Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Tree Selection & Care | an interview with Ron Wolford

Christmas Tree Selection & Care | an interview with Ron Wolford
Ron Wolford, Extension Horticulture Specialist - University of Illinois

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a real Christmas tree. The following are a few hints to help you select that perfect tree whether you purchase it from a neighborhood lot or a Christmas tree farm.

  • Decide on where you will place the tree. Will it be seen from all sides or will some of it be up against a wall? Be sure to choose a spot away from heat sources, such as TVs, fireplaces, radiators and air ducts. Place the tree clear of doors.
  • Measure the height and width of the space you have available in the room where the tree will be placed. There is nothing worse than bringing a tree indoors only to find it’s too tall. Take a tape measure with you to measure your chosen tree and bring a cord to tie your tree to the car.
  • Remember that trees sold on retail lots in urban areas may have come from out of state and may have been exposed to drying winds in transit. They may have been cut weeks earlier.Buy trees early before the best trees have been sold and where trees are shaded.Ask the retailer whether his trees are delivered once at the beginning of the season or are they delivered at different times during the selling season.
  • Choose a fresh tree. A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles. Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off the tree.. It is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop off.
  • Remember to choose a tree that fits where it is to be displayed. For example if the tree is displayed in front of a large window, then all four sides should look as good as possible. If the tree is displayed against a wall, then a tree with three good sides would be okay. A tree with two good sides would work well in a corner. The more perfect a tree, the more expensive it is.
  • Make sure the handle or base of the tree is straight and 6–8 inches long so it will fit easily into the stand.
  • Do a little research on different Christmas tree types. Some Christmas tree varieties will hold needles longer than others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to Connect your Site to the Prospective Business | webinar

How to Connect your Site to the Prospective Business | webinar
Nancy Ouedraogo, Extension Community & Economic Development
pronouncer - (way-drawn-oh)

University of Illinois Extension’s Community and Economic Development team will host a free webinar, Site Selection: How to Connect your Site to the Prospective Business, on Thursday, December 8, 2016 from Noon to 1PM, Central Time.

The webinar, a final in Local Government Education’s fall series on economic development in Illinois, will feature Cheryl Welge, who will be presenting a more detailed discussion of the site selection process. In the previous site selection webinar, we covered the state and technical aspects of Location One and site selection in Illinois. During this upcoming webinar, Cheryl will share her expertise on capacity requirements for site selection from the site selector perspective.

As a senior business development executive in Ameren Corporation’s Economic Development Department, Cheryl serves as the business development contact for a twenty-two county region in western, central and southwestern Illinois. In this role, she implements Ameren’s community and business development programs within Ameren-served communities. Cheryl is a first-line representative responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing Ameren’s proactive business development services to create and sustain revenue growth, support public strategy implementation and help foster positive community stewardship on behalf of Ameren subsidiaries.

Cheryl began her utility career with one of Ameren’s legacy companies – Central Illinois Public Service Company – in 1989. After serving in various support positions within both the Industrial Services and the Customer Expansion & Retention Departments, Cheryl assumed the role of marketing coordinator of the CIPS Marketing Programs Department in 1996 and joined the Ameren Economic Development Department in 1998. In 2013 she assumed her current position as senior business development executive.

Cheryl is a graduate of both Lincoln Land Community College and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, having earned a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, with a major in Marketing. In addition, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute in April 1999 and became a Business Retention & Expansion International (BREI) certified BR&E Consultant in 2003. Cheryl is a Past Chairman of the Illinois Economic Development Association (formerly known as the Illinois Development Council) and a past recipient of the Distinguished Economic Developer Award.

There is no cost to attend the webinar; however, pre-registration is required. Register online or contact Ken Larimore at for more information.

2016 Gross Farm Revenue & Income

2016 Gross Farm Revenue & Income
Gary Schnitkey, Extension Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

It looks like this year is going to be better than last year for farmers in central Illinois. Todd Gleason explores how gross income has changed for row croppers in the middle of the prairie state.

2:28 radio
2:37 radio self-contained

Here are the gross revenue numbers, straight up, for highly productive soils in central Illinois.

The gross revenue for corn is $292 per acre. It is tallied from three income sources. The crop is worth $262. There was a $20 farm safety net payment from the ARC-County program and a $10 crop insurance indemnity. The total, again $292, is lower than last year says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :19 …2016 as compared to 2015.

Quote Summary - Even though we are putting in a very high yield, we are using 231 bushels to the acre for the corn average - the same as in 2014, revenues will be down for corn in 2016 as compared to 2015.

Schnitkey calculated the gross revenue figures for the farmdocdaily website.

The soybean figures add up in a similar fashion. The gross revenue is estimated to total $718 per acre. It’s a figure much higher than the 2015 gross.

Schnitkey :30 …will be revenue and income from soybeans.

Quote Summary - We are including very high soybean yields for 2016. Record-breaking yields, in fact, of 73 bushels to the acre. The price is above $9.50, and this may actually turn out to be low as prices continue to climb. Overall, revenue on soybeans will be up from last year and much higher than total costs. So, our bright spot for the 2016 year will be revenue and income from soybeans.

All in all, on the highly productive soils of central Illinois, 2016 will go down as a high-yield low-income year. Another year in which farmers just-get-by says Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :35 …particularly for corn prices in the future.

Quote Summary - Get-by year, but better than it could have been without the high yields. Most farmers will maintain equity, but may see some working capital declines. The declines will be more pronounced on farms working a higher percentage of cash rented land. It is better than 2015, but still not up to sustainable levels for the long-run. We need to see higher returns, particularly for corn prices in the future.

There are a series of graphics detailing 2016 central Illinois row crop farm gross income on the farmdocdaily website. You may look it up at farm doc daily dot Illinois dot e-d-u.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Illinois Farm Economic Summits

The big story in Illinois agriculture in 2016 continued to be the “margin squeeze” faced by crop producers. This squeeze was brought on by low corn, soybean, and wheat prices and costs of production that are only slowly adjusting to the new price realities. At present prices, further cost of production reductions will be required. Producers and landowners face a series of difficult management challenges as they grapple with how to adjust to the changed environment. Should cash rents be lowered? And if so, by how much? How much relief will be seen through lower fertilizer and seed prices? What are the prospects for grain prices to recover from current depressed levels?

University of Illinois Extension and members of the farmdoc team from the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics will be holding a series of five Farm Economics Summit meetings to help producers navigate these difficult times.


Speakers from the farmdoc team at the University of Illinois will explore the farm profitability outlook and management challenges from several perspectives, including the 2017 outlook for prices, farm financial management in tough times, needed changes in farmland leases, updates on the farm program safety net, agricultural credit conditions, and long-term weather and yield trends. The format for the meeting will be fast-paced and allow plenty of time for questions from the audience.

EPA Renewable Fuels Standard Rallies Soybean Oil Prices

EPA Renewable Fuels Standard Rallies Soybean Oil Prices
Source | Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The price of soybeans rallied about 10 percent from mid-October to mid-November. It came, as Todd Gleason reports, despite the record sized crop harvested in the United States.

2:23 radio
2:35 radio self contained

Farmers have been in awe of the soybean market since mid-August. There have been a few reasons for it to rally; a short crop out of South America and a drought constrained supply of palm oil coming from Indonesia for instance. Still, this U.S. soybean crop is big, mighty big in fact. Yet, the price of soybeans has gone higher.

