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Next year’s cotton: Can it be profitable?

This year was anything but a good one for cotton producers in the Rio Grande Valley. Severe drought accounted for the fact that only about half of the acres planted were actually harvested.

All of this in spite of the optimism of cotton producers who planted more than 256,000 acres, a 10-year record high, with over 197,000 of those acres in dryland. With the exception of a few areas that received some rainfall, dryland producers had either a very poor stand or no stand at all.

Lack of soil moisture at planting also stressed irrigated cotton, resulting in a less than adequate yield in some fields. The yield of 112,000 bales was the second lowest during the last 10 years mainly due to a reduction in the number of acres harvested in the Rio Grande Valley. The drop in yield totals is also striking when this figure is compared to the 328,000-plus bales ginned in 2004.

So, with a bad year behind them, how does a farmer prepare for the 2007 season? This question was addressed at the Valley Cotton Meeting, held at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Weslaco on Oct. 17.

Manda Cattaneo, Extension agent, IPM, feels that next year holds good prospects for cotton producers since the Valley has experienced considerable rainfall recently, some areas having four times the amount as the same period last year. “And it look good for the next two months, too. Predictions are for heavier than normal precipitation. All this rain will add deep moisture to the soil at planting time and leach salt out of the soil as well,” Cattaneo said.

She stressed the importance of looking at the variables the farmers themselves have control over. “Using good cultural practices is important.” Consider crop placement, weed destruction and a good fertilizer program. “Avoid using broad spectrum insecticides, if possible, so that no harm is done to the beneficial insects.”

Farmers are urged to take advantage of the Extension’s free soil testing program. Farmers should send samples from all of their fields to be tested in order to identify which nutrients are needed and the rate of fertilizer necessary to correct the deficiency in order to meet the specific crop demand.

The type of cotton seed a farmer plants is also important. Growers have the option of conventional or transgenic varieties. Though over 76 percent of the cotton planted in the Valley was one of the conventional varieties, if a farmer’s acreage is in an insect-prevalent area it would probably be worth the added expense to plant insect resistant seeds.

She warned producers to stay away from the hairy leaf varieties since they are associated with white fly populations.

One less problem going into the cotton season will be the boll weevil; Cattaneo sees this as a victory for the producer. Charles Allen, program director of the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, also reported on the success of the eradication program at the meeting.

Though cotton producers had a bad year in the Rio Grande Valley, it wasn’t because of damage by boll weevils.

Sixteen cotton-growing zones have been mapped by the foundation, some of which came into the program as early as 1994, and some that have had 100 percent success with eradicating the weevils. The Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the last zones to join the program, is only in its second year of involvement, and actually first full year, and has already made great strides in dealing with cotton’s No. 1 enemy.

The program reported an average of 8.2 weevils per trap during August and September 2006, compared to 37.9 per trap for the same period the previous year. There has actually been an 84.32 percent reduction in weevils over the year that the program has been in effect.

Column: Harkin’s Ag Committee may not be as jarring for Southern farmers

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry when Democrats assume control of the House and Senate in January.

Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he anticipates naming Harkin Ag Committee chairman when he meets with the new Republican minority leader to discuss the make-up of each committee.

Harkin is no stranger to the post, having served there during the debate over the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act or 2002 farm bill in 2001 and 2002. (Democrats controlled the Senate when Vermont’s Jim Jeffords declared himself an independent in 2001.)

Although he didn’t get everything he wanted in the legislation, Harkin was able to include the new Conservation Security Program and the first ever energy title in the 2002 farm bill.

The naming of an Iowan to such a key role in the next farm bill debate may cause some apprehension among cotton and rice farmers because of the payment limit stance of Iowa’s senior senator, Charles Grassley.

But commodity group leaders say Harkin has never shown the same enthusiasm for tightening payment limits as Sens. Grassley or Byron Dorgan, Harkin’s Democratic colleague from North Dakota.

“Obviously, the setting has changed a little bit,” said one farm group staffer. “But, at the same time, I believe you will have two chairmen who are extraordinary supporters of U.S. agriculture, as were the previous chairmen. (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is expected to chair the House Committee.)

“So having an Iowan and having a Minnesotan in the House is not a concern because they both are very interested in what’s best for U.S. agriculture. They bring a different sort of view, but they have a desire for a strong agricultural sector for the U.S. economy.”

Harkin said budget pressures are likely to lead to efforts to streamline farm programs, but he doesn’t expect the alterations to be earth shattering. “I’ll be the last person to pull the rug out from underneath our established farmers. They can’t have that done. If there’s a transition, it’s got to be a smooth one.”

Harkin said he wants to provide more incentives to farmers to experiment with crops such as switchgrass that may have potential for use in cellulosic ethanol. The latter could help U.S. agriculture meet the growing demand for renewable fuel supplies.

The senator is also expected to push for increased funding for the Conservation Security Program, which the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to fully fund and the Bush administration has never fully implemented.

Harkin and Peterson’s first challenge may be dealing with the Bush administration’s farm bill blueprint, which some expect it to unveil in January. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has said subsidy payments should be reduced to prevent further legal challenges to U.S. farm programs.

“We’re not going to have the WTO write our farm policy,” he said, adding that a new farm bill “needs to be predictable, equitable and beyond challenge.”


SCPA honors Don Alexander for service to agriculture, industry

For his work as “an advocate for fact-based answers” on issues affecting the crop protection industry, Don Alexander is this year’s recipient of the Southern Crop Production Association’s highest honor for service to agriculture and the ag chemicals industry.

The Don W. Beise Award, given annually to a person outside the organization, honors the late SCPA leader, and was presented at the annual convention of the association at Amelia Island, Fla.

Alexander, executive vice-president of the Agricultural Council of Arkansas, was particularly cited for his efforts with spray drift issues.

“In 2006, when spray drift became the hot topic in Arkansas, Don was at the forefront, insuring that facts were presented accurately and that a reasonable solution could be achieved,” said Ed Duskin, SCPA executive vice-president.

“He is an advocate for fact-based answers without over-regulation of the industry. He works extremely well with our State Affairs Committee and is an active communicator of issues to all parties concerned.

“His knowledge and enthusiasm go a long way toward making sure we have a viable crop protection industry as we move into the future.”

Alexander is “a driving force for reviewing and updating laws and regulations to insure their practical application in today’s business environment,” Duskin said.

For 31 years, Alexander has been involved in agriculture and crop protection, managing various Plant Board programs, and in 1995 was named director of the Arkansas State Plant Board. During his tenure with the board, he “helped build strong, meaningful relationships with the farm community and regulated industries,” Duskin said.

He has served as a member of the Arkansas Fire Ant Advisory Board and Arkansas Boll Weevil Foundation, and is a past president of the Southern State Departments of Agriculture.

The recipient of the 2002 Arkansas Gren Induystry Sturdy Oak Award, he was industed into the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials Hall of Fame in 2004.


New twist put on early-season yield losses

Early-season weed control in corn has long been recognized as a critical management factor in obtaining optimum yields.

Speaking at a recent Syngenta Media Summit, Canadian Weed Scientist Clarence Swanton put a new twist on the effect of these early season pests.

Though it is commonly accepted that early-season weeds do cause yield loss, exactly when and how yields are affected is not so clear. Swanton says, “yield losses to weeds are fast and forever.” Weeds can cost a grower three bushels per day, and waiting a week to control weeds, he says, routinely costs growers 10-15 bushels per acre, regardless where corn is grown.

A series of research by the Canadian scientist has caught the eye of weed scientists across the U.S. A basis for his research is that the well-established rule of thumb — that weeds compete with plants for light, water and nutrients may not be the real deciding factors in losing yield. He doesn’t’ doubt this yield loss happens, but believes it is more of an effect than a cause.

“If you think about it, corn is usually planted with adequate moisture, which is one of the basic principles of choosing time of planting. There are plenty of nutrients in the soil, because typically, we fertilize our corn to get a good start. And, if you look at a row of corn and weeds that germinate at the same time, corn has a clear advantage,” Swanton explains.

“We wanted to know how it is possible to lose yield at the rate of 3-7 bushels per day, at a time in the crop growth process in which there is limited competition for light, water and nutrients. That yield losses occur is well documented, but why this happens is not well explained, if at all, in the literature, he contends.

To prove his theory, Swanton planted corn in a greenhouse, then planted weeds adjacent to the corn. The weeds did not compete with the corn for light, nutrients or water, because each group of plants had their own environment.

His question was: will weeds that are physically near corn, but not competing for water, light and nutrients still cause yield losses. It appears from results so far that corn plants, and Swanton says likely any other crop, sense the presence of weeds and adjusts how the plant grows.

The difference in quality of light has been documented, but never incorporated into studies of early-season yield losses to weeds, he says. “We believe the changes in light quality cause a physiological loss in plants. Understanding the impact on the plant will help us understand how these light quality issues affect yield and cost of production,” Swanton contends.

In his tests, corn plants with green from weeds nearby, but not competing for light, water or nutrients; were 17 percent higher than corn plants with no weeds nearby. There was a 45 percent increase in leaf area and leaf dry weight on weed-free plants increased by 40 percent. All these factors were influenced solely by being close to weeds — no competition he says.

All these growth factors were accomplished at the cost to the root system, Swanton says. Corn plants made a shift in carbon allocation in a reaction to the weeds. Above ground, there is no apparent difference, in fact, the crop may look excellent, Swanton says.

The Canadian scientist says corn does not read, or sense, the presence of other corn plants because these plants are adjusted to the same species. When a different species, as with weeds, comes in, the sensory process is different, Swanton explains.

As soon as corn comes up, it can detect physiological changes. Receptor genes inside the corn plant begin to change within hours of germination, based on changes in light rate and quality.

In his greenhouse studies, Swanton found that corn plants with no weeds around them had 63 percent of their leaves growing perpendicular to the row, compared to 49 percent in plants with adjacent weeds. By growing more leaves perpendicular to the row, he points out, the corn plant more quickly produces a canopy that more quickly shades out weeds. He believes the 13 percent increase in positive leaf-growth direction will correlate directly to increased yields.

“Our research strongly indicates that corn plants sense the presence of weeds and adjust to the changing quality of light creating by this sensory process. These morphological changes come at a cost to the corn plant, and to the yield and bottom line to the grower,” Swanton concludes.

When he took his greenhouse findings to the field, though still in a somewhat unnatural environment, the greenhouse findings held up. The crops were grown out and harvested in October 2006 and combined with 2005 data from similar treatments.

Two year’s data indicate corn plants in weedy plots, though corn and weeds did not compete for light, water or nutrients, were about half a leaf behind non-weedy plots. By the 10th, 12th and 15th leaf stage, the height of the weedy and non-weedy plants were the same, but the weed-free plants were heavier. Root dryweight in non-weedy plants was likewise heavier. These are all factors that will affect yield, but cannot be seen above the ground.

Though the weedy and non-weedy plants look the same, physiologically they are different. The weed free plants have heavier leaves and a bigger root system. The root to shoot ratio was consistently better for weed-free plants. Swanton is convinced that these changes in light quality will cost the grower yields and will ultimately change the way growers look at weed management.


Agribusiness: Aeris Seed-Applied System to launch in 2007

Bayer CropScience has announced the launch of its Aeris Seed-Applied System for the 2007 cotton-growing season.

According to the company, the product offers broad-spectrum protection from all major early season insects and nematodes.

The Aeris Seed-Applied System consists of imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Gaucho Grande and thiodicarb. An optional fungicide component is also available through local dealers and seed companies. Trilex Advanced, a 3-way fungicide mix, offers control of Pythium, Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium and Thielaviopsis basicola.

According to Chris Kleyla, product manager, Aeris and Temik, Bayer CropScience, “Aeris and Temik give growers a complete set of tools for early season insect and nematode control, regardless of their on-farm soil and environmental conditions. Bayer sales representatives will work with cotton producers and their consultants to determine which product is best-suited for their production practices.”

Depending on local conditions, Aeris provides up to 28 days of thrips protection; up to 42 days of aphid protection; suppression of early season fleahoppers and plant bugs; and up to 28 days of nematode protection for farms with low to moderate populations.

University research data from 2005-06 indicate that Aeris can play a role in improving plant health and protecting cotton yields. Kleyla says the product contributes to enhanced root mass, root depth and leaf area. “These factors all correlate to potential yield increases.”

For the 2007 season, growers can request Aeris through the major cottonseed companies or by contacting their local Bayer CropScience field representative. Aeris had not been registered in California at the time of this writing.

Additional pest control, plant response and yield data will be presented at the upcoming 2007 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, Jan. 9-12 in New Orleans.

