This is the fourth year Mrs. Blagojevich has served as Honorary Chair in which she will be supporting the more than 292,000 4-H youth in their battle against hunger. According to a Hunger Coalition Report, 1.5 million citizens go hungry in Illinois--children make up half of this number. With the encouragement of the First Lady, 4-H youth hope to bring more awareness to the citizens of Illinois on this issue.
Since the campaign began, 4-H has collected more than 2.3 million pounds of food and 4-H youth and leaders have volunteered 2 million hours of volunteer service in shelters, food banks, pantries and meal programs throughout the state. According to Sharon Petefish, University of Illinois Extension Specialist for 4-H Youth Development, the amount of food collected and hours put in by volunteers continue to grow year by year, facilitating its success.
"4-H is proud to lead such an important effort to make a difference in the lives of needy citizens," Petefish stated. "Our members encourage everyone to join in the fight to eliminate hunger in this state and to become involved in local food drive efforts." Throughout the summer and fall months when food supplies are limited, 4-H youth sponsor local food drives in correlation with county fairs and community events. They look forward to partnering with local community groups to address this growing concern in all parts of the state.
4-H youth and the First Lady are encouraging citizens to participate and help them in feeding the hungry throughout the state of Illinois. For more information about 4-H or how you can get involved with the 4-H CAN Make a Difference campaign, please contact the Illinois State 4-H Office at (217) 265-8206.
4-H is the largest out-of-school educational program for youth in the United States. 4-H seeks to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, forming attitudes, and developing life skills that will enable them to become caring, competent, and contributing members of society. In Illinois, 292,302 youth participate in 4-H and the other youth programs of U of I Extension. More than 25,500 adult volunteers assist in the programming. For more information about 4-H in Illinois, visit: http://www.4-h.uiuc.edu.
Chicago Nature Centers are Rich in Public Benefit
Daniel McGrath, an economist at the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, calculated the worth of two nature centers in Cook County to those who use them. He found that these sites are highly valued public resources--to the tune of more than $8 million per year.
"That figure represents the total amount that residents of metropolitan Chicago are willing to pay in time and travel costs to visit these two sites over the course of a season," said McGrath. Calculating the value of one's time is related to specific measures, such as income.
McGrath surveyed over 350 one-day visitors at the Chicago Park District’s North Park Village Nature Center on the City’s northwest side and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland, just south of the city limits. Annually, the North Park site receives about 15,000 adult visitors and Sand Ridge about 10,000.
"We calculate that these visitors are willing to pay with their time and money, on average, about $1,200 over the course of a season," said McGrath. "People who come to the North Park site really love it and make it part of their lives. They typically visit about six times a season to bird watch or hike."
According to McGrath, the results in this study actually reflect conservative estimates of the economic values of the nature centers. He found visitors at these sites who traveled from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, and other parts of the world, but they were not included in his results. "You can't accurately assess travel costs when a trip involves more than one destination," he explained. Nor did he calculate the educational benefits that nature centers provide through school-children visits, which can be significant.
So what does this study mean for the new Ford Calumet Environmental Center planned for the Hegewisch Marsh on the southeast side of Chicago, which will likely cost $7.5 million in donated funds to develop? "There are a number of factors to consider, including the site's location and size," said McGrath, "But the research results suggest that, from a cost-benefit point of view, the welfare gains of this environmental center will support a significant share, if not all of the cost to build and maintain it."
Earlier this month, the results of McGrath's study were presented to the Calumet Governmental Working Group hosted by the City of Chicago.
The Calumet region was at one time one of the largest wetland complexes in the country. Later, the region became a center of industry, producing steel, railroad cars and more. Now that much of the industry has moved on, city and state governments are focused on reviving both the economy and ecology of the region. According to the City of Chicago, the Ford Calumet Environmental Center is slated to open in late 2008.
The economic value of nature centers in urban environments can go well beyond visitor benefits. McGrath is now assessing the impact that the North Park Village Nature Center has had on residential values in that neighborhood, which may provide further insight potential benefits of the new Ford Calumet Environmental Center.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 30 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U. S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.
AMVETS to Help Fund U of I Researcher's Diabetes Education Efforts
"So many veterans are affected by this disease," said Sara Garcia, program director of AMVETS in Illinois. "We're very excited to be partnering with Dr. Chapman-Novakofski and the students in her lab in their research and education programs. It's our hope that together we'll make significant advances in combating diabetes."
