DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The USDA is releasing its first estimate of the 2013 crop size in its spring planting report.
After a year dominated by worst drought since the 1950s, farmers are looking ahead to the next crop. Some analysts are expecting slightly more corn and soybeans to be planted than a year ago.
Farmers planted 97.2 million acres of corn last year, the most since 1937. Some analysts are expecting corn acres at around 97.5 million acres.
Darrel L. Good, an agriculture economics professor at the University of Illinois, says more acres are available for planting because farmers enrolled 2.6 million fewer acres in the conservation reserve program last year.
Thursday's USDA report is based on about 80,000 farmer surveys and is the first indication of planting intentions for this year.
Piper City farmer Ron Bork has been named a Master Farmer. The honors comes from Prairie Farmer magazine.
Bork farms in the Piper City area. He's one of four Illinois farmers selected as 2013 Master Farmers by the magazine, which has been involved in the honor of honoring farmers since 1925.
The four will be honored for their exceptional community service and farming abilities at a ceremony March 12 in Bloomington.
Also receiving the award are Neil Fearn of Albion in Edwards County, Doug Scheider of Freeport in Stephenson County and Jim Sheaffer of Dixon in Lee County.
Candidates are nominated by farmers, agribusiness leaders and agricultural extension specialists from throughout the state.
Prairie Farmer first offered the award in 1925, when Editor Clifford Gregory established it as a way to recognize Illinois farmers for something more than just farming skills. Prairie Farmer sponsors the Master Farmer awards program to recognize farmers who excel not only in farming but also in community service, family commitment and leadership.
Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.
Bork’s ancestors have been farming in the Piper City area for more than 140 years. Bork was raised on the same farmstead he and wife Celia now call home. Like most farm kids, he pitched in his fair share with livestock, planting, harvest and detasseling duties in the summer.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1973, Bork taught agriculture at Cissna Park High School. It was there he met his wife, Celia, who was the music teacher.
In the early 1980s, a friend from Bork’s teaching days contacted him about a new business venture. He was looking for a partner to purchase an ailing Curtis Mathes (a consumer electronics retailer) franchise in West Lafayette, Ind. Bork packed up the family, which by this time included two little girls — Holly and Kathy — and headed to Boilermaker central.
In 1986, Bork finally got the call to come back to the farm. His father, Harold, began gradual retirement working with his two sons, Ron and Gene, until he died suddenly in 2002, a few days after harvest.
The Borks have dealt with a couple curveballs in recent years. The first came in 2009. In the rush of harvest, Ron and Gene got a call and learned a long-standing landlord suddenly wanted out of land ownership. With the threat of taking it to auction, Ron and Gene rushed to put together a bid.
They were able to buy the 400 acres, grain bins and the home that serve as the center of the operation. They were happy to own the farm where he grew up, but it was a lot to bite off financially.
The second surprise came the following year when Gene announced he was ready to begin retirement. Gene was much more flexible on the purchase terms. Ron and Celia completed the purchase last year.
This is how Ron Bork found himself as a sole operator farming more than 2,800 acres in 2011.
He needed help. Luckily he found Jon Clark, who was working for a local John Deere dealership. With a strong passion for farming, Clark jumped at the opportunity to work with Bork.
More than 300 Illinois people have been named Master Farmer or Honorary Master Farmer, including the four named this year.
Indiana farmers will escape a looming increase in their property taxes. Governor Pence has signed a law blocking the state from implementing a new formula for calculating the productivity of farm soil. Assessors use that formula to as part of their calculation of what farmland is worth.
The Indiana Farm Bureau contends the Department of Local Government Finance set the wrong baseline for that formula, resulting in tax hikes for all Hoosier farmers if the law hadn‘t been passed. Instead, Purdue agronomists will assist in crafting a new formula.
The law is the first Pence has signed as governor, and the first passed by this year‘s legislature. The House and Senate won‘t start considering the rest of each other‘s proposed laws until next week, but the House fast-tracked the soil-formula bill to get it on the books as quickly as possible.