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First chamber-ag day a success

[SEPT. 17, 2002]  The first "Chamber Mixer on the Farm" won’t be the last, according to Bobbi Abbott, director of the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce. "It’s been such a success that we hope to do it every year," she said.

About 75 people gathered Sunday afternoon at the Jeff Elsas farm north of town to meet their neighbors and learn how valuable farming is to the financial health of Logan County. For example, commodities from the 729 farms in the county bring in about $112 million in cash receipts each year.


[Photos by Joan Crabb]

Visitors also learned why Logan County soils are so productive. Bill Dickerson, district conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, explained this as he stood in an 8-foot-deep pit dug by a backhoe for the occasion.


The chance to see a slice of good Logan County soil brought visitors to the edge of the pit. Dickerson described the soil on Elsas’ farm as "the perfect balance for crop production, as good a soil as you would find anywhere."

Sixteen inches of black topsoil sits on top of a 4-foot layer of moderately well- to well-drained silty clay loam that is "forgiving" enough to release water to plants and to allow root systems to go deep, he explained. Below the clay loam is a layer of sand.

The black organic matter came from prairie grasses, which produced much more organic matter than woodlands.

Called Tama silt loan, this soil was deposited by wind after the last glacier, the Wisconsin, receded about 15,000 years ago, according to scientists.


Mixer visitors also heard a presentation by David Ramsey of the Land of Lincoln Agriculture Coalition about the possibility of building a farmer-owned ethanol plant in Elkhart.

Ramsey said if it becomes possible to use the waste coal from the Turris mine, the proposed plant could be one of the lowest-cost producers in the area. Turris is working on ways to clean up high-sulfur Illinois coal so it can meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Ramsey said the proposed plant would use only the starch and sugar in corn to make the ethanol, so the portion of the grain left would contain protein and be suitable for animal feed.

Of every 10 gallons of gasoline American drivers use, five gallons come from imported oil, four come from domestic oil, which is environmentally costly to produce, and one gallon comes from ethanol. That one gallon of ethanol would be renewable every year, unlike the other nine gallons in the tank, he said.


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As other gasoline additives that reduce vehicle emissions are being phased out, the demand for ethanol will rise from the 2.4 billion gallons now in use to three billion gallons, perhaps as high as 5.5 billion gallons within 10 years.

The proposed Elkhart plant would cost $75 million and require about 1,000 farmer-landowner investors. It would create 41 permanent jobs at the plant along with another 700 jobs for others, such as truckers hauling its products, he said.

The Land of Lincoln Agriculture Coalition is a "think tank" of farmers and agribusiness people that for the past two years has been trying to find ways to add value to agriculture, according to Ramsey.

A highlight of the day for about 15 of the visitors was a ride on Elsas’ eight-row John Deere combine as it took a turn around the field. Some saw for the first time a combine turning rows of standing corn into wagons full of golden kernels.

Elizabeth Murray Collins, almost 8 years old, was impressed with the demonstration.

"I’ve never been on anything that big before," she said.

While demonstrating the combine, Elsas also got most of a 30-acre stand of corn harvested, said his farming partner Steve Haseley. Haseley said Elsas was getting about 180-185 bushels to the acre, with about 20 percent moisture content.


The harvested corn was trucked to the East Lincoln elevator, which Hugh Whalen opened especially to accommodate Elsas and the chamber mixer, Haseley said.

Bill Sahs of Lincoln was coordinator of the event, and Larry Huelskoetter, chairman of the chamber’s ag awareness subcommittee, served as master of ceremonies.

Farm equipment from Atlanta Ag Center and Central Illinois Ag, also of Atlanta, was on the grounds for visitors to see.

Marty Ahrends, co-chairman of the chamber’s ag committee, said the chamber appreciated the cooperation of Elsas and Haseley for the event.

"The ag committee and other producers in Logan County are going to do a value-added agriculture visioning process this winter to identify strengths and weaknesses and look for opportunities to add value to the agricultural operation and to the commodities they produce," she said.

Abbott said she believes it is very important to make connections between business people and ag producers. "I think we have made a good start with this event," she said.

[Joan Crabb]

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Weekly outlook

September reports

[SEPT. 17, 2002]  URBANA — The relatively high level of prices, the lack of carry in the corn and soybean price structure, and the absence of loan deficiency payments all favor harvest sales of corn and soybeans, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"However, the tightness in the balance sheets, the uncertainty about the South American growing season and the need for large crops in the Northern Hemisphere next year suggest that some ownership should be maintained into the winter and spring months," said Darrel Good.

"Speculating on higher prices by storing the crops is relatively expensive. Basis contracts or ownership of futures may be less expensive, but not all producers are willing to use these tools. The Commodity Credit Corporation loan provides cash flow for those who choose to store part of the crop."

Good’s comments came as he reviewed the USDA’s September reports. The report of U.S. and world crop prospects contained no major surprises. At 8.849 billion bushels, the U.S. corn crop projection was 37 million bushels smaller than the August projection, even though the U.S. average yield estimate was increased by 0.2 bushels, to 125.4 bushels. Stocks of U.S. corn at the end of the 2002-03 marketing year are expected to be a meager 729 million bushels, the lowest level in seven years.

Compared to the year just ended, the USDA projects a 225-million-bushel reduction in feed and residual use of corn during the current marketing year, a 115-million-bushel increase in domestic processing use of corn, and a 100-million-bushel increase in U.S. exports.


"Few doubt that processing use of corn will increase, due to expanded ethanol capacity," said Good. "Opinions differ on prospective feeding and exports of U.S. corn. The projected decline in feed use will have to come as the result of fewer animals or a decline in the amount of grain fed per animal since the decline in corn consumption is not expected to be offset by increased feeding of other grains.

"The USDA’s Dec. 1 Grain Stocks report, to be released in early January, will reveal the rate of domestic feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the 2002-03 marketing year. That report will be important in determining if corn prices are generating the necessary adjustments in use."

Good added that the projected increase in U.S. corn exports reflects expectations of a small increase in world consumption and a decline in exports from Argentina. Chinese exports are expected to increase by 59 million bushels (19 percent) due to a 433-million-bushel (10 percent) increase in production. As of Sept. 5, 244 million bushels of U.S. corn had been sold for export during the current marketing year, 17 million less than sales of a year ago.

"The market will continue to monitor weekly sales and export reports, as well as the sales of Chinese corn, for clues as to the accuracy of the USDA projection," said Good.



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At 2.656 billion bushels, the USDA’s September projection of the U.S. soybean crop was 28 million bushels larger than the August projection. A small reduction in the projection of harvested acreage was more than offset by an increase in the expected yield. The U.S. average yield is now projected at 37 bushels per acre, 0.5 bushels above the August projection but 2.6 bushels below the 2001 average yield.

For the current U.S. marketing year, the USDA projects a 215-million-bushel (20 percent) decline in exports and a 25-million-bushel (1.5 percent) decline in the domestic crush.

"The decline in consumption is being required by the smaller crop," said Good. "Year-ending stocks are expected to total only 160 million bushels, the lowest level in six years. Part of the reduction will be accomplished through higher prices, but much of the cut in U.S. exports is expected to be offset by larger South American exports.

"For the year October 2002 through September 2003, the USDA expects South American exports to total 1.25 billion bushels, 367 million bushels more than exported in the previous 12 months. The larger projection reflects the large 2002 South American crop, an expected 8.7 percent increase in production in 2003 and continued expansion in world soybean consumption."

As of Sept. 5, export sales of U.S. soybeans totaled 213 million bushels, 4.5 million larger than sales of a year ago. The market will continue to pay close attention to the rate of U.S. soybean export sales and the development of the South American crop.

Corn and soybean prices moved higher prior to the release of the USDA’s report on Sept. 12. The lack of surprises in the report and the start of the Midwest harvest allowed December corn futures to decline about 20 cents and November soybean futures to decline about 30 cents following the release of the reports.


"In addition to the ongoing reports on the rate of consumption, the market will react to yield reports over the next several weeks," said Good. "Given the expected drawdown in U.S. and world inventories, small changes in expected crop size could have important price implications.

"Those small inventories also mean that prices could be very sensitive to 2003-04 production prospects."