Africanized bees push into southwest Arkansas

As has been the case for thousands of years, crop yields and honeybees are inextricably linked. So how healthy is the Arkansas bee population?

“We do have some issues to deal with,” says Mark Stoll, who oversees apiary concerns for the Arkansas Plant Board. “Bee pests currently in the state include tracheal mites, varroa mites, small hive beetles and the Africanized honeybee.”

Varroa mites can be found in most hives. Strong colonies are a good defense against them and certain types of bees — like Russians — handle varroa mites better. There are also treatments available to keep the mites in check.

Tracheal mites are also in most hives. Those can be treated and kept at bay by maintaining healthy colonies.

As for small hive beetle, “we’ve got it in 33 to 35 counties in the state. We’ve dropped the regulations on it. When they were only in a few counties, we had some quarantines on movement. But when they spread across so much of the state, the quarantine wasn’t feasible.”

Now, Stoll and colleagues try to ensure beekeepers have proper treatments and education on the beetle. “The ground around hives needs to be treated because this beetle can destroy hives very quickly if left untreated.”

As for the most common diseases, Arkansas beekeepers face American foulbrood, European foulbrood, and chalkbrood.

“Chalkbrood isn’t a big issue, though. We don’t see many cases and a strong colony can clear it up with some effort.”

European foulbrood is treatable. However, “if you’ve got American foulbrood, it is recommended hives be destroyed because it isn’t treatable.”

Africanized honeybees

Stoll says, thus far, five southwest Arkansas counties have positively identified the Africanized honeybee. This is a problem because Africanized bees — “killer bees” to some — can take over hives populated by their less-aggressive cousins, the European honeybee.

“In 2005, Miller and Lafayette counties were found to have established populations of the bee. There was also a positive find in Union County (around El Dorado) and another in Clark County (near Gurdon).”

The only positive find in 2006 is in Columbia County around Lamartine.

“We also have quite a few samples being studied. Some of those came back inconclusive on preliminary tests so the (lab) is doing full morphometrics to determine if they’re Africanized.

“The reason we don’t consider the Clark, Union or Columbia County bee finds Africanized is we have just one positive from each. We like to have at least two positives from two distinct areas within a county before considering them established.”

The Africanized honeybee pollinates as well as its European cousin. That’s a good thing, says Stoll, because the Africanized bees can’t be eradicated.

“Once they’re here we’ll just have to educate the public and make everyone aware of how to handle situations, how to interact with them. We’ve been doing presentations for utility workers, for pest control operators, forestry employees — anyone with a greater chance of coming in contact with them.

“Mostly we speak with beekeepers on these issues. They need to help us keep chances for man-aided migration to a minimum. None of us want to help the Africanized honeybee (widen its range).”

Can the bee’s spread be slowed?

“Hopefully, we’ll take out the man-aided migration (threat), which is probably the chance for them to make the biggest jumps. We don’t need someone accidentally moving the (Africanized bees) from Texarkana to Fayetteville or Jonesboro.”

Stoll believes the slow movement they’ve made in Arkansas so far is due to poor environmental conditions. In 2005, the state had a severe drought, especially in the southwest. In 2006, the drought was repeated.

“Eventually, though, they’ll spread out. But keeping swarm traps up to monitor where they are will help keep the public in those areas informed and on the look-out. When we say, ‘They’re in your county,’ people pay a lot more attention to what’s happening in their backyard.”

Stoll suspects the Gurdon find was a man-aided migration. The Africanized bee was found in a trap in a train yard.

“The bees can hitchhike on train cars and semis. For that reason, many of our traps are placed strategically in train yards or truck stops.”

New rules

There are just over 1,300 beekeepers in the state. Few of them — perhaps 25 — are commercial/migratory beekeepers.

“Most of those are based in the northeast part of the state — in the thick of (row-crop) country. There’s one in the southwest who’s actually based in Louisiana — but he has yards in Arkansas. We also have beekeepers from Oklahoma, Nebraska and South Dakota who like to overwinter their bees in south Arkansas. They bring the bees down to take advantage of the warmer temperatures.”

The big thing affecting Arkansas beekeepers “is we’re in the process of updating apiary laws. Our current laws basically deal only with bee diseases. They’re being updated to deal with bee pests — mites, the hive beetle and the Africanized honeybee. The new laws will protect beekeepers, the general public and industry.”

If the Arkansas Plant Board approves the updated laws, a sponsor for the 2007 Arkansas legislation session will be needed.

(For additional information, visit Then scroll down to the Africanized honeybee icon.)


Now best time to stop ryegrass in wheat

With the increase in wheat acreage, I have been asked about wheat weed control. The primary weed to be concerned about this time of year is ryegrass. I have always considered mid-December to be the best time to control ryegrass.

When I was with the University of Arkansas, we had a rather aggressive applied research program for ryegrass control — especially Hoelon-resistant ryegrass.

Bob Scott has continued that program and has put together some good information on some of the newer herbicides. That information is available through Arkansas county Extension agents.

There are three choices for postemergence control of ryegrass and two choices if the ryegrass is Hoelon-resistant. Where there is no history of Hoelon resistance, Hoelon is the standard the others must be compared to.

It can be used at rates as low as 1.33 pints per acre this time of the year if the ryegrass is small and no residual control is desired. You can push the rates as high as 2.67 pints per acre and get both postemergence and residual activity. My favorite rate this time of year is 2 pints per acre.

We did a lot of surfactant and crop oil concentrate work with Hoelon and never found a consistent advantage to adding either. Hoelon has activity only on ryegrass. Scott rates it a 9 on susceptible ryegrass and a 3 on resistant ryegrass.

If Hoelon resistance is suspected or if the field has a history of frequent Hoelon use, another herbicide would be a better choice.

Axial is the newest of the ryegrass herbicides and one I have not personally worked with. The application rate is 8.2 ounces per acre with 9.6 ounces of Adigor adjuvant. The application timing is two-leaf and larger wheat and one-leaf to two-tiller ryegrass. Now should be the ideal application time in most situations.

Axial is a postemergence grass herbicide closely related to herbicides such as Hoelon, Select and Poast. Scott has rated Axial a 9 on non-resistant ryegrass and a 7 on Hoelon-resistant ryegrass. He reported that it has actually been better than a 7 at his Willow Beach research location, but since there are so many biotypes of ryegrass and resistant ryegrass, he is being conservative with the rating until more information is available with the herbicide.

Axial has no residual activity and mostly just has activity on ryegrass.

The third herbicide is Osprey. It has been in the research program for years and has consistently provided excellent control of both susceptible and resistant ryegrass species. Scott rates it a 9 on both.

It also has activity on annual bluegrass and some of the broadleaf species such as vetch and buttercups. The application timing is from four-leaf to two-tiller ryegrass. The rate is 4.75 ounces per acre with 1.33 to 1.5 pints of a methylated seed oil adjuvant or 0.5 percent nonionic surfactant plus an ammonium source.

Where the objective is herbicide rotation for resistance, Osprey would be the herbicide of choice since it has a different mode of action than Hoelon and Axial.

I get a lot of questions about re-infestation behind a fall herbicide application. I have enough folks say it has happened to believe it. In general however, most of the ryegrass will emerge in the fall.

My philosophy is kill what is up now and worry about re-infestation later. If you do not, you could well find yourself in a salvage situation come spring.


Fruit, vegetable growers plan December meeting

Mid-South fruit and vegetable growers can take part in the annual Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show Dec. 6-7 in Mobile, Ala.

Organizers expect about 500 people to attend this multi-state meeting, including growers from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Tennessee. The conference is hosted by the individual states’ vegetable growers associations, including the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, in cooperation with the extension services and departments of agriculture of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

“Each state used to have its own conference until seven years ago when growers in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas organized a multi-state meeting. Alabama joined later, and growers from Tennessee and Texas attend to learn the latest trends and production pointers,” said David Nagel, Mississippi State University Extension horticulture professor. “The conference grows and diversifies each year.”

Topics of all-day sessions at the conference include vegetable, fruit, blueberry and organic production; and agrotourism. Agrotourism is the use of farms as attractions for school groups and others, by offering such things as pumpkin patches and corn mazes.

Nagel said half-day sessions will focus on labor issues, citrus production, cut-flower production and high tunnel production. High tunnels are unheated greenhouse structures used to extend the growing season.

New this year is an all-day session on “The Future of Farming — New Growers and Small Acreage Farmers.” It will include a panel discussion of “Mentors in Support of Farmers” and information on getting started in the produce business.

