YOU CAN’T WIN FOR LOSING

Farmers have always used the latest and greatest best management practices to produce safe and affordable food in a way that preserves the environment because that’s the right thing to do.  Now, even best management practices can’t save them from the threat of lawsuits.

Yes, lawsuits.  In a country that repeatedly tells us that they love family farmers and wants to see them succeed, family farmers everywhere are desperately trying to protect themselves from losing everything in a lawsuit, even when they are trying their best to follow the letter of the law.

As an example, the US EPA is currently working on new spray drift regulation that would essentially consider any chemical leaving any nozzle as a point source pollutant.  The US EPA would like to require all farmers (and local muncipalities spraying to control mosquito populations or even normal citizens wanting to spray) to obtain a permit to apply these chemicals.  Aside from the fact that the chemicals in these low doses have been proven safe, the problem here is that state EPAs don’t have the staff available to issue all the permits.  This leaves farmers either unable to apply their crop protection products or applying them without a permit.  As you might guess, applying them without a permit opens farmers up to the threat of citizen lawsuit. 

What’s a farmer to do?

If you’re in IL, perhaps you’ve followed the Tradition Dairy case in JoDaviess County.  This is a lawsuit brought on by a citizen group that is absolutely convinced that the dairy being sited in JoDaviess County will harm their health and bring other ruin to the county.  Nevermind that the state legislature has set up strict guidelines on siting livestock facilities and how they are managed (called the Livestock Management Facilities Act) and that Tradition Dairy has followed every single one and more, the citizen group has the right to sue the dairy owner over a perceived threat of harm before the livestock farm has even milked one single cow! 

What’s a farmer to do?

Add lawsuits over high fructose corn syrup aiding the spread of pancreatic cancer and animal rights which would effectively allow a farmer’s herd of cattle to sue him to the list … and this list isn’t even exhaustive!

What’s a farmer to do?

Certainly if our country supports rural economies and the farms that run them, we need to rethink subjecting our farmers to this level of scrutiny.  If American citizens really do love family farmers and want them to succeed, they cannot allow a flock of chickens to sue.  What small business man could stand up to this sort of obsurdity?

Farmers need rules to follow just like everyone else in any other industry under the sun.  Best management practices are a good thing and laws that demand such practices are necessary to ensure that each and every player in our food production system is operating with integrity.  But when is following the law enough?

What’s a farmer to do?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE FEEDING DROUGHT STRIKEN UKRAINE

The Illinois National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) crop report today indicated that Illinois corn yields are expected to be significant this year, equal to the last record set for Illinois in 2004. Compared to expected US average corn yields, Illinois is estimated to yield 6 more bushels per acre than last year.

Couple this information with the reality of widespread drought in Ukraine and other surrounding areas and experts suppose Ukraine will import 59 million bushels of corn in 2010, a 30% increase over last year.

Certainly, Illinois corn farmers are growing food for a world population. Without biotechnology and conventional agriculture capable of achieving these yields, humans in other countries would go hungry and Midwestern US would be unable to bring economic benefits of agricultural exports to our damaged economy.

Conventional agriculture feeds the world and fuels our economy. What’s so bad about that?

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Projects Director

PAYING EIGHT DOLLARS FOR EGGS IS A BARGAIN? SINCE WHEN!?

Remember when the price of food went up a bit last year and everyone screamed and cried?  Legislators were getting calls right and left about how their constituents couldn’t afford to go to the grocery store anymore?  The media had us all concerned that Americans were finally going to go hungry?

Michael Pollan, journalist and self-appointed “food production system expert” with zero background in food science, nutrition or agriculture, has announced that he feels $8 for a dozen eggs is a great thing!

What’s even crazier is that the elite in this country agree with him!

I’m afraid that we have seriously gotten to a point in this country where we are way too wealthy and out of touch with reality.  We don’t know what it is to be hungry and we left our common sense in back in the 1900’s.

If you need more proof that the rich and influential in American are getting a bit extreme, check out this article on how the EPA wants to regulate dust in the air.  Dust!

Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHEN DID FOOD CHOICES BECOME MORALLY RIGHT OR MORALLY WRONG?

Author Mary Eberstadt may really be onto something.  And if you’re into the philosophical or practice deep thinking, this might be just the article for you.

The fundamental question posed by Eberstadt is what happens when, for the first time in history, adult human beings are able to have all the sex and food that they want?

Yes, the subject may feel a bit racy for our modest little blog, but the question really deserves some thinking.  In the interviews with Eberstadt posted on Truth in Food, Eberstadt describes two fictional women, Betty and Jennifer.  Betty was 30 years old in 1958 and had a very strict moral code about what was appropriate behavior and what was not regarding sexual activity.  While she may have had similar preferences about her food choices, she didn’t feel the need to push those choices onto others quite the same way that she felt morally obligated to share her choices about sex.

Eberstadt’s Jennifer is 30 years old today and her feelings on the two subjects are decidedly opposite Betty’s.  She may feel that she has no right to judge other’s sexual activity, but is an adament proponent of organic food or vegetarianism or … fill in the blank.

