Educating Consumers About America’s Farmers

The “Professor” for the America’s Farmers Mobile Experience is Allan Ciha, pictured here with some NASCAR race fans who came out for the inaugural Nationwide Series STP 300 race. The Monsanto traveling education center was on display in Champions Park at Chicagoland Speedway.

Allan says they talk about the expansion of the world population, farming today and biotechnology that will allow farmers to feed that growing population. He says that people are surprised at the technology being used in farming today. He says that the educational effort has been very well received by both consumers and farmers themselves.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

COBURN AMENDMENT WRAP-UP

Yesterday was an important day for American ethanol.  Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment that would immediately repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the U.S. Senate failed that amendment 59 to 40.  What was the most important about the vote was that our legislature gave American ethanol a vote of confidence.  They voted in favor of supporting the ethanol industry and the economy engine it provides to rural America.  They voted in favor of the more than 400,000 jobs the industry provides.  And they voted in favor of a domestic fuel source that would end our reliance on other countries.

Illinois farmers are happy to see that our Senators Durbin and Kirk stood with so many other Midwestern Senators against the Coburn amendment and in favor of American ethanol.

Read more coverage about this symbolic vote for the ethanol industry:

Politico – Senate Keeps Ethanol Subsidies

Washington PostSenate vote to repeal ethanol tax credit fails, but some inGOP break ranks

Biofuels DigestUS Senate defeats Coburn Amendment: Industry reaction

NCGA Appreciates Standing Up for Rural American on Coburn Vote

ICGA Statement Regarding Defeat to Coburn’s Anti-Ethanol Amendment

Becky Finfrock
Communications Assistant

MEET BILL CHRIST, ILLINOIS CORN FARMER

You may remember seeing Bill before, but now you can truly meet him and find out what makes him tick!  Bill is currently serving as Vice Chairman for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board but he has so many interests besides just corn!  Geneology, livestock, grapes and wine … you’ll probably find that you and Bill have something in common too!

I EAT. YOU FARM. SO WHAT?

Originally published on the Gate to Plate Blog by Michele Payn-Knoper

A recently overheard conversation at a suburban grocery store between a person buying food with comments from a farmer who was visiting and knew how to meet people on common territory instead of talking “ag.”

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Here’s the thing; I don’t really get why farmers are on the warpath. Really! We can get our food from anywhere. I just care that our family has food that’s affordable and safe. And I’ve heard some pretty bad things about you farmers.

You are poisoning water and soil by using pesticides and insecticides. Our family plays in the creeks and ponds on our land. Our kids chase fireflies through soybean fields, while playing hide and seek in corn fields. Do you really think we’re going to pour poisons in fields that surround our family home?  By the way, our well for water is between the house and the field. We understand that it’s not cool to use bad chemicals, which is why we rely on a whole lot of science, research and technology to ensure we’re using the right products.

Big farms are bad, and you all seem to be getting bigger. What size of school does your child go to? There are many different sizes of schools that offer options and choices for families. Likewise, we have a mix of large and small businesses in America due to our free marketplace. The same is true for farm families; some choose to farm a large number of acres or work with many animals, while others have small operations.  97% of farms in the U.S. are still owned by families; they deserve a right to choose the best option for their family and business like other Americans, don’t they?

Animals are abused on today’s farms. I’ve worked with animals my whole life. If you’ve seen the sensationalized videos from animal rights groups, I want you to know they probably impact me even more than you.  Animals that live in barns are actually in a lot better conditions – they get to stay at one temperature, avoid predators and have a environment that’s customized to their every need. Barns do look different today than in 1970, but isn’t the same true of computers, doctors offices and stores? Yes, animals die to feed humans, but we respect their sacrifice and care for them in the best way possible.

I’ve heard farm subsidies are making you rich on our tax dollars. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this, even within agriculture. However, the big thing people don’t realize about the “farm” program is that 86% of it is for mothers and children in need of food assistance. And I’m not asking for a handout from anyone, but we manage millions of dollars of risk every year – sometimes the safety net has kept our family in business – and is a tiny part of our national budget.

Biotechnology is evil. Do I look like Satan? Sorry, just joking. Our family chooses biotechnology because it’s the right tool for our farm. But more importantly, there are a lot of hungry people around the world, a problem that’s getting worse with a growing population. I was on a mission trip last year to Africa and saw some this myself. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a hungry child? It haunts me – and that’s why biotechnology is a tool that we choose.

Hormones are making our kids develop way too soon! I have a daughter, so I get your concern – we don’t want to have kindergarteners in bras. Kids are growing more and faster because our diets are better.  Did you know there’s more hormones in a serving of broccoli than in a steak? People need to remember that all food has hormones – and it always has.

It’s been interesting to talk with you.  Are you on Facebook or are there ways we can stay connected? Sure, would be glad to connect with you. Our farm’s Facebook page has a lot of pictures to give you an inside look on what’s happening.  I’m also on Twitter and will put up some videos to show you what we’re doing during harvest. I’d also suggest you check out these websites…

Cool. I like that we share the same values. We may not always agree, but I appreciate what you do as a farmer a lot more after we’ve talked.  And I’ll remember you when I shop for our food.

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If you’re buying food, when have you sought out a person involved on a farm or ranch? Same for those in agriculture… when was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?

NASCAR Director Loves Ethanol

The director of the NASCAR Nationwide Series is Joe Balash, pictured here before the STP 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway. He’s proudly displaying the American Ethanol name around the gas coupler on this car. All the NASCAR cars display that name!

I talked with Joe before the race. He talks about how STP has “come back” to NASCAR as a major race sponsor. Then we moved to ethanol. He says that using a blend of ethanol is “part of the things we’re trying to do to become less dependent on foreign fuels.” Joe believes it’s great to partner with American Ethanol and be able to use ethanol mixed with their Sunoco racing fuel to provide a very high quality, high power fuel for the race cars. He says the fuel is performing very well for the NASCAR teams which is a comment I heard repeatedly over the race weekend.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

Promoting Ethanol With Good Research & Information

Dave Loos, Director of Research and Commercial Development for the Illinois Corn Growers was out on location during the NASCAR STP 300 race weekend.  Here he is doing some educating with race attendees. It was a little breezy when we did a short interview but I was able to talk about what Dave does and what his primary focus is right now.

I spoke with him prior to the race. He says he works to increase the use of E85, increase the number of blender pumps and strengthen the overall ethanol industry. He says Illinois now has over 220 E85 stations. He says there is a lot of interest in higher blends of ethanol than ten percent with one of the main reasons being the price advantage of ethanol right now. Dave thinks that in the future the auto industry will be able to design engines to make more efficient use of higher blends of ethanol as more and more of it is used by consumers. We also talked about other market influences for ethanol and you can learn more in my interview:

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

JUNE DAIRY MONTH: CELEBRATE THE POWER OF DAIRY FOODS

June is National Dairy Month-the perfect time to raise a glass of milk to honor America’s dairy farmers. Observed since 1937, first as National Milk Month, then as June Dairy Month, the designation focuses attention on the importance of dairy and the dairy industry to our nation.

To celebrate this special month, St. Louis District Dairy Council offers these important nutrition facts about milk, cheese, yogurt and the family farmers who supply them:

Dairy Farm Industry

  • 98% of dairy farms in the United States are family owned.
    The Midwest is home to over 11,000 dairy farms.
  • 879 of these are in Illinois.
  • In terms of dairy product production, Illinois ranks first in the nation in low-fat ice cream, second in creamed cottage cheese, fifth in sour cream, twelfth in cheese and twentieth in the nation in milk.
  • According to Jim Fraley, manager of the Illinois Milk Producers’ Association, “Since the end of World War II, U.S. dairy farm families produce 4.5 times more milk per cow, with one-third of the cows. They are the model of efficiency and carbon footprint friendly.”

Dairy’s Nutrition Value

    • Dairy foods are nutritional bargains. Milk, cheese and yogurt are naturally nutrient-rich providing important nutrients, such as protein, vitamin D, potassium and calcium to the diet. Few foods deliver dairy’s powerhouse of nutrients in such an affordable, appealing and readily available way.
    • Dairy foods provide about half the calcium and more than half of the vitamin D in the U.S. diet, yet only one tenth of the calories.
    • Milk is the number one food source of three of the four nutrients the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) identified as lacking in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium.
    • Flavored milk contributes only 3% of the total added sugars in children’s diets, and provides 9 essential nutrients, making it a nutritious choice.

Dairy Farmers Dedication to Children’s Health

  • Through National Dairy Council, dairy farmers have provided child nutrition research, education and communication to their communities and schools for over 95 years. Now, this commitment supports Fuel Up to Play 60, a school wellness program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Based on youth’s input and in line with the 2010 DGA, this program encourages consumption of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and achieving at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The appeal of the program is evidenced by the enrollment of over 70,000 schools – that’s two-thirds of all schools in the U.S., with the potential to reach over 36 million children. Visit www.fueluptoplay60.com to learn more.
  • America’s 56,000 dairy farm families work hard every day to provide fresh, great-tasting, nutrient-rich milk and dairy products for the health of children. The 2010 DGA note it is especially important to establish the habit of drinking milk in young children, as those who consume milk at an early age are more likely to do so as adults. This has lifelong benefits because current evidence indicates that intake of dairy foods is linked to improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents.

This June Dairy Month, make the commitment to enjoy three servings of dairy daily. For more information on the nutritional value of dairy and the dairy industry’s commitment to child health visit Dairy Council’s website, www.stldairycouncil.org.

Jennifer DeHoog, R.D., L.D.N.
Nutrition Educator
St. Louis District Dairy Council

UPDATE ON ETHANOL POLICY IN WASHINGTON, DC

This Thursday, June 9, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on three energy bills to promote energy efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles.  One of those bills, S. 1001, the Alternative Fuel Vehicles Competitiveness and Energy Security Act of 2011, would promote alternative fuel vehicles and was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  While the bill does not specifically mention the word ethanol, its overall goal of the bill is to increase the deployment of alternatively fueled vehicles in the U.S. while also increasing funding for Department of Energy loan guarantee programs

Additionally, the Senate continues to work on ethanol policy.  Sen. Grassley’s bill, S. 884, the Domestic Energy Promotion Act of 2011, is viewed as the high water mark of what can be accomplished this year regarding ethanol policy.  The bill would provide a fixed ethanol tax credit for two years followed by three years of a variable rate, after which the credit ends.  The rate for 2012 is 20 cents per gallon and the 2013 rate is 15 cents per gallon.  The variable rate is tied to the price of oil.  It starts at 30 cents per gallon.  If the price of a barrel of oil exceeds $50 per barrel, the rate decreases 6 cents for every  $10 over $50 per barrel of oil. 

There are other proposals in development.  Notably, Sen. John Thune is working on a yet-to-be released bill that would have a lower cost to the federal government, thus potentially generating more political support with Members of Congress who would otherwise be seeking cuts in spending. In the House of Representatives, no concrete proposals have been developed that would extend the ethanol tax credit, although some Midwest lawmakers are working on the issue.  For example, Rep. Aaron Schock is working on a bill that would extend the biodiesel tax credit.  He could also be a potential sponsor of a bill to assist the ethanol industry.

David Beaudreau, Jr.
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services

Ethanol Good For Lung Health

We can all breathe a little easier the more we use ethanol to replace petroleum gas. And to back that up I spoke with Angela Tin (pictured on left), American Lung Association, during the NASCAR STP 300 race weekend. Angela is VP for the American Lung Association in Illinois. Angela says that clean air is good for lung health and that’s why they help promote ethanol.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired