FeaturesHonors & AwardsAg Announcements

Calendar Ag News Elsewhere  (fresh daily from the Web)


Logan County sets bean yield record

[FEB. 18, 2003]  It's official once again with the release of county yields for corn and soybeans by the Illinois/US Crop Reporting Service. Logan County had a county average soybean yield of 52 bushels per acre, besting the previous high by a bushel and a half per acre (set in 1994). In a year highlighted by spotty moisture and high heat levels, the Logan County average corn yield was 154 bushels per acre. The record corn yield, set in 1994, still stands at 181.

The top yielding county in the state for both corn and soybean averages was Carroll County, with an average corn yield of 179 bushels per acre and an average soybean yield of 57 bushels per acre. Other counties with high corn yields were Rock Island with 176, Mercer and Warren with 175, Knox with 170, and Henry with 169. Other counties with high soybean yields were Champaign and McLean with 54; Henry, JoDaviess, Rock Island, and Woodford with 53; and Logan, DeWitt, Iroquois, Piatt, Stark, Tazewell and Warren with 52.

The top producing counties, in terms of bushels, were McLean County for soybeans with 16,259,400 bushels of soybeans and Iroquois County with 49,027,400 bushels of corn. Logan County production was 8,320,000 bushels of soybeans and 28,043,400 bushels of corn.

The Logan County five-year average yields are 155 for corn and 49 bushels for soybeans. These figures are averages from 1998 to 2002.


[to top of second column in this article]

Following is a table of yields in 2002 from Logan and surrounding counties:

County 2002 corn yield (bu/A) 2002 soybean yield (bu/A)
Logan 154 52
Sangamon 153 51
Menard 155 48
Mason 140 47
Tazewell 151 52
McLean 145 54
DeWitt 134 52
Macon 134 49
Christian 140 49
State average 136 43

This has been another in a series of unusual years. Late rains really helped soybean yields, while corn was already shutting down when the rains came in August. The most deciding factors in corn yields were the lack of rainfall during July and the very high temperatures experienced from July through early August.

[John Fulton]

Weekly outlook on prices

[FEB. 18, 2003]  URBANA -- Both corn and soybean prices appear to be at an important juncture, having recovered from January losses but remaining below early January highs, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"Seasonally, we are approaching the time frame when prospects for the 2003 U.S. crop may determine the fate of prices -- a point made in recent weeks and one that is underscored by prospects of small stocks and some early concerns about soil moisture conditions," said Darrel Good. "Everything seems to be pointing to more volatile prices over the next few months."

Good noted that trading ranges to date have been relatively narrow. December 2003 corn futures have had a trading range of only 34 cents. The smallest range in the previous 32 years was 54 cents in 1987. Similarly, November 2003 soybean futures have had a trading range of 90 cents. In the previous 30 years, the trading range was less than $1.15 only once -- 91 cents for the 1986 contract.

"Since Sept. 1, 2002, the trading ranges for the average cash price of corn and soybeans in central Illinois have been $0.575 and $0.885, respectively," said Good. "In the previous 30 years, the trading range for cash corn prices during the 12-month marketing year was $0.575 or less only three times. The trading range for cash soybean prices was less than $1 only twice."

It appears, Good said, that the trading ranges for spot cash prices in the current marketing year, and for new crop futures in particular, will be expanded.

"The more difficult question is, in which direction?" he said. "Given that December 2003 corn futures have traded to a high of only $2.69 and November 2003 futures have traded to a high of only $5.43, it appears likely that the trading range of those contracts will be expanded to the upside.

"It is a tougher call for old crop prices, but new highs in the cash soybean market have a high probability. It will be difficult for cash corn prices to exceed the early September 2002 highs."

Good's comments came as he reviewed recent actions in the corn and soybean markets. Prices for both commodities have recovered most of the declines experienced in mid-January.

The average cash price of corn in central Illinois declined from $2.39 on Jan. 8 to $2.22 on Jan. 14, recovered to $2.375 on Feb. 12 and was at $2.36 on Feb. 14. March 2003 futures settled at $2.4525 on Jan. 8, $2.305 on Jan. 13 and $2.4025 on Feb. 14. Similarly, the average cash price of soybeans in central Illinois declined from $5.755 on Jan. 8 to $5.41 on Jan. 16 but recovered to $5.665 on Feb. 14. March 2003 futures settled at $5.82 on Jan. 8, $5.49 on Jan. 16 and $5.73 on Feb. 14.

"All of the recent recovery in soybean prices has been the result of higher soybean meal prices," said Good. "Oil prices continue to be pressured by last week's increase in the USDA's projection of year-ending stocks. New crop futures have been strong as well. December 2003 corn futures have traded to the highest level since last October, and November 2003 soybean futures have traded to the highest level since last September."


