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Sustainable agriculture tours scheduled
URBANA -- Six unique
locations have been selected for this year's sustainable agriculture
tours, representing the broad diversity of the topic. "Sustainable
agriculture includes alternative farming practices, but it's also
about ways to provide an adequate and dependable farm income," said
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, a University of Illinois research
specialist who is coordinating the tours. "So, for example, on the
first tour to ethnic grocery stores in Chicago, we'll learn about
specialty markets for alternative crops. Growers need to be
connected to these specialty markets so they can sell what they
Cavanaugh-Grant said that the tours
last year were so successful that the U of I Agroecology/Sustainable
Agriculture Program decided to offer them again, this time to new
locations around the state. "There are so many wonderful places in
Illinois to visit that selecting only six was difficult, but I think
the ones we chose represent a wide variety of topics that will give
people a chance to see six very different sustainable operations in
The first tour of the 2003 schedule
will be to several ethnic grocery stores in Chicago on Tuesday, June
17. The tour will include stops in the Vietnamese and Indian
neighborhoods of Chicago, the Muslim meat markets, an Arab sweet
shop, and lunch at a Persian restaurant.
Tour guide Evelyn Thompson will provide
information at each stop about the produce, ingredients, cooking
procedures and history of the food cultures. "On my tours we also do
a lot of munching of snack foods that overflow the counters. We try
to sample something from each country, be it a pastry, a savory, a
sweet or an interesting drink," said Thompson.
Monday, July 14, is the date for the
second tour, which will visit several organic farms in Woodford
On Tuesday, Aug. 12,
community-supported agriculture will be the topic with a tour of
Angelica Organics in Caledonia.
Tuesday, Aug. 19, a tour will visit
Tanglefoot Farm in Simpson to learn about prawn farming.
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On Wednesday, Sept. 10, the topic will
be agritourism, with a visit to Hardy's Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul.
The tour will include a hayride and lunch served in the style of the
grand Old West.
The final tour is scheduled for
Wednesday, Oct. 29, to Pike's Hunting Club in Marion, where the
topic will be waterfowl fee hunting.
For a printable brochure that includes
details about all six tours, visit
[To download the Adobe Acrobat reader
for the PDF file,
For additional information,
contact Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant at (217) 968-5512 or
email@example.com. A small
fee will be charged for each tour. Registration at least one week in
advance is required. A registration form is available by contacting
Cavanaugh-Grant or online at
are sponsored by the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program in
the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at
the University of Illinois, the North Central Region Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Program,
and the Illinois Small Farm Task Force.
of Illinois press release]
Logan included in 30 counties
eligible for drought assistance
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod
Blagojevich announced on April 15 that federal financial assistance
is available to farmers in 30 counties who suffered agricultural
production losses last summer due to severe drought conditions.
"Farmers in many areas of the state
were devastated last year by the effects of heavy rains followed by
a hot, dry summer," Blagojevich said. "The loans that are key to
this disaster declaration will help farmers recover and can be used
to pay production costs, refinancing existing debt and essential
family living expenses."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this
week approved a request made by the governor in February to declare
Cass, DeWitt, Mason, Moultrie, Pike, Stephenson and Winnebago
counties as natural disaster areas. The declaration makes farmers in
those seven counties, as well as 23 contiguous counties, eligible
for USDA assistance programs, including low-interest loans.
The contiguous counties impacted by the
declaration are Adams, Boone, Brown, Calhoun, Carroll, Coles, DeKalb,
Douglas, Fulton, Greene, Jo Daviess, Logan, Macon, McLean, Menard,
Morgan, Ogle, Piatt, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby and Tazewell.
Livestock producers also may be able to
receive assistance, including cash payments on a per-head basis, if
they owned grazing animals during the drought period.
[to top of second column in this
In order to qualify for federal
disaster assistance, counties must experience at least a 30 percent
decline in production in any single crop. Assistance also can be
provided if farmers no longer qualify for commercial credit due to
Farmers and others who believe they may
be eligible for USDA assistance should contact their county Farm
Service Agency office.
63 other Illinois counties were approved for federal disaster
assistance due to a wet spring and extreme heat and little
precipitation in the summer. May 2002 was the eighth wettest May on
record, and the summer was the 14th warmest since 1895. There was
less than 5 inches of rain between mid-June and mid-August, about
three inches below normal.
Government News Network
Brazilian land rush mirrors
19th century U.S. experience
URBANA -- As a farm family
member who hopes one day to farm on his own, Jason Moss has a
natural interest in soybean production in Brazil and its challenge
to U.S. producers. But a summer-long stay in that South American
nation left the University of Illinois student convinced that Brazil
is indeed the new frontier of soybean farming.
"Soybeans have now become a Third World
product," said Moss, a junior in the College of Agricultural,
Consumer and Environmental Science's Department of Agricultural and
Consumer Economics. "One challenge for U.S. farmers is how one can
earn a First World income producing a Third World crop. The
cost-of-production difference is nearly $2.50 per bushel in favor of
"If Chicago Board of Trade prices go to
$4, there is no conceivable way an Illinois farmer could afford to
continue growing soybeans -- a crop many now heavily rely on for
rotations and income."
Moss prepared a research report on his
June 1 to Aug. 10, 2002, stay in Brazil as part of an internship
course offered by Peter Goldsmith, an assistant professor of
agribusiness and farm management.
"One of the things I find particularly
interesting about Moss' report is the opportunities it identifies
for young people interested in farming," said Goldsmith. "He's
looking 20 or 30 years down the horizon and identifying
"Young people interested in becoming
agricultural producers face a stiff challenge, especially in the
barriers to obtaining the capital needed to control land. Some might
not look forward to competing for ground and slugging it out here
when cheaper land is available in Brazil."
Goldsmith noted that ADM has a
corporate presence in Brazil as well as the United States, as does
one of the largest cooperatives, Cenex Harvest-States. So it makes
sense that some U.S. farmers may decide to maintain farms in the
United States and Brazil to take advantage of economic
In addition to establishing a
cooperating relationship with a Brazilian university, Goldsmith is
part of a long-range U of I research project examining the future of
the soybean and meat production complex worldwide.
Because of the large amount of land
coming under cultivation and the low costs, Brazil is becoming a new
frontier of agricultural development. The family Moss stayed with
migrated from Holland in 1989, and immigrant farmers are common.
Much of the growth is centered in the state of Mato Grosso.
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"It has become a magnet for several
reasons," said Moss. "It is viewed as an area with cheap land,
infinitely large fields and large amounts of cleared land. It has
attracted considerable American investment. What makes Mato Grosso
the center for direct foreign investment is the price of land and
the potential for expansion.
"The land rush in Brazil is a mirror
image of the United States in the 19th century."
Crunching numbers can reveal the
Brazilian economic edge in soybean production.
For the 2000 crop year, variable costs
to produce soybeans in central Illinois were $97 per acre or $2.16
per bushel. Fixed costs for the same period were $226 per acre or
$5.02 per bushel. For the same period in Mato Grosso, the variable
costs were $108.20 per acre or $2.21 per bushel.
"But fixed costs were only $48.10 per
acre or 98 cents per bushel," Moss said.
Many areas in Mato Grosso average 60-65
bushels per acre, and the average farm size is considerably larger.
While the cost of land is the largest cost for the central Illinois
farmer, the cost of fertility is the highest cost for a Mato Grosso
"Land costs in 2000 for the central
Illinois farmer were 35.9 percent of his total costs, while the Mato
Grosso producer's land costs were only 9.6 percent of his total
costs," said Moss. "Fertility costs constituted 31.7 percent of the
Mato Grosso producer's total costs, while accounting for only 5.3
percent of his Illinois counterpart's total costs.
"Labor provides another significant
cost difference. U.S. labor costs $33 per acre, 10 times higher than
the Brazilian labor cost of $3.92 per acre.
family operates a 3,500-acre operation near Quincy. Moss
contemplates taking the family business international and is
exploring opportunities in Brazil. He returns to Brazil this summer
for another U of I internship and will work with Grupo Maggi, the
largest direct farming operation in that nation.
[University of Illinois news
The Olympia FFA chapter had
their banquet on March 15 at Olympia High School at Stanford. A
social time and opening ceremonies preceded the barbecued pork
dinner with trimmings.
In the program, Megan Ott of Danvers
gave the FFA creed. Awards were presented to first-year FFA members
and scholarship winners. Then Brian Springer of Minier gave the ag
plot report, and Todd Wibben of Atlanta gave the FFA alumni report.
Other awards were given in various areas: proficiency, foundation
sponsors, certificates of appreciation and career development
events. Bob Benson and Jeff Springer, both of Minier, received the
honorary chapter FFA degree.
