Last month, during the busy harvest season, a group of farmers near Monticello drove their tractors, trucks and combines out of their half-harvested fields, and parked them. Dozens of red, green and yellow machines, in a long row along the highway outside of town. It was a tribute to a friend and fellow farmer. Only 31 years old, he recently died of cancer. Photographer Matt Rubel was visiting family in the area at the time. He captured the tribute, in photos and in this essay, which ran in Modern Farmer magazine.
Donations to the Kaleb and Khloe Hendrix Scholarship Fund can be made to the First State Bank of Monticello, 201 West Main Street, Monticello, Illinois, 61856, (217) 762-9431.
Peter Leavitt; 1931-2013
This week agricultural meteorology lost one its most influential figures. Peter Leavitt served our nation’s farmers for nearly all his 82 years. He was the chairman and CEO of Weather Services Corporation and in 1978 founded WSI Corporation now part of The Weather Channel.
Leavitt graduated from M.I.T. in the 1950’s with a degree in meteorology. In mid-1970’s he taught himself to program a computer (see photo) and did the original database work to create weather forecasting models. He founded WSI in 1978. It eventually spawned The Weather Channel. Leavitt hired Paul Bayer right out of college to help write the computer program. Bayer is a principal software engineer at WSI. You may listen to Todd Gleason’s interview with Bayer about Peter Leavitt’s legacy using the links on this page.
Leavitt volunteered his agricultural forecasting expertise to WILL radio in Urbana, Illinois every Thursday afternoon over parts of the last four decades.
The Illinois State Water Survey weather recording site in Champaign near the South Farms provided the following rainfall totals (in inches) in 2013: May – 4.65; June – 5.33; July – 3.47; August – 0.49; September – 0.50. The dry weather along with high temperatures in late August into September – it reached 98 degrees on August 31 and again on September 10 – had many of us believing that yields would be lowered. I was also hoping that irrigation in a study we conducted here might bring us 300-bushel yields by preventing such a decline.
The irrigation study was conducted by grad student Josh Vonk, with help from others. It was planted following soybeans, with 180 lb of N applied as UAN before final tillage. On May 20, we planted about 40,000 seeds per acre of DeKalb hybrid DKC 62-08. Irrigation was done using dripline placed between row middles, with a row skipped between lines. We started to irrigate in mid-July, and from then to mid- September, irrigated plots received 9.66 inches of water, or about 1.2 inches per week. Rainfall totaled only about 2 inches over this period.
Prices set this month in Chicago will have a direct affect on the indemnity payouts for the crop insurance farmers purchased last March from the federal government. The early October price of December corn futures in Chicago suggest crop insurance policies will make payments. At least on some farms, particularly those farms covered by revenue policies at high coverage levels. There is not much chance for crop insurance payments on soybeans
Let’s do the numbers for corn. The 2013 projected price for corn is $5.65 per bushel. The projected price is used to set crop insurance guarantees. The harvest price is used to calculate revenue on which crop insurance payments are based. The harvest price for corn equals the average of settlement prices of the December Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) corn contract during the month of October. Settlement prices during the first two days of October suggest a harvest price of $4.40 per bushel. Obviously, the final harvest price can vary from $4.40. However, $4.40 provides a good starting point for evaluating corn payments.
The Harvest price option crop insurance at the 75% level does not make a payment at $4.40 if the guarantteed yield is 180 bushels to the acre; the 80 percent coverage level pays out $22 under that yield and price; and 85% pays $72 an acre. It is unlikely crop insurance for soybeans will make a payment.
On-the-other-hand GRIP, or the Group Risk Income Plan (GRIP) a different type of crop insurance, is likely to pay.
Most farmers who purchase GRIP do so at a 90% coverage level. To illustrate the size of payments, take a McLean County Illinois GRIP policy with an actual yield equal to the expected yield of 183.3 bushels per acre. A $4.40 harvest price results in a $209 payment given that the highest protection level was chosen. The lowest protection level results in a $126 per acre payment. The 90% coverage level for GRIP causes the larger payments for GRIP compared to the RP or Revenue Protection policy discussed at the beginning of this story.
Summary - Crop insurance payments for corn will occur on some farms, particularly on those who purchased RP policies at higher coverage levels. GRIP at the 90% coverage level likely will make payments. Soybean payments are less likely.
The Pork Checkoff hosted a news media conference call following the USDA's Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report on Friday, Sept. 27. This quarterly teleconference featured three distinguished agricultural economists and their reactions to the report. The report surprised the trade, and is expected to result in a limit lower trade Monday at the CME Group in Chicago, Illinois.
You may listen to the teleconference using the link on this page.
The panel included...
* Dr. Lee Shulz, Extension Livestock Economist, Iowa State University
* Len Steiner, President, Steiner Consulting Group, Manchester, N.H.
* Dan Vaught, Economist, Doane Advisory Service, St. Louis, Mo.
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at www.pork.org.
The National Agricultural Statistical Service or NASS projects the 2013 yields for the state of Illinois are 165 bushels per acre for corn and 47 bushels per acre for soybeans, giving a corn-to-soybean yield ratio of 3.51 (3.51 = 165 bushel corn yield / 47 bushel soybean yield). This 3.51 ratio in 2013 is much higher than ratios between 2010 and 2012, but below the ratio’s average from 2000 to 2009 says University of Illinois Extension Farm Management Specialist Gary Schnitkey.
The corn-to-soybean yield ratio has trended up over time in the state of Illinois. It averaged 3.12 during the 1970s, 3.16 during the 1980s, and 3.18 during the 1990s.
The highest corn to bean yield ratio for the state of Illinois came in 2003 when it took the yield from 4.43 acres of soybeans to equal the yield, in bushels, from one acre of corn. The last three years, however, have shown the ratio in decline from the 2000-2009 average. Farmers, over that time says Schnitkey, have followed the lead of the math, and planted a few more acres of soybeans from one year to the next.
Let’s go through the math, again. It is a simple ratio; bushels of corn per acre divide by bushels of soybeans per acre. The higher the answer goes the more profitable, most likely, it is to plant corn rather than soybeans. It has gone from the 3.12 in the early 1970’s to 3.51 (projected) for this year.
A ratio between 3.4 and 3.45 seems reasonable for the state of Illinois in the future thinks Schnitkey. The highest ratios, by the way, have come when statewide average corn yields are above 170 bushels to the acre. It was 180 in 2004, 175 bushels in 2007, 179 in 2008, and 174 in 2009. Since 2009, Illinois has not had a state yield over 170 bushels per acre.
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