Chapman-Novakofski, who has worked in diabetes control efforts at Veterans Administration hospitals, said 20.8 million Americans have the disease. "That's 7 percent of the nation's population," said the U of I associate professor of nutrition. "Many veterans in midlife and beyond are living with diabetes and trying to control it."
The researcher said that self-management of the disease is the cornerstone of optimal care. "The patient has a lot to do with how diabetes progresses. Much of our Extension programming is aimed at helping patients keep their blood glucose down so they don't develop some of the more severe complications of the disease--blindness, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and ulceration and amputation of the feet."
AMVETS was impressed with such U of I Extension programs as "Dining with Diabetes," a three-part cooking workshop available statewide that helps persons with diabetes learn to prepare meals with artificial sweeteners, low-fat products, and herbs and spices in order to successfully manage their disease.
Chapman-Novakofski has also developed a diabetes website with interactive meal-planning tools that allow the user to fill a plate to his nutritionist's specifications, practice working with the exchange method and carbohydrate counting, and learn to recognize a healthy portion size.
The website, http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/diabetes2, and an online newsletter, Diabetes Life Lines, http://www.urbanext.edu/diabetes/index.html, keep visitors on top of new research findings and developments in treatment.
Chapman-Novakofski will use the AMVETS money to help support the research of graduate students in her lab who are working on diabetes education. "With this generous donation, we will continue researching ways to change people's behavior so the complications of diabetes can be minimized," she said.
"We are grateful to have found Dr. Chapman-Novakofski and her students. Her work is really vital in the fight against diabetes, and we know that veterans will benefit from her continuing efforts," said Garcia.
To learn more about Illinois AMVETS, visit www.ilamvets.org.
Watch for Summer Electrical Overloads
"Nationwide, an estimated 50 million older homes and buildings with outdated electrical wiring and systems are at greater risk of dangerous deterioration and becoming overloaded," says Molly Hall, Safe Electricity Director.
The wiring of many homes is not equipped to properly handle and support the increased electrical demands of present-day homes and offices. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half of all homes in the U.S. are at least thirty years old. The wiring in many of these older homes was designed to handle only about half of the electrical demands of today's homeowners.
"Overloaded electrical circuits, and faulty equipment and wiring can cause not only inconvenient power outages, but hazardous conditions that could result in injury, or even death," says Hall.
The NFPA attributes more than 40,000 fires, 325 deaths, 1,350 injuries, and $640 million in damages in home fires each year to faulty electrical distribution and wiring. This accounts for nearly one-third of the total average 111, 400 residential electrical fires per year—the fourth leading cause of home fires. These residential electrical fires cause an annual average of 860 deaths, 3,875 injuries and nearly $1.3 billion in property damage.
Watch for these warning signs: * Lights often flicker, blink or dim momentarily * Circuit breakers trip or fuses blow often * Cords or wall plates are warm to the touch or discolored * Crackling, sizzling or buzzing is heard from outlets
If you have any of these present, you should have your home inspected by a professional.
"A home electrical inspection to find and correct hidden hazards could prevent many of these tragedies," says Hall. "The time and investment in having a qualified electrician check your residence, and performing a few home repairs and upgrades are small in comparison to the protection and safety they provide to your family and home."
Safe Electricity recommends an electrical system inspection for all dwellings 40 years old or older and when purchasing a previously-owned home. Most mortgage companies require an electrical inspection on the purchase of a new home before a loan can be approved anyway. You should also have an inspection when you've had a major renovation or if you've added major new appliances in the last 10 years, or have extension cords or lots of power strips permanently in use.
"Avoid using extension cords on a continual basis," Hall recommends. "Use them only temporarily and make sure the cords are good condition - not frayed, stretched or worn. Keep cords out of the path of foot traffic. If you do need to use an extension cord, use one that has a sufficient amp or wattage rating. Never use an extension cord for air conditioners, electric heaters or even fans."
"Remove and keep all electrical cords from behind baseboards and beneath carpets and furniture," stresses Hall. "This is a major fire hazard."
If electrical items to be plugged in are close together, such as with computer equipment, use a plug bar or surge protector. But make sure not to overload the electrical circuit, which can create a fire hazard.
In addition to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, designed for protection from electrical shocks, Safe Electricity encourages homeowners to consider having a professional install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) on circuits in bedrooms. AFCI is a relatively new technology to address electrical fire hazards. Most local codes now require AFCIs in new residential construction.
No matter the season, or age of homes, residents should be vigilant and continually check for electrical hazards such as cracked or fraying electrical cords, overloaded outlets and circuits, and improper wattage light bulbs in lamps and light fixtures. Also, make sure smoke alarms are placed and functioning properly.
For more information visit the Web site www.SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program of the Illinois Electric Council, created and supported by a coalition of several dozen organizations, including electric utilities, the University of Illinois and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety.
Selecting a Kennel
Long before the terms day care, bed and breakfast, day camp, hotel, boutique and health club became common phrases among those in the ranks of pet ownership, boarding kennels have been providing services to pet owners who must leave their pets at home while they travel. Pets depend upon their owners to provide them with the best care, and oftentimes finding a suitable kennel fills that bill.
While the creature comforts available at some of today's more extravagant kennels are meant more for the peace-of-mind of the pet owner, the basic safety of your pet and the overall ability of the facility's staff are the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a kennel.
To find a kennel best suited to your pet's needs, Dr. Allan Paul, small animal Extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, advises asking your friends, co-workers, neighbors and veterinarian for a recommendation. Visit the kennels they recommend and ask a few questions of the staff to learn more about the accommodations available for your pet. The staff should be courteous and helpful and should interact well with the pets in the kennel.
When visiting the kennels, there are a few things you should ask or look for. First and foremost, ask to see the area where your pet will stay. Look for secure gates on runs and a security fence around the premises to prevent your pet from becoming an escape artist. Make sure each living area is clean and constructed of materials that are easily sanitized (grass and gravel cannot be sanitized); they should all be cleaned and disinfected daily. If your pet will be housed in a crate, find out how frequent the breaks from the crate will occur and how often opportunities for exercise will be provided. Proper ventilation and temperature control are also vital to your pet's health during its stay at a kennel.
Ask about arrangements for the special needs of your pet and the availability of a veterinarian should one be necessary. It is important that your pet have available to it medication for treating special medical conditions. It is equally important that access to a veterinarian be available should your pet become ill during your absence.
Find out if kennels in your state are required to be inspected on a regular basis. If they are, look for a prominently displayed license in the facility. A well-maintained facility should be relatively free of bad odors and there should be no signs of feces or parasite infestation.
Ask about vaccination requirements for pets staying at a particular kennel. Some kennels will require nothing more than a rabies vaccination, but for the health of your pet it is important to select a kennel that requires more. Dogs should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper (which also includes parvo and several other diseases) and bordetella (kennel cough). Cats should be vaccinated for rabies, feline distemper and, if the facility accommodates large numbers of cats, feline leukemia. Vaccinations should be given at least two weeks prior to a kennel stay. When updating your pet's vaccinations, your veterinarian can also conduct a quick physical exam and provide you with a health certificate that some kennels may require.
Once you've selected a kennel, it is important to make a reservation in advance and follow-up with a confirmation a few days before you leave. "Reputable facilities fill up well in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to research area facilities and make a decision that is best for you and your pet," says Dr. Paul.
As you prepare for your trip, it is important to prepare your pet for its trip as well. Pack any necessities for your pet: medications, regular food, health certificate, your contact information while you'll be away from home and your veterinarian's contact information. It's also a good idea to pack a familiar item from home, such as a favorite toy or a blanket.
You'll want to alert the kennel to any unique habits that your pet may have. Let them know if your pet has any chewing habits, an aversion to a specific gender or species, a particular sensitivity to a specific body part, or anything else out of the ordinary.
When you drop your pet off for its stay, it is important to keep your emotions in check. Your pet will be in tune to your emotions and will respond accordingly. Your pet may become anxious or agitated if it senses you're feeling the same. While you may be apprehensive about leaving your pet, most pets quickly adapt to the kennel experience.
A small amount of preliminary research and planning will allow you to enjoy your trip knowing that your pet is well cared for in your absence. Contact your local veterinarian for more information about selecting a kennel for your pet.
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Mandy Barth, email@example.com.
Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine 217/333-2907
Private and Public Land Conservation
URBANA - Public conservation areas in Illinois appear to discourage private conservation efforts in adjacent areas, according to a research project involving a University of Illinois environmental economist.
"In areas like Illinois and Massachusetts, we found that established public reserves seem to repel private conservation from nearby lands," explained Amy Ando, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. "This repulsion does not necessarily reflect a bad outcome if the public reserves successfully meet the benefit thresholds in those areas and if private activities simply shift to conservation efforts not targeted by the government."
Ando and Heidi J. Albers of Oregon State University co-authored two papers--"Patterns of Multi-Agent Land Conservation: Crowding In/Out, Agglomgeration, and Policy," and "A Spatial-Econometric Analysis of Attraction and Repulsion of Private Conservation by Public Conservation"--under a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Both papers examine facets of the interactions between government and private conservation efforts in given areas. The second paper examined the spatial relationships among reserves in California, Illinois and Massachusetts. The first paper developed a model of interacting conservation agents to determine which land conservation patterns develop in different settings and to compare those patterns with the pattern that is best for society as a whole.
The network of protected areas in the United States, Ando noted, arises from conservation investments made by a mix of public and private agents. Data from the Land Trust Alliance shows that 1,500 non-national land trusts exist and that the acreage protected by such groups doubled from 1998 to 2002.
Private groups may not coordinate conservation decisions with other agents. "And it is difficult for public agencies to choose where to locate new public reserves without knowing how they might influence the configuration of private conservation," she said.
Ando's and Albers' study found that in places like California, where even private conservation agents consider the value of having connected networks of public reserves, public reserves might spatially attract private conservation by increasing the benefits associated with protecting nearby lands.
However, the tendency in Illinois and Massachusetts was in the other direction.
"Agency planners in states like Illinois and Massachusetts should recognize that public reserves can repel private reserves like the north poles of two magnets," she said.
In California, private conservation areas seem to focus in areas with high-valued resources that are under high levels of threat.
"Private reserves in Illinois seem to locate in townships where conservation yields large ecological and recreational benefits," she said. "In Massachusetts, however, ecological characteristics seem to play little or no role."
Ando said that land conservation provides a wide range of environmental benefits, some of which are better provided by particular configurations of conserved land. However, because of the potential for decisions by uncoordinated government agencies and private groups, socially preferred patterns of conservation may not arise.
The first paper's examination of land conservation patterns when public and private agents interact produced a number of policy implications and suggestions for land trusts.
"A private conservation group that is focused on a particular territory can induce government conservation in its territory with land purchases that are strategic in location," Ando related. "And government programs to promote coordination between land trusts can be cost-effective tools to encourage socially preferred patterns of conservation.
"When conservation benefits contain important thresholds, public conservation encourages private conservation."
However, she noted, governments can encourage private conservation by leaving some high-benefit areas for private organizations to conserve.
Weekly Outlook: Crop Concerns
URBANA - With declining crop condition ratings, large areas of moisture deficits, and a period of high temperatures, corn and soybean prices appear to be building in the probability of average yields falling below trend value, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.
"It is a useful exercise to try to determine the average yield that is being reflected by the market at any given time," said Darrel Good. "With considerable uncertainty on the demand side and inexact relationships between supply, consumption, and price, this exercise does not produce a precise answer, but can provide some guidance for producers in making pricing decisions."
Good's comments came as he reviewed the corn and soybean markets, where the most important factor for the next six to eight weeks is the potential size of the 2006 crops. Current conditions raise concerns about potential yield.
The USDA calculates the 2006 trend yield for corn at 149 bushels. A yield at that level would produce a crop of about 10.74 billion bushels. Consumption of U.S. corn is expected to grow from 11.175 billion bushels this year to 11.735 billion next year, leaving September 1, 2007 inventories at 1.077 billion bushels, or 9.2 percent of expected consumption.
"Based on the relationship between the year-ending stocks-to-use ratio and marketing year average farm price since 1998-99, that scenario would be expected to produce a 2006-07 marketing year average price near $2.45," said Good. "The USDA projects the average in a range of $2.25 to $2.65."
At the close of trade on July 14, corn futures prices for the 2006-07 marketing year reflected a price well above $2.45. December 2006 futures settled at $2.7675, with deferred contracts at progressively higher prices. September 2007 futures settled at $3.08.
"Assuming that the historic relationship between futures prices and the average monthly cash price received by farmers holds for the year ahead, and that producer sales are distributed in a typical fashion, the market says the average farm price will be near $2.75 during the 2006-07 marketing year.
"An average price of $2.75 implies a year-ending stocks-to-use ratio of 7.2 percent--845 million bushels--which implies a crop of 10.508 billion bushels--assuming use of 11.735 billion bushels. A crop of that size implies a yield of 145.9 bushels per acre, 3.1 bushels below trend."
Based on the historic relationship (1986 through 2005) between the U.S. average yield and the percent of the crop rated good or excellent at the end of the growing season, a yield of 145.9 bushels would require that the percent of the crop rated good or excellent drop from 63 percent on July 9 to 57 percent by the end of the season.
"In the past seven years, however, the U.S. average corn yield has been higher than suggested by crop ratings," said Good. "A year-end rating of 57 percent good or excellent last year, for example, resulted in an average yield of 147.9 bushels. Allowing for a continued increase in trend yields, a crop rating of 53 percent good or excellent at the end of the current season might translate into an average yield of 145.9 bushels."
For soybeans, the USDA calculates the 2006 trend yield at 40.7 bushels. A yield at that level would produce a crop near 3.01 billion bushels. The USDA projects that consumption of U.S. soybeans will increase from 2.802 billion bushels this year to 2.998 billion bushels in the 2006-07 marketing year, leaving September 1, 2007 inventories at 560 million bushels, or 18.7 percent of projected use.
"The historic relationship between the year-ending stocks-to-use ratio and the marketing year average farm price suggests that this scenario would result in a 2006-07 average farm price of $5.45," said Good. "The USDA projects the average price in a range of $5 to $6.
"For the current year, the average price will be about 25 cents higher than projected by the stocks-to-use ratio. If that 'premium' continues next year, an average price near $5.70 might be expected with a trend yield."
At the close of trade on July 14, soybean futures prices for the 2006-07 marketing year reflected a 2006-07 marketing year average farm price well above $5.65. November 2006 futures settled at $6.25, and August 2007 futures settled at $6.60.
"That price structure translates into an average marketing year farm price near $6.20," said Good. "That price implies a year-ending stocks-to-use ratio of 11.33 percent--340 million bushels--and an average yield of 37.7 bushels, three bushels below trend value.
"Again, based on the historic relationship between crop condition ratings at the end of the season and the U.S. average yield, a yield of 37.7 bushels would require that the percent of the crop rated good or excellent decline from 58 percent on July 9 to 36 percent by the end of the growing season."
Good added that his analysis assumes that the USDA has correctly forecast corn and soybean consumption and that historic relationships between stocks and price and crop conditions and yield prevail during the year ahead.
"Based on that analysis, the market is apparently anticipating further significant reductions in crop condition ratings," said Good.
U of I Extension Applauds Parents on National Parents' Day
"If you have children, you will never have a more important job than being a parent," said Angela Wiley, a U of I Extension family life specialist. "At the same time, the pay is low and training is rare.
"Although we could focus on the various skills necessary for parenting children, I'd like for us to spend some time thinking about how to support parents and keep them strong and sane," she said.
Wiley said that many parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect for fear that their children will suffer if they are not. She stressed that parents are more effective when they are not crippled by anxiety and paralyzed by guilt.
According to Wiley, Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute reports that children do not expect perfection but rather want parents who are in a good mood.
Many parents experience stress because their children are overscheduled, Wiley said. She cited a recent conversation with Sondra, a married mother of three, who said that, between her school-aged children, every single evening of the week except Sunday is filled with activities.
"This Parents' Day, consider simplifying your parenting obligations by reducing the number of activities your children participate in," said Wiley.
Parenting experts such as William Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, argue that your children may also benefit from slowing down a bit, she said.
For more advice on parenting in today's frenetic world, Wiley recommended the National Extension Parent Education Model, which provides additional ideas and guidelines for making the most of your parenting.
"One piece of expert advice in this model is that parents who are effective in the long term take care of themselves. You can't take good care of your children unless you're taking good care of yourself," she said.
Wiley urged parents to make sure they take time for physical and mental wellness. "Taking care of your body may mean reserving time for a daily walk, biking to work, or even playing outside with the kids," she said.
Parents can safeguard mental wellness by staying connected to people who support them, by finding time for a relaxing bath, or pursuing a hobby that they enjoy.
