BY TAMMIE SLOUP
PHOTO: Nine Illinois Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington, D.C. March 7-9 during a Leaders to Washington trip, including, front, from left: Dean Campbell, Randolph County; Tom Connors, Macoupin; Adam Henkel, Lee; and Katie King, Sangamon; back, from left: Phil Fuhr, Rock Island; Aaron Maher, Peoria; Korbin Wagenbach, Peoria; IFB Director Larry Dallas, Douglas; and David Schuler, McLean.
Strong commodity prices and record exports may be good for farmers in the short term, but the long-term farming economic picture appears a bit bleaker.
Illinois Farm Bureau members took their concerns about soaring input costs and the future of agriculture to Capitol Hill.
And between the conflict in Ukraine and the potential impact on the supply chain and trade, fertilizer prices and the 2023 farm bill, Illinois farmers have plenty on their minds.
“Basically 18 months ago, we saw input prices in the $300 to $400 range. Now we’re seeing $1,000-plus; we’re setting records,” David Schuler, a McLean County grain farmer, told FarmWeek during his first Illinois Farm Bureau Leaders to Washington trip. “Right now we’re going into the year and we’re optimistic, but what we’re really worried about is the long-term, where are we at? We know commodity prices will come down, but what lags behind them is a lot of the fixed costs don’t.
“Although we’re going through good times, we’re still nervous about what’s ahead of us,” Schuler said.
Schuler, who was part of a nine-person IFB delegation, shared his message with Illinois’ congressional delegation during IFB’s Leaders to Washington trip. The decades-old program puts farmers in front of their elected officials to tell their stories.
Lee County Farm Bureau President Adam Henkel, a seventh-generation grain farmer and repeat participant, stressed the importance of connecting with elected officials in the nation’s capital and extending invitations to farms to help them better understand agriculture.
“I tell them they can come out anytime,” Henkel told FarmWeek. “They can see what we’re doing, see how it’s impacting us and how that impacts them — in the bottom line of their grocery bill, their fuel bill for their car, heating their home, everything comes back around so they need to be aware of where it starts and how it affects the whole country.”
Rocketing fertilizer prices also could lead to more farmers planting soybeans over corn, said Tom Connors, who operates Triple T Farms in Macoupin County, growing corn, soybeans and cattle. He also serves on the local elevator board.
“And if they cut back (nitrogen) rates, you’re going to lower yields,” Connors told FarmWeek.
Accessibility of fertilizer this past season and going forward also is a source for heartburn, he added.
Larry Dallas, IFB District 12 director who grows corn, soybeans and hay in Douglas and Champaign counties, said he’s heard people remark that the U.S. doesn’t import much fertilizer from Ukraine and Russia, but he stresses the current conflict will still have an impact on U.S. farmers.
“It’s a worldwide market. If Ukraine and Russia and Belarus are not exporting fertilizers, countries are going to go somewhere else for that,” Dallas told FarmWeek. “It just tightens the world market.”
“That’s why in one meeting, I said we need to be looking forward trying to think how we’re going to get out of this.”
IFB President Richard Guebert Jr., who joined the delegation March 8, told FarmWeek he receives phone calls almost daily about the skyrocketing input costs and the availability and affordability of putting a crop in the ground.
On Friday, USDA announced plans to invest $250 million to support innovative American-made fertilizer through a new grant program this summer. Additionally, to address growing competition concerns in the agricultural supply chain, USDA will launch a public inquiry seeking information about seeds and agricultural inputs, fertilizer and retail markets.
Looking ahead to the next farm bill, Guebert said crop insurance is top of mind for farmers.
“Crop insurance, conservation, nutrition title are all going to have big impacts, and climate with this administration is a big topic of conversation,” Guebert said. “So those are the four basic things that are going to go into this next farm bill.”
During meetings with legislators, members expressed interest in providing input during upcoming farm bill hearings.
Twenty-four-year-old Korbin Wagenbach said crop insurance is vital for his livelihood. He farms row crops and has a small Angus cow/calf operation in Peoria County and also runs a feed mill and manages the grain storage at the Glasford Facility.
“It’s very important for me as a young farmer because if I don’t have proper insurance, and I get something that takes away my crop significantly, I won’t be able to make the payments and once you get behind, it’s hard to catch up,” Wagenbach told FarmWeek. “And especially, these times right now with high input costs and everything, it’s going to make it exponentially more important that we get that crop insurance.”
This story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.