[U of I news release]

Learn more about global food security

[SEPT. 14, 2002]  URBANA — Food safety and security is the theme of a series of free public lectures to be presented at the University of Illinois this fall. William Masters, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, will be the featured speaker from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, in the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center.

Masters has done research on food production, policy and trade in Africa and around the world. The title of his talk will be "Institutions and Technology for Food Security: Peril and Progress."

"America has traditionally viewed food security as a problem of the developing world, but no more," said Steven Pueppke, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I. "One of the many lessons of Sept. 11 is that food security is a global challenge from which no nation is exempt."

Because of this new, heightened awareness about food safety and security, Pueppke said that America’s Land Grant universities, including the U of I’s College of ACES, are vitally interested in the complexity of global food production and movement. "This system," Pueppke said, "affects not only the welfare of millions of people, but also our markets, our international policies and the security of our own food supply."

Masters said that there is abundant food available in most of the world, but Africa and South Asia still suffer from widespread malnutrition.

"For decades, poverty in these regions was linked to social institutions and policy choices," said Masters. "Those policies are now changing, and there is a critical need for appropriate new technologies. Without government-funded research and development, no amount of market reform will give farmers the right kinds of seeds — or new medicines for tropical diseases."


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Masters’ research points to the key role of science-based innovation in the global economy and the large payoffs from investing in public-sector research and development on tropical agriculture and public health. But Masters admits that building political support for this may be particularly difficult now because of the relative abundance of food elsewhere in the world.

ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center is located near the south end of the University of Illinois campus. From Pennsylvania Avenue, turn north to the octagonal library building. Metered parking is available on surrounding streets.

The seminar, part of a series of public lectures on global food security, is sponsored in part by ACES Global Connect, the international arm of the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. The final lecture in the series will feature Werner Kiene, representative of the United Nations World Food Programme to the Bretton Woods Institutions, and will be from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7.

For more information visit http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/global/seminar.

[U of I news release]

Electrical safety during harvest

Watch for overhead power lines, other electrical hazards
during harvest season

[SEPT. 12, 2002]  URBANA — Dozens of farm workers are killed by electrocution each year when their farm machines and equipment make contact with overhead power lines. These tragic accidents are preventable.

With harvest season getting under way, the Safe Electricity program urges farm workers to take note of electrical lines when moving equipment such as portable grain augers, oversized wagons and large combines, and to use a qualified electrician for electrical system repairs.

"The rush to harvest can cause farm workers to skip important safety steps," said Molly Hall, director of Safe Electricity. "Tragic deaths and injuries can be avoided if precautions are taken, like making sure everyone who works on the farm knows the location of power lines and keeps farm equipment at least 10 feet away from them."

"Equipment contacting overhead power lines is the leading cause of farm electrocution accidents in the Midwest," said Bob Aherin, University of Illinois agricultural safety specialist. "Moving portable grain augers poses the greatest risk because those who are [on] the ground moving the equipment would provide a direct path for electricity if there’s a contact with overhead wires."

"Always lower grain augers before moving them, even if it’s only a few feet. Variables like wind, uneven ground, shifting weight or other conditions can combine to create an unexpected result," Aherin said.

Farm workers also are advised not to use metal poles when breaking up bridged grain inside and around bins and to use qualified electricians for work on drying equipment and other farm electrical systems.

"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, call for help and wait until the electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off."


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"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. Jump clear, without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time and continue to shuffle or hop to safety, keeping both feet together, as you leave the area.

"Like the ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source," Aherin said. "Stepping from one voltage level to another allows the body to become a path for that electricity. A large difference in voltage between both feet could kill you.

"Be sure that at no time you or anyone touches the equipment and the ground at the same time. Never should the operator simply step out of the vehicle — the person must jump clear."

Prevention of electricity-related tragedies is the goal of Safe Electricity, a statewide program created by a coalition of nearly three dozen organizations, including Illinois investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and the University of Illinois. All are members of the Illinois Electric Council, a nonprofit industry forum, which launched the safety awareness program last year.

In addition to public service announcements and other outreach efforts, Safe Electricity has an online electrical safety center, www.SafeElectricity.org. The section on agribusiness provides tips and detailed information for farm workers. Residential safety, contractor safety, teacher resources, and youth games and activities can also be found at this site on the Web.

[U of I news release]

FFA officers attend conference

[SEPT. 12, 2002]  The Section 14 officer team attended the District III STAR Conference at John Wood Community College in Perry on Sept. 4. The conference covered many aspects of the FFA, with the goal of giving the officers more information to help promote agricultural education and the FFA.

Working with the Illinois FFA state vice president, Rebecca Yandell, and the state treasurer, Meagan Wells, the Section 14 officers learned about communicating, their true colors, the FFA programs, as well as many applications and other teamwork and leadership skills.

Many goals were set and activities planned at the conference, in hope of helping "Excellence Become Tradition" this year.

[FFA news release]

[Photo provided by FFA]

Section 14 officers are pictured at the District III Star Conference. From left to right are Rebecca Yandell, state VP; Meagan Wells, state treasurer; Bruce Frank, president; Amanda Davison, VP; Natalie Coers, reporter; Emily Bakken, secretary; KC Fritzsche, treasurer; and Jeffrey Evers, sentinel.

Section 14 FFA reporters attend workshop

[SEPT. 12, 2002]  On Sept. 3, FFA reporters from Section 14 attended the Illinois FFA Reporter’s Workshop at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.

At this workshop, presented by the Illinois FFA state reporter, Emilee Bocker, chapter reporters were instructed and motivated to report FFA news promptly and efficiently. The reporters also had an opportunity to exchange ideas with other reporters and ask questions about their duties for the upcoming year.

The FFA strives to live by its motto: "Learning to Do, Doing to Learn; Earning to Live, Living to Serve."

[FFA news release]

Section 14 FFA Members (pictured) from Williamsville, Athens, Greenview, Lincoln and Hartsburg-Emden attended the workshop, presented by Emilee Bocker, the State FFA Reporter.

When is it fall?

[SEPT. 9, 2002]  Fall doesn’t officially start for another week and a half or so, but several of the signs tell us that fall is here. We have had some geese flying south, the woolly bear caterpillars are crossing the road, the cicadas have been singing for six weeks now, and the combines are starting to pick around in some cornfields. Fall is when harvest comes about in my mind.

Now the producers out with the combines are looking for a patch of drier corn to start on, taking out some corn that has blown flat in a windstorm or is at high risk for going flat or losing ears from European corn borer damage.

Let’s face it. Most people wouldn’t want to give away much of their product value in drying costs. Corn is still valued at "mediocre" values, around $2.50 per bushel. Most commercial elevators are charging about 2 cents per bushel per point of moisture. With 30 percent moisture corn needing to be dried to 15 percent moisture for fall sale, this means 30 cents per bushel drying charges.

The kicker is finding the happy medium, when corn is easily harvested (standing up) and ears are not falling off the plants, along with finding a drying cost you can live with. Most producers like to wait to get started until corn is around 20 percent to 24 percent, and by the time they finish, the corn may be down in the 17 percent range. It makes the cost a little more bearable.


Fall traffic will greatly increase on rural roads as harvesting starts and hauling machinery begins to move. Keep your eyes open because large, slow-moving machinery can be a recipe for disaster for the unaware. Farmers need to make sure they use the lights and slow-moving vehicle signs on equipment to help other drivers recognize farm machinery from a distance. Be aware and have a safe fall.


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Farm program computer analysis

There are several farm program computer analysis programs available online. These include programs offered by the Texas A&M site, the Iowa State/University of Illinois site, the Corn Growers Association and the Farm Bureau, among others. That is all well and good if you have some time, a good computer connection and understand the information needed to plug into the formulas. If not, there is an upcoming opportunity for you.

Terry Griffin, Extension educator in farm business management, will be in the Logan County Extension office on Sept. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. with his mobile computer lab. This will allow producers to input information in the University of Illinois program to determine the "best" option to use when signing up for the farm program.

Interested individuals should pick up or request worksheets to complete before the workshop. There will be approximately 10 computers available that day. If you would like to make a reservation, call the office at 732-8289 to book half-hour time blocks for computer usage.

[John Fulton]

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