The 2020 Crop Tour began on June 23 in Champaign Illinois. We traveled some 1,800 miles West and North through parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Western Indiana in 4 days. There are 25 predetermined stops along the way with 9 in Illinois, 11 in Iowa, 3 in Minnesota and 2 in Western Indiana. Many of these fields are annual stops so we can compare the corn crop versus our last stop in 2018.

This year’s tour stats are as follows. We traveled 25 counties with 9 of those stops being in a County with a Top 5 three year average corn yield for their respective State. Five of these stops were counties that are in the lowest 25% of their respective State for three year average corn yield. The number one county is Crawford County Iowa (Western Iowa) with a three year average corn yield of 223.53 bushels per acre. The lowest average corn yield on the tour is Jackson County Minnesota (Southwestern MN) at 176.47 bushels per acre.

1 week before the start, Champaign Illinois has the largest amount of rain year to date (24.08″) and largest amount since April 10 (11.78″). Plymouth Iowa has the least year to date at only 9.48 inches and Cass Iowa has the least since April 10 at 3.97 inches. Clearly Western Iowa has been extremely dry. We will be interested to see if it has had an effect on the crop yet.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

The necessity of quarantine over the last few months has presented unique challenges for businesses and organizations across the board. As COVID-19 made its way across the Midwest, our office took the precautions that many others adopted in an effort to keep our staff and clients confident of our investment in their well-being. As we reopen and get back to business as normal, we are glad for the success of our measures and grateful for the patience and understanding granted.

My work in farm management is dependent on trust – the client’s trust in my ability and commitment for their investment and heritage and/or legacy, as well as the trust and assurance in the relationship with our farm operators. I believe in handshakes and looking someone in the eye when we talk because it’s important to know who you are working with. Other companies may function solely through online transactions, but we find that interaction is vital for mutual understanding and shared success.

In navigating frustrations, I was surprised by the discovered opportunities. Our IT team armed us with new tools to overcome the limitations of social distancing. During a typical phone call with a client and his sons, we opted to try our video conferencing abilities. We are spread out geographically across the US, and can rarely meet as four. Once we were logged in, we were live and in-person in each of our “new offices”. We were able to communicate much like a normal face to face experience; and the ability to use the shared screen feature made it possible to discuss a farm report with all of the relevant information right there on my computer. We were limited by distance before coronavirus, but as an unexpected result of the circumstances, we found a better way to connect.

Einstein said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” In the coming months as the world reopens, meetings will once again take place in person, as well as face-to-face via video. Soon, I’ll be on the road performing my annual crop tour, as well as able to remote-connect with my office. AG Farm Management prides itself

Apply for 2020 Agriculture Scholarships

Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation is an organization started as a dream some 35 years ago. True agricultural visionaries saw the need to offer scholarships to local students studying agriculture. They awarded 2 scholarships in 1986. To date they have given away over $940,000 and will be close to going over $1,000,000 in total this year.

Another integral part of the Foundation is to promote Ag Literacy. Initially it was designed to help with classroom education relating to Agriculture. It has blossomed to one of the leading programs in the state. It now reaches over 1,000 Champaign County grade school students each month.

I joined the board of the organization in 2001 at the urging of the late Gary Grace. Gary thought it might be a good spot for me to help promote agriculture. The Atkins Group gave the first $1,000 in 2003 and has given a scholarship every year since then. I continued to serve on the board until 2018, serving as President from 2009-2012.

The most rewarding part of giving to this particular organization is to be able to watch the students as they progress through college and succeed in a career. So many of these students that I have met over the years are now working in an agricultural career (many in this area). Some of these students have even come full circle and now serve on the board in leadership positions. The Champaign County Farm Bureau Foundation is an organization that deserves our support and has proven that they can be a conduit to introduce agriculture to students of all ages and foster many to a future career in the field. It has been an honor to be a part of the organization and to continue to support its mission.

Visit their website to find information and application forms for the 2020 scholarships.

Champaign County Farm Bureau Scholarships

Rain Makes For a Tough Spring – Counting Our Blessings

WOW, just WOW! That pretty much sums up spring here in Central Illinois. We are finally putting to rest the spring planting season and once again we have been blessed in comparison to so many other areas of the Midwest. I do not want to give the impression that we have a record crop growing in the field, but at least it has all been planted (or we should finish this week).

Record rainfall in the area this year caused us to be record behind normal planting paces. May 2019 ranked as the third wettest May in the last 125 years! Unfortunately April and March were also wetter than normal. That all translated to intense worry, great frustration and certainly fear and depression with most of our farm operators. I have been managing farms for 31 crop seasons and never have I had such a time getting crops planted. Sure I have had areas that were extremely wet and late planted (even a field or two that were never planted), but this is the first time in 31 years that I ended May with only 45% of my corn fields planted and less than 10% of the soybeans planted.

Fortunately in central Illinois we had a string of good weather starting on about May 30th through today that allowed an incredible amount of planting progress across our acreage here in Central Illinois. Unfortunately for those in Northern and Southern Illinois, Northern/Southern Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, they received torrential rains last week causing many farmers to throw in the towel on corn planting. Some will take an insurance provision called prevented plant coverage; some may switch and plant soybeans, but those areas need a shot of dry weather to be able to do anything at this point.

I expect to have a record amount of unplanted (prevented planted) acres of corn in the US this season. I suspect that we may see an unusually high acreage of prevented plant soybeans as well. All of this lack of planting will be factored in with the very late start to the cropping season to determine an educated guess for the commodity markets the rest of the summer. We will continue to need rain to keep our yield prospects going and we will need heat to mature these crops along. The only sure thing at this point is that we can count our blessings in this area and we need to offer support and condolences to those in areas affected by flooding and prevented planting. Until next time, stay dry!

And the awards go to…. 2018 top producers

January and February are busy months for me as I collect the data from all of our farms, put it all into detailed reports and make distributions to our clients and affiliates. Despite the desk time required this time of year, it is always rewarding to illustrate the return on investment for the hard work and diligent expertise of our land management.

For the last couple of years, I have awarded our top producers with a certificate and $100 gift card as small gesture to acknowledge and congratulate their success.

Jerry and Keith Reinhart not only won our 2018 Top Corn Yield Award, they were distinguished as the number one corn producers in Illinois and second in the nation (in their class). Their success was highlighted and awarded at the 2019 Commodity Classic in Florida. Congratulations Jerry and Keith!

I also had the pleasure of awarding Doug and Bob Schroeder with the AG Farm Management award for 2018 Top Soybean Yield.

Thank you to the Reinhardt’s and the Schroeder’s and all of our affiliates for a fantastic year. We at AG Farm Management congratulate you and appreciate you for all you do.

Land Investment Expo #2 — US Presidents and the World Economies

The second post in a series “Takeaways from the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines Iowa January 25, 2019”.

Our second speaker of the day (which I must admit initially I wasn’t too excited about) was Peter Zeihan. Mr Zeihan is a geopolitical strategist. What is a geopolitical strategist was my question? So I googled it, “relating to politics, especially international relations, as influenced by geographic factors.” Obviously this is someone much smarter than me.

Mr. Zeihan started his talk by stating that World trade was started by people just talking about what they wanted. Isn’t that generally what we think about when we trade things? If I want corn on my farm in North Carolina, I could go to an Illinois farmer and buy it, ok maybe it’s not that easy. I need a middle man so the grain elevator gets involved. Then they involve someone who can transport it to my final destination in NC; the USDA gets involved and grades it before shipment and so on. There is more to trade than just talking but that’s how it all starts.

In his opinion Bush 41 was the best President in our lives for World Affairs. He was on a first name basis with most of the World leaders and was well respected by them. After HW, the US World affairs simply fell apart. Clinton (probably the smartest President in the last 50 years, his quote not mine) was more interested in internal affairs. Bush 43’s Presidency was overwhelmed by 911. Obama interestingly was not a people person and just ignored many facets of World affairs. Zeihan’s comment was that Obama literally did not talk with his cabinet very much at all. He was a great orator but not much for foreign policy. The whole story has not been written about Trump, but all indications are that he wants to win at all costs. What that means long term is yet to be decided.

This all led up to what I found to be the most interesting 20 minutes of the talk. Here we are post SOTU where President Trump stated that we are energy independent. Ironically we heard this fact two weeks earlier in Iowa. On any given day the US is the number 1 energy producer in the world. As a child, we were drilled on a regular basis that our energy supply was so finite that we were in danger of exhausting it in my lifetime! What a scary thought. New methodology in extraction has changed this idea but also new methods of exploration have been a game changer!

He then elaborated why the United States is a world power. Similar to Gartman, he talked about military supremacy. But more than our military power, our economic power sets us apart from other world powers. Our GDP is less dependent on other countries. We have energy independence now and into the future. Most importantly our demographics in the US are a strength that is unmatched by other rival counties.

When compared to other significant World economies, the US has the idea mix of demographics. We have two major power age generations. The baby boomers have accumulated wealth and the millennials have the desire to purchase goods and services. As the boomers liquidate their wealth the younger generation will be there to consume it through goods and services.

Other countries discussed were India (where their demographic are primarily young, only workers no wealth), Japan (where their demographics are primarily old, only wealth and no workers) and Korea (where their primary demographic is centered in middle age, not enough wealth or workers). The charts that were presented (shown below in my pictures) take a little study but are very powerful once digested. On the left of each chart is the female population, on the right are males. The Y axis is ages from 0-100 in 5 year increments. Note the stark differences in the charts.

What I expected was this 45 minute talk would be “boring”. His talk inspired me enough to start to read his books for more information. What I received was serious knowledge to ponder and a renewed energy and enthusiasm for the United States! In my notes I had written, “We did this all in less than 250 years! What can we do in the next 100 years?”

Land Investment Expo #1 – Super Aircraft Carriers and US Economic Success

I attended the 12th Annual Land Investment Expo on January 25th in Des Moines Iowa. The event was sponsored by Peoples Company, a diversified real estate company based in Des Moines.

The morning session started with economist Dennis Gartman author of “The Gartman Letter”. His message was varied but mostly centered on the US Government and their actions and place in the world. A couple of fascinating stats to take away from the talk: there are 11 (soon to be 12) super aircraft carriers in the world. The United States has them all. See the difference below. Google it!

Gartman’s point was that the naval superiority was one of the main reasons for the US dollar to be the world currency.

The second point from Gartman that I didn’t necessarily agree with was that Government deficits have existed since the 70’s and they don’t matter. This concept that the politicians in Washington have held as gospel for years is in his words “not something to be concerned about”. Worry about GDP, interest rates and the economy.

The final point from Gartman concerned world oil production. As a young child in the 70’s, I remember the gas lines and the whole hysteria that we were using oil at an alarming rate. Or we would run out of the world oil reserves by 2030, or we would essentially become subservient to the Middle East as they held the majority of the oil in the world. Good news everyone. On any given day now the United State is the number #1 producer of oil in the world. We are self-sufficient. And we are using new techniques to both find and extract oil from our reserves.

What does any of this have to do with agriculture? Everything! This was just a few high points from the first speaker of what was a very thought provoking day!