Commodity group leaders covered a broad range of topics during panel discussion to open the Illinois Commodity Conference Nov. 26 in Normal, Ill. Participants included (from left) Alan Adams, Illinois Beef Association president; Bill Raben, Illinois Soybean Association chairman; Jeff Nalley, moderator; and Dereke Dunkirk, Illinois Pork Producers Association president.
Commodity group leaders covered a broad range of topics during panel discussion to open the Illinois Commodity Conference Nov. 26 in Normal, Ill. Participants included (from left) Alan Adams, Illinois Beef Association president; Bill Raben, Illinois Soybean Association chairman; Jeff Nalley, moderator; and Dereke Dunkirk, Illinois Pork Producers Association president.

NORMAL, Ill. – Livestock and crop organization leaders shared their common concerns during a panel discussion to lead off the Illinois Commodity Conference.

Transportation, sustainability and the farm bill were among the topics addressed during the event moderated by Jeff Nalley, Cromwell Ag Radio Network.

Nalley noted that despite the weather this growing season, corn production is estimated at 14 billion bushels and 3.26 billion bushels of soybeans, and panelists were asked to comment on the ability to deliver large crops.

Dereke Dunkirk, Morrisonville, Illinois Pork Producers Association president, said market access on roadways is among the efforts the IPPA is addressing.

“We’ve had some instances where we had road closures and asked for scientific evidence of why they were closed. We’ve worked with road commissioners in townships and counties to make sure there’s something behind that decision and make sure those roads are being used the right way,” Dunkirk said.

“Whether it is feed or swine that needs access or a large grain storage facility, we’ve worked a lot on regulations.”

“This transportation issue is a big thing. Illinois was the number one soybean producer this year,” said Bill Raben, Ridgway, Illinois Soybean Association chairman.

“Market access is very important and our goal at the Illinois Soybean Association is to utilize 600 million bushels of soybeans by 2020. When we produce those 600 million bushels we have to move those soybeans from the farm to the market.

“It’s pretty easy to understand that roads and other infrastructure is very important and we must at all times work very diligently to keep that idea out in front of legislators and the general public.

“The infrastructure we enjoy in Illinois is very good and we take competitive advantage of those railways, waterways and roads every day. But our infrastructure is deteriorating and needs repair.

“Bridges, roads, waterways, rail all need to be addressed. We can’t wait until it’s too late. You have to start that program because it takes a long time to get accomplished.”

“We keep looking at a population of nine billion that we have to feed. We can’t just store the old Chevy and then take it out and drive it,” said Jim Reed, Monticello, Illinois Corn Growers Association director.

“We cannot just rebuild, we have to expand. We need more capacity because we have more bushels, we have more people to feed, and we have less ways to do it.

“So we can’t just rebuild the bridge. We can’t just rebuild the lock and dam. We have to build it bigger, better and build it for the future.”

“We look at Illinois and the crumbling roads, we’re transporting live animals. Right now we’re actually adding 40 miles of transports to one of the farms because of poor roads,” said Alan Adams, Sandwich, Illinois Beef Association president.

Congressional work on finalizing a new farm bill has sputtered and Nalley asked panelists their take what has transpired and what may happen.

Nalley quoted Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who said he would rather have an extension to the 2008 farm bill than to move ahead with a new farm bill that included government-guaranteed crop prices.

Johanns said the price guarantees like those included in the House version would return the country to a 1980s-era farm policy that encourages over-production, damages international trade opportunities and ultimately hurts farmers and taxpayers.

“One of the reasons we look for market-based programs is like right now we’re in a transitional period of prices going down because of good year,” Reed said.

“The target price program has corn targeted at $3.70. I don’t think anybody wants to get that low before they get any risk management help from the government, which is why the program we propose has a rolling average and would help transition down to lower prices and perhaps let our input suppliers adjust their pricing so that we don’t have this severe financial strain on the countryside immediately as we transition down to these lower levels.

“If there is an extension, we think there will be cuts made to the direct payment program.”

Reed said ICGA members frequently list risk management as a top priority in the farm bill.

“We continue to advocate for a market-based management program. We are very fond of the (Agricultural Risk Coverage) program in the Senate bill because it is market-based and not a congressional mandate,” he said.

“We’ve always tried to get a risk management tool in Title I that does not overlap with or duplicate what crop insurance covers, so we look at programs that have a multiyear effect, so regardless of what happens within the farm bill, we will continue to advocate for a multiyear risk management tool that we can deliver to growers to help them iron out those year to year risks.”

The panelists also addressed various perceptions of “sustainable agriculture,” as well as the European Union’s recent move to require certain sustainability practices and on-farm visits to assure those practices actually being done before the products would be purchased.

“I think we all have picture in our mind of what sustainability ought to be. We’ve always been sustainable,” Raben said.

“We’re concerned with what we do to our soil, our water, our air, our environment. We’re conscious of that because we want to leave our farm ground to the next generation.

“Everything we do we try to do it in a manner that’s not going to harm the soil or our environment because we have to live in it, our families and our children live in it. We’re not going to do anything to damage our environment.”

However, Nalley said there are also those who suggest “that if you use genetically modified crops, synthetic fertilizer or even if you’re a farmer and above a particular number of acres that you’re not sustainable because if you are producing more you’re using more inputs.”

“It’s all about educating consumers,” Dunkirk said. “I think probably the best program I’ve seen is the Field Moms Program. They get people out of the city and bring them to crops or livestock farms. They’re then actively engaged in Facebook or blogging and telling our story.”

“One of the things the beef industry did on a national level is invested in a complete sustainability study from the very beginning to the end of our production cycle,” Adams said.

“So we can document where we’re using our resources and how, not only to talk to our consumers but also then turn around and show producers possible ways to reduce their footprint.”