Darrel Good writes about it in this week’s Weekly Outlook. You may read it online at FarmDocDaily.

There are two unusual things about this price rally. Well, one really, but it is driven by the first. The rally has come because the world seems to be short of vegetable oils. Soybean oil is among those. Here’s the important part, soybean oil lead rallies generally do not last. Darrel Good thinks this one might and that it could change the dynamics of the soybean complex. The change is driven by the Renewable Fuels Standard. The RFS did the same thing for the corn market when it began to ramp up ethanol production in the United States more than a decade ago.

The soy complex is made up of three parts; the price of soybeans, the price of soybean meal, and the price of soybean oil. The last two are the products derived from the soybean when it is processed, crushed.

The EPA RFS announcement, made last week, initially resulted in a surge in soybean oil and soybean prices. Increasing soybean oil consumption for mandated advanced biofuels, in this case biodiesel production, this year and beyond may require the domestic soybean crush to be larger than previously thought concludes Darrel Good. He says this could lead to some long-term pricing questions.

Historically, the domestic crush has been driven by soybean meal demand. If it is driven instead by soybean oil demand, this could result in lower soybean meal prices. Soybean meal has a short shelf life. Its price would need to be low enough to for it to be used quickly.

The impact of higher soybean oil prices and lower soybean meal prices on the price of soybeans is difficult to anticipate. However, a “surplus” of soybean meal, says Good, might result in lower soybean meal prices relative to feed grain prices. It could cause the soybean meal to corn price ratio that has ranged from 2.55 to 3.2 in recent years to decline. The historical range is 2.0 to 2.5.

Choosing a Career in Extension | an interview with Alicia Gardner

Choosing a Career in Extension | an interview with Alicia Gardner
Alicia Gardner - Extension Horticulture - University of Illinois

Food Access & Corner Stores | an interview with Amy Funk

Food Access & Corner Stores | an interview with Amy Funk
Amy Funk, Extension Health & Nutrition - University of Illinois

University of Illinois Extension is working to find ways for corner stores in rural and urban areas to provide more fruits and vegetables. It hopes to resolve issues where populations no longer have access to a general grocery store.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Food Safety | an interview with Mary Liz Wright

Thanksgiving Food Safety | an interview with Mary Liz Wright
Mary Liz Wright, Extension Nutrition & Wellness - University of Illinois

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Todd Gleason has some thoughts on food safety with an Extension nutrition and wellness educator.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Could Soybean Stocks Grow to 580 Million

Could Soybean Stocks Grow to 580 Million
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Depending upon how you do the numbers there could be an enormous supply of soybeans in the U.S. by the time the fall of 2018 rolls around. Todd Gleason has one set of calculations.

The large soybean crop in the United States hasn’t…
2:46 radio
2:57 radio self contained

The large soybean crop in the United States hasn’t, yet, pummeled prices in Chicago. However, farmers are a bit worried the hammer blow will be struck. For now, much of the focus is on the potential size of the 2017 South American crops and the implications for demand for U.S. grown soybeans. Increasingly, however focus will shift to 2017 production prospects here in the United States.

The over-riding question is whether surpluses and low prices will persist for another year. Although University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good says it is a bit early to speculate on supply and consumption prospects for the 2017–18 marketing year, he thinks some scenarios can be considered.

Good :34 …stocks would grow by about 100 million bushels.

Quote Summary - For soybeans, there is a general expectation that U.S. producers will increase acreage in the year ahead. An increase of about five million acres, to 88 million harvested acres, seems to be a common expectation right now. The extremely high soybean yields of the past three years raise some questions about a potential increase in the trend yield. However, if the 2017 U.S. average soybean yield is near our calculated linear trend value of 47.5 bushels and acreage is increased as expected, the 2017 crop would total 4.18 billion bushels, 181 million bushels less than the 2016 harvest. If soybean consumption during the 2017–18 marketing year remained at the elevated level of 4.108 billion bushels projected for the current year, stocks would grow by about 100 million bushels.

So, at the end of the 2017–18 marketing year there could be 580 million bushels of soybeans left in the supply category as ending stocks. The upshot writes Good in his Weekly Outlook is that with a trend yield of 47.5 bushels and a constant level of consumption, any increase of more than 2.85 million acres next spring would result in some further growth in year ending stocks.

Good :15 …increase in marketing year ending stocks.

Quote Summary - On the other hand, a five million acre increase in soybean area along with a constant level of consumption means that an average yield of less than 46.3 bushels would result in some increase in marketing year ending stocks.

There are obviously multiple potential acreage, yield, consumption, and ending stocks scenarios for the 2017–18 U.S. soybean marketing year. The most likely scenarios tend to favor a modest to large increase in marketing year ending stocks of soybeans. However, the soybean market is apparently not convinced that stocks will continue to grow next year, with the January 2018 futures price only $0.06 lower than the January 2017 price.

The soybean market, concludes Good, then appears to be reflecting some production risk. He thinks this perceived risk may stem from current drought conditions in the southeastern United States and/or uncertainty about potential impacts if a La NiƱa episode unfolds in South America.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

US Corn Ethanol Market | an interview with Carl Zulauf

US Corn Ethanol Market | an interview with Carl Zulauf
Carl Zulauf, Agricultural Economist - Ohio State University
Source Article

Ethanol was a factor in both the price run-up that began in 2006 and the price run-down that began in 2013. Tepid growth replaced explosive growth. The question for the future is, “What is ethanol’s organic growth rate (growth without government policy stimulus)?” Recent history suggests growth will continue in the corn ethanol market, but it likely will be notably lower than the growth in yields. Thus, upward pressure on corn prices is less likely.

Corn Ethanol in Historical Perspective
US Department of Agriculture data on US corn processed into US ethanol begin with the 1980 crop. It is reported monthly in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. Corn processed into ethanol grew at an average annual rate of 6% between 1985 and 2000, exploded to a 24% annual growth rate between 2000 and 2010, then slowed to 1% per year after 2010 Ethanol Growth vs. Yield Growth. The explosive growth in the first decade of this Century largely coincides with the impact of government policies. These policies first led to the use of ethanol as an oxygenate additive in gasoline, then to the use of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline and by extension oil The latter was accomplished through mandates on market size enacted by Congress in 2005 and 2007.

Figure 1 | Corn for Ethanol

Return to Equity for Processing Corn into Ethanol
Since January 2005, Iowa State University has issued a monthly report on the costs and returns to processing corn into ethanol. The report is based on (1) a model plant created using best available information and (2) current prices for corn, ethanol, natural gas, and distillers dried grain. Among the measures calculated is a return on equity. Figure 2 reports the average of monthly returns to equity by crop year. Even though growth in the ethanol market slowed dramatically after 2010, average return on equity remained positive for the 2011–2015 crop years (13%). As expected, return on equity was higher for the 2005–2010 crop years (30%). For additional discussion of the return to processing corn into ethanol, see Irwin, 2016.

Figure 2 | Iowa State Ethanol Plant Model Returns

Ethanol Growth vs. Yield Growth
A measure of growth in demand (growth in corn processed into ethanol expressed as a percent of corn production) is compared with a measure of growth in supply (growth in US corn yield). To illustrate the calculation of these measures, 3.71 billion bushels of corn was processed into ethanol in the 2008 crop year, 0.66 billion bushels more than processed in the 2007 crop year. US production of corn in 2007 was 13.04 billion bushels. The growth in corn processed into ethanol was +5.1% of 2007 corn production (0.66/13.04). US yield of corn per planted acre was 151 bushels in 2008 vs. 149 bushels in 2007. Rate of growth was +1.3% [(151/149) - 1]. These two measures were calculated for each crop year.

Yield growth strongly exceeded the growth in corn used to produce ethanol relative to corn production before 2000 and after 2010 (see Figure 3). The two measures increased at about the same rate (2%) between 2000 and 2005. Between 2005 and 2010, growth in corn used to produce ethanol relative to production strongly exceeded growth in corn yields. Not only did corn processed into ethanol increase dramatically during the latter period, but the growth in corn yields was also abnormally low. Reinforcing these bullish price factors was China’s rapidly growing demand for soybeans (see Zulauf, 2016).

Figure 3 | Ethanol Growth v Yield Growth

Summary Observations
  • From the perspective of 2016, expansion of the US corn ethanol market was largely squeezed into the 10 years from 2000 to 2010 (83% of the expansion occurred in these years).
  • The squeeze was largely driven by US policy decisions.
  • At the same time that policy was strongly pushing demand, growth in corn yields suddenly slowed, with a likely explanation being a multiple year period of suboptimal growing conditions.
  • However, the increase in demand for corn ethanol spurred by policy would have exceeded the growth in yield even during the high yield growth period of 1980 to 2000.
  • The result was not just an increase in corn price but an explosive increase in corn price.
  • This price increase increasingly looks unsustainable as yield growth returns to a path closer to history and ethanol growth returns to a level more consistent with long term organic growth due to market incentives, not policy factors.
  • If the preceding point holds, agriculture will need to make painful adjustments as it enters a world that will likely look more like 1980–2000 than 2005–2010.
  • Nothing in the historical review suggests that the corn ethanol market would not have developed. The continuing positive return to equity since 2010 suggests the market is sustainable. In particular, ethanol appears to have carved out a role as a competitive source of octane for gasoline, which is translating into a growth in exports of ethanol. For additional discussion of this topic, see Irwin and Good, 2016. But, annual organic growth is slower and unlikely to exceed the growth in yields.
  • This 35 year story does however raise caution about using policy to expand markets.
  • In particular, the design of such policy needs to respect the underlying private market, including attributes such as sustainable non-publically subsidized growth; role of competing demand components, such as livestock in the case of ethanol; and the scope and magnitude for supply growth to be uncertain and how this uncertainty may interact with policy induced demand growth.
  • Interesting, important, but probably unanswerable questions are what would be the current state of the corn ethanol market and by extension corn prices if government policy had not intervened and more narrowly if the 2007 mandate had not been enacted. The answers to these questions may tell us more about the future of corn and other field crop prices than any other set of questions.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Watch the Feed Usage Number for Corn

Watch the Feed Usage Number for Corn
Josh Hubbs, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Last week, when USDA raised the sized of the U.S. corn crop, there was a collective gasp in farm country. Prices are already very low, and an even bigger crop wasn’t expected. Todd Gleason reports all attention now has turned to how this mammoth supply of corn will be used in hopes consumption can chew through the mountain of corn.

U.S. farmers are harvesting their largest…
3:22 radio
3:45 radio self contained

U.S. farmers are harvesting their largest corn crop on record at some 15.2 billion bushels. It’s the western corn belt that really came through this year with big yields. The November USDA Crop Production report shows that even in the last month those yields got bigger. Up 3 bushel to the acre in Nebraska and South Dakota. 4 bushels higher in Minnesota. And a 17 bushel to the acre increase in North Dakota that came about once farmers (the only real source for yields in that state) took a look at the yield monitors in their combines.

The increased yield for the corn crop creates a scenario says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs where the ending stocks to use ratio is 16.4 percent under current consumption projections. That’s a level, he notes, that has not been seen since the 2005/06 marketing year. And while the corn for export and ethanol numbers seem sound, the feed and residual number has Hubbs concerned.

Hubbs :53 …into the marketing year.

Quote Summary - They’ve had the feed and residual use projection at 5.65 billion bushels for the few reports. It’s a big number. It is 10 percent up over last year and, with the increased livestock numbers we’ve seen, it sounds reasonable. However, when you consider the mitagating factors surround feed usage; the unseasonably warm fall; a large corn crush for ethanol which increases the availability of distillers grains; DDG’s that may not be shipped overseas because of China’s recent import restrictions; and you see lots of alternative sources for feed rather than corn. Even though there are strong livestock inventory numbers, the mitigating factors want to make you give feed a good look as we move through the marketing year.

Think of it this way. There are a lot of corn acres and lot ethanol plants west of the Mississippi River - Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota are three of the top five corn producing states in the nation. There are also a lot of wheat acres, and a lot of cattle, and a lot of hogs, and more than a few poultry operations. Those birds and animals eat a lot of feed, but the ranchers and farmers make decisions based on economics. Clearly it has been cheaper to leave cattle on pasture this warmer than average fall, and it may be cheaper to feed wheat and DDG’s rather than corn. We won’t really know the impact until the Grain Stocks report is released January 12 says Todd Hubbs.

Hubbs :31 …of just how strong feed us is.

Quote Summary - The grain stocks report is the only way to back out how much corn for feed is being used. We know how much corn is being crushed for ethanol. There is a pretty good figure on how much of it is being exported. The Grain Stocks let us back figure a calculation for feed usage over the first quarter of the marketing year. So, on January 12th of 2017 the report will come out giving us the December 1 stocks report. This will give us an indication of just how strong feed us is.

So, while a deserved focus has been placed on corn exports, foreign production, and corn used for ethanol, a major portion of each corn crop is fed to livestock. Given the large projected increase for feed and residual usage this marketing year, monitoring those projections will be really important to price discovery.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Farm Bill Listening Sessions Mt. Vernon, Normal, & Sycamore

Farm Bill Listening Sessions Mt. Vernon, Normal, & Sycamore
Jonathan Coppess, Policy Specialist - University of Illinois

It’s pretty clear the debate over farm policy in Washington, D.C. is gearing up. There’s a grassroots effort underway in Illinois to get farmer opinions on the current state of the Farm Bill and how they’d like it change in the future. Todd Gleason has more on how this is happening with a University of Illinois agricultural policy specialist.

Fall Pumpkin Time - an interview with Mahommad Babadoost

Fall Pumpkin Time - an interview with Mahommad Babadoost
Mahommad Babadoost - Extension Fruit & Vegetable Crops - University of Illinois

The 2016 pumpkin crop has been a very good one, especially in comparison to last year’s.

November is National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month
Marilyn Csernus, Nutrition & Wellness Educator - University of Illinois
HUS NIH Website

November is National Diabetes Month. Todd Gleason talks about the disease and its impact with University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator Marilyn Csernus.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Plenty of Pumpkins for Holiday Pies

Plenty of Pumpkins for Holiday Pies
Mohammad Babadoost, Extension Plant Pathologist - University of Illinois (moe-hahm-id bah-buh-doost)

There should be plenty of pumpkin pie filling for the holidays. Todd Gleason has more from the number one pumpkin producing state in the nation.

Unlike last year this season’s pumpkin…
0:46 radio
0:52 radio self contained

Unlike last year this season’s pumpkin crop is a good one says University of Illinois Extension specialist Mohammad Babadoost.

Babadoost :27 …having enough canned pumpkin in the market.

Quote Summary - This year we started the season very favorably with enough moisture for the seed to germinate and establish a good canopy. It was also dry enough for the crop to not be flooded or have major disease problems develop early. This year’s crop is much better compared to last year’s. So, we shouldn’t have any problem with having enough canned pumpkin in the marketplace.

About ninety-percent of the nation’s processing pumpkins are grown and canned in Illinois. It can take as little as two hours from field to shelf-ready.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Crop Insurance Payments

2016 Crop Insurance Payments
Gary Schnitkey, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

This season’s crop insurance setting period for corn and soybeans has ended. Todd Gleason has more on what farmers across the United States might expect from the program.

Harvest prices used to determine crop…
1:32 radio
1:46 radio self contained

Harvest prices used to determine crop insurance payments for corn and soybean policies in the Midwest are based on Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group) futures settlement prices during the month of October. The 2016 harvest price for corn is $3.49 per bushel. This is 10% lower than the $3.86 projected price set in February. The soybean harvest price is $9.75 per bushel. That’s 10% higher than the $8.85 projected price. For the most part it means crop insurance payments to farmers will be relatively low says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :28 …did not fall as much this year.

Quote Summary - If we look at analogous years, 2016 corn yield looks like 2014. That year the corn loss ratio was point-four-four. This means for every dollar of premium paid, there was a $0.44 payment. This year farmers should expect less because the harvest price didn’t fall as much this year from the projected price.

The year most similar to this season for soybeans appears to be last year. The yields were high, and this year the harvest price is above the projected price. Most farmers won’t get a soybean payment. Some may…

Schnitkey :15 …be a low insurance payment year.

Quote Summary - If the farmer purchased 85% coverage crop insurance, then the yield short fall must be 15% or greater. Most won’t have that kind of loss. So, soybean payments will be low. Overall 2016 will be a low insurance payment year.

The exception to this may be found in Indiana and Ohio. Schnitkey thinks the loss ratios in those two states could exceed one.

Crop Insurance Payments - an interview with Gary Schnitkey

Crop Insurance Payments - an interview with Gary Schnitkey
Gary Schnitkey, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Harvest prices used to determine crop insurance payments for corn and soybeans policies in Midwest states are based on settlement prices of Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) during the month of October. October has come to an end, and 2016 harvest prices are known. The 2016 harvest price for corn is $3.49 per bushel, 10% lower than the $3.86 projected price. The soybean harvest price is $9.75 per bushel, 10% higher than the $8.85 projected price.

Todd Gleason talked with University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey about the expected payments.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Assessing the Potential for Higher Corn Prices

Assessing the Potential for Higher Corn Prices
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The odds are against four dollar cash corn this year and next, at least for any extended period of time. Todd Gleason has more on the long term low price trend.

The monthly average price of corn received…
3:26 radio
3:35 radio self contained

The monthly average cash price paid to farmers in the United States for their corn has been less than $4.00 a bushel for 27 consecutive months. It’s likely to stay that way well into 2017, too, says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good unless something changes.

Good :11 …for an extended period of time.

Quote Summary - Some combination of a reduction in corn supplies and increased consumption will be required in order for prices to move above $4.00 per bushel for an extended time.

On the supply side, or how much corn is around, USDA’s next Crop Production report is due November 9th. It will contain a new forecast of the size of the 2016 U.S. corn crop. Previous history of yield forecast changes in November in years when the forecast declined in September and again in October as was the case this year, says Darrel Good, show very mixed results with 5 moving lower, 1 unchanged, and 4 of the ten getting bigger. The trade is leaning toward a smaller corn yield this time around. So, not a lot of supply side help expected from the USDA reports on this fall’s crop. That make the southern hemisphere pivotal says Darrel Good.

Good :20 …area due to reductions in export taxes.

Quote Summary - Brazilian production declined from 3.35 billion bushels in 2015 to 2.64 billion bushels in 2016 due to late season drought. Early season USDA projections are for production in 2017 to rebound to 3.29 billion bushels. In addition, Argentina is expected to expand corn area due to reductions in export taxes.

It is too early in the South American growing season to assess yield potential, but production well below early projections would be required to push corn prices higher says Good in his Weekly Outlook on the Farm Doc Daily website. He also thinks a more likely source of a reduction in corn supply may be reduced corn acreage in the United States next year.

Good : …declining by about 350 million bushels.

Quote Summary - Assuming a three million acre reduction in harvested acreage and consumption during the 2017–18 marketing year near the 14.525 billion bushels projected for this year, the 2017 average yield would need to be below 173 bushels in order for year-ending stocks to be reduced from the 2.32 billion bushels projected for the current year. Under the acreage and consumption assumptions made here, a yield near trend value of 169 bushels would result in year-ending stocks of about 1.99 billion bushels, a decline of about 350 million bushels.

There are lot of supply side ifs in that statement. Maybe then demand for corn could be the key to higher prices. The good news here is that U.S. corn exports are up, but that’s based upon last year’s poor corn crop out of Brazil. It doesn’t appear feed usage will increase either, thinks Good, and while the ethanol grind has be increasing, USDA has already penciled in an extra 100 million bushels of usage.

It appears unlikely thinks Darrel Good that higher corn prices will be generated by a large reduction in the estimated size of the 2016 U.S. crop or stronger than projected demand for that corn. That leaves a smaller than expected South American crop or a much smaller U.S. crop in 2017 as the potential sources of higher prices. If South American production increases as projected, a large decline in U.S. acreage and/or a 2017 yield below trend value may be required to push the average corn price above $4.00 during the 2017–18 marketing year.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Illinois Water Conference | Reducing Nutrient Losses

Illinois Water Conference | Reducing Nutrient Losses
Laura Christianson, Crop Sciences - University of Illinois
Ruth Book, State Conservation Engineer - USDA NRCS
Jason Solberg, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Debbie Fluegel, Trees Forever

Participants in the University of Illinois 2016 Water Quality Conference Reducing Nutrient Losses panel discuss ways in which farmers and landowners can manage water quality.

Fall Weed Control Vital - an interview with Aaron Hager

Fall Weed Control Vital - an interview with Aaron Hager
Aaron Hager, Extension Weed Scientist - University of Illinois

Now is the time to control winter annuals in farm fields. Todd Gleason has more on the options.

learn more here

Using Health Insurance to Protect Your Financial Well Being

Using Health Insurance to Protect Your Financial Well Being
Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator - University of Illinois Extension

Health insurance is one good way to protect yourself against a financial catastrophe. Todd Gleason has more from the University of Illinois.

learn more here

Signing Up for the Affordable Care Act

Signing Up for the Affordable Care Act
Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator - University of Illinois Extension

The health insurance sign up period for the Affordable Care Act starts November 1st. Todd Gleason discusses the program, commonly called Obamacare, and its sign up period with University of Extension Consumer Economics Educator Kathy Sweedler.

learn more here

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Big Crop Strong Exports an interview with Todd Hubbs

Big Crop Strong Exports an interview with Todd Hubbs
Todd Hubbs, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois
FarmDocDaily Source

It is likely the export markets along with South American production prospects will drive only periodic price increases for corn and soybeans says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs in this interview with Todd Gleason.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sell Soybeans for Cash Needs

Sell Soybeans for Cash Needs
Darrel Good, Agricultural Econ

The United States Department of Agriculture has reported the size of this year’s soybean crop and for the second month in a row it has increased the size of what was already a record breaker. Todd Gleason reports that trend is likely to continue.

USDA in its October Crop Production report…
1:51 radio
2:07 radio self contained

USDA, in its October Crop Production report, raised the average national soybean yield by eight-tenths of a bushel. It now stands at 51.4 bushels to the acre and about 4.3 billion bushels strong. It is already a serious record breaker, but not likely big enough, yet, says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Good :25 …what we are looking at right now.

Quote Summary - Well, I think, taking all the evidence together, saying now that we got bigger in September, and we got bigger in October on soybeans, and the crop is already very big…I think would point to another small increase in the yield forecast in November and perhaps in January as well. So, maybe not by a lot, but I certainly wouldn’t expect the number to come down from what we are looking at right now.

However, even in the face of a record crop, the price of soybeans has remained fairly strong. This tells Darrel Good farmers should be a little patient as they contemplate when to sell. It might be worth waiting to see how the South American crop unfolds. Although, the U of I number cruncher does have a few caveats.

Good :25 …still a little more holding on corn.

Quote Summary - If I had to choose to sell one or the other, I would still be a seller of soybeans. This is because of the returns that the current price is offering to those that have above average yields this year. It is still a fairly large gross income. So, I think from a risk management stand point, it would lean you towards selling soybeans and still a little more holding on corn.

For reference USDA has established, this month, the expected mid-point national cash price received for soybeans by farmers from now until next fall at $9.05, with corn at $3.25 and wheat at $3.70.

You may read Darrel Good’s thoughts on the markets each Monday afternoon on the FarmDocDaily website.

Part II - Kids Use of Technology

REPEAT TCP–150819–02 - updated to be ever green
Part II - Kids Use of Technology
Aaron Ebata, Professor of Social Development & Extension Specialist - University of Illinois

Part I - Just in Time Parenting

REPEAT TCP–150819–01 - updated to be ever green
Part I - Just in Time Parenting
Aaron Ebata, Professor of Social Development & Extension Specialist - University of Illinois

Monday, October 10, 2016

Corn Use for Ethanol Production

Corn Use for Ethanol Production
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

This Wednesday USDA will update its corn crop estimates including the size of this year’s harvest and how it will be used. Todd Gleason has more…

Darrel Good, from the University of Illinois, thinks the crop…
1:55 radio
2:05 radio self contained

Darrel Good, from the University of Illinois, thinks the crop will be slightly smaller than last month’s forecast. The question is really how much of this crop will be consumed between now and next fall. Last month the Ag Department projected increased usage in several key areas including a 13.6 percent year-over-year increase for exports, an 8.7 percent uptick in feed and residual use, and even, notes Darrel Good, a 1.3 percent increase in corn used to make ethanol.

Good :49 …110 million bushels to feedstock requirements.

Quote Summary - The use of corn for ethanol production during the current marketing year will be influenced by a number of factors. These include the magnitude of domestic gasoline consumption; the rate of increase in the domestic consumption of higher ethanol blends; the magnitude of fuel ethanol trade; the change in the level of ethanol stocks; the use of other feed stocks, particularly sorghum, to produce ethanol; and the ethanol yield per unit of feedstock. Domestic gasoline consumption will be influenced by the price of crude oil and gasoline prices. If those prices remain near current levels, gasoline consumption would be expected to continue to increase, perhaps as much as two percent. The retail price of higher ethanol blends, particularly E85, appears to have become much more competitive with E10 in recent months. If prices remain competitive, some modest increase in consumption of those higher blends would be expected, but will not likely add substantially to total domestic ethanol consumption this year. Another small increase in ethanol production efficiency would moderate any increase in feed stock consumption this year. An increase of 300 million gallons in domestic ethanol consumption would add about 110 million bushels to feedstock requirements.

That’s not a 110 increase in corn usage, but a good portion might come from there. With a smaller sorghum crop in 2016 and higher sorghum prices relative to corn prices, use of sorghum for ethanol production might continue the decline seen in August. A decline of 25 to 50 million bushels for the year seems likely. Taken together, Darrel Good says, these factors point to use of about 5.345 billion bushels of corn for ethanol production during the current marketing year, 70 million larger than the current USDA projection.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Harrington Seed Destructor Testing

Harrington Seed Destructor Testing
Adam Davis, USDA Agricultural Research Service - University of Illinois

The Harrington Seed Destructor is being tested by the University of Illinois for field level efficacy to control herbicide resistant weeds.

Green Infrastructure & Neighborhoods an interview with Bill Sullivan

Green Infrastructure & Neighborhoods an interview with Bill Sullivan
Bill Sullivan, Landscape Architect - University of Illinois

There is good evidence that suggests small amounts of nature mixed into neighborhoods can make them friendlier places to live.

Green Infrastructure & Stress an interview with Bill Sullivan

Green Infrastructure & Stress an interview with Bill Sullivan
Bill Sullivan, Landscape Architect - University of Illinois

If you are looking for an easy way to release some of the stress in your life, you might think about taking a walk in a park or just buying some house plants.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grain Farm Working Capital Nearly Exhausted

Grain Farm Working Capital Nearly Exhausted
Gary Schnitkey, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Four consecutive years of lower commodity prices has nearly exhausted the financial resources of U.S. grain farmers. Todd Gleason looks into the problem with an agricultural economist from the University of Illinois.

Working capital is used by farmers…
1:49 radio
1:59 radio self contained

Working capital is used by farmers to buffer their low income years. They do this by building up their bank accounts, grain inventories and other assets during years of plenty. A review of the farms in the Illinois FBFM recording keeping service shows farmers did that from 2006 to 2012 says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :25 …working capital anymore.

Quote Summary - So, that was the era of high commodity prices and high incomes. Farmers increased working capital, then, and now we are in the process of reducing again. By the end of 2016, it will be at about the same levels it was from pre–2006. These are tight levels without large buffers of working capital.

There comes a point, says Schnitkey, as working capital declines at which it can no longer be used to meet shortfalls. This is the point when farmers will begin to refinance debt.

Schnitkey :33 …of financing those cash shortfalls.

Quote Summary - For example, farmers are now reducing grain inventories and increasing operating notes. Eventually those notes will need to be refinanced. This is when the lender will step in and require collateral on the note, and then term it out. So, that is the process. The working capital is gone, and now we must look at other means to finance cash shortfalls.

Things aren’t dire yet on the farm, however, borrowing to cover cash shortfalls must be stemmed. This will require some fortitude on the part of the farm family. Their annual living expenses will need come down along with the rest of the farm expenses; input costs, cash rents, and the like.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Too Early to Sell the 2017 Soybean Crop

Too Early to Sell the 2017 Soybean Crop
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

There’s a nagging question farmers are wondering about as they harvest what is quite likely to be their best soybean crop ever. Is it so good, so plentiful, that it might be time to consider selling some of next year’s crop. Todd Gleason has more…

Let’s start with some plain facts…
3:23 radio
3:39 radio self contained

Let’s start with some plain facts. The price of soybeans from April through August was higher, on average, than it was in the prior seven months. This says Darrel Good is because the trade expected there to be a whole lot of soybeans leftover from last years harvest by the time right now arrived. Something like 450 million bushels. That didn’t happen. The South American crop failed and U.S. exports jumped by 250 million bushels. Like most of the previous years, all but one since 2008, this left fewer than 200 bushels in the bin from the previous season’s soybean crop. Here’s how Good, a University of Illinois Agricultural Economist, says that should all play out in the coming months.

Good :23 …during the 2016–17 marketing year

Quote Summary - With consumption during the 2016–17 marketing already projected to be record large, an increase in the average yield forecast (without an unexpected decline in the estimate of harvested acreage) would likely result in an increase in the current projection of year-ending stocks of 365 million bushels. Two additional factors point to the potential for additional weakness in soybean prices during the 2016–17 marketing year

First, and you can read this on the Farm Doc Daily website, USDA expects a modest increase in soybean acreage for harvest in South America next year. While an increase of only 1.5 percent is currently projected (mostly in Brazil), normal yield levels result in a projected 3.5 percent (220 million bushels) year-over-year increase in soybeans from the southern hemisphere. If that large crop materializes, the pace of U.S. exports would be expected to experience the normal sharp seasonal decline beginning in the spring of 2017. A second factor that could contribute to lower soybean prices, says Darrel Good, is an increase in soybean acreage in the U.S. next year.

Good :49 …expectations for the average yield in 2017.

Quote Summary - While it is too early to form solid expectations about U.S. acreage, low prices of other commodities relative to soybeans would be expected to result in some switch away from those crops to soybeans. In particular, the large increase in corn acreage in 2016, prospects for relatively large year-ending corn inventories, and the relatively high cost of producing corn would be expected to result in fewer corn acres in 2017. Futures prices for the 2017 corn and wheat crops are higher than prices for the 2016 crop, but those prices are still low relative to prices for the 2017 soybean crop. The USDA’s Winter Wheat Seedings report released in the second week of January 2017 will provide the first indication of acreage response to current price levels. The size of the 2017 soybean crop will still largely hinge on the average yield. It will be interesting to observe if three consecutive years of above trend U.S. average soybean yields will alter early expectations for the average yield in 2017.

Here’s what Darrel Good thinks this all means at the moment. With so much production uncertainty over the next 10 months, a strong pace of Chinese buying, and the recent history of smaller than expected year-ending stocks, it is not completely surprising that the market is not yet reflecting the potential for a growing surplus of soybeans during the 2017–18 marketing year. The question for producers, he says, is whether or not current prices offer a pricing opportunity for a portion of the 2017 crop. The answer is more likely to be yes for those who intend to increase soybean acreage in response to the current corn, wheat, and soybean price relationships.

Gardening | Why Not to Cut Your Perennials this Fall

Gardening | Why Not to Cut Your Perennials this Fall
Kim Ellson, University of Illinois Extension Educator - Cook County, Illinois

Most gardeners will associate the cutting and removal of perennials and raking of leaves as typical autumn chores. Naturally we want to ensure we are left with a garden that looks tidy and presentable, and we can rest assured that come springtime we will not have to tackle these chores in addition to controlling spring weeds. However removing all this plant material can be fatal for next year’s butterfly population.

Building Your Compost Pile

Building Your Compost Pile
Duane Friend, Extension Educator - University of Illinois

Put a pile of leaves, a cardboard box and a watermelon in your back yard, exposed to the elements, and they will eventually decompose. How long each takes to break down depends on a number of factors. Backyard composting is a process designed to speed up the breakdown or decomposing of organic materials. Let’s take a closer look at how we manipulate the process and speed things up.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Not Much Chance USDA Will Change Corn Yield or Acreage

Not Much Chance USDA Will Change Corn Yield or Acreage
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Barring a weather catastrophe in the United States, there isn’t much that’s likely to change USDA’s corn production calculation. Todd Gleason has more…

Early corn yield reports have been good… 1:58 radio
2:09 radio self contained
2:00 tv 2:10 tv cg

Early corn yield reports have been good, but pretty variable. There are more than few concerns about a disease called diplodia, too. Some are beginning to piece these items together to make a case for USDA to lower its corn yield estimate. This isn’t very likely thinks University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Good :27 …estimate are bucking history, but you can’t rule it out.

Quote Summary - The fact is, if you look at the last 20 years of history, there is a strong tendency of the corn yield estimate to get higher in January compared to what it was in September. This has happened 70% of the time in the last 20 years, and almost 70% of the time in the last 40 years. So, those looking for a lower estimate are bucking history, but you can’t rule it out.

Maybe not, but even if the USDA yield changes it won’t be by much thinks Darrel Good. Certainly not enough to really alter the supply/demand balance sheet changing it from a surplus to a tight supply situation. He doesn’t expect USDA to change the acreage numbers much either. This is because the difference between the Farm Service Agency reported acreage figures released in August and then again in September was very small.

Good :35 …where we are right now, we are right in that range.

Quote Summary - Which tells me reporting has occurred in a very timely fashion, and probably early. Therefore I wouldn’t look for an FSA increase in subsequent reports. So, now we look at where is FSA compared to the NASS estimate? Historically when the dust settles on corn, NASS acreage is three to three-and-a-half percent higher than FSA, about two percent higher on soybeans, and if you look at where we are right now, we are right in that range.

Consequently, Darrel Good does not expect NASS to change its corn acreage estimate very much going forward. If this is the case, it leaves the U.S. with record corn yield and production figures.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bring Herb Plants Indoors

Bring Herb Plants Indoors

Herbs can be attractive as well as tasty in the home says Sandy Mason from University of Illinois Extension.

Don't Let Your Herbs Go to Waste

Don’t Let Your Herbs Go to Waste
Press Release

Drying herbs concentrates the flavors and freezing allows recreation of summer freshness throughout the year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hand Washing Prevents Disease

Hand Washing Prevents Disease
Diane Reinhold, Extension Nutrition & Wellness Educator - University of Illinois
Press Release

Think about this: Do you wash your hands after taking out the garbage? Touching your face or hair? Petting the dog? Changing a diaper? Blowing your nose? Sneezing? Before and after putting on a Band-Aid? Before sitting down for a meal? Before and after handling raw meat? After using the bathroom? According to the 2015 annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, only 66% of Americans report washing their hands after using the bathroom. Washing hands is the simplest and one of the most effective methods in preventing food poisoning. Spending an extra 20–30 seconds in the restroom properly washing hands can prevent hours spent in there later due to food poisoning.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Waiting for a Shift in U.S. Corn Acres

Waiting for a Shift in U.S. Corn Acres
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

Farmers in the United States are about to harvest one of their best corn crops ever and prices are low. Todd Gleason reports they may need to hang on to the crop for while if they want a better offer, and that could take a shift to soybeans next spring.

The United States Department of Agriculture…
1:50 radio
2:06 radio self contained

The United States Department of Agriculture judges this year’s corn crop to be a record breaker. If it all comes in as predicted in USDA’s September reports there will be none bigger, and the market believes it so far. The price of corn has dropped about a dollar a bushel since earlier in the summer. This price isn’t likely to change much thinks Darrel Good until some new information comes along in one of the USDA reports, and that might not be until next spring.

Good :28 …relief on the supply side of the corn market.

Quote Summary - As long as we have that kind of carryover prospects, the market sees no reason to push prices higher to reduce consumption. The big response we’ll be looking for is acreage in the U.S. next year. Will the price of corn now, compared to the price of soybeans, result in some acreage shift from corn to soybeans next year; perhaps giving us some relief on the supply side of the corn market.

This shift, if it comes, would be from farmers responding to market signals. Right now the price of soybeans compared to corn suggest farmers in the United States should seriously consider changing up next year’s crop mix, planting more soybeans. As for marketing this year’s corn crop, well, Darrel Good says it’s a waiting game for corn, and may very well be directly related to the acreage response.