2006 Expo Targets Manure Application
The expo will feature innovative and practical manure application strategies that place and keep manure in the root zone, where it most benefits growing crops. These strategies include everything from advanced manure treatment systems at the livestock facility to manure application equipment and systems.
Jay Solomon and Pete Fandel, University of Illinois Extension specialists and two of the speakers featured at the Expo, will discuss using GPS technologies for in-field accuracy and record keeping.
"The Expo will be an exciting opportunity for commercial applicators and producers to see new equipment and techniques demonstrated," said Solomon. "Pete and I, along with a commercial applicator from Michigan, will be demonstrating a lower cost technology for documenting manure application."
Other topics of discussion will focus on efficient manure management strategies. Those topics include:
Economics of Manure - This discussion will look at both sides of the ledger, including the nutrient value of manure and hauling costs associated with this resource.
Nutrient Management - Learn to put these resources to work for crop production while protecting the environment and following state nutrient management plan provisions.
Conservation Practices - How do they affect soil infiltration, holding capacity and macro pores in tile-drained fields? Can you use cover crops and low-disturbance tillage for nutrient recycling and runoff control?
Composting - Practical information on farm-scale manure composting.
Odor Control - Explore opportunities for handling and applying manure to reduce odors.
Commercial vendors will offer displays and demonstrations on manure handling, treatment equipment, business and organizations offering manure services, and products related to manure management.
No fee or registration is required. Lunch will be available for purchase. For more information, call 989-224-5240 or visit www.rootzone.msu.edu.
The event is sponsored by Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State University’s Extension.
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. 127, take M-21 west 8 miles through St. Johns to Wacousta Road. Go north for 1.6 miles to the field site.
Farm Costs Increase
"Of the $50 increase in per acre costs between 2003 and 2005, less than half are directly attributable to rising energy prices," said Gary Schnitkey, who co-authored the study with Extension colleague Dale Lattz.
The complete report, "Cost Increases: Its Not Just Energy," can be read online at U of I Extension's farmdoc website at: http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/newsletters/fefo06_11/fefo06_11.html .
The report examines production costs for grain farms in the northern, central and southern sections of Illinois based on data provided by the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM) Association.
"Per-acre costs are divided into 'energy-sensitive costs' and 'energy non-sensitive costs,'" Schnitkey explained. "Energy-sensitive costs are those whose prices are directly influenced by changes in energy prices. These include fertilizer, fuel and oil, drying, and utilities.
"The remaining costs are placed in the non-sensitive category."
For northern Illinois grain farms, per-acre financial costs have increased from $349 per acre in 2003 to $399 in 2005, an increase of $50 per acre.
"Since 1980, no other two-year period has had as large an increase in costs as between 2003 and 2005," he noted. "Of the $50 increase, energy-related items account for $22 per acre, or 44 percent, of the cost increase. Fertilizer is the leading cost increase category, with a $16 per acre increase between 2003 and 2005. Fuel and oil costs increased by $6 per acre during that time.
"Energy non-sensitive costs have increased by $28 per acre in that period. Costs in this category with large per acre increases include cash rent, seed, pesticides, and interest."
Schnitkey pointed out that northern Illinois is not unique.
"Central Illinois grain farms have cost increases of $42 per acre, with 47 percent of the increase coming from energy-sensitive items. Southern Illinois grain farms have costs increases of $69 per acre, with 34 percent coming from energy-sensitive items."
The report has a number of implications, he added.
"Energy-sensitive costs have the possibility of declining in the future if prices for oil and natural gas decrease," Schnitkey said. "At this time, energy price decreases seem unlikely. However, oil and natural gas are commodities, and commodity prices are notoriously sensitive to supply-and-demand changes.
"In the future, energy prices could decline with findings of new supplies or reductions in demand. Declines in energy prices are not unprecedented, as illustrated by energy prices during the 1970s through the 1990s."
Production costs that are not as energy sensitive such as cash rents, seeds, and pesticides have less chance of declining, he noted.
"The increases in the non-sensitive cost categories signal a general, permanent higher level of costs," he said. "This higher level of costs introduces heightened risks, as revenue declines could lead to lower levels of income than in previous years."
To date, Schnitkey said, corn and soybean prices appear like they will be higher in 2006 than in recent years.
"Given cost increases, these higher levels of prices do not necessarily signal higher profitability to grain farms," he said. "Overall, higher revenue caused by rising prices may counter cost increases, leaving per-acre returns near recent levels."