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What to know on April 22: This week in Illinois ag

Four things you need to know include who got rain and when, what’s happening with foreign farmland investors, what the E15 waiver really means and how to get on a commodity board.

Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

April 22, 2024

5 Min Read
A planter and tractor in a field with a stormy sky in the background
DARK CLOUDS: Opey Rowell pushed to get this 40-acre field near Easton, Ill., planted April 18 as a storm front blew in. Holly Spangler

At a Glance

  • Corn is up in deep southern Illinois, but storms pushed planters out of fields late last week.
  • USDA wants foreign farmland investors to remember: They have to check in with the government.
  • Farm groups say EPA’s E15 summer waiver is a win, but it won’t kick in until April 2025.

Last week saw heavy rains across parts of the state, just as many central and southern Illinois farmers had dropped the hammer and planted fast and furious. Here’s a quick look at what to know for the week ahead.

Who got rain

For Illinois farmers who’ve had the planter hooked up and sitting in the machine shed with the door open, the week of April 15 was the week they took off. Planters ran across much of central and southern Illinois. Southern Illinois is far ahead of the curve at this point, and agronomist Kelly Robertson reports corn in Jackson County that’s not only emerged but also has two and three leaves.

Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford says soil temperatures across Illinois regularly hit the 60s and even low 70s during a week that felt like summer. Parts of the state saw a few days over 80 degrees F before temperatures dropped again later in the week. Ford says February, March and April have all been 2 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.

Rain was a good thing, too.

“Most of the state picked up at least a half-inch of rain last week, and some parts of southern Illinois caught nearly 2 inches,” Ford says. Only far southern Illinois remains drier than normal, while most of northern Illinois has been 1 to 4 inches wetter than normal.

Water tables have rebounded in a big way since the start of the year, and soils are wet to saturated in most places north of Interstate 74.

The tough part? That rain came with severe storms, producing wind and hail. Nearly 60 mile per hour wind gusts took the metal roof off a large building in Wayne County, Ill., and damaged trees across much of southern Illinois. Tornado activity on the evening of April 18 created damage in Latham, Ill., located in Logan County.

This week, Ford says temperatures will be closer to “normal,” with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. In the last week of April, look for above-normal temperatures — and an active storm track. May forecasts indicate better chances of above-normal temperatures and mixed signals on precipitation.

Government’s message to foreign landowners

The Illinois Farm Service Agency office issued a statement last week reminding foreign farmland investors to check in with the government. Turns out, they are to report land holding and transactions to USDA, per the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act passed in 1978. Foreign investors are supposed to file AFIDA Report Form FSA-153 with the FSA county office in the county where the land is located within 90 days of the transaction.

Scott Halpin, head of Illinois FSA and a farmer from Gardner, Ill., adds that failure to file a report or filing something that’s late or inaccurate could result in a fine of “up to 25% of the fair market value of the agricultural land.”

This applies on all land holdings of 10 acres or more for agricultural use or timber production, and any leases for 10 years or more. Foreign investors are also supposed to report when a land use change occurs, like going from agricultural to nonagricultural.

Where does the information go? Straight into a report to Congress, which happens annually. You can check out all past reports online.

Good news for gas buyers, corn farmers

On April 18, U.S. EPA announced a temporary waiver for summertime E15 sales to increase fuel supplies, which is supposed to offset supply issues caused by the war in Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East. A provision in the Clean Air Act allows the administration to temporarily waive certain fuel requirements to address shortages.

E15 sales are normally banned in summer months due to air pollution concerns. This waiver was granted at the request of Midwestern states and applies to Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. That means fuel blends containing 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline will be available throughout the summer in those states.

Illinois farmers deliver more than 657 million bushels of corn to 13 ethanol plants in the state, which produce 1.84 billion gallons of ethanol.

The catch? It doesn’t take effect until April 2025. That means corn farmers won’t feel the effects of this win for a full year or more. Dave Rylander, IL Corn president and Victoria, Ill., farmer, is quick to point out this is a temporary solution.

“There is a permanent fix for this problem sitting in Congress right now called the Next Generation Fuels Act. The bill permanently fixes this E15 access issue, while also cleaning up our transportation sector by allowing the use of homegrown, renewable fuels,” Rylander explains. “The Next Generation Fuels Act will protect consumer choice to buy the cars you want to buy and have access to the fuels you need, without compromising our country’s greenhouse gas emissions goals.”

Consider running for office

No, not that office. Commodity board offices. The Illinois Soybean Association receives more than $16 million in checkoff funding, and its board is slated with spending that money responsibly. On the corn side, IL Corn collects more than $14 million in checkoff dollars, and its board does the same.

ISA has six seats up for election in 2024, and petitions have to be filed by May 14.

  • District 2: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kankakee, Lake, McHenry, Will

  • District 10: Christian, DeWitt, Macon, Moultrie, Shelby

  • District 11: Champaign, Coles, Douglas, Edgar, Piatt

  • District 14: Clark, Crawford, Cumberland, Effingham, Jasper

  • District 16: Clay, Edwards, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne, White

  • District 17: Jackson, Jefferson, Perry, Randolph, Washington

Board terms are three years, and you can serve three terms. File a petition with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which includes signatures from at least 250 farmers in the district. Email Dustin Scott at ISA for a petition or call 309-846-3673.

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About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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