Good :21 …could anticipate much of rebound in spot prices.

Quote Summary - There is some carry in the market. It is not huge. Prices remain fairly low. You’d say storage is a better option for corn, but you’ll have to store it at least through the first of the year, maybe into the spring of the year, before you could anticipate much of a rebound in spot prices.

Darrel Good writes about the commodity markets each Monday. The articles are posted to the FarmDocDaily website.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Big Story from the Monday Reports

The Big Story from the Monday Reports
Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The big story from the September USDA reports is the size of the soybean crop in the United States. Todd Gleason has more on the implications of the fifty plus bushel to the acre yield.

2:53 radio
3:08 radio self contained

The soybean crop in the United States is big. Record breaking, in fact, on two fronts. The 50.6 bushel to the acre national average yield is the largest ever, and it will consequently produce a record breaking four-billion-two-hundred-and-one million bushels of beans. This staggering number makes USDA’s August guess at the size of the crop look meager. It was 1.7 bushels to the acre less and when the September number was released the trade collectively gasped and turned in hopes to the consumption part of the USDA Supply and Demand table. They were most definitely surprised says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Good :35 …last year, even with a larger crop.

Quote Summary - I think the market was really looking for perhaps an unchanged to smaller forecast. And were caught leaning the wrong direction. At this point we are looking at a crop over 4 billion bushels. The good news is the projection of consumption remains pretty high. So, USDA is not expecting a huge build up of inventories this year and think that we could still average around $9 a bushel for the marketing year. This is pretty close to what we did last year, even with a larger crop.

The market is trying to digest all of this bearish news, while at the same moment turning its attention southward. Brazilian and Argentinian farmers are just beginning to sow their summer crops. Which brings us to marketing the big soybean crop in the United States. Floods in Argentina earlier this year decimated its soybean crop. U.S. farmers benefited as importers turned to them to provide their soybean needs. Back in June it was thought the United States would have 370 million bushels leftover from last year’s crop when September arrived. The rains, the harvest time floods in South America, changed every thing and importers gobbled up U.S. soybeans leaving just 195 million bushels available. It tells Darrel Good now is a better time to sell soybeans rather than later.

Good :39 …majority of the soybeans right out of the field.

Quote Summary - You know I think so. Particularly on soybeans if you can get an early harvest. We are seeing some decent basis levels on soybeans right now. We are coming off a period in central Illinois when spot soybean prices were running well above November futures. Twenty to thirty cents above, but it has begun to erode. However, we are still looking at prices pretty close to option value. It says to me with big yields and that kind of price, well over $9.00, revenue looks pretty good by selling some soybeans at least, if not a majority of the soybeans right out of the field.

The sooner the better and the higher the quick ship premium, although those are likely to disappear quickly.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fall Lawn Care | seeding & over-seeding

Fall Lawn Care; seeding & over-seeding
Tom Voigt, Extension Turf Grass Specialist - University of Illinois

Fall is the best time of year to plant grass says Tom Voigt. He is a turf grass specialist for University of Illinois Extension. Take time this fall to assess your yard, patch dead areas, control weeds, and fertilize.

Dealing with Tree Leaves

Dealing with Tree Leaves
Rhonda Ferree, Extension Horticulture Educator - University of Illinois

Rather than bagging or removing fallen leaves, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Rhonda Ferree suggests using them in your yard.

“The tree leaves that accumulate in and around your landscape represent a valuable natural resource that can be used to provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients for use in your landscape,” Ferree says. “Leaves contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the season. Therefore, leaves should be managed and used rather than bagged or burned.”

Ferree says adding a 2-inch layer of leaf mulch adds approximately 150 pounds of nitrogen, 20 pounds of phosphorus, and 65 pounds of potassium per acre. Due to natural soil buffering and breakdown in most soil types, leaf mulch also has no significant effect on soil pH. Even oak leaves, which are acid (4.5 to 4.7 pH) when fresh, break down to be neutral to slightly alkaline.

According to Ferree, there are four basic ways leaves can be managed and used in the landscape.

A light covering of leaves can be mowed. Simply leave the shredded leaves in place on the lawn. This technique is most effective when a mulching mower is used. In fact, during times of light leaf drop or if there are only a few small trees in your landscape, this technique is probably the most efficient and easiest way to manage leaf accumulation.

Mulching is a simple and effective way to recycle leaves and improve your landscape. Leaves can be used as a mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds and around shrubs and trees. Leaves that have been mowed or run through some other type of shredder will decompose faster and are much more likely to remain in place than unshredded leaves. Unshredded leaves also tend to mat together, which can impede water and air infiltration. Ferree uses a chipper/shredder/vacuum to pick up her leaves, which she uses instead of purchased mulch in her landscape beds.

Leaves can be collected and worked directly into garden and flowerbed soils. A 6- to- 8-inch layer of leaves tilled into a heavy, clay soil will improve aeration and drainage. The same amount tilled into a light, sandy soil, will improve water and nutrient-holding capacity. A recommended strategy for using leaves to improve soil in vegetable gardens and annual planting beds is to collect and work them into the soil during the fall. This allows sufficient time for the leaves to decompose prior to spring planting. Adding a little general purpose fertilizer to the soil after working in the leaves will hasten their decomposition. Try composting your leaves. Compost is a dark, crumbly, earth-smelling form of organic matter that has gone through a natural decomposition process. If you have a garden, lawn, trees, shrubs, or even planter boxes or houseplants, you have a use for compost. For additional information composting, visit the University of Illinois Extension website.

Ferree also recommends jumping in the pile of leaves “at least once.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grain Farm Income & Cash Rent Outlook

by Todd E. Gleason

Urbana, Illinois - Wednesday morning September 7, 2016 University of Illinois Extension Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey presented a webinar looking forward into 2017. The discussion centered on farm profitability, projected income, and cash rents. You may the watch the webinar. What follows is a summary of the hour long content.

The USDA WASDE monthly average corn price is $4.67 from 2006 to 2016. The price of corn has been below this average since the fall of 2013 & Gary Schnitkey believes it is likely to continue to stay below this average through the 2017/18 crop year.

Each year USDA tracks the average marketing year cash price. This price is updated monthly in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. The average cash price for corn from 1975 to 2005 is $2.33, $5.95 for soybeans. This is a long term national average cash price. The USDA projected estimates for this marketing year (2016/17) are currently $3.15 and $9.10. The USDA estimate for the 2015 crops is $3.60 and $9.05. This last set can be used to compute expected ARC County payments to be delivered this fall.

Here is a [link]( to the FarmDoc Fast Tools web page from which you may download an Excel spreadsheet to project ARC & PLC payments.

The following tables detail gross revenue per acre for highly productive central Illinois farmland. These are actual, as derived from the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management records, and projected revenues.


Operator and land returns have been declining for both corn and soybeans for several years. However, returns from soybeans have been out performing corn since 2013. Schnitkey predicts this will continue through 2017. It would be the fifth year of higher returns for soybeans than corn. Raising corn on cash rented farmland has been a loser since 2014.

Total income on all Illinois corn and soybean farm (all types of owned & cash rented combined) for 2016 projects a breakeven income year.

Schnitkey says farmers will face three key decision making factors as they consider cash renting farmland for 2017, and that it might be better to give up some of the land based on these considerations.