Other awards were presented: to the
outstanding FFA member, participation awards, awards for second-year
FFA members and the leadership awards. Lucas Deal of Danvers
received the DeKalb award and the state FFA degree. Jackie Heck of
Stanford and Brian Springer of Minier also received the state FFA
Next year's FFA chapter officers were
installed along with the closing ceremonies.
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In a labor auction at the end of the
banquet, several FFA members and the two advisers were auctioned for
a day's worth of labor. Jim Miller of Danvers was the auctioneer.
Money raised from this auction will benefit the FFA chapter.
Chapter officers for 2003-04 are Brian
Springer of Minier, president; Megan Mussleman of Danvers, Seth
Schneider of Armington and Dena Wibben of Atlanta, vice presidents;
Brandon Usherwood of Atlanta, secretary-treasurer; Megan Ott of
Danvers, reporter-historian; and Greg Deal of Danvers, sentinel.
Alumni chapter officers are Todd Wibben
of Atlanta, president; Jeff Springer of Minier, vice president;
David Deal of Danvers, secretary; Jeff Schneider of Armington,
treasurer; Kyle Haning of Delavan, reporter; and Melvin Springer of
Armington, member at large.
are under the direction of Heather Obert and Chris Embry Mohr.
[News release provided by Kyle
URBANA -- Recent price
strength in the soybean market is associated with a continuation of
a high rate of exports and exports sales and some late-season
concerns about wet weather in parts of South America, said a
University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.
"In the case of corn, it would appear
that prospects for ample year-ending stocks and an increase in
harvested acreage of corn for grain in 2003 would be sufficient to
keep corn prices in a relatively narrow range through August," said
Darrel Good. "However, the trading range in December 2003 corn
futures is also relatively low, at 34 cents. History would suggest
an increase in the trading range of December futures prior to
expiration of the contract and provides some support for the
possibility of a new high in that contract.
"At the same time, that contract is
currently trading only about 3 cents above the life-of-contract low.
Could be another interesting summer."
Good's comments came as he reviewed
corn and soybean prices in the wake of USDA reports. The soybean
market had a two-day reaction to the generally negative information
in the USDA's "March Grain Stocks" and "Prospective Plantings"
reports and then proceeded to move to the highest level of the year.
May 2003 futures traded to $6.08, and
the average cash price in central Illinois reached $5.96.
"That price is 2 cents above the
2001-02 marketing year high and is the highest cash price since the
1997-98 marketing year," Good noted.
Last week, the USDA raised the export
projection for the current marketing year by 35 million bushels. At
995 million bushels (1.005 billion if the additional residual use
projection is included) the current projection compares to an
early-season projection of only 800 million bushels. USDA reports
show current exports and export commitment above the level of a year
ago, when shipments for the year reached 1.063 billion bushels.
"Part of the impact of
larger-than-expected exports of U.S. soybeans has been offset by the
smaller-than-expected domestic crush," said Good. "The USDA now
projects the domestic crush at 1.62 billion bushels, which is 80
million less than crushed last year and 55 million less than
projected last fall. The slowdown in the crush since January has
been primarily the result of weaker export demand for soybean meal."
The USDA now projects year-ending
stocks of U.S. soybeans at 145 million bushels, 63 million below the
level of stocks at the beginning of the year. Stocks will be at the
lowest level in six years and the second lowest level in 26 years.
The smaller inventory in the United States is offset by the
expectations of large production and a marginal increase in stocks
in South America.
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"Even with the recent price activity,
the trading range in the cash price of soybeans in central Illinois
since Sept. 1, 2002 has been relatively narrow," said Good. "The
range of 95 cents, if it persisted through August, would be the
smallest marketing-year trading range in 11 years and the third
smallest range in 30 years.
"The same pattern is evident in the
November 2003 futures contract. The trading range for that contract
to date is 90 cents. Since 1972, the life-of-contract trading range
was 91 cents on two occasions, 1972 and 1986. After that, the
smallest range was $1.17 for the 1995 contract. With inventory at a
very low level and indications that U.S. producers will reduce
soybean acreage in 2003, a continuation of volatile price behavior
should be expected. In the short run, a new marketing-year high
might be expected. New lows before the end of the summer would
likely require a steep drop in exports and a very favorable growing
Corn prices were generally higher in
the week following the "friendly" USDA reports on March 31. The
average spot cash price of corn in central Illinois moved from $2.26
on March 28 to $2.40 on April 7. May 2003 futures moved from a close
of $2.2775 on March 28 to a high of $2.4525 on April 8. The price
strength was relatively short-lived, however, as a slow rate of
exports and prospects for ample year-ending stocks pushed prices
lower last week.
On April 10, the USDA released its
monthly projections of supply and use. For corn, the projection of
domestic use was increased by 70 million bushels, but the projection
of marketing year exports was reduced by 75 million bushels. Exports
are now projected at 1.675 billion bushels, 325 million less than
the early-season projection.
"At the projected level, exports would
be at the lowest level in five years," said Good.
The recent corn price activity left
prices within the trading range established since September 2002.
The marketing-year range for the spot cash price of corn in central
Illinois has been 56½ cents.
is relatively small, but the range over the past 29 years has been
60 cents or less in eight other years," said Good.
of Illinois news release]
Consider electrical hazards
during spring planting season
URBANA -- Many farm
workers are killed each year when their farm equipment makes contact
with overhead power lines. These tragic accidents are preventable.
Before heading back into the fields, Safe Electricity urges farm
workers to review farm activities and work practices that take place
around power lines.
"Make sure everyone who works
on the farm knows the location of power lines and keeps farm
equipment at least 10 feet away from them," said Molly Hall,
director of Safe Electricity, a statewide electrical safety public
"Keep in mind, the minimum
10-foot distance is a 360-degree rule below, to the side and above
lines. It may take a little more time, but ensuring proper clearance
can save lives."
"Many farm electrical accidents
that involve power line contact happen when loading or preparing to
transport equipment to fields or while performing maintenance or
repairs on farm machinery near power lines," said Bob Aherin,
University of Illinois agricultural safety specialist. "It can be
difficult to estimate distance, and sometimes a power line is closer
than it looks. A spotter or someone with a broader view can help."
Today's larger farms require
transporting tractors and equipment to fields several miles away.
Before transit, avoid raising the arms of planters, cultivators or
truck beds near power lines.
Be aware of increased height
when loading and transporting larger modern tractors. Also, many
tractors are now equipped with radios and communications systems and
have antennas extending from the cab to 15 feet above the ground
that could make contact with power lines.
Some other equipment safety
* Always lower portable augers
or elevators to their lowest possible level -- under 14 feet --
before moving or transporting; use care when raising them.
* When moving large equipment
or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter or someone to
help make certain that contact is not made with a line.
* Never attempt to raise or
move a power line to clear a path.
As in any outdoor work, be
careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods
into power lines. Remember, nonmetallic materials such as
lumber, tree limbs, tires, ropes and hay will conduct electricity
depending on dampness and dust and dirt contamination. Do not
try to clear storm-damage debris and limbs near or touching power
lines or near fallen lines.
The overhead electric wires
aren't the only electrical contact that can result in a serious
incident. Pole guy wires are grounded to the neutral; but,
when one of the guy wires is broken, it can cause an electric
current disruption. This can make those neutral wires anything but
harmless. If you hit a guy wire and break it, call the utility to
fix it. Don't do it yourself. When dealing with electrical poles and
wires, always call the electric utility.
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"It's also important for
operators of farm equipment or vehicles to know what to do if the
vehicle comes in contact with a power line," Hall said. "It's almost
always best to stay in the cab and call for help. Warn others who
may be nearby to stay away, and wait until the electric utility
arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off."
"If the power line is energized
and you step outside, your body becomes the path and electrocution
is the result," Aherin said. "Even if a power line has landed on the
ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be
energized. Stay inside the vehicle unless there's fire or imminent
risk of fire."
In that case, the proper action
is to jump, not step, with both feet hitting the ground at the same
time. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and
the ground at the same time. Continue to shuffle or hop to safety,
keeping both feet together as you leave the area.
Once you get away from the
equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment.
Many electrocutions occur when the operator dismounts and, realizing
nothing has happened, tries to get back on the equipment.
Farmers may want to consider
moving or burying power lines around buildings or busy pathways
where many farm activities take place. If planning a new outbuilding
or farm structure, contact your power supplier for information on
minimum safe clearances from overhead and underground power lines.
For more information on farm
and home electrical safety, visit
Spanish versions of farm electric safety information are also
available on this website.
Safe Electricity program was created by a coalition of nearly three
dozen organizations, including the University of Illinois, rural
electric cooperatives and investor-owned electric utilities from
throughout the state. All are members of the Illinois Electric
Council, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting
electric safety and efficiency.
of Illinois news release]