[to top of second column in this article]

Corn prices, Good noted, have recovered even in the face of a fairly dismal pace of exports and export sales. As of Feb. 6, the USDA reported that the total of shipments and outstanding export sales was 14 percent smaller than the total of a year ago.

"For the current marketing year, the USDA expects exports to be only 3 percent smaller than shipments during the 2001-02 marketing year," he said. "The market continues to be hopeful that Chinese competition will diminish during the last half of the 2002-03 marketing year.

"Corn prices are receiving support from a rapid pace of domestic use of corn for ethanol production. Last week, the USDA raised the projection of corn use for fuel production during the current year by 20 million bushels, to a total of 920 million. That compares to use of 714 million bushels during the 2001-02 marketing year."

Soybean prices have responded to the continuation of the rapid pace of exports to China. The USDA now projects soybean exports to all destinations during the current marketing year at 940 million bushels, compared with 1.063 billion last year.

"However, due to the discrepancy between USDA and Census Bureau estimates of soybean exports so far this year -- the Census Bureau estimates are well below those of USDA -- the USDA also increased the forecast of residual use of soybeans by 15 million bushels," said Good. "In effect, the USDA is projecting exports at 955 million bushels, 10 percent less than exports of a year ago. As of Feb. 6, cumulative shipments were only 4 percent less than shipments of a year ago, and total commitments -- shipments plus outstanding sales -- were almost equal to the commitments of a year ago."

With year-ending stocks of soybeans projected at only 165 million bushels, the normal seasonal pace of exports cannot be sustained.

"It may be that the availability of South American soybeans will slow the pace of U.S. exports sufficiently so that U.S. stocks are not threatened," said Good. "The USDA now projects the current South American harvest at 3.24 billion bushels, 70 million larger than the January projection and 426 million bushels larger than last year's crop. Sixty-five percent of the increase is expected to occur in Brazil.

"For the 2002-03 marketing year, the USDA expects South America to account for 53 percent of world soybean exports, up from 42 percent last year. If the pace of U.S. exports and export sales do not slow soon, higher prices may be required to force a reduction in use, either export or domestic."

[University of Illinois news release]

FFA celebrates 75 years

National FFA Week activities planned

[FEB. 15, 2003]  This year, FFA is celebrating 75 years of making a positive difference in students' lives. During National FFA Week, Feb. 15-22, students will participate in various activities to promote agriculture.

Section 14 FFA is celebrating National FFA Week by hosting an Ag Olympics on Feb. 19 for the section's 12 chapters. FFA members will compete in various activities and enjoy an ice cream social following the competition.

Section 14 officers are Bruce Frank of Athens, president; Amanda Davidson of Lincoln, vice president; Natalie Coers of Emden, reporter; Emily Bakken of Lincoln, secretary; KC Fritzsche of Athens, treasurer; and Jeff Evers of A-C Central, sentinel.

 Local chapters are also planning events so that their chapter members and schools can be involved in celebrating FFA.

From 33 farm boys in 1928 to today's membership of nearly half a million students nationwide, the FFA's national organization has changed significantly in 75 years. Yet the main mission of FFA, student success, has never been stronger. By delivering an integrated model of education through classroom learning, real-world work experience and activities designed to promote personal growth, FFA and agriculture education help students discover and plan their own unique route to future success.

For 75 years, thousands of students have benefited from the unique opportunities created through membership in FFA. During the week of Feb. 15-22, today's members will work to motivate new students to realize their dreams by joining FFA.

FFA strives to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture education. For more information, visit www.ffa.org or www.illinoisffa.org.

[FFA press release]

Weekly outlook on corn prices

[FEB. 11, 2003]  URBANA -- The biggest issue involving corn prices in 2003 is the nature of the growing season, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"Extremely dry soil conditions in some producing areas have the market's attention," said Darrel Good. "Timely spring and summer precipitation will be required to quiet the drought concerns. With prospects for small year-ending stocks, another year of sub-par yields would require some rationing of the 2003 crop.

"For now, it appears that March futures may test the early January high near $2.45 and perhaps the late November highs near $2.50. While it is a little early to be too concerned about the 2003 growing season, a continuation of dry weather into March could propel December 2003 futures back to last September's high, near $2.60."

Good's comments came as he reviewed recent corn prices. The average cash price of corn in central Illinois hit a marketing year (post-harvest) low of $2.22 on Jan. 14. Price weakness was associated with the USDA reports showing a very slow rate of feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the 2002-03 marketing year. The average spot cash price increased to $2.335 on Feb. 7. The average central Illinois basis has strengthened since mid-January but is still a little weaker than during early January. December 2003 futures have also moved slightly higher, returning to the highs of early January.

