SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Global trade’s impact stretches from a Far East food processor to the farm gate and across all Illinois-produced products.
Resolving the current trade conflicts was on the minds of commodity group representatives at the Illinois State Fair’s Ag Day.
Discussing issues and concerns in interviews with AgriNews during Ag Day were Buzz Iliff of Wyoming, Illinois Beef Association president; Pam Janssen of Minonk, Illinois Pork Producers Association president; Kurt Johnson of Greenville, Midwest Dairy Illinois Division board member; Doug Schroeder of Mahomet, Illinois Soybean Association vice chairman; and Bill Leigh of Toluca, Illinois Corn Growers Association vice president.
Buzz Iliff, veterinarian and co-owner of Wyoming Veterinary Service, said his organization continues to push legislators to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement ratified in 1994.
“We really hope we can get our world trade together. As bad as it may seem now, we needed to do something because the playing field was so unfavorable to us. It’s going to be hard to go through it now but I think long-term it will really help us for our markets in the future,” Iliff said.
There also are industry concerns over the recent fire at the Tyson Foods’ processing plant near Holcomb, Kansas. The plant had a capacity to slaughter 6,000 head a day of cattle, representing about 5% of U.S. beef capacity before it was destroyed. The facility’s shutdown is creating a livestock glut, dragging down futures to the lowest in nearly five years.
“They kill about 25% of the cattle in Kansas and that puts more pressure on packers. There’s not enough shackle space to harvest those animals and keep the supply moving, so we could get a backup of heavy cattle which is going to hurt the market,” Iliff said.
There’s also those veggie burgers.
“We’re seeing a lot from the laboratory-grown meat, the veggie burgers and everything else which is ironic because they want it to taste and look like a hamburger. But the beef industry is so much more,” Iliff said.
“When you look at the nutritional aspect, we have a lot of different cuts that are very heart-healthy. There’s no better source of zinc, protein and iron than beef, and if you put beef in your diet versus some of the others, you’re really cutting down on calories and getting a lot denser, almost more healthier diet than the others can.”
The beef organization is appreciative in Farm Service Agency executive director Bill Graff’s successful efforts in getting disaster area status for the state.
“With the weather, we’re really concerned about hay and forage supplies this year. With the disaster declaration, we’ll be able to harvest some of the set-aside acres or non-planted areas before November. Because if you wait until then to harvest a cover crop the nutritional value of it is so bad it’s hardly going to make bedding,” Iliff said.
Pam Janssen and her husband, Bob, are fifth-generation farmers in Woodford County on their Centennial Farm where they have a 200 head farrow-to-finish pig farm, raise 200 head of feeder calves and 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.
About 40% of Illinois pork is exported, making trade agreements so important to the industry’s success.
“We need to have trade agreements done. We need an answer. We need it solved. I think additional tariffs are not going to be the answer. It’s just hard to know exactly the direction the president is wanting to go and the reasons behind all of that, but the farmers and producers out here are to the point where we need it to stop and we need some agreements made,” Janssen said.
“Producers, farmers all know what it’s like to compromise and at some point there’s got to be some compromises made. The smaller family farms aren’t going to be able to survive if we keep going, and as far as pork producers, the smaller ones, they can’t survive because if they aren’t diversified then they have no income. USMCA is a big thing.”
The swine industry remains vigilant on the disease front. African swine fever recently devastated the industry in China.
“We’ve had many discussions about African swine fever issue. When you have one million pigs on the road a day that disease can spread very quickly, so all states have to be onboard with the same protocols that everybody else have so the shutdown period and other procedures are in place, and then we have what happens after it or if we ever get it,” Janssen said.
Products falsely claiming to be “milk” continue to be an issue with the dairy industry.
“One of the many issues dairy farmers face today is the labeling of different products like soy and nut beverages that are not dairy,” said Kurt Johnson, Midwest Dairy Illinois Division board member.
