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Illinois farmland values continue upward spiral

The prices being paid for farmland across Illinois continue their upward spiral with the tops being in the $10,000 to $13,000 per acre range across the state. This is according to the 2012 Farmland Values and Lease Trends Report released in March by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

The top price of $13,000 per acre was for a November 2011 sale of 37.7 acres in Christian County. Sales in the $10,000 per acre range were common across a number of regions in the state. A good part of this tremendous move in Illinois crop land values is based on increasing farm income returns, and expectations of strong income into the future, says Don McCabe, AFM, general chairman of the Land Values Survey and Conference.

Respondents indicated that farmland values increased between 20 and 21 percent across land classes during 2011, says Gary Schnitkey, Ph.D., Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois.

Yearly increases in land prices have averaged 6.7 percent across all of Illinois between 1970 and 2011. But yearly increases have averaged 12 percent from 2005 to 2011.

Rents have also increased. For excellent quality farmland, rents increased $60 per acre from $319 per acre in 2011 to $379 per acre in 2012.

For more information go to www.ispfmra.org.


SIPC reduces costs, holds base rate even in 2011

Members of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC) in Marion were updated on the organization's financial condition and reductions in power cost during the power cooperative's Annual Meeting of Members held in March. SIPC was able to hold base rates even for 2011.

“Optimism began to grow in 2011 with SIPC achieving excellent reliability at the Marion coal and gas-fired plants. Additionally, while loads from most of the SIPC membership ranged from 1 to 7 percent below budget, the station-service load required for Prairie State through member Tri-County contributed to year-end margins,” reported President and General Manager, Scott Ramsey.

In addition, in 2010 and 2011 SIPC reduced the cost of power generation to 7 percent and reduced purchase power costs by 34.3 percent since 2008.

“SIPC also saved approximately $700,000 by purchasing an abandoned utility line which still had good life in it,” said Ramsey. “The line was connected into the new SIPC line sections as part of a new project for an SIPC members' substation.”

Secretary-Treasurer, James Scherrer said, “SIPC generated margins of $2,200,000 in 2011. SIPC's equity was 7.27 percent, Dec. 31, 2011. The equity level has declined in recent years due to increased borrowing. Forecasts show our equity rising in 2012 and future years.”

Sales to the seven distribution co-op members fell by 64 million kWh or 3 percent due to the mild winter and slow economy. On Jan. 31, 2013, SIPC will begin selling power to Norris Electric Cooperative, and its load will add 400,000 megawatt-hours annually.

Chairman Richard Liefer said investing with other electric cooperatives and municipal utilities in Prairie State Energy Campus was a huge step for the co-op. “This investment into PSGC's future is once again leading the charge for growth of our co-op.”


Co-op leader expresses disappointment with proposed EPA greenhouse gas regulations

In March, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Glenn English made the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed greenhouse gas regulations:

“NRECA and its member electric cooperatives are extremely disappointed to learn that the Obama Administration, in a New Source Performance Standard issued today by the EPA, has jettisoned American coal from the President’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy.

“Because commercially viable carbon capture and storage technology is still years away, the rules issued today by the EPA have the practical effect of outlawing coal as a fuel source for the next generation of power plants. Alternatively, America’s electric cooperatives support an energy policy that maximizes energy efficiency and truly embraces all domestic fuels: nuclear, natural gas, renewable and coal.

“Politicians cannot have it both ways. Our nation can’t embrace the concept of energy independence and at the same time turn our backs on America’s most abundant domestic fuel source (coal).”


More than 250 Youth Day students meet with state senators and representatives in capital city

More than 250 youth from 25 Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives from across the state visited the State Capitol as part of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperative’s annual Youth Day, held Wednesday, March 28 in Springfield. Students had the opportunity to have photos taken and meet with their district senators and representatives, hear from Lt.Gov. Sheila Simon and Secretary of State Jesse White and visit the Supreme Court.

In the afternoon, students toured the Old State Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum before returning to the Prairie Capital Convention Center (PCCC). At the PCCC, students were judged for possible selection as Youth to Washington representatives. Annually, Youth to Washington representatives go on an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. in June. They have the opportunity to visit the monuments, museums, White House and meet their U.S. Congressmen and Senators.


Organic sunflower seeds for birds, wildlife now available from WIU organic farm

Bird and wildlife enthusiasts can now purchase organic, locally grown sunflower seeds for their feathered and furry backyard friends. The Western Illinois University School of Agriculture's Organic Research Program is selling 9 pound bags of black oilseed sunflower seeds for $10. The sunflowers were grown on the WIU Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm, which is located in Warren County.

According to Joel Gruver, assistant professor and manager of WIU's Allison Farm, the School of Ag's sale of the organic sunflower seeds provides you with an opportunity to take care of local wildlife while also supporting the WIU Organic Research Program.

"Those who purchase seeds will also be eligible to win a prize. Buyers can visit the WIU Organic Program website at www.wiu.edu/ag/organicfarm and enter the number on the label of each bag," Gruver said. Five bags have winning numbers that will entitle the buyer or buyers to a prize."

To place an order, contact the School of Agriculture office from 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, at (309) 298-1080 or send an email to WIU School of Agriculture Research Technician Andy Clayton at AW-Clayton@wiu.edu.

Read more about WIU's Organic Research Program at www.wiu.edu/ag/organicfarm/.


Prairie Power, Inc. closes Pearl Generation Station

Effective June 1 Prairie Power, Inc. will close the Pearl Generation Station located near Pittsfield. The small 22-megawatt, coal-fired base load plant went on line in 1968. The plant was only operated when the cost of production was lower than power purchased from the Midwest Independent System Operator (ISO). In 2010, the plant provided 4 percent of PPI’s energy requirements.

Superintendent of Generation Randy Fisher said the generation and transmission co-op tried to convert the small plant to a renewable biomass generating facility. The move would have saved several jobs and the plant would have been a good size for demonstrating the feasibility of biomass generation in Illinois. The co-op also owned 1,065 acres of land that could have been used to grow biomass plants, but the land was sold in February. Area farmers could have been employed to grow biomass plants for the generation facility. The plant was already successfully burning a small amount of waste seed corn.

PPI President/CEO Jay Bartlett said, “We wanted to convert it to biomass and it was the perfect size for that project, but it is out of the money.” The biomass conversion of the Pearl Plant would have been difficult because of environmental uncertainty with biomass plants and because of the low cost of natural gas.

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