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“If you don’t have the incentive or insight to lay out a vision, you can’t make it in farming.”

-Paul Taylor
Farm and Food Voices
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Illinois farmer Paul Taylor Has A Vision For Agriculture

Farmer Paul Taylor in his corn fieldPaul Taylor, who farms in DeKalb County, Illinois, believes that the most recent farm bill offered some key improvements. Taylor, who raises vegetables for Del Monte in addition to corn, wheat and seed soybeans, says that the 2002 Farm Bill finally gave fruit and vegetable growers some protection.

He is also a big fan of the Conservation Security Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). “We’re transitioning into Tier 3 in CSP [the highest level of payments], and I think it’s going to make a big difference. I was out early spraying wheat in a 40-acre field this year, and I saw pheasants, partridge, deer, an owl and a coyote. I’ve never seen that much wildlife on the farm in my whole life.”

Taylor says that CSP not only helps to change the natural habitat on farms. It also helps to change farmers’ thinking. That is increasingly critical in light of “the incredibly intense competition” that farmers face. “If you don’t have the incentive and insight to lay out a vision, you can’t make it in farming. The stuff we do is just too complicated,” he explains.

Type of Operation:
Wheat, corn, seed soybeans and food-grade beans, and peas, sweet corn, and lima beans on contract

Land in Agriculture:
About 1,200 (some of it double-cropped)

Greatest Challenge :
Finding ways for younger people to get into the agriculture business

Taylor’s vision includes double-cropping his mix of program crops like winter wheat with lima beans, sweet corn and peas in order to get two crops per year. Due to disease issues and agronomic restrictions, his crop rotations have to be planned at least three years into the future. Part of his reasoning for this complex mix is the profit potential, but he also hates to see ground lying bare and vulnerable to erosion after a crop season is over.

His vision also includes thinking about crop choices in a new way. “We should think more about what we produce here and who we produce it for. We’ve got all these people around, so there’s some real potential.” Taylor warns, however, that the current transportation system and the structure of farm programs are working against this kind of innovative thought. He also sees major problems with what happens to farm program payments.

“We have a glaring problem with our farm payments. Too much is passed along to the landowner. We cash-rent tenants are just the funnel where it passes through,” says Taylor. He also warns about the effects of 1031 tax exchange rules on farmland ownership.

“I’m really distressed at the amount of acres we’re losing in DeKalb County and the way it is disrupting the drainage. We’re being inundated with 1031 money. I’d say 90 percent of the land that’s bought is with 1031 money from out of the area. Most of the time, they win the auctions. We can’t afford to buy the land.”

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American Farmland Trust