He added the trade agreement troubles are among the factors holding milk prices down.
“Right now, 16% of the dairy products that we produce get exported, the majority of which go to Canada and Mexico. I think one-fourth of all of our exports go to Mexico alone. The new trade agreement would mean a lot to us. With the state of the dairy economy the way it’s been, we cannot afford to lose any export market, especially Mexico,” said Johnson, who has 120 Holstein milking cows on the fifth-generation farm’s 500 acres.
Trade, the potential for expanded containerized shipping and new markets and uses were among the areas the Illinois Soybean Association focuses on, said Doug Schroeder.
“The thing with China is just perpetual. We’ve had 40 years of development and one tweet it kind of goes away. But it is what it is. We all know the balance of trade wasn’t fair at that time. Something had to be done. We as soybean farmers feel like we’re taking the brunt end of it and the administration has owned up to that. The Market Facilitation (Program) payments have helped but nobody wants that,” Schroeder said.
“Mexico is our No. 1 soy meal importer and to be able to get that USMCA ratified would be huge for us.”
There is an opportunity for market growth in India going forward.
“In a few years India will have more people than China. They have a growing GDP and when the GDP grows, meat consumption always goes up and maybe India will be our next China in time. Those are things on our radar. We’re out there doing anything we can to protect and grow,” Schroeder said.
Illinois’ location with the Mississippi River and the large quantity of container shipping facilities provides increased opportunities for shipping Prairie State-grown soybeans to the Gulf and beyond.
“Countries such as Indonesia and Taiwan are really good customers of Illinois and American soybeans and a lot of those are shipped in containers,” Schroeder said.
On the new use front, research is currently being conducted on soy-based tuna feed.
“If we can get the tuna industry to adopt this soy-based tuna feed it would be a huge potential growth thing. Soy is cheaper. The rate of gain is much, much better. It’s just a matter of getting the technology which we are funding every year and then getting people to adapt that technology in the industry,” Schroeder noted.
“We think the demand for protein around the world is just going to grow and a lot of that need is going to be met through aquaculture. The salmon industry is great example of that happening. The percentage of salmon that is now farm-raised is incredible. I think it’s truly the wave of the future.”
Twenty-five percent of U.S. corn is exported to Mexico annually, making the ratification of the USMCA extremely important for farmers. Illinois Corn Growers Association representatives recently met with legislators in Washington, D.C., to deliver their concerns and educate.
“The congressmen and senators need to be reminded. A lot of times they know about as much about the subject as you do but it never hurts to remind them of where we’re at. Then sometimes you meet those new ones who have not been involved,” said Bill Leigh, ICGA vice president.
“I’ve met multiple times with Chicago legislators or their staff. There was one staff person who thought we grew sweet corn. That’s always interesting. A lot of times it’s educational. Some don’t necessarily know what they think they know. So, it’s always good to be out there. Someone needs to tell our story and we try to tell them our story to the benefit of our growers.”
The ethanol industry recently took another hit when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the approval of 31 small refinery exemptions. On the positive side, the EPA approved the year-round use of E15.
“Hopefully, the E15 will grow, but the infrastructure isn’t as much in place and I think there’s a learning curve for the consumer to understand that if you have vehicles from 2000 or newer E15 is perfectly fine. It will not damage your car. The Petroleum Institute was really pushing a few years ago how evil E15 was and it will void your warranty,” Leigh said.
“Someone said if you can take an 18-year-old car and still have a warranty on it, I want that car. So, I don’t know what warranty we’re going to void on an 18-year-old car. I hope that will grow and down the road a few years this high-octane, low-carbon could be whole new class of vehicles that need higher blends of ethanol, possibly E20, E25, which would really grow our usage we have.
“We’re looking at some new technologies with the autos for the high-octane, low-carbon fuel. You have the low carbon to meet greenhouse gas standards, and the high octane so that the auto industry can make a new generation internal combustion engine that would be more efficient.”