September webinar on leasing trends kicks off TCF’s 2020-21 season

    Dr. Gary Schnitkey, agricultural and consumer’s economics professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, had good news at the Chicago Farmers’ September 2020 webinar meeting when he shared, “The income outlook for 2020 in Illinois is better than we thought.” However, he did add the caveat that a lot still depends on whether there will be more ad hoc disaster assistance in the near future.

    In response to a question from the webinar audience about the upcoming election’s impact on agriculture, Dr. Schnitkey said that it is believed that if President Trump is re-elected, he will not bring forward any proposals for ad hoc disaster payments because there is no need since he has been returned to office. On the other hand, if the Democrats win the White House and are the majority in the Senate, they won’t issue the payments either because farmers did not support them.

    “But both parties historically have supported farm programs and I don’t see any reason for that to change,” said Dr. Schnitkey. “However, the nature of the support will change if the Democrats are in control because I believe that more of the payments will be tied to conservation.”

    In reporting that the income outlook was better in 2020 than analysts originally had forecast, Dr. Schnitkey said the higher income is based on the fact that in Illinois, corn yield was 223 bushels per acre and the soybean yield was 62 bushels per acre, both were above the trend line.

    The original dire outlook was due to the hot, dry weather in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa during the summer months. Additionally, a severe wind storm in August in Iowa added to the negative impact on yields.

    Dr. Schnitkey went on to say that the USDA changed its Iowa yield forecast for soybeans to 54 bushels per acre in September, down from the forecast of 58 bushels in August; the US yield was downgraded to 51.9 bushels in September from 53.3 bushels in August. Good income increases came about as a result of the lower yields and concern about the yields in China.

    “At this point in September, we are looking at higher yields than we were in August,” said Dr. Schnitkey. He noted that the national yield for corn was 178.5 bushels per acre, with a market year price of $3.50 per bushel for 2020, down slightly from the 2019 price of $3.60.

    Regarding soybeans, the national yield in August was forecast to be 53.3 bushels per acre and in September the forecast was changed to 51.9 bushels. The market value price was forecast in August by the USDA to be $8.35, but upgraded in September to $9.25. The USDA put the corn market value price at $3.10 in August but revised it to $3.50 in September.

    Dr. Schnitkey said that the Coronavirus Food Assistance program has a September 11 deadline. Thus far, payments have been made for livestock and many grain farms. Corn payments were set at $0.335 per bushel and soybean payments were $0.475 per bushel. Currently, there is no indication of ad hoc disaster assistance for 2021.

    Regarding cash rents, Dr. Schnitkey said they were holding steady in 2020. He said the average cash rent for Iowa is $230; Illinois, $222; and Indiana, $194. He noted that the ad hoc federal payments have been important in adding to the stability of the cash rent levels.

    Based on a survey in August, projections for the average cash rent per acre for professionally managed farmland in 2021 include:                                                                                                                        

    Excellent, $297 ($305 in 2020)

    Good, $253 ($270 in 2020)

    Average, $212 ($224 in 2020)  

    Fair, $160 ($173 in 2020)

    Dr. Schnitkey said that 50 percent of Illinois farmland is rented; in Indiana it’s 45 percent; in Iowa it’s 41 percent; and in Ohio it’s 37 percent.  He added that larger grain farms tend to be more involved in rent situations.

    What are the farming arrangements throughout Illinois?

                            Northern                      Central                         Southern

    Owned             19 percent                    14 percent                    22 percent

    Share-Rent       21 percent                    42 percent                    36 percent

    Cash-Rent        60 percent                    44 percent                    42 percent

    Custom farming, in which the landowner pays for the field operations, bears all of the costs, and receives all of the revenue, involves six percent of the state’s farmland.

    He noted that over time, it is becoming apparent that people switch from share-rent to cash-rent due to the ease of making arrangements.

    Dr. Schnitkey advised that a written lease is the best way to go, although there are many instances where this is not the case. If there is not a written lease and the landowner wants to terminate a relationship, he must provide notice by October 31, according to law; however, specifications in a written lease will supersede the October 31 deadline. Dr. Schnitkey said it is rare to see a lease arrangement for more than two or three years. “I would discourage the longer leases because you have no idea what the future holds,” remarked Dr. Schnitkey.

    Dr. Schnitkey added, “The outlook now is bright, not great, but still greater than we thought just one month ago.”

    Written by The Chicago Farmers Editor, Denise Faris

    State Ag director visits TCF

    The Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II was the guest speaker during the Chicago Farmers December 7, 2020, webinar and outlined the agency’s responsibilities and how it protects the consumer.

    Costello noted that the Department of Agriculture is mainly a regulatory agency. It is responsible for inspecting the state’s 1,727 food manufacturers, which make Illinois the leading food manufacturer in the United States. The agency also inspects all agriculture products such as seed programs and it oversees weights and measures, which encompass scales in grocery stores.

    The environment also comes under the agency’s umbrella and inspections ensure that water quality is protected by monitoring the use of pesticides so that they are not polluting bodies of water. County fairs, fairgrounds, medicinal plants, cannabis and hemp also are regulated by the state agency. “Hemp is a sector that could be one of the top cash crops in Illinois,” Costello commented.

    In response to a question, Costello said that ethanol production in the state is very important and it will expand. He said it has an important role environmentally as a renewable fuel.

    Appointed to the position of director of the department on March 2, Costello has spent his tenure working under the restrictions put in place in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. “We are working with 40-50 percent staff levels in person in our building with most of our people working remotely,” said Costello, who pointed out that a number of staff members usually work remotely because that is the nature of their work.

    Costello said that at the outset of the pandemic Governor J.B. Pritzker deemed agriculture as essential in Illinois. There were concerns at many processing plants due to Covid and for a short time production levels fell to 50 percent; however, plants in the state are at 95 percent production capacity now, he said. The agency worked with its Ag partners such as the beef and dairy associations and corn growers to ensure that there were no shortages, Costello added.

    The CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act allocated $5 million in business recovery grants for livestock producers and small meat and poultry plants that the state ag department administered. Costello said the department received 749 applications and it is in the process of reviewing the applications and the funds should be disbursed soon.

    Costello went on to say that his department serves as an educational resource and will be the host of a December 9th webinar for new and beginning farmers. The department also “relaunched” the Homegrown by Heroes Program in November, which recognizes veterans who are farmers. The program provides veterans with information that will help them move forward in farming.

    Bobby Dowson, the department’s marketing representative, discussed his work with food and agribusinesses in Illinois. Dowson related that Illinois is one of the leading agricultural states and ranks third in the United States with annual exports of about $8 billion in agricultural products in 2019. The top three products based on 2019 figures include:

    • Corn, $947 million
    • Soy, $798 million
    • Distilled grains $664 million

    He noted that the top trading partners were Canada ($1.4 billion) and Mexico ($1.35 billion). Others include Indonesia, Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. These countries import quite a bit of distillers grain, beef, pork, and soybeans.

    Dowson said the agency markets the agricultural products and organizes tours in the United States for foreign importers interested in pork, dairy and grain tours. It also organizes tours overseas for Illinois agricultural importers. Due to Covid-19, there were a number of virtual tours during 2020. He noted that there were 150 participants this year who were part of the grain tour. The agency seeks federal funds to pay for transportation to the United States, but participants cover their expenses while they are here. In response to a question from a webinar audience member, Dowson said that money spent on the trade missions is well-spent. “Customers like to see the quality of the product in person that they are going to import,” said Dowson. “The people who go overseas find it valuable to meet potential buyers that they might not otherwise know about. We have found that a lot of sales are generated from inbound and outbound travel.”

    David Lakeman, manager of the Division of Cannabis Regulation, spoke about the administering of the industrial hemp, medical cannabis, and adult use cannabis programs. Lakeman said that a great amount of growth has been seen in this sector and there has been a lot of innovation. In 2019, 7,141.03 acres of hemp were planted and 5,233.20 acres were harvested. He noted there were 800 licensed hemp growers and 364 licensed hemp processors. Regarding medical cannabis, there has been $331,223 in sales this year and $581,958 in sales of adult use cannabis this year.

    Barbara Clark receives 2020 Plowman award

    Chicago Farmers Past President Barbara Clark was named the 2020 Plowman of the Year during TCF’s virtual December 7th meeting. Barbara served two terms as TCF president and was a member of the Board of Directors for 10 years.

    In presenting the award to Barbara, current President Alan Gunn said, “Barbara spent her tenure creating stronger processes for the organization, including developing our Scholarship Fund efforts. She truly left our association better than it was before her time, and we are forever grateful to her for that. As someone who served on the Chicago Farmer’s Board of Directors during her tenure as president, I remember her as a strong leader who made serving on the board a pleasure.  For your legacy and contributions, Barbara, it is our great honor to present you with the 2020 Plowman of the Year Award.”

    As she accepted the award, Barbara thanked Alan for his kind words and noted, “It has been my pleasure and honor to serve The Chicago Farmers. I cherish the friendships I have made as a member of this group.”

    TCF learns about U.S. trade policy and what to expect with a Biden administration

    Dr. Russell Hillbery
    Professor, Agricultural Economics
    Purdue University

    Dr. Russell Hillberry, a professor in Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, discussed the history of United States trade, where we are now, and where we could be headed with the country’s trade policies under President-elect Joe Biden during the November 9th Chicago Farmers webinar meeting.

    Reflecting on the current administration, Dr. Hillberry said that President Donald Trump was a historical anomaly in terms of presidents’ trade policy orientation. He said that generally this president employed an aggressive use of U.S. trade policy and used what some would say are the “loopholes” in trade policy to pursue his agenda. As a result, there was predictable retaliation from other countries.

    By contrast, President-elect Biden has a long record of support for U.S. trade agreements, although he also has sought and won support from labor unions, which often oppose such agreements. But there was little talk about trade policy in the campaign, said Dr. Hillberry, so it is not completely certain how the Biden administration will approach trade.

    Sharing a historical overview, Dr. Hillberry related that Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to set tariffs. The president has the responsibility for most foreign policy issues. Dr. Hillberry pointed out that it is difficult for Congress to negotiate with countries because it is not well-organized for negotiating trade agreements. The two chambers can differ on trade policy ideas and its members cannot respond rapidly to developments that would affect trade.

    Congress has granted limited authority to presidents to negotiate agreements for a given period of time, which is known as Trade Promotion Authority. With this authority, the president negotiates agreements and then consults with Congress, which votes on an agreement without amendment. With congressional approval, the agreement goes into effect.

    In terms of responding to events, many years ago Congress granted the president the authority to raise tariffs in certain situations. As a result, the president has the power to respond to events or raise tariffs due to national security concerns. The president also can use trade agreements as “a stick with countries that have not lived up to stipulated obligations.” There is no need for Congressional approval, but the president has to ensure that certain legal conditions are met.

    Domestic politics do play a role in trade agreements. Dr. Hillberry said that the Senate is more favorable than the House to granting presidents the authority to negotiate. This is due to the fact that the costs of trade agreements are concentrated by industry and are localized. However, the benefits of trade agreements are diffuse. American voters generally do not take trade policy into account as they cast their ballots. “The higher levels of representation generally are more in favor of trade agreements,” noted Dr. Hillberry.

    He went on to say that presidents usually tend to favor more trade agreements and take national interests into account when considering the agreements. They see trade agreements as a tool for accomplishing foreign policy objectives. But, a president also naturally favors more negotiating authority because such authority is a grant of power from the Congress to the president, said Dr. Hillberry.

    “Presidents, in general, are more favorable to trade agreements due to these factors than their political parties as a whole are,” according to Dr. Hillberry.

    Trade agreements are usually about economic benefits, but presidents’ foreign policy objectives are ultimately more important in the minds of policymakers than are the economic implications of agreements, Dr. Hillberry noted.

    For example, presidents use the granting of access to U. S. markets in return for some foreign policy goals they want to achieve. In order to have domestic politics work out, a president would leverage the support of domestic export interests, such as agriculture or medical equipment or Hollywood, to overcome opposition from import competing interests.

    Following World War II, from the 1940s to the early 1980s, the United States advocated multilateralism regarding trade. It had the view that the nation should form agreements with many countries, but only within the context of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). “GATT was an open club,” said Dr. Hillberry. “Member countries treated each other in the same manner.”

    The primary reasons for pursuing the GATT agreements were related to foreign policy. The goal was to create prosperous blocs of market-oriented economies as a Cold War strategy. “The United States wanted its allies to be prosperous to diffuse the adoption of communism and to unify Western Europe. The agreements were efforts to support the NATO allies. Additionally, they made former combatants in Europe interdependent. This would build a big, open club that would liberalize trade,” according to Dr. Hillberry.

    He went on to say that there were economic reasons, too, for pursuing the GATT agreements. They created a broad international prosperity with few trade barriers. Additionally, policies that are consistent across trading partners are economically most rational; it is the preferred way of doing trade agreements. At the time of these agreements, the United States was dominant in manufacturing and the agreements opened up trade for U.S. exports.

    In the 1980s and 1990s, the United States began to sign preferential agreements. Israel, Canada, and Mexico were given greater access to U.S. markets in return for the United States gaining access to their countries’ markets. The main reason for a 1985 agreement with Israel was political: to support an ally in the Middle East. There were no meaningful economic benefits.  A foreign policy rationale for Nafta was that it helped to stabilize Mexico and support its reforming government. Economically, agreements with Canada and Mexico created a trading bloc to compete with blocs in Europe and Asia.

    President George W. Bush signed a number of agreements with small countries that supported the United States in the Iraq War. Another reason to pursue so many bilateral agreements was that the European Union was signing agreements throughout the world at that time. The many U.S. agreements that came with a lot of commitments also were seen as a way for the United States to force the agenda at the World Trade Organization. Among the agreements negotiated by President Bush, the U.S.-South Korea agreement was a notable exception. An agreement with that country was negotiated under pressure from Congressional leadership from agricultural exporting states.

    President Obama shifted from negotiating with one country at a time to negotiating mega-regionals such as TTIP (left unfinished) with the European Union to harmonize technical standards, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Pacific countries to compete for influence in the region with China. TPP also was held out as a carrot for China to behave itself and have a future membership with the group, said Dr. Hillberry.  The TPP was negotiated and signed by President Obama, but President Trump withdrew before the agreement could be sent to Congress. Neither agreement has been implemented by the U.S., though the other members of the TPP went ahead without the U.S.

    President Trump invoked discretionary powers to raise tariffs. He initiated steel and aluminum tariffs against most of the world and put higher tariffs in place against China, who then retaliated with tariffs on agricultural products, among others. As a response, the U.S. government sent large payments to farmers to make up for the loss of exports.

    President Trump also was skeptical of international institutions and undermined the WTO; he negotiated either reductions in the tariffs he had imposed or the halting of tariff increases; and negotiated mini-deals that did not require the consent of Congress. He also renegotiated NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, although he made limited changes in that case due to pressure from Congress.

    What to expect from President-elect Biden? During the campaign, candidate Biden proposed changes to government procurement laws that favored buying American made products. Dr. Hillberry thought President-elect Biden might try to rebuild U.S. influence at the WTO and he will probably move quickly to remove tariffs with allies, especially in Europe. He will expect reciprocity with lower tariffs on U.S. goods. A President Biden can do this without Congress because these tariffs were raised without Congressional approval. President-elect Biden might consider re-entering TPP because he was an advocate of it. However, he would need Congressional approval, and the votes might not be there, Dr. Hillberry suggested.

    Dr. Hillberry expects President-elect Biden to use trade policy, such as carbon tariffs, to compliment policy related to climate change. It is possible that tariffs would be in place for countries that don’t have policies to mitigate emission of carbon dioxide and other climate change pollutants.

    Regarding China, there are relatively high tariffs in place in both directions due to the trade war. President Trump negotiated a “phase one” mini-deal at the end of 2019 that could be thought of as mostly a cease fire, we won’t continue to raise tariffs on China, and vice versa is expected.

    The United States did get commitments from China to purchase U.S. agricultural products, these commitments were not met due to Covid and interruptions in the world economy, the commitments probably were not feasible anyway, Dr. Hillberry said.

    In getting the agreements, President Trump set up farm payments without Congressional approval through the Market Facilitation Program for farmers affected by tariffs. This program could be reversed.

    “My expectation is that President-elect Biden initially will keep the tariffs that PresidentTrump had as leverage with China,” said Dr. Hillberry. “He can negotiate away Trump’s tariffs without Congressional approval as President Trump did.”

    Dr. Hillberry said that President-elect Biden will likely have different goals than President Trump. He will seek policy commitments, not purchase agreements, in his negotiations, and he would look for movement on certain issues. For example, it is possible that President-elect Biden would focus on intellectual property and state owned enterprises and down play agricultural export interests.

    He noted that the China policy is likely to be re-oriented away from U.S. agricultural exports and there could be a reduction or end of the Market Facilitation Program payments.

    Dr. Hillberry pointed out that most of President Trump’s actions were done without Congress with no change in the law so they may have limited durability with a new president. Trade policy probably will not be a high priority in the Biden administration, which will be focused on other things. “I expect mostly a return to normal U.S. trade policy settings and restoring relationships with traditional allies, such as Europe and Japan, will be a main objective,” said Dr. Hillberry. “There will be new efforts related to labor interests in the United States and environmental issues such as climate change will be key parts of trade policy going forward.”

    Written by Denise Faris, The Chicago Farmers Newsletter Editor

    Automation and autonomy in agriculture

    Driverless combines and cultivators autonomously supervised hundreds of miles away from the fields are not dreams of the future. They are here now and Mark Moran, lead of Advanced Sensing Emerging Technology and head of John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group in Champaign, and Craig Rupp, CEO of Sabanto, shared how and why this technology is happening in agriculture during their presentations during The Chicago Farmers’ October 5, 2020, webinar.

    “United States agriculture has tripled output in the last 70 years,” said Mark. With worldwide populations growing, we can’t let up on the creation of food.”

    Agriculture is moving to a smart industrial operating model, according to Mark. He noted that agriculture today is unbelievably high tech. “There is a lot of advanced technology on a combine. There are more lines of code on a combine than on a fighter jet,” said Mark.

    Over the years, John Deere has developed machinery that supports precision agriculture and autonomy and brings decision making to the plant level, Mark said. The enormity of planting (the United States plants two trillion corn seeds per year) and the increasing unpredictability of weather are fueling the need to get into the field right away. Information and communication technology are key elements of precision ag, along with autonomy or automatic navigation.

    Every autonomous system is based on sense-decide-act. For example, the weed control product See and Spray senses what is happening on the ground, decides what the weed is and sprays that weed, not the plant, Mark said.

     “Autonomy is not science fiction and it is not technology change, it’s people change. People’s jobs in agriculture are changing,” Mark related. “An autonomous system requires set-up (navigation), path planning (obstacle avoidance), job planning, and remote supervision. Sending a tractor down a field is not the same as a driverless automobile on the road.”

    An electrical engineer by education, Craig grew up on a farm in Iowa and worked for a time at John Deere.  Co-founder of 640 Labs, an agricultural technology startup, Craig wanted to solve a problem in 2018 that every farmer has: labor shortage. He noted that the American farmer is aging, rural communities are dwindling, there are fewer opportunities for the young, families are smaller, farms are getting larger, and farmers are increasingly relying on outside labor.

    “Labor already is a problem for farmers. I believed that autonomous machines would fill the labor gap that agriculture is experiencing,” said Craig.

    In 2018, Craig founded Sabanto, which provides total turn-key ag operations using autonomously supervised equipment. In the spring of 2019, Sabanto began autonomous planting. After purchasing equipment, Craig’s company began planting in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois. He also built a team (the most competent people I know, said Craig) and built a fleet of planters. Craig leased a 60 horsepower Kubota tractor, which was powerful enough to pull a five-row planter, and a three-quarter ton truck, which could transport the tractor.

    “We are able to cover 130 acres per day with one system with less compaction.” said Craig. “We have deployed three units in a field, planting simultaneously.”

    He noted that while his autonomous planters were planting in a field in Sac City, Iowa, he was a mile way. Sabanto recently completed rotary hoeing for a 20,000 acre organic grower in Nebraska. After buying a cultivator, Craig cultivated an organic bean field in Burlington, Iowa. “After we dropped off the equipment in Iowa, one of our engineers in Chicago monitored it for an 18 hour run,” Craig shared.

    After a number of farmers asked if Sabanto could take over their fall tillage on their farms, Craig purchased a tillage machine. “While our autonomous tiller did the tilling on an Illinois field, the farmer’s employee was hauling grain,” Craig recounted. He noted that while he was giving his presentation for Chicago Farmers, his equipment was tilling land in Harvard, Illinois.

    Craig said he was asked to provide cover crop seeding and started doing that in November 2018 with a cover crop of winter wheat in Champaign.

    In response to questions about dealing with obstacles, such as mud holes, Mark answered, “We figure out mathematically what the ground is and have the equipment identify if the obstacles are doable and solvable problems. If the technology gets into trouble, it asks for help, or it can take care of it. If necessary, a person is sent out to resolve the issue.”

    Craig responded, “We monitor the health of the system. We know what speed we should be running at. We have not had any of our equipment stuck yet.”

    Craig and Mark agreed that autonomy would be more available in agriculture long before it is on the highways.

    “We can lay out a business case with autonomous ag; we can point to how much it is saving the farmer. It is hard to build a business case with the autonomous car,” Mark said. “Car technology is not rugged enough for farming. We are competing for talent, although our location in the University of Illinois Research Park allows us to be close to the talent. Ag has some really cool problems, we are hiring programmers to help feed the world. We are competing with industry such as Tesla, Facebook and Google, not just other ag companies. Once people understand how noble the work is (feeding the world) and how advanced our problems are, we can get students excited about ag. We have to tell our story.”

    Written by Denise Faris, The Chicago Farmers Editor

    JJC student receives Chicago Farmers scholarship

    Taylar Beal, a second year student at Joliet Junior College, is a recent recipient of a scholarship from The Chicago Farmers. In a thank you note to TCF, Taylar wrote, “I was very excited and humbled by the news that I was a recipient of a generous scholarship from The Chicago Farmers…I am thankful I can continue my education at Joliet Junior College as it has been so much more than I had ever expected. “

    Taylar related that when she began her education at JJC she had intended to pursue studies in animal science, but she has broadened her options for the future and now is considering pursuing areas related to dairy science. She shared that she had an opportunity this summer to complete an internship at a cattle feed lot, which afforded her new opportunities and made her aware of other options available to her.

    Noting that she was grateful to The Chicago Farmers for awarding her a scholarship, Taylar also shared in her thank you note, “I am very excited to get started with my second year and I am looking forward to transferring to a four-year school to continue my education.  I am looking at several schools that excel in agriculture and I am very much looking forward to expanding my knowledge and experience.”

    How we must get farming right to avert future crises

    John Piotti
    American Farmland Trust

    Agriculture is like a double edged sword: on the one side it has been a lifeline for millions because of the ability of farmers to produce an abundance of food for the world; on the other side, the unsustainable practices that are often employed to grow our food harm the environment. But, The Chicago Farmers learned during the May 11, 2020, virtual meeting through a presentation by John Piotti, president and CEO of American Farmland Trust (AFT), that all is not lost, that enough farmland farmed with the right practices can lead to true sustainability and a healthy planet. AFT is a Gold Level Sponsor of The Chicago Farmers

    “There are things that we need to change in farming. The world needs farms: ‘no farms, no food,’” said Piotti to Chicago Farmers members attending the May Zoom meeting. “AFT has worked for 40 years to bring agriculture and the environment together and it has been involved in some of the most critical issues affecting the planet, including climate change.”

    Piotti gave a brief history of U.S. farming since 1837, when John Deere invented the modern moldboard plow. “It changed everything,” said Piotti. “The prairie land was too tough and too thick to properly farm, but that changed with the Deere plow. But once we had this amazing technology, we plowed and plowed--and that over-plowing contributed to the 1930s dust bowl.”

    He went on to say that during the 1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace advanced soil conservation as government policy; but then during the war years, the country’s focus was elsewhere. During the 1950s and 1960s, American farmers applied industrial models to agriculture and the “Global Green Revolution” was underway.

    “That Green Revolution kept millions from starving, but that accomplishment came with severe environmental consequences,” said Piotti. He then added that environmentalists became more active during the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to turn things around but they were often at odds with farmers.

    According to Piotti, AFT was founded in 1980 to bridge the divide between farmers and environmentalists. Piotti then pointed out how different things were in 1980 than today--how less than 10,000 acres of farmland has been protected, there was no recognition of agricultural easements in federal law, no federal funds for farmland protection, and minimal support for better farming practices.

    But AFT changed all that, Piotti pointed out, when it launched the “Conservation Agriculture Movement” by advancing the Farmland Protection Policy in 1981 and incorporating the Conservation Title into the 1985 Farm Bill. In years since, over 6.5 million acres of farmland have been permanently protected and better farming practices have been adopted on millions of additional acres.

    Yet sadly, agriculture is a major cause of the climate crisis now confronting the world, Piotti said, adding that 10 percent of our nation’s overall carbon emissions are from agriculture. But agriculture has the chance to reduce atmospheric carbon and put it back into the soil, Piotti noted.

    AFT is the only national agriculture group that takes a truly holistic approach, focusing on the land itself, the farming practices employed on the land, and the farmers and ranchers who steward that land. Piotti said that AFT encourages regenerative agriculture, which uses better farming practices that restore soil health. These practices:

    • reduce harmful run-off into streams
    • hold water during droughts
    • don’t require farmers to use as many inputs
    • capture atmospheric carbon in the soil (countering greenhouse gas emissions)

    And the best practices for increasing carbon in the soil?

    • cover crops
    • crop rotation
    • no till or low till
    • intensive rotational grazing
    • silvo-pasture (which allow livestock to graze in wooded settings)

    Piotti commented that farming is essential to both growing our food and providing essential environment services, including carbon capture. He shared that AFT’s research has shown that just by applying cover crops and reducing tillage, U.S. agriculture could sequester carbon equivalent to over 80 percent of its emissions--and that Ag could go further with more aggressive steps. “We could become a carbon sink, that is what agriculture needs to do to counter industry that will always emit carbon,” said Piotti.

    A major concern is that we are losing 2,000 acres of farmland every day--and we lose opportunity to combat climate change with every acre we lose. He said that one key question is whether we have enough farmland. “It is necessary to determine how much land we need not only to feed ourselves, but to provide essential environmental services including sequestering carbon,” Piotti said. “We don’t yet have that answer, but when the research is complete, I am convinced that it will show that long before we run out of the land that we need to feed us, we will run out of the land that we need to help heal the planet.”

    The aging farmer population is another concern, said Piotti; however, AFT is actively involved in helping people who want to farm. The organization helps would-be farmers find farmland and advises them on how to farm successfully.

    Piotti said that AFT recently created a Farmer Relief Fund to aid farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. AFT has now raised $1 million, which allowed it to allocate $1,000 checks to 1,000 farmers. “We had 5,200 applicants and with current funds can only support one out of five applicants. So we hope you will consider a gift to the Farmer Relief Fund,” said Piotti.

    Piotti said that in order to combat change, widespread adoption of regenerative practices is necessary as well as sufficient farmland and enough of the right farmers and ranchers. That’s a tall order.

    But there is reason for hope, he said. “We have the tools needed to protect the land and manage that land well, and we know how to support the next generation,” Piotti said. “We simply need to do this work at greater scale.”

    He also pointed out:

    • we are poised for changes in both policy and markets to compensate farmers for both growing food and providing environmental services
    • we are positioned to take on new research that will help assess exactly how much farmland we need—and in so doing, avoid a tipping point

    Piotti went on to say, “Perhaps the biggest reason for hope is that more and more people appreciate farming, farmers and the food they grow. This increased awareness of farming and environmental challenges is making a difference. Driven by public demand, federal policy is poised for major change with regenerative practices as the focus.”

    Piotti urged people to connect with AFT, visit its website ( and become a member. Piotti said, “We need more people engaged.”

    He added, “AFT is in the crises prevention business. As horrible as this pandemic is, it is a small problem compared to what will happen if we have a serious shortage of food or a planet that is environmentally unsound. Yet we can remove these threats if we act now to rebuild agriculture.  And we can do that with your help.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    CME’s chief economist discusses the current economic environment at TCF meeting

    Dr. Blu Putnam, chief economist and managing director of the CME Group, the world’s largest operator of futures and options exchanges, was the guest speaker at The Chicago Farmers’ March 9, 2020, meeting. He provided his perspectives on the “Current Economic Environment with Insights from the CME Market Sentiment Meter.”

    The presentation opened with a discussion around the timing of when different markets reacted to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Dr. Putnam noted that oil markets were quick to react with price declines, since the virus was first discovered in China, because China is a huge importer of oil.  By contrast, downward pressure on U.S. and European equity indices were several weeks behind.  This appeared to reflect that global equities waited until the narrative changed from a China-only story to a global narrative with news about tracking the spread of the virus around the world.

    The reaction of equities to policy responses also was intriguing.  Dr. Putnam noted that when the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) announced an emergency cut in rates on March 3, 2020, equities reacted with further declines.  While the Fed was acting in an accommodative manner, which under other circumstances might have been reflected in an equity rally, market participants chose to focus on the forward-guidance, namely that the Fed was extremely worried about how the economy would handle the spread of COVID-19.

    Dr. Putnam shared some new research from CME Group on ways to quantitatively track changes in market sentiment.  In an example from the past year, Dr. Putnam shared that the Market Sentiment Meter showed that back in May 2019, equities were in a highly conflicted sentiment state.  At the time, market participants were weighing the pros and cons of the U.S. tariff tensions with China, with some market participants seeing optimism while others were very worried about a global slowdown in trade and growth.  By December 2019, equity markets had become comfortable that a reasonable resolution of the tariff tensions was at hand with a Phase One U.S.-China trade deal, and the sentiment risk distribution returned to a typical balanced-risk shape.

    In closing, Dr. Putnam focused on agriculture and talked about how market sentiment had evolved during the planting season in 2019.  Early in the season, sentiment and risks seemed relatively balanced.  By May 2019, however, sentiment and risks had shifted into a much more anxious state, due to a cold spring and the considerable flooding that was delaying plantings.  Dr. Putnam noted that as of March 2020, the corn market had returned to an anxious sentiment state.  Corn market participants had a lot about which to be concerned with oil prices dropping and impacting ethanol, with the virus lockdowns closing restaurants and impacting beef (steak) sales, and with jobs being lost in many sectors of the economy shrinking incomes and demand.

    Delaware Statutory Trusts and 1031 Exchanges; an introduction for owners of farmland

    Daniel Wagner
    SVP Government Relations
    The Inland Real Estate Group, LLC
    Nate Kuhn
    Chicagoland 1031 Exchange

    Dan Wagner, senior vice president, government relations, of the Inland Real Estate Group, LLC, was among the speakers at The Chicago Farmers inaugural webinar that was held on April 20th in lieu of a regular meeting due to the restrictions on large gatherings. He was joined by Nate Kuhn, financial adviser with Chicagoland 1031 Exchange. Inland is a Platinum Sponsor of The Chicago Farmers.

    Dan gave an overview of Inland, which was founded 52 years ago by four Chicago public school teachers who became involved in real estate ventures and formed Inland. Over the years, Inland has purchased $47 billion in commercial real estate. With its experience in real estate, Inland developed the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) structure that is used in Section 1031 exchanges. Inland Private Capital Corporation’s counsel worked with the Internal Revenue Service to educate them on the DST structure and Revenue Ruling 2004-86 was issued as a result of the collaboration. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code can provide a strategy for deferring capital gains tax that may arise from the sale of a business or investment real property.

    Nate said that Inland is one of the sponsors of DSTs that his firm works with. Chicagoland 1031 Exchange is independent from Inland. He said that DSTs could be a consideration at retirement or at other points in people’s lives when they may be thinking about changing their investments into something that is passive.

    A Section 1031 exchange allows people to sell property and defer the ensuing taxes by purchasing another property with the proceeds of the sale, said Nate. Additionally, the DST structure allows the investor to continue to exchange real properties until the investor’s death. Upon the death of the investor, the heirs may receive a step-up in basis to avoid completely the deferred capital gains tax.

    “With the DST, an investor has the ability to be a fractional owner of property that he would not be able to afford on his own, for instance a $100 million apartment complex,” said Nate. “The DST allows the investor to get the advantage of a potential cash flow-generally around 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent without the responsibilities that come with the ownership of property,” said Nate. Because this is a real estate investment, the investor could also realize appreciation when the DST is sold. At the same time, the DST owner also participates in the downside if a property sells for less than its original purchase price; additionally, cash flows can fluctuate and are not guaranteed.

    The fractional ownership also allows for diversification across different asset styles and geographically, added Nate. A person could go into three or four DSTs that are involved in asset classes other than multi-family dwellings, such as self-storage facilities or medical care. Dan added that the DST owner also is not responsible for loans on the properties.

    Nate also pointed out that the like-kind involved in the exchanges does not mean that an investor has to buy the same kind of property he or she sold; it just has to be an investment property.

    The men noted the minimum investment in a DST is $100,000, but if an investor has less than that to invest, there is some leniency. But the exchanges do tend to be large, in excess of $1 million, Nate said.

    Nate pointed out that with a DST, the investor gives up control to the sponsor of the DST. Additionally, DSTs are not liquid investments, but the investor should receive cash flow and potentially appreciation throughout its duration. The DST could sell within three to five years, but it is usually seven years. To invest in a DST a person must qualify as an accredited investor. An accredited investor must have a net worth over $1 million, alone or together with spouse (excluding the value of primary residences, or $200,000 of income individually ($300,000 with a spouse) in each of the prior two years with reasonable expectation to continue for the current year.  .

    Nate said that DSTs can be purchased in living trusts or irrevocable trusts. He has also worked with LLCs and corporations (irrevocable trusts and other entities have different accreditation standards that he is happy to discuss). Nate suggested that DSTs are good measuring sticks for people who are considering buying property directly. “Compare the property to a DST and determine if it is better than a DST,” he said. Nate went on to say that he has worked with quite a few farmers who decided to exchange into a DST.

    Dan commented, “Inland is the number one sponsor of DSTs. It’s a dynamic concept. People should consider working with a knowledgeable financial adviser such as Nate to learn if it works for them.”

    You can read more information about 1031 exchanges and DSTs at Nathan Kuhn can be reached at 847-607-4976, ext. 1, [email protected]

    (The information herein has been prepared for educational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to purchase or sell securitized real estate investments. Such offers are only made through the sponsors Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) which is solely available to accredited investors and accredited entities. DST 1031 properties are only available to accredited investors (typically have a $1 million net worth excluding primary residence or $200,000 income individually/$300,000 jointly of the last two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year) and accredited entities only. If you are unsure if you are an accredited investor and/or an accredited entity please verify with your CPA and Attorney. There are risks associated with investing in real estate and Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) properties including, but not limited to, loss of entire investment principal, declining market values, tenant vacancies and illiquidity. Potential cash flows/returns/appreciation are not guaranteed and could be lower than anticipated. Because investor’s situations and objectives vary this information is not intended to indicate suitability for any particular investor. This material is not to be interpreted as tax or legal advice. Please speak with your own tax and legal advisors for advice/guidance regarding your particular situation.

    This site is published for residents of the United States only. Representatives may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered. Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed until appropriate registration is obtained or exemption from registration is determined. Not all services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every advisor listed. For additional information, please contact Nathan Kuhn at 224-427-3421.

    Chicagoland 1031 Exchange does not offer legal or tax advice. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your individual circumstances.

    Securities offered through DAI Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC. Advisory services offered through Kuhn Wealth Management, Inc. (KWM), a state registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through DAI Securities, LLC. KWM dba Chicagoland 1031 Exchange is independent of DAI Securities, LLC.)

    Hemp in today’s marketplace

    There currently is a keen interest in the growing of hemp, even though growing the plant just became legal one year ago. Dr. Winthrop B. Phippen, professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, School of Agriculture, Western Illinois University, discussed this new crop during the Chicago Farmers February 10 luncheon meeting.

    “The current hemp industry is new and there is a lot of uncertainty that surrounds hemp production,” said Dr. Phippen “Because it was just legalized a year ago, there is little research and information on it. It is apparent from the 2019 growing season that producers are determined to grow hemp, but they need to create networks.” 

    Dr. Phippen pointed out that hemp was grown in Illinois during World War II for its fiber, the plant’s most valuable product. Hemp is useful for its fiber, grain, and CBD (cannabidiol) oil. Hemp’s oil and seeds are the major interests today. In 2019, there were 970 applications in Illinois; 294 processor applications and 644 grower licenses, according to Dr. Phippen.

    Hemp, like marijuana, is a cannabid plant, but the flower from the marijuana plant is significantly higher in THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, than it is in the hemp flower, Dr. Phippen noted. Hemp is used for the extraction of its CBD (cannabidiol) oils.

    “We do not have data from hemp’s 2019 growing season,” said Dr. Phippen. “There were no research trials and growers are trying to develop a supply chain. What is being grown now is not the same as the hemp that was grown more than 70 years ago for its fiber.”

    He said that growing hemp is more labor intensive than producers originally had expected. Industrial hemp that is grown for its CBD is harvested by hand. The plants are hung to dry in drying sheds or warehouses. The grain of industrial hemp is harvested with a combine. Following the harvest, the hemp must be stored immediately in aeration bins. Industrial hemp fiber is harvested by mower and baler and the bales are stored at 15 percent moisture. Proper storage both seeds and oil are critical to prevent spoilage.

    The professor noted that growers do face challenges:

    • markets or end users are not identified prior to planting
    • protocols are needed for the final products
    • limited availability of seasonal labor
    • experienced workers are not available at planting or harvesting
    • no registered chemicals
    • there is no infrastructure in the state for processing.


    Dr. Phippen said there are a lot of uncertainties in the production and processing of the plant, and it is an expensive endeavor. “People have to do their due diligence regarding their budgets,” he said. “We have to wait and see what happens when regulations are in place.”

    What is happening in the land market?

    ”In the midst of the coronavirus, no one knows where the overall world economics are going, let alone where agriculture’s economics are headed during this uncertain time, but we do know there will be a lot of change,” Randy Dickhut, Farmers National Company senior vice president of real estate and guest speaker, said during an April 20 webinar that took the place of Chicago Farmers usual meeting setting due to the coronavirus and the large group restrictions that are in place. Farmers National, a gold Sponsor of the Chicago Farmers, manages $9.2 million worth of land and is one of the country’s largest independent oil and gas leasing firms.

    Randy explored what owning land was like before the coronavirus, what it is like in early 2020, and what will be the new normal.

    Land is important to agriculture and it is growing in importance, said Randy. It comprises 83 percent of the total assets in agriculture, making it almost 100 percent of the equity in agriculture. He noted that the stability of agriculture rests in its land values.

    Referring to land values in Nebraska, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, Randy said that land values have had “quite a ride” since the early 2000s. He said that land values are increasing due, in part, to the fact that the Corn Belt is expanding north and that has added value. The peak of the land values hit in 2013, but the values have not fallen much for average land.

    Giving examples of land values, Randy related that values in Illinois had increased to more than $7,000 per acre for average land in 2019. In Kansas, the valuation was $2,000 an acre, but the numbers were inching up. Land values in Arkansas were at $3,500 an acre and they had not plateaued. “Values in Arkansas were moving upward because the Arkansas delta region has a number of crop options that include corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton,” he said. “The area also attracts a lot of institutional investors because of the size of the tracts and land prices are low.”

    Randy went on to say that farmland is a good long-term investment and compares favorably with other real estate investments: it offers consistency, the land is always rented; there is no vacancy.

    He noted that farmland correlates to 10 year Treasuries. It is also a hedge against inflation. While farmland ownership compares somewhat to the movement of gold, it is more or less counter cyclical to the stock market, so it is a good investment for spreading out assets.

    Land values were in positive territory in the early 2000s, but they are not as good today, observed Randy. At the opening of 2020, farmers had a little bit of optimism: grain prices were getting slightly better as well as livestock and dairy prices. Additionally, the United States was in Phase I of the China trade deal and the third payment of MFP had been made.

    Randy added, “But, the best laid plans go astray.” He did note, however, that land values are holding due to low interest rates. Randy said there also is not much debt in agriculture now. The issue is the lack of availability of working capital. If grain values would increase, the future would look brighter.

    In the long-term, there are a number of converging trends that will have effects on agriculture and land values, Randy said. He noted the internet and artificial intelligence, ongoing generational land transfers, food preferences and changing eating habits, and changes in food production. “Things change quickly and land values change quickly too,” said Randy.

    He said the “new normal” will be affected by three trends:

    • Sustainability in resources and food and secure sources
    • Traceability, where our food is coming from
    • Changes in land ownership through technology and purchases by institutions

    Randy observed that climate change and land usage also will impact land values; however, the Midwest continues to be a prime spot for investment. Experts are studying how much useable land the country has. He said that one-half of the land goes to agriculture for pasture and feed grain. “Will that remain to be the case as we move forward?” Randy asked.

    Among the challenges that agriculture will face:

    • population loss in rural areas
    • migration from urban areas to rural areas, which could cause changes in ownership of land
    • technology is increasing yield and less land is being used with better crop production
    • the effect of growth in electric cars on fuel and corn
    • lab grown food
    • population growth or leveling off of population
    • Covid 19’s drastic effects on grain and livestock prices

    In response to a question about lenders from a webinar listener, Randy said that March and April brought crashes in ethanol and livestock prices, which will pose real challenges to lenders for equipment purchases and other purchases. “I am sure lenders are making plans now on how they will mitigate those losses,” responded Randy.

    Responding to another question, Randy said that the best times to sell farmland are late summer and early fall. “We usually see a lot of activity post-harvest,” he said. The next best time is mid-January to February; however, “farmland will sell at auction year-round.”

    Two Chicago Farmers members cited by their professional organizations

    Chicago Farmers members Ray Brownfield’s and Jason J. Lestina’s expertise in land management recently garnered them well deserved recognition from their professional field. Both men are with Land Pro LLC in Oswego, Illinois.

    Ray Brownfield, ALC
    Receives the Realtors® Land Institute's
    Most Esteemed 2019 RLI Leadership Award

    Ray, an accredited farm manager and accredited land consultant (ALC) with Land Pro, received the 2019 Robert C. Meeks, ALC, Distinguished Service Award as part of Realtors Land Institute’s (RLI) Leadership Awards Program, according to a Land Pro news release. Named for dedicated, long-time ALC Robert C. Meeks, the award is presented to an ALC in recognition of their long-term commitment and service to fellow members, the land profession and the community.

    Ray received the award during RLI’s Virtual National Land Conference (NLC20) on March 30 with land professionals from throughout the United States watching online. The presentation was made by 2020 National President Kyle Hansen, ALC, and RLI CEO Aubrie Kobernus, MBA, RCE. Four additional RLI members also received awards through the esteemed Realtors Institute Leadership Awards Program, the press release noted. All award recipients are nominated and selected by their peers.

    “To receive this award from my peers is a humbling honor. It came as a complete surprise from RLI, whose professional members all distinguish themselves every day by providing the highest level of service to their clients,” said Ray upon receiving the award.

    Aubrie Kobemus added, “The RLI Leadership Awards recognize the land professionals most dedicated to serving our organization and our industry. They are truly the best of the best in the business as proven by their service and contributions, and we could not be more proud to have them as a part of RLI.”

    Jason J. Lestina 
    Receives the Realtors® Land Institute's
    Prestigious Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) Designation

    The press release also related that the RLI announced that Jason, a licensed real estate broker and Accredited Farm Manager with Land Pro, received the Accredited Land Consultant designation on March 30. According to the release, “Jason is now among the most dedicated land professionals from around the globe, joining an elite group of over 500 land specialists who hold the designation across the globe, and one of 18 individuals in the United States that hold both the Accredited Land Consultant and the Accredited Farm Manager designations.”

    Jason said, “I am honored to have received the ALC designation from the institute. I look forward to utilizing the knowledge and expertise I obtained to better assist my clients with their land real estate needs.”

    The release noted that in addition to subscribing to the Realtors Code of Ethics, ALCs support the high standards of conduct and experience that directly relate to their specialty. As an ALC, Jason has access to the best industry knowledge, an unprecedented network of fellow land professionals, and a variety of resources to help best serve his clients.

    Through RLI’s Land University (LANDU), Jason will gain expertise through an unparalleled land real estate education program that offers top-notch educational courses and webinars for land professionals, according to the release. The release noted that land is a unique real estate specialty that requires the kind of specialized professional education that can be found at RLI’s LANDU.

    TCF awards scholarship to Iowa State student

    Iowa State University senior Caroline Treadwell is a recipient of a scholarship from The Chicago Farmers. Caroline is majoring in biology and animal science.

    A resident of St. Charles, Illinois, Caroline said that she chose to study biology after becoming fascinated with her high school advanced placement biology course. “I was inspired by my enthusiastic teacher,” she said. Caroline noted that the decision to study animal science came from her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. “Because I pursued a dual degree program with two majors, I will graduate summa cum laude in May with a bachelor's degree in each of my majors,” said Caroline.

    As a student at Iowa State, Caroline  was involved in the Dairy Science Club and  the Biological Sciences Club, where she served in several leadership positions including treasurer and vice president. She has been accepted into multiple veterinary medicine colleges across the Midwest, but has not yet made a final selection.

    Caroline said that her primary goal for the future is to make advances in the field of veterinary medicine. “I am awed by the progress within human medicine, and I would love to be a part of the efforts to push forward the veterinary counterpart,” said Caroline. “My aspiration to become a veterinary ophthalmologist is rooted in my desire to bring a higher degree of care to the animal kingdom.”

    In expressing her gratitude to Chicago Farmers for the scholarship, Caroline said she is extremely thankful for the award because the career path of a veterinary ophthalmologist requires a year-long internship and three years of residency after completing four years of veterinary school. Caroline said, “This scholarship is what fuels the long journey toward my veterinary career. It is because of your generosity that people like me are able to pursue higher education and work toward change.”

    The Chicago Farmers award scholarships to three Joliet Junior College students

    Three students from Joliet Junior College (JJC) recently received scholarships from The Chicago Farmers. The students include Brooklyn Tice, Abigail Wagner, and Jillian Camp.

    Brooklyn Tice is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Agriculture Production. Following completion of the degree, Brooklyn plans to transfer to an out-of-state, four-year university where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree with a major in Animal Science and a minor in Crop and Soil Science. She plans to continue her studies with pursuit of a master’s degree. Brooklyn also plans to take advantage of internship opportunities and job openings over the summer. When Brooklyn completes her schooling, she will embark on a career in the world of agriculture production.

    With a 3.5 GPA, Brooklyn is a very active student within JJC’s Ag Department where she mainly participates as a member of the livestock judging team. The team travels around the country to various judging contests while practicing at least four times a week in preparation for these contests. When she is not competing at contests, she is involved with the Student Ag Association, attending each event the group sponsors. Furthermore, Brooklyn is active with the Illinois Farm Bureau and attends each of the conferences that the bureau offers collegiate members.

    She noted that she has a passion not only for agriculture, but also for Joliet Junior College. “I truly love to be there and to be learning something new each and every day, so I try to stay as active with the school as one's schedule will allow,” Brooklyn wrote to TCF. “It does not end there, though. I also stay busy at home by giving back to my community through the local church, 4H clubs, and FFA chapters. Whenever extra hands are needed to work the 4H food stand or to judge the visual arts contest at general projects day, I always do my best to be there to help. The same goes for the FFA chapters. For example, recently they needed help setting up their banquet so I assisted them. As I said, I have a deep passion for anything related to agriculture so I will always be the first to attend and the first to help.”

    Abigail Wagner has a 3.78 GPA and is studying for an associate degree in Ag Production. Next year she plans to continue working toward the degree while taking extra general education classes to enable her to transfer to Illinois State University. At ISU she plans to major in either Ag Finance or Ag Communication. With a degree in Ag Finance she would be prepared for a career in Ag insurance sales, Ag lending or in a similar field. If Abigail majors in Ag Communication, she would like to educate children about agriculture by working with 4-H youth through the extension office, Farm Bureau or livestock associations. 

    At JJC, Abigail is an active member of the Livestock Judging Team. “On the judging team we have regular practices and contests in addition to hosting our own judging contest and two jackpot shows,” Abigail wrote to TCF. “I also regularly attend the Student Ag Association meetings. Outside of school I am a member of 4-H, where I have served as an officer and junior leader for six years.”

    Abigail said that  through 4-H she has been involved in many community service projects that include hosting bingo at a nursing home, planting flowers in the community, spearheading an Easter egg hunt, and donating to Toys 4 Tots, local food pantries, and Coats for Kids. She currently is finishing her last year as an FFA member and will receive her American FFA degree in the fall. While busy with 4-H, Abigail also has been involved in community service activities in her community such as park clean-up days and raising money for local charities. 

    Jillian Camp completed high school at Naperville Central High School. In a cost saving move, Jillian is completing her general education classes at JJC and earning an associate degree in Animal Science. She plans on transferring to a four-year college to become a veterinarian or have a career involved with either animal behavior or production and management.

     A 3.8 GPA student, Jillian is a member of the Student Agriculture Association at JJC. She has volunteered at her local equestrian center, Trillion, where she helps teach beginner riders and children how to care for and correctly handle horses. “I teach them to read horse behavior and how to keep themselves safe. I keep the facility clean and report any injuries or issues in the barn. When I became 18, the equestrian center hired me and I started working there three times a week. I have been riding horses for 11 years and take lessons at Trillion Equestrian. I occasionally show in equitation and hunter/jumper competitions,” Jillian wrote to TCF.

    Jillian added, “I have my own business pet sitting for neighbors and in local towns. I pet sit whenever needed."

    Tillable Shares the 3-Part Formula for Farmland Management: Technology, Process, Relationships

    Good farmland management is based on three related components: data-forward processes, strong relationships, and the right technology.

    Excellent farmland management isn’t the result of guesswork and luck—staying on top of farmland maintenance requires strong organizational skills. You can develop these competencies over time, but as a general rule, you should pay attention to your farmland property with the same respect and commitment that you’d apply to any other asset. After all, for many landowners, their farmland is the most valuable asset they own.

    To do this, you’ll need to adopt data-driven processes, leverage technology and develop strong relationships to ensure that you and your farmer meet your goals next season and in the long-term. Here’s how to address these three pillars in your own operation:

    1. Establish data-driven processes for your farmland operation

    When you’re looking to clean up your farmland management practices, the first step is to carefully examine the processes you already have in place.

    Ask yourself how you expect to receive your rental payments and how you’ll decide whether or not to renew your current tenant’s lease. It’s important to think about how your farmer is doing and to keep tabs on your soil’s health.

    Once you’ve opened up the hood on your operations machine:

    1. Decide what data is necessary. Look at the data you have on hand. Does it answer your questions? If not, you’ll need to identify and seek out other sources of information, whether through soil analysis or adopting new data collection practices in the season ahead.
    2. Set benchmarks. Using the data you have, analyze the current state of your farmland’s health and productivity. This is the basis on which you’ll set your goals.
    3. Establish goals. Decide where you’d like to see changes or improvements. Be sure to include a timeline, as change won’t necessarily happen overnight or even in one growing season.

    This self-assessment is the first step in revamping your farmland operations, and it’s okay if you discover that you need more information. After all, there are more sources for farmland data available than ever before, which brings us to the second pillar.

    2. Pay attention to your evolving technology and data needs

    Technology is the number one tool for farmland management. Precision agriculture tools are widely available, and the data they generate can be an invaluable resource. Farmers today rely on this software to analyze the results of their operations, and this information is equally valuable to landowners.

    If you’re working with farmers who use precision agriculture equipment but you’re not asking them to share the data these tools generate, you’re missing a major opportunity. It’s simple to print out a report, and if you know you plan to incorporate this data into your annual analysis, be sure to include data delivery practices in your next farmland rental agreement.

    It’s also important to make sure you’re maintaining digital records of your farmland rental agreements and storing your records in an organized way. This can be as simple as establishing a naming convention for your digital files and entering data points into an Excel spreadsheet.

    There are new digital farmland management options on the market, and if you’re looking for a user-friendly platform, try using Tillable’s to set up your next Hassle-Free Lease and track your farm’s data.

    3. Build a strong relationship with your farmer

    Although this is the third element in the formula for farmland management, it goes hand-in-hand with the first. You can make all the plans you want for your property, but unless you have a strong relationship with your farmer, you’re unlikely to meet your goals.

    When you start to consider what your farmland management practices are and how you can improve them, don’t stop at asking yourself what your goals for the farm are. Reach out to your farmer and find out what they’re hoping to achieve in the next growing season and beyond.

    As part of this conversation, you may identify that you need to start using new or different technology to get the right data to measure your farm’s progress. If they don’t want to share data with you, it may be time to start thinking about changing farmland tenants.

    Your farmer will appreciate your investment in their stewardship of your land, and you’ll set yourself up for a committed relationship that supports executing a long-term plan for farmland success. It’s key that you develop a relationship built on loyalty and trust.

    Strong communication around the outcomes you hope to achieve will help you both meet your goals for sustainability and profitability.

    Use data to meet your goals for your farmland operation

    There’s a vast amount of information available on the internet today aimed at helping farmland owners figure out how to improve their operations. By leveraging new technologies and agtech improvements, you can independently improve your farmland management skills and grow your knowledge base.

    But this new information can be difficult to get a handle on and farmland management can be a lot of work. We understand that for some landowners it can feel overwhelming.

    Tillable can help you find the right tenants and establish organized data practices to take care of your farm into the future without taking you out of the loop. If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage data to meet your goals for the next growing season, reach out today to get the tools you need.

    For more information, please visit

    Landlord Boot Camp

    How well a non-operating landowner communicates with the renting farmer will go a long way in ensuring a well-informed landowner and a successful farming operation. This was the underlying theme of the “landowner boot camp” conducted by Jennifer Filipiak and Jami Cox at the January 13th Chicago Farmers meeting.

    Ms. Filipiak, executive director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy, and Jami Cox, of AgAware, are members of TCF’s board of directors. Ms. Filipiak and Ms. Cox explained that they drew information from the USDA Agricultural Census and a survey of non-operating (non-farming) landowners conducted by American Farmland Trust (AFT). (The link to the AFT survey is The link to the USDA ag census is

    The USDA Agricultural Census indicates that 39 percent of U.S. farmland is rented, and in the Midwest, rental rates are higher. In Illinois, 60 percent of farmland is rented. Nationally, 61 percent of land is owned by the person who is farming it; 31 percent of American farmland is owned by non-operators who rent the land to farmers, and eight percent of farmland is owned by farmers who rent the land to other farmers. Ms. Filipiak noted that an operator refers to either a farmer or rancher, while a non-operator owns the farmland, but doesn’t farm it. Through a survey of non-operating landowners in 11 states, AFT found that most of these landowners live near their land. They may own the land for a number of different reasons, including investment, recreational, or family (inheritance) purposes. The AFT survey also showed that most landowners trust the farmers who rent their land to make good decisions about its management and are committed to their renters continuation as a renter of their land.

    Ms. Filipiak pointed out that farmers who rent land to farm often rent from multiple landowners. “The surveys also indicate that 57 percent of the rented acres are rented annually,” said Ms. Filipiak.

    A survey of Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana for agricultural landowners, found that 63 percent of these landowners have experience in farming, but they might not have the confidence in making decisions because farming has changed in recent years.

    Ms. Cox pointed out that verbal leases are common in many parts of the country. Ms. Filipiak noted, “In many areas we found that a written lease sends the message ‘you don’t trust me.’”

    Regarding leases, while they usually renew annually, many are long-term, and can be three to five years in length, with some as long as 15 years, said Ms. Filipiak.

    Ms. Filipiak and Ms. Cox stressed that the landowner’s trust in the farmer is an important factor in the non-operator landowner-renter relationship. In a survey, landowners indicated that other factors that rate high in determining a renter are:

    • The renter is trustworthy
    • The renter cares about the landowner’s land
    • The renter is financially responsible

    Non-operating landowners indicated that they wanted more information on their land’s soil and water quality. They want to be well-informed. The AFT survey indicated that 92 percent of Illinois landowners also said they trusted their operator to initiate good conservation practices. Noted Ms. Cox, “The landowner will likely support the renter in conservation practices they wish to implement.”

    “The survey found that the non-operating landowner loves the land and wants the renter to love it as well,” said Ms. Cox. “The landowner is willing to structure a lease to accommodate a renter’s input. It is important that the landowner and the renter have a conversation that will inform the lease.”

    Ms. Cox and Ms. Filipiak pointed out that landowners can self-educate and learn about their land and farming operations by doing such things as riding in the combine with the farmer to personally see the land and, at the same time, talk with the farmer.

    The women said that landowners should create goals for their land, ask the renter what their goals are, and determine how the two parties can work together to achieve all of the goals.

    Issues that the renter and landowner must agree on include:

    • The length of the lease
    • Is the landowner crop sharing or will it be cash rent
    • What is permitted and what is prohibited on the land, e.g., could hemp be grown on the farm; can the renter tile the land; etc.

    Communication is very important in the relationship. “The landowner and renter have to start the conversation and determine what each one needs,” said Ms. Filipiak. Ms. Cox noted, “The Midwest has productive land and the farmer does not want to ruin the land. Each of the parties has something the other needs – landowners need a farmer, and farmers need land to farm.”

    Ms. Filipiak pointed out, “A lot of the non-operators are not getting the information that the famer is getting. We need to get that information out in more general ways and not just place it in resources that only a farmer would access. We need to market to a broader audience.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor

    2019-2020 Sponsor Spotlight: American Farmland Trust

    American Farmland Trust is a gold level sponsor of The Chicago Farmers and Michael Happ, gave attendees at the January 13, 2020, meeting a brief overview of the group. Happ is director of development, Midwest, for American Farmland Trust (AFT), which advocates for farming.

    AFT is an early advocate of agricultural conservation and strives to ensure that the country’s farmland is not lost to poor community planning and harmful farming practices, said Happ.

    “In the last 20 years, the United States has lost an amount of farmland that is equivalent to the state of Iowa,” said Happ. “If continued, this pattern will jeopardize our country’s ability to feed its growing population.”

    Happ said that AFT is helping communities grow strategically so that farmland is not decimated. At the same time, AFT directly works with farmers to guide them in initiating healthy farming practices. “We are available to give them the resources they need to succeed in maintaining healthy soil” he related.

    Happ also noted that the farming population is aging with the average age of the American farmer being over 58-years-old and 40 percent of this group 65-years-old or more.

    “We are involved with young farmers and provide them with resources that help the young farmer early in their careers and erase barriers. Our goal is to give young farmers a smooth transition into farming,” Happ shared.

    Happ related that AFT has begun a five-year fundraising campaign for farmland protection and gifts and pledges of all sizes are both necessary and appreciated.

    “We are a non-profit group so monetary donations are a great help,” said Happ. “Look into our programming offerings and take advantage of them. Also, if you have young farmers in your family or community who could benefit from more resources, please put them in touch with us.”

    Happ may be contacted at [email protected]

    Wisconsin student receives TCF scholarship

    University of Wisconsin Madison senior Ben Mrotek has received a Chicago Farmers’ scholarship. He is in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and majoring in Agricultural and Applied Economics, Environmental Studies.

    Ben wrote to TCF, “Thank you very much for your generosity in funding the Chicago Farmers scholarship. This scholarship means a lot to me as this is the first time I have received any sort of financial aid. I am very honored that you chose me among an extremely strong field of candidates. This donation will reduce my financial burden and allow me to spend more time in the coming year focusing on my career interests by taking additional leadership roles on campus.”

    Ben, who is from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, said he chose to be an Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAE) major because of his interest in the bridge between business and the environment. He said that he likes the fact that the major allows him to take a large range of courses along with the core economics classes. Ben said that this has provided the opportunity to see how economics applies to real-world issues and take courses most in line with his interests. He said that AAE also paired well with his environmental studies major, which allowed him to get additional credit for electives he enjoys and still have the time to get a certificate in Business Management from CALS. Said Ben, “Overall, I believe my academic path has prepared me for a career that will be very fulfilling.”

    Ben said he has been a great admirer of the University of Wisconsin campus from the first moment he saw it. He noted it is a world-renowned institution in a beautiful setting. Being accepted to the university is among his proudest moments. “After becoming dedicated to becoming to getting into Madison, I was able to attain a 4.0 GPA my sophomore through senior high school years,” he said.

    With an interest in a career in renewable energy or sustainability, Ben hopes to play a large role in creating solutions to environmental challenges. He would like to hold an executive position in an organization with a mission driven by sustainability.

    Said Ben, “Currently, I am pursuing internships in the sustainable energy industry where I can quantify energy system performance and emissions reduction potential. I would like to end up at a company like Tesla because I have a fair amount of experience working with cars, and this would connect that experience with my interest in the environment.”

    TCF awards a scholarship to Purdue student

    Noah Poynter recently received a scholarship from the Chicago Farmers. He is a farm management major at Purdue University and just completed his junior year.

    Noah hails from Greencastle, Indiana, and grew up on his family’s farm. “I am the third generation farmer in my family and have always had a strong passion for agriculture,” he said.

    The Poynter farm produces corn and soybeans and Noah has a small herd of beef cattle. Upon graduation from Purdue, Noah plans to return to the family farm “to proudly follow in my dad’s and grandpa’s footsteps.”

    Noah added that along with the family farm, his plans include continuing the small business he started while attending Purdue last year, Noah Poynter Media, which produces videos and photos for clients specializing in aerial services, especially within the ag industry.

    University of Illinois student receives TCF scholarship

    University of Illinois sophomore John Searl is a 2019 Chicago Farmers’ scholarship recipient. John is majoring in Crop Sciences: Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. Following graduation he plans to pursue graduate studies and earn a Ph.D. in plant breeding and become a corn breeder.

    A resident of Port Byron, Illinois, John said that choosing Crop Sciences as his major was an easy decision due to the fact that he grew up on his family’s farm and wanted to do something in agriculture “even before I chose to go down the path I am on to become a corn breeder.” He added that it was an easy decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because the faculty and staff made him feel more at home than he did at other institutions he visited.

    John is a member of the Field and Furrow Club at U of I. He loves professional baseball, especially the minor leagues because it affords him the opportunity to follow players through the minors as they make their way to the major leagues. As a baseball enthusiast, John also collects baseball cards, particularly of the top baseball prospects and Carlos Correa.

    In thanking TCF for the scholarship, John noted, “Receiving a scholarship such as this means a lot to me in that it shows me that other people have taken notice of not only the effort I have put in, but also what I have already accomplished. Giving back to help younger students always has meant a lot to me and this scholarship reinforces my commitment to helping mentor students in organizations at my high school (Riverdale Senior High School) that helped me get to where I am now.”

    Illinois Department of Natural Resources is more than deer, duck, and fish

    Colleen Callahan has a mission. As director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), she is striving to make Illinois residents more aware of what the IDNR does for them and making IDNR more aware of what the state’s residents want from it.

    Ms. Callahan, a past president of The Chicago Farmers, was the guest speaker at TCF’s holiday meeting on December 9th at the Union League Club. During her presentation she outlined IDNR’s responsibilities and sought input from the audience members regarding how they would like to see the IDNR involved in their lives.

    “Many people think the IDNR deals with deer, duck, and fish, but the department is so much more than that,” said Ms. Callahan. “For example, here we are in Chicago with Lake Michigan at its doorstep. Were you aware that the IDNR is responsible for the coastline along the shores of Lake Michigan? It comes under the auspices of the department’s Coastline Management office, which also is responsible for the release of Lake Michigan’s water to 7 million people. As a department, we do ourselves a disservice by not being more engaged in the Chicago area.”

    Ms. Callahan noted that the management of the state’s recreational sites are IDNR responsibilities. This includes the 329 state owned parks, which attract 39 million visitors a year, community parks, and the 1,600-acre world class shooting complex in Sparta, Illinois.  “International visitors participate in shooting competitions at the complex and they are thrilled to be there,” said Ms. Callahan.

    She said that the IDNR has more than $1 million in grants to share with communities to improve their park sites. She introduced Ted Penesis, director of community outreach, who is working to further community relations and advise the communities how the grants would be best used. Recognizing that students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Studies were in attendance, Ms. Callahan said that speaking at TCF’s meeting was an ideal occasion to share with them IDNR job possibilities such as water engineer or wildlife biologist. “When it is time to consider a career path, I hope you consider IDNR,” she added.

    Ms. Callahan observed that cultural resources could also be a part of IDNR’s title because it is responsible for the state’s historic sites and museums. In response to a question from the audience, Ms. Callahan related that the new state museum director is a champion for presenting our state historic sites, some of which were closed during the state’s lengthy budget impasse.

    “There are areas in some of our parks that have been closed and sections of the Illinois and Michigan Canal that are in need of repair,” she said in a response to an audience member’s concerns. “These are state treasures, with $1 billion of deferred maintenance statewide. However, now we have a budget, a capital bill, and we are hiring people so that we can address this list. There are things that you will notice that are being done, but it will take a while. For some of the projects we have to work with the Capital Development Board, and that in itself is a lengthy process.”

    IDNR also lists farming among its activities, said Ms. Callahan. The department has 35,000 acres of tillable land that is leased to more than 200 tenants. Working to be a good steward of the land and an agricultural model, the department has submitted an action plan to the governor that focuses on conservation of the environment.  The IDNR’s leases have become more environmentally friendly and are focusing on regenerative agriculture and soil health. “We now recommend that our tenants plant cover crops because they benefit the soil and wildlife,” she said.

    The IDNR’s office of Public Lands is charged with enhancing the state population’s access to land for recreational pursuits. With 97 percent of the land in Illinois privately held and 80 percent of the land owned by farmers, there is little land left for the public. “We have to establish relationships with private owners who might be willing to allow the IDNR to lease their land for hiking or hunting. In some instances, people approach us about taking over their land when they die because they don’t want it commercially developed,” Ms. Callahan said. She added that when the IDNR leases the private land for such things as hunting, it covers the liability insurance. The funding is provided through the federal Farm Bill and IDNR’s Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP). There also are tax benefits in the leasing arrangements.

    Farmers who own timber land could find the forestry office to be beneficial, she pointed out. The office’s foresters will evaluate the stand of timber for sale purposes and help in eradicating invasive plant species with controlled burns; wildlife biologists also are available to help with the preservation and conservation of the landowner’s natural resources. The state also has its own nursery in Mason City that provides seed stock for native trees and native grasses.

    “We continue to review IDNR’s role in the state,” said Ms. Callahan. “We plan to work with universities regarding how we are managing our land that historically has been in row crops. We are looking at the use of solar energy. We are committed to being an example and a leader in conservation.”

    Written by Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Newsletter Editor

    November meeting offers a primer on the state of the Illinois International Port District

    Clayton Harris III is an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Illinois International Port District (IIPD). As its executive director for the past three years he has made it a priority to make potential customers aware of what the District’s Iroquois Landing and Lake Calumet port facilities, both of which are on Chicago’s Southeast Side and near the Indiana border, have to offer. There are 19 public port districts in the state. Harris was Chicago Farmers’ November 18, 2019, meeting guest speaker.

    “We are the greatest multi-modal facility in North America,” said Harris. “These ports are the logistics hearts and brains of transportation.”

    Harris related that the Iroquois Landing Facility has 190 acres and approximately1,600 acres comprise the Lake Calumet facility. In addition to these sites, the District also includes the Harborside International Golf Center, which was constructed over the old city of Chicago’s dump and filled with refuse.

    “We have connections to road, rail, and water,” said Harris as he displayed a picture of the ports with nearby interstates and rail yards crisscrossing the properties. “The Chicago facilities are within 10 miles of five United States highways, have access to six of the seven North American Class I railroads, and the sites are the only Great Lakes and inland rivers port. We rank number two behind the Duluth/Superior port. The port processes an average of 17.5 million tons of cargo annually.”

    The state’s port system includes 350 private terminals along the Illinois, Kaskaskia, Calumet, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers, as well as Lake Michigan. Three Illinois ports are among the leading ports in the country.

    Harris noted that international ships come through the Chicago sites via the St. Lawrence Seaway; barge traffic comes via the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

    While the Chicago sites see $37 million in agricultural products at their docks, Harris would like to increase that figure for the facilities and be an economic stimulus for the Chicago area. In 2017, the facilities had total revenue of $1,186,968 and his goal is to increase that by six percent while reducing debt, which he has done during his three years of stewardship.

    Harris said that making the facilities more attractive is a key factor in drawing more traffic. He said the state’s capital budget allocated $150 million for the state’s 19 ports and the Illinois International Port District hopes to receive $50 million from that.

    The Calumet site has the largest grain elevators east of the Mississippi River, but none of them store any grain. “A decision has to be made to either raze the structures at a cost of $14 million or revamp them for $25 million, although we do have two grain bins to store soy,” said Harris. Additionally, a “ghost ship” that has been moored alongside the grain elevators for 20 years will soon be moved showing ongoing progress and change.

    Harris said the IIPD is now involved in a $1 million master planning process that will give it action plans to make the sites more attractive and more cost effective. He added that the District just received $17.5 million that will fund its first capital improvement project since 1981 and include the repaving of Butler Drive, the main roadway through the port district at Lake Calumet, and the raising of rail lines.

    “Our master plan will outline what we should, could, and will be doing,” said Harris. “For example, we plan to add a refrigerated shed to the Lake Calumet site so that we can store fresh food products. I want to engage people in agriculture and learn what we can do for you. I want you to incorporate the state’s 19 ports in your thought process.”

    Inland Sponsor Spotlight

    Dan Wagner, of the Inland Real Estate Group, LLC, a Platinum Sponsor of TCF, from left, Aubrey Kobernus, of Realtor Land Institute, Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District, and Barbara Clark, past TCF president.

    The Inland Real Estate Group, LLC is the newest Chicago Farmers’ Platinum Sponsor. During the November 18, 2019, TCF meeting, Dan Wagner, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, provided a brief overview of the firm, which has offices in Oak Brook, Chicago, and Atlanta, Georgia.

    Dan explained that the group was founded 52 years ago by four Chicago public school teachers. Over the years it has purchased $47 billion in commercial real estate. In his discussion he focused on the Delaware statutory trust (DST) structure that is used in Section 1031 exchanges. Inland Private Capital Corporation’s counsel worked with the Internal Revenue Service to educate them on the DST structure and Revenue Ruling 2004-86 was issued as a result of the collaboration. Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code can provide a strategy for deferring capital gains tax that may arise from the sale of a business or investment real property.

    With a DST, a person could own farmland, an apartment building or another kind of rental property, sell it and then enter into a Section 1031 like-kind real estate exchange through a fractional ownership of a large condominium complex, for example.

    The DST structure allows the investor to continue to exchange real properties until the investor’s death. Upon the death of the investor, the heirs may receive a “step-up” in basis to avoid initial capital gains tax.

    “I have just skimmed the surface of the 1031 Delaware Statutory Trust, but I would be happy to discuss it at length with anyone,” said Dan.

    For more information go to these websites:

    Sustainable farm shares space with a golf course

    The ping of a golf club head striking against a golf ball and the yell “fore” are not sounds usually associated with a farm, but if you are involved in Fairway Farms in Lemont, Illinois, they are common noises that Angelica Carmen, the farm’s manager and Sustainability Specialist, says come with her work location. Angelica was the guest speaker at Chicago Farmers’ October 21, 2019 meeting.

    Angelica manages and developed the farm that is located on the site of a former gravel parking lot at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont and backs up to one of the four golf courses that have made Cog Hill famous among avid and pro golfers. The two-year-old sustainable farm boasts 4,500 square feet of planting space, 25 raised beds growing 100 different varieties of heirloom plants and edible flowers that are used in Cog Hill’s banquet facilities, 12 beehives (apiary) whose honey is sold to the community, a pumpkin patch, and a closed-loop composting program that uses kitchen waste mixed with garden refuse to create fertile compost that is used on the farm and, at the same time, mitigates methane-producing landfill waste.  “In the 2.5 years it has been in operation, the farm has diverted over 7,500 pounds of kitchen waste from landfills,” said a proud Angelica.

    A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Angelica holds a degree in communication and environmental advocacy and leadership. She has had agriculture internships with Uncommon Ground, which has the first certified organic rooftop farm in the United States, and Loyola’s Urban Agriculture program. Aspiring to be a chef one day, Angelica said her internship with Uncommon Ground taught her how to grow sustainably and to grow for restaurant chefs. Loyola taught her how to manage a sustainable operation.

    Fairway Farms does not have electricity or mechanized equipment, does not use herbicides, irrigates from trenches dug under the fairways and a nearby pond, uses mulch that is composed of downed trees from the golf course, and creates its growing materials by recycling things no longer used by the golf course and adapting the items for growing use; for example, old golf cart beds have become planters and wooden turf pallets are turned on their sides to display hanging planters.

    “Golf courses can be positive stewards of the environment,” said Angelica. “The golf course has cut its use of fungicide and insecticide by 60 percent as a result of its connection with the farm and our sustainable processes. Additionally, the farm has saved the kitchen roughly $9,000 in produce costs annually.”

    Today, a wildflower berm that backs up to the golf course supports the apiary, which produced 140 pounds of honey this season. While most of the honey is sold to the community, some honey goes to Cog Hill’s kitchens when needed for recipes.  The farm has a partnership with Pollyanna Brewing Company and grew basil varieties to brew Dubs Delight Blonde Basil Ale. The farm also has planted a lavender bed dedicated to the brewery for Cog Hill’s 2019 ‘Par for the Course American Pale Ale,’ which is available in the golf course’s dining areas.

    Pollinator gardens, “Monarchs in the Rough,” dot the golf courses and bluebird houses and bat boxes, constructed by area students, are erected throughout Cog Hill.

    Prior to developing the farm, Angelica worked with Cog Hill’s Director of Grounds Operations, Chris Flick, who wanted to delve into sustainability and spearhead a sustainability program for on and off the golf course. Angelica’s job was to grow the culinary farm on a golf course and that she has done.

    “We have partnerships with a number of area restaurants and Pollyanna Brewery and we are reaching out to schools,” said Angelica. “Our mission is to educate. Sustainability is giving back more than you take. We are enhancing the ecosystem and reusing as much as we possibly can to to reduce harmful emissions. Fairway Farms grows without any chemicals or synthetics and I see biodiversity strengthening from year to year.”

    To increase people’s awareness of Fairway Farms and its sustainability, Cog Hill and its farm were the hosts of two Farm to Table dinners that were held on grounds overlooking one of the golf courses.  The produce used on the menu came from the farm and was served.

    “Our first dinner served 50 people in August 2018 and the second dinner this September had 70 people,” said Angelica. “Ninety percent of the menu was sourced from the farm. We plan to increase the number of dinners to three or four each year because they are great showcases of our programs and inspiring to people.”

    There will be several Farm Dinner events open to the public held throughout the 2020 season, with official dates coming soon. Event information is available on Cog Hill’s website,

    Written by Denise Faris, The Chicago Farmers Newsletter Editor

    It’s been an unusual year

    Dr. Gary Schnitkey, agricultural and consumer’s economics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, opened the Chicago Farmers’ 2019 season to a large audience at the September 9th meeting with a discussion on 2019 farm income and cash rents and what the future holds.

    “It’s been one of the most unusual years that the Illinois Corn Belt has experienced,” said Dr. Schnitkey, referring to 2019. “The ‘prevent plant’ program and the trade situation dominated the year’s discussion. Northern Illinois, South Dakota and Ohio were the hardest hit by prevent plant.”

    He went on to say, “It is surprising how much corn actually did get planted and, in most cases, the corn looks good. However, it is late in development. In a normal season, we would be harvesting corn now, but it is more likely that the harvest will be in October and November. With the late development of the corn crop and the possibility of frost prior to harvest, we could be on a collision course.”

    Dr. Schnitkey pointed out that the trade situation with China worsened in May, but President Trump tweeted that MFP (Market Facilitation Program), which was offered in 2018, would continue in 2019. In Illinois, the MFP rates per acre for planted corn ranged from $53 to $87. He said that half of that payment has been received or will be soon by farmers. The remainder is not guaranteed. If the remaining funds do come, they could appear as late as January. “I think the payments will happen,” he said.

    Dr. Schnitkey noted the average MFP payment this year is $20 to $30 higher than last year. People involved in the prevent plant program, received $15 an acre. “The ad hoc Disaster Assistance Program has allocated $3 billion for MFP and targets prevent plant acres,” he added.

    The MFP was critical this year for farmers’ revenue, as were the ARC (Agricultural Risk Coverage) payments. Dr. Schnitkey advised farmers and landowners to postpone signing up for these programs now and consider doing so in November or December when it is clear which program will have the highest payout.

    Crop yields will be lower in 2019 for Illinois, he said. The USDA projected 180 bushels of corn per acre and 55 bushels of soybeans per acre.

    “We have had phenomenal yields since 2013,” said Dr. Schnitkey. “No one is predicting the same yields as last year.”

    He noted that the trade dispute with China hit the U.S. soybean market hard in May. Since then soybeans have been below $9 per bushel and could go as low as $7. The futures prices are at $8.80. Corn is continuing below $4 per bushel.

    “Corn prices could go higher through lower yields,” he said. “I don’t see how soybean prices could go above $9, even if the trade issue is resolved.”

     He related that the swine flu in Asia and Africa is reducing herds by 20 to 40 percent, which affects the need for soybean meal to feed the stock, and there is a large carry-over of soybeans. Dr. Schnitkey said that 2019 probably is not going to be a good year and 2020 looks like another scraping by year.

    Cash rents

    Dr. Schnitkey said that cash rents in Central Illinois ticked up slightly in 2019, but that is not projected for 2020.

    Land Productivity         2019 cash rent              2020 cash rent (expected)

    Excellent                      $302                            $298

    Good                           $261                            $254

    Average                       $212                            $205

    Fair                              $170                            $167

    He noted that the USDA would release the cash rent numbers for the state’s counties during the third week of September and the information would be posted on Farm Doc.

    In response to a question, Dr. Schnitkey said there is a growing percentage of variable cash rent arrangements. These are primarily used by professional farm managers. He said that variable cash rents are involved in about seven percent of land in Illinois. He said the trend is to move from share rent to cash rent. “The trend is a move to cash rent because farmers and landowners want simpler leasing arrangements,” he said.

    Dr. Schnitkey noted that most farms are still in strong financial positions.  He said, “I believe farmers are thinking there will be better prices in the future and they are going to hang on to their land. They believe that once they let go of their land, they will not get it back.”

    He said that it is projected that farmers’ debt to asset ratio will increase; working capital will decline. Additionally, the fall fertilizer prices are holding steading and not decreasing. This also is true for seed and pesticide costs.

    “Farmers will have to cut costs in the machinery area or in cash rents. However, if new machinery is not brought on, it could mean more money toward repairs,” Dr. Schnitkey remarked.

    In response to a question from the audience, Dr. Schnitkey said he did not see yields slowing too much because technology was in place to increase yields. “We know how to farm more acres,” he said.

    Regarding digital technology, he noted that it is being used by farmers in one form or another, but it’s what they do with it that makes the difference.  Dr. Schnitkey said, “I think there is a lot of data that are collected and people wonder how to use it.”

    He added that consumers have changing views on food. They are not only concerned about lower prices, but they want more amenities in their food. They care how food is produced. For example, they are focused on the production of more non-GMOs.

    “This will change Ag production, we will see more non-GMOs. But the consumers’ demands are fickle. Today it is non-GMOs, but what will it be in 10 years? It is a moving target,” said Dr. Schnitkey.

    Denise Faris, Chicago Farmers Editor