“I find it really interesting that these two codes, one about food and one about sex, seem to be existing in this inverse relationship, where as one gets stricter the other gets more lenient,” Mary tells Truth in Food interviewer Kevin Murphy. “I think the fallout [over the negative consequences of the post-pill sexual revolution] makes a lot of people uncomfortable, in a way that they’re not even necessarily fully aware of. We live with these major consequences…day in and day out. And I think a lot of people have the sense this has all gone too far, that nobody meant for the party to have gotten so out of hand, and no one knows how to stop it. My supposition is that part of what’s behind these increasingly moralistic attitudes toward food is that people have displaced the kinds of feelings human beings have always had about sex onto food instead,” says Eberstadt.

Eberstadt believes that society is taking feelings we’ve always had about sexuality and moral codes regarding sexual behavior and placing those same moral codes on food.

After all, thinking of the food “issues” we farmers deal with on a day to day basis … isn’t it odd that food is all of the sudden a moral decision?

Check out Eberstadt’s essay and definitely listen to Truth in Food interview with Eberstadt.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

REAL LIFE LESSONS

They can be hard to come by…actually, no, I take that back. They can slap you in the face when you’re least expecting that. College is definitely a time for learning and experiencing life as never before. It’s when you learn to survive in that big bad world out there. There are ways to better equip yourself, though. There are things you can do to learn in a positive environment, to better understand who you are, where you’re going, and what you want to do. One of these tools for better preparation is the idea of interning.

Internships introduce you to “real” work. You get to test your creativity, and learn some of the ropes of what you want to do. Or, you may better define your dreams and goals. I’ve done a few internships so far, and have a few more queued up for the next few years. One of these internships was as an Internet Communications person with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

I’d like to think I directly blame them for me catching the ag comm bug. I loved agriculture before. Now, I’m hooked.

For a little backstory, I’ll clarify why I’m an odd case for agricultural communications. Most ag comm folks study ag comm, and pick up on Internet trends as they go. I’m the reverse. I’m majoring in Interactive Media Studies, with a minor in English composition. My school doesn’t even have an ag program. Yet, I found my way to some applications for Illinois Corn internships. While agriculture has always been an interest, the time I devoted to blogging for ICMB helped channel it into a very concrete passion. The pay was decent and the people were great to work with. I feel supremely blessed to have been able to do something I truly enjoyed with people who are incredibly fun to work with.

The experience was not just limited to finding passion within myself. There were valuable learning opportunities. As the internship went on, I began interacting with other interns. Abby Coers and I integrated our separate projects to promote each other a bit. We were given creative liberty, but we also had guidance when we needed it. It was ultimately a great learning experience. I got to experience a conference room setting, where they presented to each other about our specific projects. I learned about networking and professional connection. I even got to wear a suit and present to the Board of Directors at the end of my internship.

I am eternally grateful to Illinois Corn for the things I learned under their wing. I only wish I could have exploited the experience a bit longer. Because of them, I know where my heart lies, as far as the professional world goes. I also got another big fringe benefit: because of my internship, I now run Midwestern Gold, a blog devoted to Illinois corn and agriculture in general.

So, when you start thinking about ways to build some professional experience, think of me. I attend a liberal arts school in the Chicago suburbs. Because of an internship, I got to stay in touch with my agricultural roots. I realized I could really pursue my passions with my skills and talents. When you start checking out those internship applications, don’t pass over Illinois Corn. I’m glad I didn’t!

Kelly Rivard
North Central College

FARMER’S DAUGHTERS LOOK FORWARD TO THE FAIR

Many farm kids believe the best part of summer is their county fair. Throughout the year 4-Hers work diligently to perfect their projects in hope of a successful week at the fair. Yesterday, we went to the McLean County 4-H Fair and it brought back sweet memories from our days in 4-H.
Kelsey: The fair that I attended while growing up was the Tazewell County 4-H fair and I was a member of the Tremont Clovers 4-H club in Tremont, Illinois for twelve years. Throughout 4-H I attempted numerous projects taking away something different from each one.

Kristie: My county fair was the McLean County fair, the biggest 4-H fair in the country, and I was a member of the Blue Ribbon Kids 4-H group from Colfax. Although I grew up on a farm, I never showed any animals at the fair. All of my friends had cattle, swine, goats, or chickens, but the biggest animal that I ever showed was my cat Buttercup, who was not the most cooperative of all animals.

