive. Fortunately, America can compete–and succeed–if the rules are right, and if they are enforced. Our trade with China has been decidedly disadvantageous because China cheated, big time. And if we don’t negotiate a fair and enforceable trade regime with other nations in Asia, China’s cheating will get even worse.

I can’t be sure that President Obama can negotiate a trade deal that’s good for America, but I am sure that the Republican Congress will turn down one that’s not. And properly crafted, a trade deal will mean more and better paying jobs for Americans–the 38 million trade related jobs in America today pay a good deal more than the average. We can’t ignore the fact that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States: if we can’t successfully sell our products and services to them, we will become an economic backwater like the Soviet Union–and ultimately face the same fate.

Let’s direct the president to do his best and then vote it up or down.”

HOW DOES MEXICO REINVIGORATE IL RURAL COMMUNITIES?

mexicoMay is World Trade Month and this week in particular has been designated to celebrate agriculture’s contributions to U.S. trade.  If you’ve always wanted to know more about how farmers contribute to our economy via trade, you’ve come to the right place!

(In reality, I’m guessing you’ve never considered that farmers are a major contributor to the products leaving the U.S. and the economic boom that trade provides American citizens.  This is your week!  Learn something!)

Mexico is a hugely important buyer of corn nationally, and also has a great impact as a buyer of Illinois corn. Our river transportation system sends much of our corn directly to the Gulf of Mexico, where it makes the short trip to Mexican markets. This should remind us how important our river transportation system is, and with it, the need for repaired and upgraded locks and dams.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board partners with the U.S. Grains Council to expand export opportunities for corn, ethanol, and DDGS. USGC leverages Illinois farmer checkoff dollars with matching dollars from USDA to expand the work. Learn more about USGC’s work in Mexico at www.bit.ly/1zsm5Ml.

Here are some specifics about Mexico as a buyer of corn:

  • USDA weekly sales info as of 4/23 says Mexico is the top market for U.S. corn this marketing yr, buying 9.5 MMT (million metric tons) so far
  • Mexico imported 10.4 MMT of yellow corn during the 2014 marketing yr, making it 2nd largest market for U.S. yellow corn
  • Mexico imported more than 1.5 MMT of U.S. DDGS last year, making it the second largest market behind China
  • A critical trade deal made booming U.S. grain sales to Mexico possible – read more at www.bit.ly/1FKvRuE
  • Mexico farmers see dramatic results in DDGS feeding trials, building confidence, sales – more at www.bit.ly/1OTJKMM

What’s this mean for you as a non-farmer, an eater, and an American?

  • Vibrant and growing markets mean increased farmer income.
  • Farmers reinvest additional income into their farms.
  • This money drives the Illinois economy, provides jobs, reinvigorates rural America, and promotes investment in new technologies to make agriculture more efficient.

FIELD UPDATE

Jim Reed Emerging CornThis picture was taken from Jim Reed in Piatt County Illinois.

This corn was planted on 4-15-15 and emerging on 4-29-15. Conditions for planting in his area of Piatt County have been excellent. Most in the area are done planting corn and beans. Virtually all the corn has emerged and looks very good with little to no stand loss due to poor germination. Many bean fields have emerged and also look very good. He said they are starting to feel a little dry as of 5-7-15 so they are hoping for a little rain over the next several days.

TOP FIVE ANSWERS ON FARM SUBSIDIES

Americans have questions about farm subsidies – and why shouldn’t they?  Americans deserve to understand what their taxes are paying for and why.  So here’s the top five questions we get on a semi regular basis and the best, short answers we can provide.  Do you have more questions on farm subsidies?  Ask away in the comments!

1. Why should tax payer dollars fund farmers anyway?

The government got involved in helping farmers stay afloat because they were interested in food security.  Our country needs to guarantee a safe, affordable, DOMESTIC food supply and not put ourselves in the position to have to import food because American farmers go out of business.  The food security portion of this equation is what makes government payments to farmers different than other businesses or industries that are also reliant on weather or market conditions.

Helping farmers stay in business also supports American rural economies that are built on farming and agriculture.  Without farm subsidies, rural communities would be completely desolate and Americans would be forced to urban areas to find work.  In essence, farm subsidies that keep farmers in business help many more Americans that don’t farm, but live in rural communities.

Illinois, farm, field, farmer, country, scenic

2. I don’t want to pay a farmer to not farm!  That’s not right!

There was a time in our history when farmers were paid to leave their land fallow.  The “set aside” program sought to control supply and increase commodity prices.  But we haven’t done this since the 1990s.  The “set aside” program was unauthorized in the 1996 Farm Bill.

3. I don’t really understand what farm subsidies are paying for then.

Government payments to farmers currently come in the form of subsidized crop insurance.  Because farming relies on the weather and is so unpredictable, farmers must insure their crops or face investing a ton of money to plant a crop only to have Mother Nature ruin their crop and leave them with no income for the year.  Crop insurance protects farmers when this happens.

But private insurance companies find the proposition too risky.  No private company can withstand a weather event like the 2012 drought we experienced here in IL.  So the government subsidizes crop insurance, making it available for farmers and encouraging them to protect themselves.

Farmers do pay a portion of their premium AND what amounts to an average of a 20 percent deductible in the event of a loss.

(Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at crop insurance and what it means to farmers in the near future!)

Marty Marr Family

4. Farmers are small businessmen and should compete in a fair and free market just like all other Americans, without government assistance.

Yes.  And that would be amazing.

But consider that farming is a different business model than most.  In most other small businesses, the business buys inputs at wholesale prices, builds a product or completes a service, and then determines the cost for the product or service based on the input costs.  Farmers do not have this business model.buy wholesale, pay retail

They must buy inputs at retail prices, pray for great weather, and accept whatever commodity price the market dictates for that month and year.  Yes, opportunities exist for farmers to mitigate risk, but they should not and can not be compared to all other small businesses because they do not get to dictate market prices that cover their cost of production.

Also, back to the first point, guaranteeing that we have affordable access to domestic food supply is somewhat different than guaranteeing access to barbershops or photographers.

5. Farmers made so much money last year.  I don’t understand why farm subsidies are still needed or even considered by Congress.

Yes, farmers did have a great year in 2013.  Commodity prices were high because of the low corn supply after the drought, but farmers still grew a lot of corn.  They did well and they didn’t need/use their crop insurance.

But like all American families know, you have good years and you have bad years.  Farmers are well versed at saving money back from the good years like 2013, to pay for the bad years like 2014 (and probably 2015!).  Government subsidized crop insurance is still needed because bad years always happen no matter how good the good years were.

If you’re still curious about farm income, read ARE FARMERS RICH here!

I am very excited to answer your questions about farm subsidies and crop insurance.  Please leave a comment!

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager