There is no doubt the 2019 planting season will be one for the history books. The May 28 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress Report showed only 35% of corn had been planted as of May 26. Nearly all corn was in the ground at this time last year, with 99% planted in 2018.

Consistent rains and storm systems moving through the Midwest continue to keep planters in the sheds and farmers out of the fields. American Farm Bureau Federation economist John Newton reported on May 29 there are 99 million acres left to plant of corn and soybeans in the United States.

As I write this column, river levels continue at flood stage along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers with crests predicted for the last weekend of May, according to the National Weather Service forecast. And Twitter’s standard handle has become #NoPlant19.

Adding to the weather frustration is the uncertainty farmers feel regarding trade conflicts, mitigation payments and prevent-plant possibilities. Illinois Farm Bureau staff is in constant communication with our Illinois congressional offices communicating members concerns while also providing input on possible solutions.

On behalf of all the IFB members, I’m grateful for our Farm Bureau staff addressing the constant change in D.C. and Illinois. While farmers “farm” — Farm Bureau staff are navigating everything from trade agreements to the mitigation payments and from Illinois’ budget challenges to environmental challenges.

Our “to do” list this month included nonstop media interview requests from national media outlets. IFB has filled dozens of requests, and we have kept farmers’ livelihoods on the minds of decision-makers in Washington, D.C., and Springfield.

I am grateful to the members across the state who took valuable time to talk with reporters from CNN, CBS, ABC, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and HBO’s VICE.

We are going to need the help of Farm Bureau members to make calls pushing for ratification of USMCA. The May 17 announcement was welcome news regarding the removal of the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs imported from our neighbors and close agricultural trading partners Canada and Mexico.

This demonstrated the priority to win ratification of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement as quickly as possible. It also means a welcome end to roughly $2 billion a year in harmful retaliatory tariffs against U.S. agricultural exports.

From 1993 to 2017, exports to Canada and Mexico tripled from $27 billion to $91 billion, with nearly one-third of U.S. agricultural exports going to Mexico and Canada in 2017.

Illinois particularly has much to gain from passage of USMCA. Canada and Mexico are responsible for a 29% and a 14% market share of all Illinois exports, respectively.

For Illinois agriculture, Canada accounts for 18% of all Illinois agricultural exports and Mexico accounts for 10%. With Canada and Mexico, alone, Illinois farmers export 40% of their corn, 13% of their beef and 34% of their pork to the two countries.

Illinois farmers are looking to win back markets as they struggle against Mother Nature to get their crops planted.

Everything I shared with you in this column is a result of the IFB’s involvement in representing our members. Our staff is committed to working on behalf of our farmer members, but what’s just as valuable are your calls, emails and visits with our elected officials.

Farm Bureau’s success is based on grassroots involvement — as a Farm Bureau member, we need you engaged. Your call, email or visit is a necessity — be engaged.

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