By Larry W. Dallas, President
Douglas County Farm Bureau
Warm weather has continued in July. We are 300 growing degree units ahead of average, or about two weeks for the growing season. Corn is more affected than soybeans by this warmth and is well ahead of what we would expect for mid-July, even though it was planted what we consider a little late. Beans take their growing cues more from day length than heat, but they are ahead of average as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 65 percent of Illinois beans blooming compared to the five-year average of 45 percent and 26 percent setting pods with 11 percent being average. The condition scores for both crops remain very good. Cooler weather is in the forecast. This would benefit corn especially. We have noted before that corn needs to rest at night. A nighttime temperature below 70 degrees or so allows the plant to quit respiring and use that energy to fill the kernels. We are six weeks from harvest or so but things continue to look good in this area. As always there are areas that are not as good. Far western Illinois and northern Missouri are dry. Parts of Iowa have had too much rain.
For several years each fall we have sent a sample of our soybeans to the University of Minnesota to be tested for oil and protein content. Soybeans are processed into oil and soybean meal for mainly animal feed. U.S. grown soybeans historically have slightly lower oil and protein levels than South American grown beans. Soybeans from around this country are tested to see what varieties have the best oil and protein as well as what part of the country these came from. Yield is still the main factor for choosing a bean variety to plant, but we are interested in the oil and protein characteristics as well. The testing this year moved into the amino acid profile of the soybean variety and determining the feed value a particular variety has for hogs and chickens. The variety we submitted ranked 7 out of 10 in feed value for various sizes of pigs and chickens and 8 out 10 for oil content, when compared to samples from a 100 mile radius of our location. The Illinois Soybean Association is starting to stress these amino acid levels and the feed value to show the value of Illinois soybeans. Right now soybeans are purchased on a weight and moisture basis. Maybe at some point we would sell beans based on their oil yield or the feed value a variety has. I actually did an interview with Illinois Soybean Association about this concept and the soybean testing program.
The agricultural press is full of talk about the farm bill action in Washington. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of a farm bill and conferees from each have been appointed to iron out the differences. The federal farm bill is widely misunderstood I think. Congress passes a farm bill every 5 years, or at least that is the target. About 80 percent of farm bill funds go to supplemental nutrition programs. There have been attempts to move the nutrition programs out of the farm bill. Agricultural groups have always feared removing nutrition programs would make it impossible to move a farm bill through Congress. Without these in the farm bill, they think legislators with no farm constituency just wouldn’t care about the farm programs in the rest of the legislation. Of course farmers are producing food, so the farm bill is ultimately about food. There are other parts of the farm bill of course. Conservation programs play a big part in the bill. The farm bill also deals with trade, credit, rural development and agricultural research. Wikipedia calls it an omnibus bill, and that seems accurate with the myriad of issues dealt with in the bill. With crop prices lower than they have been in years, the safety net aspect of the farm program is especially important to farmers right now. Farm Bureau was strongly against an amendment to drastically cut crop insurance funding. That was fortunately defeated.
We have finished moving the grain left on the farm to the elevator and really wish the prices would go up some. That seems unlikely with quite a bit of old crop still in farmer hands, a good crop coming on and world trade in an uproar. We listen to a lot of advice sources about crop prices. I don’t think anyone knows for sure how the current situation shakes out. It looks like new channels of bean trade may be developing as China tries to not buy U.S. soybeans and other countries have to come to us because South America is out of beans. World corn use is so large that even with a big crop here, world stocks may decrease from last year.
Mowing is a popular pastime right now as rainfall encourages the grass to grow. We got our second cutting of hay in the barn about half an hour ahead of a rain shower that would have drastically lowered its quality. We have started to clean our storage bins for the crop coming in a few weeks and going over the augers and fans associated with the bins. It is much easier to have them ready to go than try to do that job in the heat of harvest. The harvest equipment needs to be serviced too. We have work to do on our corn head. The implement dealer has very considerately stored the parts for us since we ordered them last March and would probably like to get them out of the way. An email from the local Natural Resources Conservation Service reminded us we need to pick out the fields we will put cover crops on and decide what we will use. As always there are decisions to make about this year and next. Thanks for reading about Douglas County agriculture this month.