CropLife Retail Week: IFCA’s Kevin “K.J.” Johnson on MAGIE ’24, Illinois Pesticide Regulations to Watch

Eric Sfiligoj hosts Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association President Kevin “KJ” Johnson to discuss MAGIE and key ag issues in the Land of Lincoln.

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Edited Video Transcript:

Eric Sfiligoj: Hello. Welcome to a special edition of Crop Life retail Week. I’m Eric Sfiligoj:, editor at CropLife.I know most of us in the industry. of course, are in the midst of spring. We are here in Ohio. We are also in Illinois, I’m sure, where our guest is from.

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We’re looking forward to summer. And of course, every year one of the big summer events is the Midwest Ag Industries Exposition, better known as The MAGIE Show, which will be taking place in, mid-August in Bloomington, Illinois. And I’m happy to be joined this week by the president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, which hosts that event, Kevin “KJ” Johnson.

KJ, welcome to the program.

Kevin Johnson: Hey, thanks for having me on today.

ES: Very good. So correct me if I’m wrong. This will be the 43rd MAGIE show, correct?

KJ: Yep. 43rd. It started off in Danville, Illinois. and now it’s moved to Bloomington. We are a couple of years in, 2000s in Decatur, but we found a nice home in Bloomington.

And that’s where the IFC offices are. But a nice, big location to have the Maggie show with a lot of, ride and drive area. So it’s a great place.

ES: Okay, so tell me about this year’s event. Anything new and differen? And also tell us about some of the old favorites from years gone by.

KJ: It’s going to go on a lot with this show. Just talking to vendors. Not that the size equipment is going to change, but all the technology, anything to See and Spray, or a different companies with a type of See and Spray. I think that will be the the focus of a lot of stuff.

But we’re hearing more more technology, more technology, more technology. The other thing is, and it’s just kind of grown over the last few years, the drone of style, you know, when we think of drones, we think of something that’s two foot across. Now we’re talking ten foot across. And we actually have, I think five drone companies come in that are going to demonstrate their, their product.

So it’s it’s really taken off. But the biggest thing about MAGIE, what makes it different than any show in the country is our ride and drive area. You can get any in any piece of new equipment, and we got about 40 acres to test those pieces out, unfold the booms, put some water in the booms and see how it actually works.

So a lot of great stuff that’s going to come this year. But if we’re going to talk more technology, it is a lot more work at the boom, See and Spray and that type of stuff that’s going to be showcased this year at the show.

ES: Yeah, I was going to say I remember being at last year’s MAGIE in 2023 and again, like you say, drones. There were a lot of the, flying demonstrations going on by, I believe at least two companies that I remember seeing there. So if there’s five this year, that’ll be even a bigger area. So and I know drone applications have really taken off in the last year. I know, some of the rules change made things a little easier for folks to manage them.

And operate them in the fields. And again, like you say, technology. I know the last couple of years, everybody has had something, boom related or encapsulated that has been, you know, AI tech. I imagine we’ll see more. I, I know everybody’s talking about artificial intelligence. So, so tell the folks who are listening to us on this video again, if they’re interested in attending MAGIE or exhibiting how they, how they find out the information they need.

KJ: So this year’s dates are August 21st and 22nd. We’re always the third week of August. If you would like to register, we’re going to have registration open usually the first week of July. That will just go to and you can register. Registration is $12 for early registration. But if you want to come to the door you’re more than welcome.

If you would still like to exhibit at MAGIE, we always welcome more vendors. Please contact Leslie for us at the IFCA at 309-807-2774.

ES: Very good. Well, I know myself having gone to about 20 of the MAGIEs in my time in the industry. There are two things I look forward to at MAGIE. Besides the equipment, of course. And the technology. One is the food. There is a lot of good food available on the fairgrounds there in Bloomington. I know particularly I love the pork on a stick. I, probably consume way too many of those. Probably a half dozen or so over the course of the two-day event.

So the other thing, of course, that everybody looks forward to is awards. I know for ourselves here at CropLife on our sister publication, CropLife Iron, we hand out the Showstopper award, the stop sign shaped award that goes to basically the Best in Show product voted on by the MAGIE attendees themselves. But I know IFCA has a couple of awards. One, of course, is the Image Award, if you want to talk about what that is.

KJ: Yeah. So when we go to stuff, I go back to the the Showstopper. That is a great award. And I will tell you, it’s very competitive. And everybody that crowd is wanting to know they got the Showstopper awards. So I appreciate you doing that because those companies take very much pride saying that they won that award that year at the MAGIE Show.

ES: I was just at an event, this past week where Fendt was opening, new facility there, Fendt Lodge up in Jackson, Minnesota. And when we were touring the facility, they had a display case with trophies. And lo and behold, there were a couple of Showstopper awards that they had won over the past years in their display case.

That was very nice to see. So continue.

KJ: Right. So those companies take that very seriously. Some might say not, but they they do take it very seriously. They’ll win that. And then, you know, pretty much say that, hey, we are the Showstopper out here. But the other awards that we do give out are the Image award. It is more for more the, smaller displays. I mean, it might be harder for a smaller company to compete against a John Deere, a Case, or somebody like that. So we do an Image award for some of those other companies that are out there that are bringing new technology to the industry. So we give that award, but then the big award that we also give out that takes a lot of high praise, is we do the Custom Applicator award at the MAGIE Show.

So on Wednesday afternoon, we kind of have a tailgate party and have they’re all people from the, MAGIAE Show come that afternoon and we do the Showstopper award, the Image Award. But then we do the Custom Applicator Year award, and we what we do is we have people apply. You can apply right now if you have somebody in the state of Illinois that is custom applicator that you think it’s going be worthy, please apply.

ES: Correct me if I’m wrong, KJ, but this is the third year you’re doing this.

KJ: Yep. So this is third year we’re doing it. Yeah. So for the previous two years, the two winners that we’ve had up, you know to this point ’23 and ’22 kind of feedback have you gotten from them after they’ve actually gotten this honor.

ES: Very good. Well, you mentioned Springfield. I know, of course, that’s the state capital there in the state, the great state of Illinois. And of course, a lot of the, legislative work you do with folks, regarding our industry and crop protection and fertilizer comes in and out of Springfield, and I’m just curious, you know, 2024, I’ve heard from other state representatives that, this has been a particularly trying year in many regards in their states when it comes to ag regulations.

So tell me what’s going on in Illinois, which bits of legislation are you keeping an eye on? A little worried about perhaps.

ES: Yep. So I would put it in three buckets and it’s come in three worries across this whole session. We have two in and Illinois May 31st have to get a budget done. They’re kind of working on the last stuff in the budget right now early in session.

It was all pesticide related issues. We fought off about 20 different anti pesticide pieces of legislation here in the state of all night. I’m glad to say that we got all 20 of them pushed back. But the two big ones that we were actively opposed to was pesticide preemption. Most guys don’t even know what pesticide preemption is, but it is the most important thing that we have in the industry.

That means that EPA regulates all pesticides. And it comes down to the state level in Illinois, it’s Illinois Department regulates that, but it’s not a city, county that regulates that. So this town of Springfield or Sangamon County, where Springfield is located, can’t say we’re going to ban roundup or buy in dicamba. It is up to the state of Illinois.

So there was a piece of legislation to get rid of pesticide preemption. We we got knocked that back. There was also a bill in the state of New York last year that came to Illinois this year. That pretty much phases out. And we’ve always had neonics piece of legislation out there, but actually says a bans all pesticide seed treatment by 27.

we push that back. So that is kind of been one of those issues that has been out there. But we push that back. So most of the pesticide legislation, I think we’re in very good shape. I don’t see any of that moving the next bucket that came out that had the industry and just, a whirlwind. But all business addresses in whirlwind is the thing called heart.

This is the California emission standards for diesel trucks. If you go down the highway, you’ll usually you might see a truck has a little sticker on doors, says California emission standards. and those trucks pretty much all have death on them. Or that, you know, what we put in diesel trucks, those are pretty much all trucks 2000 new or 2011.

And newer. Out of that, what Carb has done in California or these emission standards pretty much phased out all trucks that don’t have death on them. There was a legislator, Illinois, that wanted to bring that here, from the Chicagoland area. Every business interests pretty much push that back, but I think that is going to just keep coming up.

He brought it up again in the last week, just kind of making it. I think this issue is going to come up. So, I mean, I, I love to say every truck is going to have def on in our industry. That would be a complete lie. because most of our trucks we have or 20 years older, you know, you know, from there.

So we’re watching that legislation. I don’t think that’s going to move this spring, but I think that’s going to be another issue that we’re going to have to keep looking at in the future. And this last one is the Illinois Commerce Commission. It’s not really at the legislator, but the Illinois Commerce Commission is looking at natural gas. And how does what does it look like in 20 years in the state of Illinois?

And they want to really decarbonize, the state of Illinois? Well, let’s be honest, natural gas is a hugely important part of fertilizer industry. But the grain industry, any nitrogen that is produced in this country or in the world all starts with natural gas. Secondly, any, elevator that uses a grain dryer is using a propane or natural gas.

You know, these these people are talking about heat pumps and stuff like that. We need high intensity heat to dry that grain. So if they’re going to go away from a natural gas type of product, it’s going to directly affect the ag industry, ag retail industry, but also the grain industry into the future. Wow. Okay. Well good. Well, thanks for updating us on that.

ES: Yep. One thing I have to ask about, of course, the dicamba. I know I got a note from you you were sending out to the members reminding them of what the cut off dates were. But what are you hearing about dicamba? Sort of beyond the cutoff dates for this year and the future for that crop protection product going forward?

KJ: Well, two things are that came. One, if you were in Illinois or if you’re in one of the eight states, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, just remember, May 13th is a cut off or for sale or movement of that product to farmers. So if you’re going to sell a two and a half gallon mini ball to a farmer, that sell must be done by May 13th and you can custom apply that product, till June 12th.

ES: Okay. But the sale of that product to a farmer or anybody else, or from a retail or retailer must have. And by May 13th, I will make that very clear on this going into the future. bear did put in an application to EPA here this last week. What we’re hearing is that they are going to just ask for the application, three to soybeans that post application that I can about will be gone.

Well, we are hearing that that IRBs and Syngenta are probably likely to do the same thing in the coming weeks, but bear did lay that out this week, that they will probably just go to a pre tight product going into the future. Interesting. Okay. Well I appreciate that update. I’m sure our viewers, we’ve been following the whole dicamba issue for several videos.