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!

Luke Bryan Farm Tour Comes to Atkins Farm in Pesotum

Luke Bryan has announced that his 10th annual Farm Tour will visit six cities this fall, including Pesotum, Illinois. The Illinois concert will be September 28th, located at Atkins Farm, 930 County Road 300 North, in Pesotum, IL at 6 PM.

Tickets are $51 in advance, or $60 at the gate, and parking will cost $5 in advance or $20 day-of. Once the show sells out, no tickets will be sold at the gate.

More than 100,000 fans have attended Bryan’s Farm Tour stops throughout the past decade. Since its inception in 2009, the trek has also helped Bryan award more than 50 students from farming families in the communities he’s visited with college scholarships.

Tickets for Bryan’s 2018 Farm Tour will go on sale on June 9 at 10AM local time, but Nut House fan club members, users of Bryan’s official app and Citi cardholders will have access to pre-sales that begin on June 1 at 10AM local time. Visit for more details.

2017 Crop tour wrap up

Here are my final thoughts from this year’s tour.  It was copied from the blog so no new insights since 7-3.

1.  Indiana has little chance to be average.  Warren and Benton Counties are typically two of the best counties in the State.  We traveled both and found, replanted fields, low plant stands (in fields that were left), and overall water damage.  The area had a TOUGH spring that will certainly continue into summer and make fall a mess.

2.  Illinois and Iowa both have areas that need rain BEFORE pollination.  We drove 1670 miles and found several counties that need a drink before we get to pollination.  Typical of every year but prevalent this year are large areas of dry soils.  A big part of Central Illinois and NW Iowa need a drink soon.

3.  75% of Iowa has more than adequate moisture.  We found the NE quadrant with enough moisture to make it all the way through pollination.  Northern Illinois certainly has enough moisture as well.

4.  Minnesota has the best corn crop we have seen in the 5 years we have visited.  BIG plant stands (both were slightly over 40,000 ppa) and plenty of moisture.  I tweeted out pictures of the mud on my shoes after being in those fields.

5.  Iowa farms all look like they were planted in the same week.  Never have we seen so little variability.  V7-V10 caught every field (the the average being V10).  What this means is watch the heat in Iowa July 10-24.  I believe 85% of Iowa will pollinate in that time frame.

6.  Iowa farmers have embraced high plant stands.  We found that 36,000 was a low plant stand in Iowa.  Seed dealers must have cut some deals or somehow convinced everyone in the state to plant thicker.

7.  Illinois will be average.  Southern IL is behind and doesn’t typically change the overall state yield unless they are great.  Central Illinois is good but spotty.  East Central IL had one of the biggest replant years ever for corn.  Northern Illinois looks typical (though a little behind normal crop progress).

8.  Overall there are certainly enough acres to justify the USDA June 30 report.  I would call the crop 10 days behind normal overall.  Mid-July weather will be critical for heat especially.  If we remain cool, I expect this crop to be average overall.  All bets are off if it gets hot.

9.  One comment on soybeans.  They are small; I get it.  Even the early planted soybeans look smaller than we would expect for this time of year.  However soybeans have an incredible ability to make up for lack of height or maturity.  I would suggest that with an additional 6 million acres we have little chance to hit the trend line yield; it doesn’t matter.  There are so many acres that total production is a BIG number that could be problematic on the World supply demand sheets.

10.  Thanks to everyone who followed along and tweeted/messaged at us.  It is a grind to see that many fields in so many miles.  WE appreciate all of the encouragement and hope that you all found something interesting in our reports.

2017 Crop Tour

Follow along as we tour Western Indiana, Illinois, Southern Minnesota and Iowa to assess the potential of this year’s crops (1650 plus miles in 3 days). This will be our 4th tour.  We went the first time in 2011, then again in 2012, took 2013, 2014 and 2015 off, they resumed in 2016 and now in 2017.  Many of the fields we have been in multiple times so we have some history.  Each year we add a few and subtract one or two.

The idea has always been to get a pre-fourth of July look at the crops to help with marketing the balance of the summer.  Along the way, I feel like we always pick up a new item or two to add to our knowledge base.

Use the link below to follow our 3 day tour.  We post twice a day in video form and two to three times a day in written form our results.  Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Harvest results are in

2016 was certainly an interesting crop harvest season.  In central Illinois, we had a very warm somewhat wet season.  We expected to harvest our largest crop ever and we feel just short of that expectation.  When the final bins are emptied and all of the sheets tallied it appears that we will harvest the second largest corn crop and and the second largest soybean crop ever!

The harvest season was longer than our norm.  It really felt like we would be substantially complete by October 15th (45-55 days) and the actual date was closer to November 1 and final date was November 16th.  60-75 day harvest seasons are really hard on our farm operators and their families.  Long hours and short nights are the norm during harvest.  The sooner we are able to wrap up harvest the sooner we can get our friends rested and recovered.  Thankfully we made it through yet another season with no major injuries or major problems with our farms.

December brings planning season where our operators make their way into our office and we plan for the next season.  It is a time I relish and really enjoy catching up.  It is a time we can relax, reflect and put our thoughts and wishes together to present to our clients/owners for the next year.  It is a time where my time is precious and my phone is busy.  Accountants enjoy tax season; farmers enjoy planting and harvest seasons; I enjoy the year-end planning season!

Wishing you all a fun December!

Harvest has begun in Central Illinois

Harvest if off and running here around Central Illinois.   I traveled last week in Iowa and found that they virtually had not started anything but Seed Corn harvest.  I would expect that we will get a good week in here.  Some of the early yield reports are all over the board.  I am hearing anything from 270 bushel per acre corn down to 100 (not here in Central IL) and 40 to 80 bushels per acre for soybeans.  The one constant is the ear diseases in all areas.

The very wet August contributed to the rise in ear rots.  Ear rots typically engross the majority of an ear of corn making it very difficult to harvest and making it undesirable for the end user (elevator or buyer of the crop).  There may be a single ear in a row that has this damage or several ears in an area of the field.  The elevator “grades” the grain as it is delivered, scores it and applies discounts per their schedule.  A severely damaged load was delivered in the south and the discount was $1.40 per bushel for the whole load.  Right now I don’t expect much discount but should harvest be delayed due to excess moisture it could be more of a problem.  I have attached a picture to show what I am talking about.


I will update the blog in a couple weeks as we continue to progress in Harvest 2016.