Covid-19 outbreak hits Rantoul meat processing plant

Just days before President Trump ordered meat packing plants to remain open to mitigate food shortages, Rantoul Foods in Central Illinois saw its first case. There are now 21.

One of the largest meat processing plants in central Illinois is battling an outbreak of coronavirus in which 21 cases of  Covid-19 have been already been counted, a company official confirmed Monday

Rantoul Foods, which is based in Rantoul and processes between 30 million and 35 million pounds of pork each month, saw its first case on April 25, said Jerry Jacobsen, the company’s director of human resources, safety and business administration. Since then 20 more cases have been reported.

Jacobsen said the company is taking safety measures to bring the outbreak under control.

“The first thing is the health of our employees,” Jacobsen said, “because without our employees we don’t have a business.” 

The first worker identified with Covid-19 has now recovered and returned to work, he said. 

On China tariffs, farm groups say no

Earlier this month, the U.S. and China both announced billions of dollars in taxes on billions of dollars worth of imported goods – China is seeking tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. products that include soybeans and pork while the U.S. announced taxes on $150 billion worth of 1,300 Chinese products, including electronics. Here’s a look at what farm organizations in the Midwest have to say.

Long-time housing for migrant farmworkers closes

Since 2001, the former hospital on Nightingale Court in Rantoul, Ilinois housed as many as 450 migrant farmworkers and their families to work in the fields in central Illinois.
But this year, its owner – Unique Storage Inc. – did not submit a migrant labor camp application for the site, known as Nightingale, according to the state public health department.
Instead, housing for the farmworkers was moved elsewhere.

Damage from dicamba spurs confusion, questions

In 2016, Monsanto released its dicamba-resistant soybeans in the company’s largest ever rollout of a new biotechnology.
But its accompanying herbicide – XtendiMaxTM herbicide with VaporGripTM Technology – was not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until several months later, leading some farmers to use other versions of the herbicide on their soybeans.

In wake of new Monsanto seed, Illinois sees more crop damage

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has received 368 complaints so far in 2017, which are more alleged pesticide misuse complaints than in the previous three years combined, according to a review of a statewide database of complaints by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Irrigation playing role in water issues across Illinois

While Illinois is not currently facing a water crisis, highly populated areas with high growth — namely Chicagoland and Champaign County — are undergoing some levels of water conflict, partly because of agricultural irrigation. The State Water Survey projects that in the coming decades, Illinois will require 20 to 50 percent more water. But planning for the increase has been inadequate, largely due to a halt in planning because of the ongoing state budget crisis, government water experts say. In 2006, then-Governor Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order that the water survey and Illinois Department of Natural Resources would develop state and regional water supply plans for 10 regions of the state. However, only three of those plans were completed, and two were being developed when the Illinois Department of Natural Resources suspended all regional water supply planning activities in March 2015 because of a lack of funding from the state legislature.