IT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA, WE HAVE TO JOIN IN!

She’s Country, a Facebook page that we follow here at Illinois Corn, proposed an interesting question today.

In your own words, what is a “family farm?”

She’s Country is right, there is no universally accepted definition.  And I think that if forced to write down a definition, you might just find that a family farm is exactly what you thought it was and maybe even something more.

Visit She’s County, become a fan, and add your thought to the mix.  This is an interesting exercise in realizing what we have, what makes us strong, and why we all love to be family farmers.

CITY PRODUCE PROGRAM PROVIDES NUTRITION, EDUCATION, AND UNDERSTANDING

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to visit one of our partner sites in the City Produce Program, the Cook County Jail.

It was exciting to see all the fresh produce being gathered which will then be distributed to families without access to fresh veggies in inner city Chicago.  It was equally exciting to see the inmates at Cook County Jail learning about horticulture, becoming certified Master Gardners through the University of Illinois Extension program, and adding a trade to their resume to use as they rebuild their future.

But I’m interested in the new connections being built between urban and rural citizens of Illinois.

This project is about nutrition and goodwill towards our neighbors, but its also about awareness.  How often do the farmers in Illinois consider those without access to a grocery store other than the local gas station convenience store?  I can guess that its not often.

Likewise, how much do Chicago residents understand about farming as an occupation?  About the ups and downs of the market, the vulnerability of the weather, the long hours and sneaky insects that equal risky paychecks?  Not much, I’m sure.  And through this program, volunteers that simply want to contribute to the fresh vegetable access are seeing first hand what it really is to be a farmer.

There is a gap right now between the reality for urban Illinoisans and the reality for rural Illinoisans.  That gap causes distrust and confusion because of a mutual lack of understanding between the two.  What the Chicago Produce Project seeks to do for Illinois corn farmers is create understanding.

Become a Facebook fan of the City Produce Project, Illinois Corn, and Monsanto (all partners in this effort) so that you can learn more about the good we are doing in urban Chicago.  Check out Crain’s coverage of the project here.  Consider getting involved.

Rodney Weinzierl
Executive Director, ICGA/ICMB

SPRING AND SUMMER INTERNS NEEDED!

Becky Finfrock and I spent the day at Illinois State University’s Ag Career Fair today, recruiting for our spring and summer ag communications internships.  We had a great time chatting with ISU ag students, some of which were interested in ag communications and some of which weren’t interested at all!  But everyone seemed to want to know more about Illinois Corn and what exactly we do on behalf of corn farmers.
We advocate for them.  In case you were confused as well.

 

Here’s hoping that the fruits of our labors today will be intelligent, motivated college students who are passionate about agriculture and the image of farmers and modern food production!
Students, if you’re out there, we need more of you to step up to the plate and get active on behalf of Illinois agriculture.  Consider an internship with Illinois Corn for the spring or summer semester.  Spring semester interns will be focused on the social media application of their choice (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) and will independently populate, manage, and collect data on that social media tool.  Illinois Corn wants to know what motivates different audiences to interact and dialogue via social media!
Our summer interns are also focused on social media, but are expected to work in our office all summer and are more heavily focused on YouTube videos and other video applications.
Interns must be Illinois residents.
To apply, email me at lmitchell@ilcorn.org.
mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

LAWYERS AIM TO HARASS, INTIMIDATE GROWERS IN ATRAZINE ISSUES

Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something. In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly “conservation” farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field. Atrazine’s ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they’d better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—“If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?”

Looking at the information above, it’s no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It’s no wonder that they work with atrazine’s major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.

But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

The subpoenas come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can’t imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer’s meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.

Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine? The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don’t scare that easily.

Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association and is the Chairman of the Triazine Network, a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine.

HARVEST A BIT DISAPPOINTING IN ILLINOIS

While it is a bit of a rarity for harvest to be completed before October 1, we’re just about to do just that in 2010.  What a surprise given the late, late, and even later harvest we dealt with last year, when crops were still in the field at Thanksgiving!

Kent, who farms in Central Illinois, indicates that he’s 70% done with corn and 0% done with beans. Corn so far is at 160 bushels per acre. Lots of variability, but the whole field averages are at 160.

In Northern Illinois, Jim is harvesting early beans with success – 56-65 bushels per acre.  The corn sprayed with Headline that Jim cut has performed better than without Headline … the Headline crop made 205-210 bushels per acre with the other making only 170.

For a point of reference, national average yields in 2009 were 165 bushels per acre, with Illinois average hitting the 183 bushels per acre mark.

Scott reports from the eastern Illinois border that “We are about 1\4 done with field averages from 110 to 190.  I hope to find more fields with the higher end of that spectrum, but know there are going to be some fields below 100 bushels per acre.”

Some Illinois Corn Directors mentioned that they’ve had enough rain and fields are starting to resemble last year’s rutted, muddy mess.  Here’s hoping Illinois corn farmers can hurry up and finish before any more rain hits our area!

GASOLINE TRUMPS ELECTRICITY IN FUEL-EFFICIENT AUTO CONTEST

By SAQIB RAHIM of ClimateWire

The cars of the future have shown themselves, but it’s not clear whether Americans will like them.
Yesterday, contest organizers crowned the winners of the first Progressive Automotive X Prize, a one-year race to design an ultra-efficient car that’s “safe, affordable and desirable.”

Among the final contestants were cars getting 80, 120, even 180 miles per gallon equivalent. They assumed strange shapes, some sprawling on the ground like stingrays, others compact as books. They ran on batteries, ethanol and gasoline. In the end, it was a gasoline engine that triumphed.

The Very Light Car, built by Virginia company Edison2, won the $5 million first prize with 100 mpg and the lowest carbon footprint of all contestants.

Most interesting of all, its gasoline engine, running on E85 ethanol, beat out dozens of electric and hybrid cars, vehicles currently thought to be among the most efficient available.

It’s the latest splash in an ongoing tussle with the auto industry: Exactly what is technologically possible, and what are people willing to buy?

According to environmental and consumer groups, the answer is this: Current technology can go a long way, and people will pay more for high-mpg cars. “We’re not talking rocket science here. We’re talking smart engineering, good auto design,” said David Friedman, who directs the Clean Vehicle Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

UCS is a member of the Go 60 MPG coalition, a group of environmentalists campaigning to make that the next federal target for fuel economy. Currently, the federal government’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) target is 35 mpg by 2016. Agencies haven’t set the standard for the next stage, which extends to 2025.

The coalition said Americans are on its side: It presented a poll in which two-thirds of respondents favored the 60 mpg target, even if it raised a car’s price by $3,000. According to the coalition, that premium would be recouped in four years at current gas prices (E&ENews PM, Sept. 16).

Pound for pound, cars today are far more efficient than their ancestors. But car companies have generally used the fuel efficiency to make cars bigger, heavier and faster.

There’s more to this article … check it out here!

ENGAGE IN SOCIAL MEDIA USING THESE TIPS AND TRICKS

Farmers and “agvocates” from around the country met in Chicago recently to fine tune their social media skills.

As a board member on the AgChat Foundation, I was so impressed to see the instant camaraderie amongst the group as we clearly had some things in common: a love for American agriculture and a willingness to engage non-farmers on issues.

I was one of the speakers at the conference and I focused on basic communication skills. Don’t let the “social media” part of social media get in the way. I’m talking about moving the coffee shop to your laptop. Here are some of my tips and tricks regarding communication that I sent home with the more than 50 attendees:

If we were to summarize what non-farmers are saying to us, it is this:
• I don’t know much about what you do.
• You do something very important to me.
• You raise the food my family eats.
• The most important thing to me is protecting my family and ensuring their health.
• I know you work hard.
• I want to trust you.
• But I’m concerned based on what I see and hear.
• Give me reasons to trust you.

Tap into the Emotions that drive trust: Authenticity (openness, transparency, the “truth”) Shared Values (“you” care about what “I” care about; Protecting me, my family, and my world) Responsibility

Engage in a dialogue, not a monologue

3 F’s: Feel, Felt, Found
• I appreciate the way you Feel
• Others have Felt the same way
• Here’s what I’ve Found

Squint With Your Ears!
• Know why you are listening
• Focus on content and the non-verbal messages
• Organize what you are hearing through observation, reflective listening and note taking
• Give your attention; if you cannot, say so
• Avoid giving advice, moralizing, predicting the future
• Avoid interrupting
• Listen with your heart as well as your head

Watch this video to get a flavor for what brought the group together.

http://www.youtube.com/v/eYoADgvJgE4?fs=1&hl=en_US
 

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

FIFTEEN PERCENT ETHANOL BLENDS SAFE FOR ALL VEHICLES

Many, many moons ago, members of the ethanol industry asked the US EPA to consider raising the blend level of ethanol to gasoline from 10 percent (the current level) to 15 percent. 

While the industry waits for an answer (the US EPA might provide a final verdict later this month), bits and pieces of the research the Department of Energy is conducting have made their way out.  That research is focused on 2001 model years and newer, but the ethanol industry feels that 15 percent ethanol blends are safe for older vehicles too.

Now, research released today from Ricardo indicates that fuel systems of older cars would not be adversely affected, giving the US EPA absolutely no scientific reason to approve E15 for only 2001 model year cars and newer.

In researcher speak, “The analysis concluded that the adoption and use of E15 would not adversely affect fuel system components in properly engineered vehicles, nor would it cause them to perform in a sub-optimal manner, when compared to the use of E10.”

This is big news for the industry.  Still, recent activities in the US EPA indicate that data simply clouds the pathway to bureaucratic agenda.  The final verdict remains to be seen.

In other ethanol news, the Renewable Fuels Association has a new ethanol ad running in Washington, DC this week, aimed at reminding legislators about the job growth potential increased ethanol usage presents. 

http://www.youtube.com/v/1THkmM72vnY?fs=1&hl=en_US

Illinois corn farmers wait and see.  Will this valuable, expanding market for their product be allowed access to the US market or will we continue to export cheap ethanol and import expensive oil at the expense of our American economy and national security?

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Expert