NORMAL, Ill. – Livestock and crop organization leaders
shared their common concerns during a panel discussion to lead off the Illinois
Transportation, sustainability and the farm bill were among
the topics addressed during the event moderated by Jeff Nalley, Cromwell Ag
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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.”