A commercial trade show is also part of the conference, and it will feature farm supply vendors. The meeting will end with a “Taste of the South” reception.

The conference features farmers from each state as well as speakers from universities. The pre-registration form and program can be found on the Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Conference’s Web site

Pipeline, Interstates Raise Eminent Domain Issues

For a farmer in southern Johnson County, eminent domain suddenly became very real. It sounds sort of harmless as defined in dictionary form: 'the power of the government to acquire property for the public good.' But when it comes to your property that the government, or a utility or other public agency regulated by the government, has their eyes on, it suddenly becomes very real and personal.

Governor Mitch Daniels idea of an outer belt around Indianapolis' already existing outer belt Interstate, 465, drew attention when this farmer realized one suggested route would slice his farm in two. He was already in shell shock because the Rockies Express (RX) proposed natural gas pipeline may be coming to his property, or at least very near to it.

The outer belt interstate may have been a trial balloon- maybe it will become a real proposal- but at any rate it will be decades before it would be completed, and could be after this farmer retires before anyone knocks on the door wanting to buy his property as part of the new interstate route. But the REX pipeline project is here and now, and has Hoosiers in nine counties cutting across central to south-central Indiana paying very close attention to right-of-way, easement language, and to the definition of eminent domain.

The REX pipeline could potentially impact 25,000 Indiana Farm Bureau Members, IFB spokespersons say. Right now eminent domain is not an issue. REX is not expected to even seek regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until spring '07. FERC must approve the project before eminent domain would come into effect for those landowners who might not want to reach a voluntary agreement to sell to the utility building and operating the 600-mile pipeline, running from Missouri across Illinois and Indiana and then across Ohio.

The route has already been moved twice in Indiana, says Mark Thornburg, Indiana Farm Bureau attorney. The State of Indiana requested that it be moved to avoid a wildlife area in Putnam County, and the pipeline company agreed to do so. Then although it's unusual, it moved the route on its own in Johnson County after realizing that the original route sent it through developed and soon-to-develop areas where land prices and complaints would both potentially become issues. The new route stays in Johnson County, but moves the proposed line several miles to the south of the original route.

Indiana Farm Bureau says that while it doesn't oppose the pipeline, it does have concerns for protecting the property rights of members. The best option, Thornburg says, is to be aware of all issues when negotiating settlement with the company. Make sure the contract is based upon your terms. Such issues as maintaining the pipeline at an adequate depth, compensating you for yield losses due to soil compaction, returning topsoil over the line once construction is complete, removing rocks dug up during excavation, and properly handling 'spoil' that will not go back into the trench are all legitimate issues that should be included in contracts, he says. In fact these are just a few of the many issues he would advise someone dealing with the utility on a voluntary basis to address.

The utility can hire surveyors to survey property before approval from FERC, but surveyors must ask permission to enter private lands when surveying where eminent domain has not yet been declared. Reportedly at least one aggressive surveyor in Franklin County was arrested for trespassing by county authorities when he entered private lands to survey for the pipeline without first obtaining permission from the landowner.

Indiana Farm Bureau is helping 'mitigate' a set of recommendations that REX would agree to follow, and also agree to put in writing in contracts with landowners. Indiana does not have set standards for how companies should perform when installing utilities, but Illinois dos have such a set of standards. Indiana Farm Bureau is attempting to pattern a mitigation agreement that REX would abide by that is similar to the standards already existing in Illinois. So far, negotiations are ongoing.

FSA County Committee Elections End Dec. 4

The deadline for eligible voters to return ballots to their local Farm Service Agency county office is Monday, Dec. 4. According to state FSA officials, the last day for voters to submit ballots in person is Dec. 4. The elections started on Nov. 3.

"The county committee system allows producers to make important decisions concerning the local administration of federal farm programs," says State FSA Director Ben Brancel. "I urge all eligible farmers and ranchers, especially minorities and women, to get involved and vote in this year's elections."

Committee members apply their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on disaster and conservation payments, establishment of allotments and yields, producer appeals, employing FSA county executive directors and other local issues. To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in FSA programs. A person who is not of legal voting age, but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm, can also vote.

Eligible voters who have not received a ballot can obtain one from their local USDA Service Center. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan.1.