Kelsey: The projects I tended to return to included visual arts, photography, tractor safety, veterinary science, and crops. Due to all of my friends showing cattle I usually spent a great deal of time in the cattle barn. I loved helping them show their cow-calf pairs and participating in the beef obstacle course. However, I would have to say that my favorite project was crops. The first morning of the fair my dad and I would get up extremely early to go dig my crops out of the field. Depending on the morning dew and the status of the irrigation system we would usually arrive at the fair completely soaked, and covered in dirt from head to toe!
Kristie: Since I did not have to take the time to show animals, I spent my time doing as many projects in as many categories as possible, sometimes bringing well over twenty projects. I always had projects in multiple arts and cooking categories, I took woodworking projects a few times, I usually had a photography project, and I tried my hand at sewing. My favorite category was the “Clothing Decisions” projects in the Clothing and Textiles division, which was really just an excuse to go bargain shopping with my mom. I always did the Style Revue Show to model my sewing projects, and my biggest sewing accomplishment was making my homecoming dress for my freshman year of high school. My big state fair début was to show my microwave bran muffins, and by the time I had perfected them, my family couldn’t get rid of them quick enough.
Kelsey: In 2007 I was honored to represent Tazewell County 4-H as their queen. During my reign I was able to see the fair in an entire new perspective. I attended nearly every event at the fair, rode in eight parades throughout the county, participated in many 4-H activities, and attended the IAAF Convention as a contestant in the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant. While agriculture had always been my lifestyle as a farmer’s daughter, it was not until my year as queen that I realized the effect it had on our society and the importance of advocating such an extraordinary industry.

Kristie: My 4-H experience was much different from my friends’, but I would never say that I missed out on anything. I learned many different skills that I continue to use today, and 4-H allowed me to try out as many skills and ideas that I wanted so that I could figure out which things I was good at and what I liked the most. If it weren’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t have been able to make the decorative throw pillows and oil paintings for my new apartment, I never would have found my passion for cooking or learned how to wire a trouble light or turn a wood lathe, and my stressed out cat probably wouldn’t have lost as many years off of his life.

Kelsey: I can imagine that showing a cat is considerably harder than showing a cow. You have my sympathies.

Kristie: Thanks, but I don’t envy you walking around the fairgrounds in heels.

Kelsey: Still, 4-H is such a valuable program because it has something to offer every kid in every walk of life. Like Kristie said, these are experiences you always remember, family memories that you would never want to forget, and life skills that you take with you when you grow up.

Kristie: The fair is the culmination of all those activities. When you bring your hard work from the fields or the sewing machine and have it evaluated, you feel a sense of accomplishment, but you also learn to appreciate constructive criticism.

Kelsey: So from two farmer’s daughters that spent the afternoon at the fair yesterday and can’t wait to get back, get involved in 4-H and participate in your county fair. You’ll never be sorry that you did.

Kelsey Vance
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern
Illinois State University student

Kristie Harms
ICMB/ICGA Summer Intern
University of Missouri student

SURPRISE! FARMERS HAVE TO FEED AN EXPONENTIALLY GROWING WORLD POPULATION!

I find it interesting that this is “breaking National news.”

Are there any readers that were under the assumption that food was just going to magically appear in your refrigerator? Did any of you think that world population was decreasing?

Of course farmers need to work smarter in order to grow safe, affordable, wholesome food for a world population that is growing exponentially. That’s why growing more with less is exactly what we’re doing.

“Maintaining adequate food production levels in light of increasing population, climate change impacts, increasing costs of energy, constraints on carbon, land degradation and the finite supply of productive soils is a major challenge,” said Dr. Neil MacKenzie says in the article.

That’s why corn farmers are facing that challenge head on.

They’ve decreased the amount of land needed to produce one bushel of corn, the amount of soil lost per bushel of corn, the amount of energy used to produce one bushel of corn, and the emissions per bushel of corn.

The article also quotes Ms. Wensley, a former Australian ambassador for the environment, who said scientists have an important public advocacy role in the face of “growing disconnect between food production and consumption on our heavily and increasingly urbanized planet.”

And I guess that statement is exactly why the fact that we need to grow more food with less is breaking National news. It’s not that farmers aren’t able to meet the challenge. It’s not that corn farmers aren’t ALREADY meeting the challenge. It’s that consumers don’t understand what actions corn farmers are taking and that we actually have a challenge in the first place.

That’s where you come in.

Have you connected with important ag media outlets to get good tidbits of information to share with your friends? Have you made an effort to connect your friends with those same outlets?  Check out Agricultural Everyday on Facebook. Check out The Beef Ambassador blog or Midwestern Gold. Follow @agchick on Twitter. Encourage your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to do the same.

Start talking about agriculture. Let’s make the awesome job that farmers are doing the next national headline.

Jim Tarmann
ICGA/ICMB Field Services Director

COMMON SENSE SHOULD PREVAIL – WILL IT?

“We respect efforts for a clean and healthy environment, but not at the expense of common sense.”

If we had an awards show for things elected officials say, (why not? Everyone else has an awards show!) this quote about the EPA would win in my book, hands down.

And to what issue is the quote referring? The EPA is now considering regulating dust as a harmful pollutant.  If this isn’t some sort of indication that we’ve let the EPA go a little too far, I don’t know what is.

I leave it to you to figure out how exactly the EPA will regulate farm dust … perhaps they will fund replacing all those dirt roads and driveways with pavement? Perhaps they will loosen the reins on our water supply so that we can spray everything down? Perhaps they will just decide that they would rather go hungry?

When did common sense become … well … less common?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant