Midwest Briefs

Wisconsin State Farmer
Midwest briefs

Ideal rain, temperatures mean good Illinois pumpkin crop


University of Illinois pumpkin crop experts say this year's harvest looks to be much better than year, when yield losses were predicted.

Illinois plant pathologist Mohammad Babadoost says the pumpkin crop in Illinois had enough rain, but not too much and temperatures were warm and dry, "which pumpkins love." Illinois is the country's top pumpkin-producing state. About 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. come from within a 90-mile radius of Peoria.

Unlike last year, Babadoost says there will be "no shortage of pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table" this holiday season.

There was one hiccup this year. That was in mid-August when the fast-spreading fungus downy mildew appeared in some fields. But experts say it was confined to a small area in Tazewell County.


Community mourns 16-year-old boy killed in accident in a grain bin

The town of Winner is mourning a 16-year-old boy who died in a farm accident. Winner High School junior Taylor Watzel became trapped in a grain bin Oct. 18 and died the following day, School Superintendent Bruce Carrier told The Daily Republic. Counselors and ministers were made available to students Wednesday and Thursday.

"Why Taylor? Why such a good kid? And honestly, a lot of my staff members are struggling with that same thing," Principal Gerald Witte said. "Today's the day where there's probably a lot more life lessons than academic lessons."

Watzel was a lineman and linebacker on the high school football team. The team displayed his No. 66 jersey on the sideline during a Thursday win over Jones County/White River. Fans also signed a large poster in his memory, and a moment of silence was held before kickoff.

"This is a really big win for us, considering what has happened here the last couple days," senior Cameron Kuil said. "It has been hard on all of us, hard on the community. We just looked forward to coming out here tonight."


Farms eligible for assistance

Indiana has 103,632 farms that are eligible for financial assistance due to low crop prices last year. All counties in Indiana experienced a 32 percent drop in price below the benchmark prices established by the ARC program for corn and a 27 percent drop in price for soybeans.

USDA Indiana Farm Service Agency State Executive Director, Julia A. Wickard announced the numbers of growers eligible for program benefits last week.

The programs, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), are designed to protect against unexpected drops in crop prices or revenues due to market downturns. These safety-net programs provide producers help when prices and yields fall below historic averages, unlike the previous Farm Bill's direct payments program that provided funds during both weak and strong market conditions, Wickard said.


Presidential race trade talk worries some Minn. farmers

The presidential race's tough talk on trade deals is cultivating worry among some farmers in Minnesota whose operations benefit from lower tariffs and primarily serve overseas customers.

Markets for Minnesota farmers have quadrupled in the 22 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, according to Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, the state's largest agricultural association.

Papp said 95 percent of the industry's customers don't live in the U.S.

"We have to have trade in agriculture," said Paap, who also farms near Mankato. "Whether it was NAFTA, whether it's Trans-Pacific Partnership, we've got to be able to trade with the rest of the world."

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has slammed the Trans-Pacific proposal, which would reduce trade barriers between North America and several nations across the Pacific, and he's called NAFTA "one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry."

Democratic Hillary Clinton once praised the Trans-Pacific proposal but now opposes it, saying she supports global trade as long as it doesn't hurt American workers.

University of Minnesota economics professor Robert Kudrle said blaming trade for economic problems in an easy campaign sell. But he said a country benefits overall from trade, even though it often hurts the pockets of workers in specific industries. He said focus should be on helping those workers, not punishing other countries that want to sell things in the U.S.

Kudrle said trade wars would damage not only agriculture and processed foods, which "are at the top of Minnesota exports," but also the state's sophisticated, high-tech manufacturers.