Record yields mean lower returns for local farmers

After making record profits from 2007-2013, farmers in Champaign County who rent their land are likely to lose money on both corn and soybeans in this year and next, said a University of Illinois economist.
Across the state, 2014 saw record highs for cash rent. In Champaign County, the average cash renter pays $253 per acre.

Closing the sustainability loop

By Lauren Rohr/For — The Sustainable Student Farm serves a variety of purposes on the University of Illinois campus. Hundreds of students gain hands-on experience by working and researching at the farm almost year-round. Dining Services buys the farm’s produce and uses it in meals served to students who live in residence halls. And now, with the farm’s vermicomposting project, farm manager Zack Grant and his team are aiming to close the sustainability loop by using waste to fertilize produce. The Sustainable Student Farm is in operation for at least 10 months of the year.

Feeding the world proves to be a growing challenge

By Claire Everett/ — More than 300 researchers from around the world gathered at the University of Illinois this week for a major conference on how to feed a global population that is expected to rise to 9 billion people by 2050. Organized by The Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the University, the conference kicked off at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center with a welcome speech by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. The conference was held Tuesday through Thursday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The problem of feeding the world is bigger than just providing enough food, Revkin said. It also includes issues such as waste, ethics and diversity in the food system.

Farming among the country’s deadliest jobs

Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers ranked in the top 10 for highest fatality rates by occupation last year.
Additionally, the “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting” industry category was – again – the country’s deadliest industry, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics findings released on Monday. The findings show that the broad agriculture industry category was nearly seven times deadlier than the typical job.

One community garden provides more than fruits and vegetables

By Karyna Rodriguez/For — One person can make a difference. Nicole Bridges embodies that statement more than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Nicole runs Prosperity Gardens in Champaign, Illinois. I first heard about Prosperity Gardens when I worked on a story about the nonprofit for The Daily Illini. I interviewed Nicole and was inspired by her dedication and selflessness.

A Second Chance: After life-changing injury, farmer-turned-researcher now teaches others about agricultural dangers

Robert “Chip” Petrea was trying to feed damp yellow hay into a red baler on a wet Sunday afternoon in 1978, but the machine refused to pick it up.

Petrea was working in a low-lying field that frequently flooded. A storm was headed toward the 89-acre dairy farm located just outside Iuka in south-central Illinois, and he knew that the already soggy hay would be ruined by the coming rain if he could not find a way to get it to bale.

Local farmers react to Farm Bill

By Robert Holly/ — Congress reshaped American agriculture policy this week, officially passing a long-term Farm Bill that will strengthen crop insurance programs for farmers while cutting billions of dollars in spending throughout the next decade. The bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for final signature. The nearly $1 trillion dollar bill will decrease funding to the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, by about $8 billion. It will also eliminate billions of dollars of money going to farmers as part of an agriculture subsidy program called direct payments. But it also diverts more money to federal crop insurance and risk management programs.

In 2012 – the year of one of the worst droughts on record – Illinois farmers received a total of about $3.5 billion in crop insurance payouts, according to federal data.