"The gradual recovery in corn prices has been associated with a continuation of the high rate of domestic processing use of corn, hopes for a higher rate of exports and early concerns about dry weather impacting the 2003 crop," said Good. "Domestic processing use of corn for ethanol production continues at a record pace, and processing capacity is scheduled to expand. Many believe that the USDA will increase the forecast of use for the current marketing year."

Good noted that hopes for an improved export pace are primarily based on indications that Chinese sales will slow during the second half of the 2002-03 marketing year, resulting in increased demand for U.S. corn.

Through the first 22 weeks of the marketing year, U.S. corn exports have been disappointing, although there are some differences among the various sources of export estimates. The USDA's "Export Inspection" report shows cumulative inspections of 631 million bushels as of Jan. 30, compared with 703 million on the same date last year (down 10 percent). The USDA's "Export Sales" report showed cumulative exports on the same date at 667 million bushels, compared with 694 million on the same date last year (down 4 percent).



[to top of second column in this article]

"The Census Bureau estimate of exports from September 2002 through November 2002 showed shipments of 400 million bushels, down 11 percent from the same period last year but 32 million larger than indicated by the USDA's ‘Export Inspection' report and 20 million above that indicated by the USDA's ‘Export Sales' report," said Good.

Unshipped export sales as of Jan. 30, which provide some perspective on potential future shipments, were reported at 207 million bushels, compared with 313 million on the same date last year. Compared with the export program of a year ago, sales and shipments of U.S. corn are down sharply for Taiwan, South Korea and Egypt. Large increases have been registered for Canada and Mexico. For Canada, larger purchases of U.S. corn have been the result of drought-reduced production. For Mexico, the increased purchases of U.S. corn have been mostly offset by smaller purchases of grain sorghum.

"The rate of U.S. corn exports will have to increase substantially between now and the end of August to reach the 1.85 billion bushels projected by the USDA," said Good. "Using the figures from the ‘Export Sales' report, shipments will have to increase from an average of 30.7 million bushels per week during the final 22 weeks of the year to 38.9 bushels during the remaining 30 weeks.

"That is about the same magnitude of increase experienced last year. It would be encouraging to see the weekly export sales numbers increase."

In the larger picture, Good added, the prospective size of the 2003 U.S. corn crop will be the most important price factor over the next several months. Most analysts appear to expect an increase in U.S. corn acreage in 2003.

"One private source has projected a 2.7-million-acre expansion, on top of the 3.3-million-acre increase in 2002," said Good. "The projected increase would put U.S. corn acreage at 81.7 million, the most since 1982 and 1.6 million above the largest acreage since acreage reduction programs were eliminated in 1996.

"The 2.5-million-acre increase in winter wheat seedings, high prices for spring wheat and higher cotton prices suggest that the increase in corn acreage could be more modest. However, even with no increase in area planted to corn, area harvested for grain in 2003 would be about 2.7 million acres larger than harvested in 2002 if a favorable growing season is experienced. It seems likely, then, that harvested acreage of corn for grain could be up by 3.5 to 4.0 million in 2003. The USDA will release a ‘Prospective Plantings' report on March 31."

[University of Illinois news release]

Local horticulture workshops

[FEB. 10, 2003]  Logan County will be hosting two workshops on horticulture topics. Both will feature David Robson, an Extension educator in horticulture.

The first workshop, "Color in the Garden," is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 26 at the local Extension office. Reservations are needed by Feb. 21, and you may call 732-8289 to make your reservation. There is no cost for the program.

The second workshop is "Environmentally Friendly Gardening," which is scheduled for March 10 at the Extension office. The workshop will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Reservations are needed by March 6 and may be made by calling the office.

Pesticide applicator clinic

The last Logan County clinic for private pesticide applicators is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Extension office. The clinic will begin at 8:30 a.m. with the training session. The Illinois Department of Agriculture will give the exam at the conclusion of the training session.


[to top of second column in this article]

Certification is needed for individuals purchasing and applying restricted-use pesticides on ground that they own or operate. Most of the rootworm insecticides and other pyrethroid insecticides are restricted use, as are all atrazine herbicides.

Study guides are available at the office for $5 each. The guides are an excellent way to do some studying at home prior to attending the training session.

Preregistration is required for the clinic, as enrollment is limited. Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. For producers who miss this session, attendance at another county or testing in Springfield will be required.

[John Fulton]

Central Illinois agriculture update

[FEB. 6, 2003]  Newsletter prepared by Stu Ellis of the University of Illinois Extension in Macon County:

As the Southern Hemisphere crop takes shape, marketing specialist Darrel Good says the market will shift its focus to the stocks of U.S. crops, which are expected to be adequate, but small, going into the 2003 harvest season. The relatively small inventories mean that the size of the 2003 crops will have very important price implications. He says the dominant market factors will revolve around soil moisture and crop acreage.

The National Weather Service notes extensive dryness in many crop areas, including the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region. Darrel Good says a weakening El Nino means a dry February and a wetter-than-normal March and April. But Darrel says spring and summer moisture will have a greater impact on crops than will current moisture levels.

Regarding acreage, the USDA will report intentions on March 31, based on a March 1 survey. Darrel Good says a number of factors will influence cropland acreage and the mix of that acreage by crop in 2003. These include the extent of weather damage to winter wheat, relative prices of spring-planted crops and spring weather conditions.

Until planting time, July corn futures have found support at $2.35. Darrel says the early January high just above $2.50 may be difficult to penetrate prior to spring. Volatility is likely from March forward, as spring and summer weather conditions unfold. The soybean market remains inverted, with March futures supported at $5.44 and July supported near $5.35, because of the high rate of export sales. March beans have a strong $5.85 ceiling.

If corn prices seem a bit low, (ending ratio of stocks to usage is 10 percent) Kansas State marketing specialist Bill Tierney says they are well below the average for the last 27 years. He contends market factors over the last seven to eight years have had a depressing effect on corn prices. But he says the steepness of the "price response" curve implies that any significant improvement in fundamentals could trigger a dramatic and large upward "correction" in prices.

To market corn, Tierney recommends an options strategy of the simultaneous purchase of a put option and the sale of an out-of the-money call option. A $2.40 December put cost 18 cents per bushel, while a $2.70 call cost 9 cents per bushel. For the net cost of 9 cents (plus commission) a producer could put a floor under the price of corn while leaving open the potential to capture an additional 30 cents per bushel if the market rallies to $2.70. Tierney warns you about a possible margin call and using crop revenue coverage insurance; see www.agecon.ksu.edu/risk/current.pdf.
[Click here to download the Adobe Acrobat reader.]


[to top of second column in this article]

To increase your revenue, consider custom fieldwork for landowners or other farmers without a full line of production equipment. The primary issue is what fee should be charged. The Farmdoc website provides comprehensive machinery operation costs; see http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/
. Don't forget to add on 15 percent to 20 percent for your return to labor and management, otherwise known as "profit."

How does your operation compare with other similar operations? Don't just compare your crops to your neighbor's crops, but compare your farm business to other similar farms throughout the state. You can do that with a new tool on the Farmdoc website; go to http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/
. (Use with Internet Explorer).

The Farmdoc benchmarks available so far are farm type (grain, swine, beef, dairy), debt-to-asset level, tillable acres, total assets, net worth, value of farm production, tenure level, farmer age, level of return on farm assets, net farm income and (for hog farms) the value of the farm. These comparison classifications are available for the past 10 years.

Will a threat to the food supply originate on your farm? The Illinois Terrorism Task Force has identified seven ways that might happen: human threats, biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological, explosive, incendiary, and cyber. And the group says it can respond to an alert within an hour. But the question is: "Who and what will sound the alarm?"

A potential food terrorism alert may be sounded in two ways. If somebody tries to introduce soybean rust into the soybean production system, one of the first protectors might be the producer who sees something happening in the fields, or it could be through satellite remote sensing picking up something odd going on in a field. The task force is just now in the discussion stage of a network that would collect and distribute data.

If you have a concentrated animal feedlot, you'll want to attend Extension's March 11 conference in Bloomington. Topics include good neighbor policies, water runoff, federal assistance funds, manure management and specie breakout sessions. Call (800) 345-6087 to preregister ($35) or send e-mail to Dr. Ted Funk at funkt@uiuc.edu for info.

Details are still uncertain, but Congress is moving toward a disaster assistance bill for agriculture, which would provide a payment equal to 42.25 percent of 2002 direct payments if a disaster threshold is met. Those levels are still up for debate by the conference committee. The Senate reconsidered a plan that would give money to all farmers, a veritable public relations nightmare.

[Stu Ellis, University of Illinois Extension,
Macon County]

Honors & Awards

Ag Announcements

Agriculture scholarships available

[JAN. 27, 2003]  The Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce will award two scholarships to high school seniors or college students from Logan County who are studying or will study agriculture for future careers in ag-related businesses.

Scholarship winners will be chosen based on their commitment to agriculture as a future career, academic performance, involvement in extracurricular activities, financial need and work experience. The committee is particularly interested in candidates who will return to the Logan County area to pursue their careers.

Applications are available from the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce --  (217) 735-2385; 303 S. Kickapoo St., Lincoln, IL 62656 -- or at any high school in Logan County.

Completed applications are due to the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber office in Lincoln by Friday, Feb. 28. Applications will be reviewed soon afterward, and winners will be notified of their award. Winners will be recognized at the Logan County Ag Day breakfast on Wednesday, March 19.

[News release]



Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Calendar

Letters to the Editor