When I really think about it, I’ve lived off the farm longer than I lived on, but you know how it goes: You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.
So, here’s a fun list of quotes from famous people that make my mind slip right back to the farm.
Innovation – wow. Have you SEEN what’s going on on the farm lately? These farmers are using GPS to map their fields. GPS is turning on and off the planter boxes so that the planted rows don’t overlap. GPS is controlling the fertilizer application so that the soil is getting exactly what it needs – no more and no less. These innovative farming techniques are distinguishing the really great farmers from those that still need to improve.
This takes me back to spring planting. The years when the soil was dry and hard, yet those little seedlings pushed through! And, although I didn’t appreciate it fully at the time, the first day driving to church on Sunday when you could finally “row the corn” which meant that the little green rows of seedlings were finally visible as you drove by … those little guys saw strength and growth through continuous effort and struggle. And in the end, they put me through college. I’m so grateful little corn seedlings!
Optimism: some farmers have it more than others, but all farmers have it. Think about it, when you put a field of seeds into the ground, knowing that at that present moment you are going to lose money on each and every one, hoping that the economy turns around before harvest? That’s optimism. Farmers are full of hope and confidence. They hope for good growing seasons and good marketing opportunities. They are confident in their own abilities as farmers and, usually, in God that they will take care of their families somehow.
This isn’t something that my parents said to me *exactly* but the sentiment is the same. Don’t do a job halfway. Always do it the very best that you can and look for the opportunities to learn to do it better. I definitely remember conversations like this in regards to my school work, but also when it came to ironing, house cleaning, and picking up the yard. In the end, it was a great lesson and one that I’m always teaching my kids too. I definitely think of kid’s ag organizations like 4-H and FFA when I read this one.
Check out the 4-H motto: I pledge my head to clearing thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, and my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. Hear the push to always be better, bigger, clearer … and more?
Me to my kid: Yes, you did clean up your room about 50%. Is that your best work? Did you understand that we don’t allow piles of trash on your floor? Do you think you can do better? Then go do it! And don’t complain about being punished when you know you only did it 50%!
This. Every planting season. Every harvest season. Every week of hauling grain. Every calving season. Every season on the farm looms large ahead of you and the work is overwhelming. And yet, every farmer I know keeps moving forward, eyes only on the next thing – the next calf, the next 80 acres to harvest, the next 8 hour day of hauling grain – until they turn around and the job is done. THAT feeling of satisfaction can’t be matched.
Are there quotes that make you think about your life and your upbringing? Do these quotes give you any insight into what it is to grow up and work on a farm? Let’s chat in the comments!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
June is Dairy Month and honestly, we haven’t celebrated it up like we should! So, in order of one of my favorite months (ice cream for dessert every night!) I thought I’d bring you some information about one of the most concerning aspects of milk for the average joe: hormones.
Reference these facts by South Carolina Dairy farmer Caci Nance:
- Milk has hormones because it is a product of nature. Hormones are naturally present in all milk, whether it comes from a cow, a goat, or even a human.
- Hormones are just proteins, and most–up to 90 percent of them, in fact –are destroyed through the process of pasteurization. The small amount of protein that may be left after pasteurization gets broken down through digestion in your stomach, just like protein in other foods.
- There are hormones in almost all of the food we eat. Lettuce has hormones, for instance, and cabbage actually has a very high level of hormones.
- Hormones are never added to milk. Most dairy farmers do not give their cows a supplemental hormone, called rBST, to increase milk production. The Midwest Dairy Association reports that only 30 percent of U.S. dairy farmers choose to use rbST with their herds, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of cows. Notably, rBST is not added to the milk itself, but rather is administered to some cows in some herds. Repeated studies by the FDA have found rBST to be a safe and effective way to increase milk production and ensure a plentiful milk supply.
- Farmers are consumers, too. We would never add something harmful to the food supply that is unsafe or dangerous because we eat the same foods that other consumers do.
Knowing this should help calm your fears, but what if you have more questions? Well, the comments in this original blog post are a treasure trove of answers. Go now. Read the comments. Add a question yourself.
And then put milk, cottage cheese, and ice cream back on the menu for tonight. It’s Dairy Month after all!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
I’ve heard people say that it’s “unnatural for cows to eat corn.” As someone who studies what cattle eat for a living, I’m perplexed. Let’s talk.
HERE’S WHY CORN IS OK FOR CATTLE TO EAT:
- Cattle can easily digest and convert corn to milk and meat
- It’s an excellent energy source
- Corn is tasty, even for cattle
Want to know more? Read on.
Corn isn’t the only thing cattle are eating. As an animal nutritionist, I want every bite of feed that an animal takes to be nutritionally perfect. We analyze animal feed (which is generally a blend of grass and grains, including corn) to see what nutrients their diet has or might be deficient in. Oftentimes we design a mineral mixture to meet the requirements of that particular feed mix to ensure the animals have everything they need to grow and stay healthy. Even cattle eating grass need their diet fortified with a vitamin and mineral supplement!
Next, consider the fact that cattle are ruminants – their digestive system is very different from ours. I like to call cattle “the original recyclers” because they have an incredibly adaptable digestive system that can convert many different feed sources into meat and milk. Cattle can eat everything from the corn kernels to the corn stalks. The adaptability of the bovine digestive system helps farmers be more sustainable by using every part of the plant.
Corn is an excellent energy source for cattle, too. From a plant perspective, corn is a grass – it just happens to be a much more nutritious grass than the stuff that’s growing in your yard. The starch and protein that the corn kernel provides help cattle grow and thrive.
Have I mentioned that cattle enjoy eating corn? In my experience, they would choose corn over grass seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Farmers are not “forcing” their cattle to eat corn. More than likely, it is more trouble keeping the cattle from getting into the corn when they’re not supposed to, kind of like you might have trouble keeping your kids out of the cookie jar!
I hope this puts your mind at ease. Farmers and animal nutritionists truly do have the animals’ best interest in mind. If you have questions about why we do what we do, just ask us.
Dr. Josh McCann
Assistant Professor, University of Illinois
Dr. McCann studies the influence of nutrition on metabolism and growth of feedlot cattle by characterizing ruminal fermentation, the gut microbiome, and muscle development – i.e. he’s a nutritionist for cattle. His work contributes to the efficiency and sustainability of cattle farms providing high quality beef to consumers.
“The trade data make it clear that over the past 15 years, the value of U.S. agricultural exports has expanded dramatically with our three largest agricultural trading partners: China, Canada and Mexico. While a few lingering trade barriers among these countries remain in place, most have been dramatically lowered over the last 15 years, helping facilitate this substantial increase in trade. Where trade deficits for agricultural products occur with Canada and Mexico, they are small relative to the total value of agricultural trade, can largely be attributed to the rise in the value of the U.S. dollar, and the drop in the price of some of our key exports. The real threat to agricultural exports now comes from rising trade tensions with all three of these countries who are our largest agricultural markets.”
“In response to the administration’s tariffs on selected products, especially steel and aluminum, China, Canada and Mexico have announced increased tariffs on a range of goods produced in the U.S. The European Union will also respond to increased U.S. tariffs.
“Farm products and products processed from agricultural commodities, such as wine and whiskey, have been singled out. As things currently stand, with the exception of pork and sorghum, the impacts should be manageable.
“However, if the situation deteriorates, and a full-scale trade war breaks out, the farm sector could fall into a full-blown depression. The farm sector has slowly been recovering from a period of low prices and incomes during the mid-2010s, and the current dispute and concerns about a widening trade war has added uncertainty in agricultural markets.”
William Knudson, Michigan State University
Full article can be found here
Do you remember that one thing you loved as a kid? Everyone else may have looked at it thinking it was silly. Maybe looking back, you do too, but, at the time, it meant the world to you. Twelve years ago, I found myself in the middle of a dramatic discussion about my one thing. This group of 8 or 9 kids would get together every day and argue to the point that people weren’t sure whether or not we were all friends. So, what was so important that 3rd graders were upset and that, at one time, were sent to the principal’s office?
We’d gather in the gym, each with two or three LEGOs, hoping to trade for the one figure we needed. The ones everyone wanted were Star Wars characters (obviously), followed by aliens, and this little LEGO monkey we called Norm. Looking back, this is one of those things I view as silly. Even though our group eventually got shut down, we still practiced some trading basics.
If you have flipped on the T.V. in past months, you’ve likely heard of the trade war. Trade is very important for many people and has serious implications for many sectors, especially agriculture. According to the USDA, 20% of a farmer’s income is the result of global trade. With all that on the line, here’s a rundown of what trade issues are concerning people.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is the largest trade deal in the world. This deal between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was unlike anything we’d seen prior. Every state (except for Wyoming and Kentucky) trades at least $10 million worth of goods every year because of NAFTA. Just here in Illinois, over $2 million of ag goods are shipped to Mexico and Canada each year. To read more about each state’s relationship with NAFTA check out this Iowa State Publication.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that got a lot of people in agriculture excited. Expanding and increasing exports of ag goods is something that could pick up a down ag economy. The deal was set to involve twelve countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The deal was never ratified. Then, last year the U.S. pulled out of the deal. Now the remaining countries are still in negotiations under the name Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Even though we withdrew from TPP, recent talks have mentioned the U.S. rejoining. If that happens, net farm income could increase by $6 billion (Michigan Farm Bureau). The renegotiated deal is expected to be signed soon allowing the United States to join later.
One of the hottest topics in trade has been the escalating discussions between the U.S. and China. According to the USDA, China is the second largest importer of U.S. ag products totaling $19.6 billion. With that much on the line, it is very important to agriculture that we continue to trade with China or find other markets to sell our products.
What a Regression in Trade Would Mean
The U.S. produces more food than we can use. So, we sell what food is left over. As I learned in 3rd grade making deals, to sell a product, someone must be willing to buy it. Ideally, many people will want to buy it (like Norm the LEGO monkey) and the seller can charge a higher price because of its value to so many people (I grossly overpaid for that monkey). If the U.S. successfully does creates a condition where many countries want U.S. ag products, the economy grows healthier. Additionally, when farmers receive fair prices and make money, they can invest in machinery, seed, technology, and practices that result in a healthier and safer food supply. This further stimulates the ag economy.
These reasons are just a few on the list of why trade is so important to farmers.
Illinois Corn Growers Association
After years (ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS LOCKS & DAMS), and years (MR PRESIDENT, WHERE ARE THE LOCKS AND DAMS?), and years (WHY ARE THERE STILL NO NEW LOCKS AND DAMS?) of waiting for funding, we got the first GREAT NEWS on locks and dams last week!
The best news of all is that the government finally appropriated some funding to fix the LaGrange Lock and Dam.
THIS. IS. HUGE.
You might remember, the LaGrange Lock and Dam is the worst out of all of the locks that need repair on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. It is the one with concrete literally falling into the river.
IL Corn was elated to read Congressmen Davis and LaHood’s release announcing the funding, and was especially proud to be a part of the forward momentum for updated locks in Illinois.
“Moving forward with updating LaGrange is long-awaited great news for Illinois corn farmers who have been advocating for such improvements for decades”, said Aron Carlson President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Everyone knows LaGrange is a ticking timebomb for some type of failure. More than a third of Illinois’ corn production is exported via the inland waterways, so to say any disruption or closure on the system is costly to producers is an understatement.”
In other good news, we also were finally able to share with our Board of Directors last week that the Olmsted Lock and Dam has scheduled an opening date! This project has been perhaps the longest and largest civil works project in the history of the Corps of Engineers. Multiple delays, especially in funding have created a 30 year endeavor that has been inflated from a $700+ million price tag to over $3 billion in early 2018.
IL Corn is so happy – elated even – to check this big lock and dam project off the list. The Olmsted Lock and Dam will officially begin locking barges on August 29, 2018.
Nothing feels better than knowing we’re moving forward in our goals, especially when these forward movements will help Illinois corn farmers (and the rest of the nation) stay competitive with other countries.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
I was walking into my final CHEM 102 lecture on Cloud Nine. The class which caused me so much stress and many late nights was almost over. Apparently, this attitude was noticeable as someone I’d never met chose the seat next to mine. I began making small talk when she suddenly stopped me, “What do you mean a family farm? Aren’t farms owned by huge corporations?” Her question caught me off guard. I always mention my upbringing when I introduce myself, so I don’t think about it much. To address her confusion, I began to tell stories of growing up on the farm. To her, the idea of a family farm is a strange one. This prompted me to reflect on family farms and the following three questions:
- How many farms are family farms?
- How does farming work as a business?
- Why do people pursue this lifestyle?
How many farms are family farms?
Today, it can seem most of our food is the result of science experiments and the profit invested interests of large companies. However, when we look at farms from a family perspective we find that conventional truths may not be very true.
To begin with, large companies have a very small stake in the production of food. While many companies who buy and sell agricultural products may be quite large, the actual growing of food is a family experience. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 4% of all farmland is not owned by family farmers. Even more surprising is 45% of farmland is owned by small family farms. The remainder is owned by mid-sized to large family operations. The apparent follow-up question seems to be who makes up that 4%? Well, we find that most of that farmland is owned by universities and companies for research purposes. More information on this topic can be found here.
How does farming work as a business?
At their core, all farms are businesses. A farmer’s most basic goal is the same as an accountant or nurse, to establish a means of providing for themselves and their family. However, unlike an accountant or nurse, family farms involve more than just adults working. In my household, everyone was wholly invested in providing a living for our family. However, when it comes to farming the way this living is made is quite unique.
One of the most difficult concepts of farming to understand is the markets. When referencing the markets, we often are discussing the factors which dictate the price at which farmers sell their crops. To fully understand the markets and all the nuances one would need to study this area for most of their life. To keep things simple let’s just briefly discuss two overarching concepts, the futures and cash prices. The futures market is where individuals exchange contracts of commodities for sale at a future date at a set price. Cash prices are what a farmer could get right now for the grain he currently has in storage. The dollar amounts of both futures and cash prices are constantly changing. This means is a farmer never knows how much money they will earn. As a business farming is one of the most turbulent. Imagine you work at grocery store and at the end of your first 40-hour week, your boss pays you $600, or $15 an hour. But the next week consumers decide to stop buying bananas, so your boss pays you $360, or $9 an hour, for your second 40-hour week because of the loss of profits. Due to factors beyond your control, you got paid $240 less than you expected. That is like the stress farmers feel as they watch the grain prices fluctuate daily.
Why do people pursue this lifestyle?
It’s hard to explain the way farmers work. It takes a unique person to want to submit themselves to this lifestyle. So unique, that only 2% of the U.S. population finds work as farmers. This 2 % provide enough food and resources for the U.S. and a large portion of the globe. However, if you ask them, there isn’t anything else these people would rather be doing. They serve the world by raising the best crop they can. Despite the highs and lows of the markets, the turbulence of everyday farm work, or the potential troubles looming on the horizon, our farmers continue to labor producing the safest and highest quality crop they can because they know your family depends on it.
IL Corn Legislative Intern