Across the board the University of Illinois agricultural economist says farmers might need to rethink crop rotations. Soybeans have proved better for several years, and it may be time to adjust to this reality. This or it needs to get cheaper to plant corn. Back in 2000 it costs $63 less to sow and harvest an acre of soybeans. This year the difference was more than $200 an acre of non-land costs in favor of soybeans over corn.

Last week the professional farm managers in Illinois suggested they'd be lowering cash rents by about $20 next year (ISPFMRA Survey). Gary Schnitkey's number is a more conservative $17 an acre based on the fact not all land is professionally managed. Neither of these would be enough to make a cash rented farm break even given $3.50 corn and $9.00 soybeans (2017 | by expected corn yield across Illinois).

So what's the impact on the price of farmland? Well, says Schnitkey, if interest rates stay low the price of farmland will drop by approximately the same percentage change as the cash rent drops. Because cash rent changes very slowly, this is good news for farmland owners, bankers, and producer owners.

Each Tuesday Gary Schnitkey posts a new article to the FarmDocDaily website. Periodically he and the other agricultural economist at the University of Illinois hosts webinars. You may register for upcoming webinars and watch those that have already concluded on this page.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Labor Day (First Monday in September)

Labor Day (First Monday in September)
Source: US Embassy Stockholm Sweden

This piece is self contained. It needs no anchor intro

I’m Todd Gleason for University of Illinois…

I’m Todd Gleason for University of Illinois Extension with a history of labor day in the United States. It’s adapted from a story found on the United States Embassy to Sweden’s website.

Eleven-year-old Peter McGuire sold papers on the street in New York City. He shined shoes and cleaned stores and later ran errands. It was 1863 and his father, a poor Irish immigrant, had just enlisted to fight in the Civil War. Peter had to help support his mother and six brothers and sisters.

Many immigrants settled in New York City in the nineteenth century. They found that living conditions were not as wonderful as they had dreamed. Often there were six families crowded into a house made for one family. Thousands of children had to go to work. Working conditions were even worse. Immigrant men, women and children worked in factories for ten to twelve hours a day, stopping only for a short time to eat. They came to work even if they were tired or sick because if they didn’t, they might be fired. Thousands of people were waiting to take their places.

When Peter was 17, he began an apprenticeship in a piano shop. This job was better than his others, for he was learning a trade, but he still worked long hours with low pay. At night he went to meetings and classes in economics and social issues of the day. One of the main issues of concern pertained to labor conditions. Workers were tired of long hours, low pay and uncertain jobs. They spoke of organizing themselves into a union of laborers to improve their working conditions. In the spring of 1872, Peter McGuire and 100,000 workers went on strike and marched through the streets, demanding a decrease in the long working day.

This event convinced Peter that an organized labor movement was important for the future of workers’ rights. He spent the next year speaking to crowds of workers and unemployed people, lobbying the city government for jobs and relief money. It was not an easy road for Peter McGuire. He became known as a “disturber of the public peace.” The city government ignored his demands. Peter himself could not find a job in his trade. He began to travel up and down the east coast to speak to laborers about unionizing. In 1881, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and began to organize carpenters there. He organized a convention of carpenters in Chicago, and it was there that a national union of carpenters was founded. He became General Secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The idea of organizing workers according to their trades spread around the country. Factory workers, dock workers and toolmakers all began to demand and get their rights to an eight-hour workday, a secure job and a future in their trades. Peter McGuire and laborers in other cities planned a holiday for workers on the first Monday in September, halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.  On September 5, 1882 the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Low Returns, Crop Prices Keeping Pressure on Farmland Values

Low Returns, Crop Prices Keeping Pressure on Farmland Values
Gary Schnitkey, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The price of Illinois farmland is falling. Todd Gleason has more on the pullback.

Over the first six months of the year the price…
2:02 radio
2:08 radio self contained
2:02 tv
2:08 self contained

Over the first six months of the year the price of farmland in Illinois dropped between three and seven percent shows a new survey. The numbers were analyzed by the University of Illinois and given the decrease those responding to the poll expect Illinois cash rents to drop by about $20 an acre next year. Although, U of I agricultural economist Gary Schnitkey has penciled in $17.

Schnitkey :22 …combining the two, we have less of a decline.

Quote Summary - The Illinois Society members indicated cash rents were coming down $20. We are using $17 in our budgets to account for the fact not all land is managed by Society members and there is still some land that is below average cash rent. So, combining the two, we have less of a decline.

Those surveyed by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers say land values are down 3.3 percent for Excellent-quality farmland - 190 bushel corn and above at $11,100 per acre; 4.5 percent lower for Good-quality land - 170–190 bpa at $9400 bucks; off 5.6 percent on Average-quality land - 150–170 bushels at $7600; and dropped 7.0 percent for Fair- quality land to $5800. That’s on land yielding less the 150 bushels of corn to the acre.

Overall, respondents are more pessimistic about prices at midyear this year compared to recent surveys with a full 90 percent expecting some further decreases. Another one to ten percent drop says Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :12 …somewhere between zero and ten percent.

Quote Summary - Most of the members believe there will be a decline in the next six months. Eighty-three percent believe that decline will be somewhere between zero and ten percent.

The survey is part of an ongoing and larger annual Land Values and Lease Trends project conducted by the Society.

Friday, August 19, 2016

2017 Looks to be Farm Losses Year 4

2017 Looks to be Farm Losses Year 4
Gary Schnitkey, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois Extension
Tom Tracy, CEO & President - Farm Credit Illinois

The big corn and soybean crops in the United States are putting pressure on prices for this year and next. The result, as Todd Gleason reports, could be the fourth year in a row of losses on grain farms in the Midwest.

The crop in the Midwest looks great…
2:08 radio
2:22 radio self contained
…tv to be released today

The crops in the Midwest look great! Phenomenal! Unbelievable in fact. However, with so much bounty in the field comes incredibly tight budgets on the farm. Grain farmers will lose money not only this year says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey, but probably next year, too.

Schnitkey :25 …2017 if those in fact do turn out to be the prices.

Quote Summary - What we are looking at is 2017. The recent large crops have lowered our projected prices to $3.50 for corn and $9.00 for soybeans. If you use those in a budget you must continue to cut costs, even more-so than was done in the past because there will be very low revenues in 2017 if those in fact do turn out to be the prices.

The only option is to lower input costs - the prices paid for fertilizer, seed, and cash rent in particular.

Schnitkey :14 …a zero return to the farmer.

Quote Summary - We looked at a 200 bushel expected yield. And at that price cash rents would have to be about $220. This is a lot lower than most cash rents right now, and would still net a zero return to the farmer.

A zero return even after a significant cut in cash rent. Schnitkey says the other thing farmers should consider is planting soybeans rather than corn. , especially if corn prices stay below $4.00. On that note, taking advantage of the marketing opportunities afforded when using crop insurance is another option thinks Tom Tracy of Farm Credit Illinois.

Tracy :30 …come in there to make a significant sale.

Quote Summary - From a marketing stand point we see the ability of the farmer to take on risk earlier in the cycle when producing a crop. It is just more pronounced we people have deeper crop insurance coverage. When I was a young man you didn’t here of people making significant sales early in the crop season because you didn’t know what you were going to produce. Now, with crop insurance, you can guarantee a significant amount of that revenue and you can come in there to make a significant sale.

This year would be a case-and-point. Farmers, confident of their revenue streams because of crop insurance, could have sold corn for more than $4.00 a bushel just a month ago.