College of ACES
College News

2016 Illinois Farm Economics Summit scheduled

Published November 11, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – Should cash rents be lowered? If yes, by how much? How much relief will be seen through lower fertilizer and seed prices? What are the prospects for grain prices to recover from current depressed levels? The University of Illinois Extension and members of the farmdoc team from the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics in the College of ACES is offering a series of five Farm Economics Summit meetings to help producers navigate these difficult times.

“The big story in Illinois agriculture in 2016 continues to be the ‘margin squeeze’ faced by crop producers—brought on by low corn, soybean, and wheat prices and costs of production that have yet to fully adjust to the new price realities,” says U of I agricultural economist Scott Irwin. “At present prices, further cost of production reductions will be required. Producers and landowners face a series of difficult management challenges as they grapple with how to adjust to the changed environment.”

Speakers at the summit will explore the farm profitability outlook and management challenges from several perspectives, including the 2017 outlook for prices, farm financial management in tough times, needed changes in farmland leases, updates on the farm program safety net, agricultural credit conditions, and long-term weather and yield trends. The format for the meeting will be fast-paced and allow plenty of time for questions from the audience.

Sponsored by U of I Extension, the farm economics summit will be offered at five different locations during the month of December.

The dates and locations are as follows:

  • Monday, Dec. 12 - Champaign, iHotel and Conference Center
  • Tuesday, Dec. 13 - Dekalb, Faranda’s Banquet Center
  • Wednesday, Dec. 14 - Peoria, Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
  • Thursday, Dec. 15 - Springfield, Crowne Plaza
  • Friday, Dec. 16 - Mt. Vernon, Holiday Inn

The sessions will begin at 7:45 a.m. and conclude at 1:30 p.m. The advance registration fee is $70 per person and includes lunch, refreshments, and all meeting materials. The online pre-registration deadline is Dec. 5, which includes a $5 discount. Registration at the door is $75 per person as space permits.

For questions about registration, contact Nancy Simpson (; 217-244-9687).

See the website for the complete  agenda and list of speakers.


Disease management in organic crops webinar

Published November 11, 2016

URBANA, Ill. - Organic farming has significantly increased in importance in recent decades. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, disease management in organic farming is largely based on the maintenance of biological diversity and soil health by balanced crop rotations, including nitrogen-fixing and cover crops, intercrops, additions of manure and compost, and reductions in soil tillage.

“Disease management in organic cropping systems is a serious challenge because of the rigorous restrictions that are in force; besides, management methods can vary depending on climate and topography,” explains James Theuri, a University of Illinois Extension local foods systems/small farms educator.

An upcoming webinar will look at some cultural and non-chemical options that organic growers have for foliar and soilborne disease management. Top of FormTheriuTheuri and Laurie George, also an Extension educator, will discuss disease management in organic crops.

The online webinar will be presented on Dec.14 from noon to 1 p.m. CST.  There is no cost to attend the program, but pre-registration is required by Dec. 12 for participants to receive webinar access information. Call 815-933-8337 to register at the Extension office, or register using the following link:

To attend the workshop from home, participants need a computer with high-speed internet access and a way to listen to the presentation.

ACES Dean Kidwell named Fellow in Crop Science Society of America

Published November 9, 2016
Kim Kidwell
ACES Dean Kim Kidwell

URBANA, Ill. – The highest recognition one can receive from the Crop Science Society of America is to be named Fellow. In fact, only 0.3 percent of CSSA’s active and emeritus members can receive this particular award. Members of the society nominate their colleagues based on their professional achievements and meritorious service.

Today, Kimberlee Kae Kidwell received that honor.

Kidwell is a co-author on 63 peer-reviewed publications and has three research patents. She is well known for her plant breeding efforts to improve wheat variety, having released over 20 varieties, several of which are still prominent in commercial production. She also facilitates life-skill trainings for university and industry participants.

“I was honored to nominate Dr. Kidwell for the award. As a colleague and friend I appreciate her excellence in research and teaching and especially her mentorship of young people in science, especially women,” says Kim Garland Campbell, research geneticist with the USDA-ARS in Pullman, Wash. and adjunct faculty member in the Washington State University Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

In Kidwell’s previous positions at Washington State University, she served as wheat breeder, Associate Dean in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and Director of the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership.

On Nov. 1, Kidwell assumed her new role as Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. As an administrator, Kidwell focuses on building a job-ready work force for agriculture, industry needs, student retention, and professional development activities.

She received bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois and a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin.

More information about the 2016 awards is available on the CSSA website.

Cattle prices: More room for recovery?

Published November 7, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – Some say this is the most volatile cattle market ever, according to Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt. An evaluation of that statement would take considerable number crunching, he says, but everyone can agree that very few people expected cattle prices to go above $170 per hundredweight in late 2014, and then to fall below $100 in mid-October 2016. 

“If finished cattle prices dropped by nearly $75 in the two years after the 2014 high price, how much did they rise in the two years before the high? The lowest weekly price of finished steers in 2012 was $113. Prices rose by $59 before falling by $75,” Hurt says.

Supply and demand for beef are the primary drivers of finished cattle prices, Hurt adds. Small supplies of cattle in 2014 were the result of the devastating Southern Plains drought and high feed prices in the 2010 to 2014 time period. Small cattle supplies meant high finished cattle prices. In 2015 and 2016, lower feed prices and more cattle coming out of feedlots resulted in lower prices.

“However, another little-reported potential driver of this price volatility lies in the fact that adjustments at different levels in the beef chain occur at different rates,” Hurt says. “Stated most simply, cattle prices and wholesale beef prices tend to adjust quickly to changes in cattle supply while retail prices adjust more slowly. As cattle prices rise, retailers are slow to increase retail beef prices. This keeps the quantity of beef demanded strong. More of the retail price is bid back into the cattle price. This may ‘overstimulate’ cattle prices.

“We are now on the other side of that relationship as retail beef prices have been slower to come down, keeping retail beef prices higher and weakening the quantity of beef demanded and lowering the share returned to the cattle price,” Hurt continues. “This may cause cattle prices to drop more sharply and overshoot on the downside. This overshooting on the downside may have occurred most recently. Packer and retail margins were narrow in 2014 and the farmer’s share of the retail dollars spent on beef was 55 percent, the highest annual level since 1993. This year the opposite is true, with packer and retail margins at record highs resulting in the farmer’s share of only 45 percent.”

Into 2017, Hurt says retail beef prices will likely continue to decrease and marketing margins will decrease with a greater share of the retail beef dollar getting back to the cattle price. Although it is difficult to accurately predict how large this impact will be, it seems within reason to expect about an $8 to $12 improvement in finished cattle prices just based on narrowing marketing margins in 2017.

“Trade is going to help as well in 2017,” Hurt says. “As U.S. beef prices come down in 2017, there will be less beef imports and more beef exports. USDA’s current projections are for 11 percent less beef imports and a 6 percent rise in beef exports. Even though U.S. beef production could be up 3 to 4 percent in 2017, the positive impacts of trade mean that per capita beef supplies in the U.S. may only rise less than 1 percent. If demand stays similar, 2017 finished cattle prices would be expected to be modestly lower than this year’s $118 to $120.”

According to Hurt, there continues to be a wide variation of opinions about the cattle market in 2017. Cash cattle prices have recovered about $7 in the past three weeks. Futures prices also recovered. However, futures traders remain far more pessimistic than the current fundamentals seem to suggest. Using futures prices on Nov. 7 as a proxy for cash prices suggests 2017 finished cattle would average in the higher $90s. USDA analysts who use fundamental price models are forecasting the average finished cattle price to be $112 to $121. The mid-point of their forecast range is $116.50 per hundredweight, which is more consistent with current supply and demand expectations. 

“Clearly, wide swings in the cattle market over the past four years has made it difficult to establish benchmarks of what a high price or a low price for cattle should be,” Hurt says. “Cattle prices have lost their price reference points. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that it is the role of markets to ‘discover’ the correct price over time.

“The cattle industry has been through numerous shocks, including high feed prices and drought, in recent years,” Hurt says. “In trying to discover the right price, markets often have to overshoot and then undershoot. Finding the right price is not easy, yet markets are generally considered the most efficient way to find that elusive level. At the same time, we need to remember that the volatility implied in finding that right price has major financial consequences on participants in the entire beef chain, from cow-calf operations, to feedlot owners, to packers, to retailers.”



2017 Certified Livestock Manager Training workshops

Published November 3, 2016
Producers attend CLMT workshops

URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois Extension has scheduled workshops to provide Illinois livestock producers the manure management training they need to meet the requirements of the state's Livestock Management Facilities Act. 

The 2017 Certified Livestock Manager Training workshops, held in eight locations throughout the state, will begin Jan. 31 in Springfield and end Feb. 23 back in Springfield.

Please note that all workshops are concentrated in February, with only one workshop in January.  Workshops begin at 8:30 a.m. and will take 3 1/2 hours with the IDOA exam administered afterward.

Workshop dates and locations are as follows:

Jan. 31 – 1 Convention Center Plaza, Springfield

Feb. 7 – 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington

Feb. 8 – 1209 North Wenthe Drive, Effingham

Feb. 9 – 1163 North 4th Street, Breese

Feb. 14 – 180 S. Soangetaha Rd. Suite 108, Galesburg

Feb.15 – 210 W. Spring St., Freeport

Feb. 16 – 1350 W. Prairie Drive, Sycamore

Feb. 23 – Ill. Dept. of Agriculture Bldg., State Fairgrounds

Each workshop will offer a general curriculum designed to keep producers current on the latest industry practices. The curriculum covers the basics of nutrient management as well as new technologies, research, and trends, so producers who have completed the training and are renewing their certification will benefit.  

The Livestock Management Facilities Act requires facilities with 300 or more animal units to have at least one employee certified in proper manure handling procedures.  For facilities with 300 to 999 animal units, the employee must attend a workshop or pass the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Certified Livestock Manager exam.  Employees of facilities with 1,000 or more animal units must do both to achieve certification. 

Registration opens Dec. 1. To register for a workshop, call the University of Illinois at 217-244-9687 or register online. The cost is $35.  If more than one employee from the same farm signs up, each additional registration will cost $25. Lunch will not be offered, but coffee and donuts are provided.

Employees also have the option of taking five online quizzes.  Passing them is the equivalent of having attended a workshop, but does not substitute for passing the state administered Certified Livestock Manager exam. Register for the online program option here. There is no charge to take the online quizzes other than the cost of a manual. 

The workshops will use the instructional manual for the National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship (LPES) curriculum, which can be purchased for $67.50. Participants do not need a new manual if they have a 2003 or newer version. The manual is also available on a CD for $32.50.  To purchase a manual, contact University of Illinois at 1-800-345-6087.

Producers are encouraged to preregister at least two weeks prior to ensure a seat for the session that fits their schedule. Advance registration also allow participants to receive a manual beforehand, which is important for those planning to take the written Illinois Department of Agriculture test to obtain their certification.


News Source:

Rich Gates, 217-244-2791

News Writer:

Leanne Lucas, 217-244-9085