RULES FOR FARMERS CAN BE COSTLY

For many Americans, the idea that farmers have rules to follow might seem foreign, but they do. Farmers actually invest a large portion of their time following rules.  Usually these are rules provided to them by the federal government.  The rules provide food safety, food security, or protect the environment.  Other times, the rules are created to try to preserve the safety of the other citizens near to them.  And some of the time, the rules accomplish nothing except to generate more income for the state or nation in fees.

regulations

A recent survey of farmers in Illinois shows that farmers are paying approximately $37,000 per year in order to comply with regulations placed on them by the federal government.  Some of these costs are reasonable: farmers believe that the person applying their chemicals should be trained and certified and they are willing to pay additional for such a person or pay to become certified themselves.  Other costs are unjustified.

Did you know that the federal government considers corn traveling from a field in McLean County, Illinois to an elevator in McLean County, Illinois as interstate commerce?  The farmer transporting that corn must register his vehicle and pay the subsequent fees.  Although the commerce doesn’t even leave the county, there is a chance that the corn will be sold for export out of the state so the federal government holds the farmer responsible for that sale.  Silly, right?

Every time the state or federal government considers adding an additional regulation, the cost for farmers increases.  Sometimes the costs are justified.  Sometimes they are just plain ridiculous.

Every time the costs increase for farmers, another farmer punching numbers on his calculator realizes that his very small margin is diminished to the point of losing the farm and he goes out of business.

The addition of regulations that often accomplish nothing for consumer safety or food security force some farmers out of business.  It’s a fact.

As a non-farmer and an eater, please consider this simple rule.  Additional rules for farmers to follow must have a definite positive impact on food or environment or all they accomplish is the demise of family farmers.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ENTERING THE FOOD DEBATE

Very obviously, my job is in the agricultural industry.  I was raised on a farm, virtually everyone in my family farms or works within the industry, and I take pride knowing that we are a bunch of moral, decent, hard-working human beings that do an excellent job at what we do.

john deere
My grandpa and my kids in the field a few years ago.

I’m what you might call “passionate” about the industry.  Unfortunately, that has led to many heated conversations with others outside of my workplace that don’t share my passion or find themselves on the other side of my positions.

Specifically, I can remember a time during a Saturday morning scrapbook session where one mom waxed poetic about the virtues of feeding her son organic strawberries, heard my testimony about conventional farming and organic farming without really “hearing” it, and never showed up at our monthly scrapbooking session again.

I feel bad, but I just can’t keep my mouth shut about things that really matter to me.  And farming really matters to me.  So does agriculture.  So do the members of my family that are attacked daily for raping the land and poisoning their community members.

But one Sunday a few weeks ago while standing near the Welcome Center at church, I had the opportunity to talk to someone who willingly listened to me and thoughtfully considered what I had to say.  I felt like the heavens had opened and the angels were singing because as much as I want everyone to have the same opinion as me, I’m just as excited to talk to a thoughtful person who is willing to consider my history and expertise in agriculture.

I don’t remember how the conversation began actually, but at some point, we began talking about being a vegetarian and the meat production system in the U.S.  Take a look at the conversation I had with Kelsey*:

Kelsey: I just don’t agree that we have to kill animals to survive and I don’t eat meat because I choose to put my money where my mouth is.

Lindsay: That’s fine.  And if that’s your stance on the issue of livestock production then you have the right to that stance.  But do you believe that long term, society as a whole will quit eating meat?

Kelsey: No.

Lindsay: So you do agree that livestock farms will likely exist forever, in some form, somewhere on the planet?

Kelsey: Yes.

Lindsay: If you wanted to eat meat, if you had kids someday and wanted to feed meat to your family or if you wanted to feed your dog something that wasn’t vegetarian, would you prefer to feed them meat produced in the U.S. or in China?

Kelsey: I don’t know what the difference is.  An animal is dying either way.

Lindsay: I’ll tell you what the difference is.  In the U.S., livestock farmers are regulated.  Meat processors are regulated.  You can put a piece of meat in your mouth without fear that someone’s finger is also in your sandwich or that you are eating a rat tail.  In China, I’m not sure that the same level of regulation and food safety exists.

Kelsey: Ok.  I’ll buy that.

Lindsay: So every time you support causes and activists groups in the U.S. that seek to end livestock production, what you are actually doing is pushing livestock production out of the U.S. and into another country.  You aren’t *really* saving an animal, you are simply risking the safety of the food supply for another family that still chooses to eat meat.

Guess what?  Kelsey never thought of it that way.

While I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t change Kelsey’s opinion, I think we had a valuable interaction.  And I want to publically give a shout-out to Kelsey for listening to what I had to say even as I tried to listen to her concerns (and probably did poorly) about the livestock industry.

This is the future of our food production.  Listening.  Learning.  Being interested in other families and other Americans.  I left the conversation invigorated for having had a reasonable and interesting discussion about food production in the U.S.

I hope to have many more.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

AGRICULTURAL INSPIRATION

Relax a bit this Monday afternoon and be inspired by these quotes about farming and agriculture!

field, john deere, tractor“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“The diligent farmer plants trees, of which he himself will never see the fruit. [Lat., Abores serit diligens agricola, quarum adspiciet baccam ipse numquam.]”  ~ Cicero

“The first farmer was the first man, and all historic nobility rests on possession and use of land.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“And he gave it for his opinion, “that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.””  ~Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”  ~ Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution 

weber family farm, newton, IL, agriculture“There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth.  The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors.  This is robbery.  The second by commerce, which is generally cheating.  The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.”  ~Benjamin Franklin

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

BEEF SO SIMPLE

There’s a common misconception that you have to spend a lot of money to eat well. False! Not only are many of America’s favorite beef cuts lean, but the leanest cuts in the meat case are often some of the most affordable. At BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com you’ll find shopping tips, preparation guides and recipes for delicious, healthy meals that won’t break your budget.

Picture 527Smoky Chipotle Pot Roast with Cornbread

Chuck Shoulder Pot roast, one of the top-selling cuts in the country, is an affordable lean cut that’s perfect for comfort food classics. For less than $1.00 per 3 oz. serving, plus a few ingredients from your pantry, you can serve our hearty Smoky Chipotle Pot Roast with Cornbread – a simple slow cooking recipe that will make your taste buds tingle.

Say Goodbye to Separate Meals

SteakedPitaPizzaThere’s one in every family: the picky eater who refuses to eat what everyone else is having. Preparing separate meals to please one palate can be expensive and time-consuming, so look for recipes that will please the whole family. Our Steaked-Out Pita Pizzas can win over any steak fan while Beef Sirloin Pasta Portabella can coax pasta lovers to be more adventurous. Still having trouble? Use the ingredients filter on our Recipe Search to find dishes customized to your family’s tastes.

Jill JohnsonJill Johnson
Illinois Beef Association
Director of Communications

ILLINOIS BEEF ASSOCIATION LEADERSHIP IS COMMITTED TO CARING FOR RESOURCES, THE LAND, AND AGRICULTURE’S LEGACY

The Illinois Beef Association (IBA) is led by its board of governors which is made up of seven dues directors representing IBA’s seven regions, seven at-large directors representing various industry segments, and fourteen Checkoff directors with two representing each of IBA’s seven regions. Directors are eligible to serve up to two consecutive three-year terms on the board.

Directors are established on the board in two different ways. Dues directors may be appointed in the case of vacancies, but should be nominated and elected by the affiliates in their region and seated at the annual meeting held during the IBA Summer Conference.

Checkoff directors may also be appointed by other members of the Checkoff division, but official procedures for electing Checkoff directors are spelled out in the Illinois Beef Market Development Act. These procedures cite that an elected director shall be a resident of Illinois, and shall be a beef producer who has been a beef producer for at least the five years prior to his or her election. A qualified beef producer may be elected to serve on the board only if he or she has submitted a nominating petition containing signatures of more than 50 beef producers from the district he or she may seek to represent. Only the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes cast from that district shall be elected. These elections are also held at the annual meeting held during the IBA Summer Conference.

For more information on IBA’s board of governors, visit www.illinoisbeef.com. If you’re interested in serving on the IBA board, please contact IBA.

NedHeltsleyHeadshotNed Heltsley

Fourth generation Angus breeder Ned Heltsley has been in the cattle business his whole life. Ned and his family reside in Kansas, Ill. He grew up on a commercial Angus operation, and in 1995 sold the commercial cows and replaced them with purebred Angus cows. He said he enjoys showing cattle with his daughters and having plenty of beef to fill his freezer. Ned was encouraged to run for the Illinois Beef Association (IBA) board of governors in 2007. Ned said serving on the IBA board is a great opportunity to learn from and work with successful, passionate people in the beef industry. He enjoys being actively involved in beef advocacy, especially legislative efforts, and being a representative for Illinois cattlemen.

LarryMagnusonHeadshotLarry Magnuson

Larry Magnuson, Tiskalwa, Ill., has been involved in the cattle business since he was two-years-old, when his grandfather gave him his first calf. Larry was active in 4-H growing up and started feeding cattle and farming in 1975, after graduating with a degree in agriculture from Illinois State University (even though he “bleeds” University of Illinois orange and blue). Over the years, Larry said his operation has doubled feeder cattle numbers and started a commercial cow herd, which his son is now involved in. His said his favorite thing about being in the cattle business is the satisfaction of hard work and a job well-done, and seeing his cows in a freshly bedded barn during the winter. Larry was chairman of the Bureau County Cattlemen’s board for 10 years and, in 2007, was encouraged to run the for the IBA board of governors. He said he enjoys interacting with consumers and telling the story of Illinois cattlemen.

DalePfundsteinDale Pfundstein

This Sterling, Ill., farmer and cattle feeder runs 900 head of fed cattle in a covered monoslope facility on his farm, where his family also raises corn and other crops. Dale’s father was involved in the cattle business and Dale joined him in the 1970s. His father retired in April, and he said he has decreased his commercial cow herd to focus on his custom feeding business. Dale was encouraged to run for the IBA board of governors in 2007 and enjoys working with others to promote Illinois cattle.

Jill JohnsonJill Johnson
Illinois Beef Association
Director of Communications

HOW DOES AG FIT INTO MY CLASSROOM?

So you are a teacher in a school that does not support FFA or an agricultural curriculum program. You are probably thinking, “Cows and tractors have nothing to do with my classroom. There would be no way to bring that into my teaching.”  Well, think again. Granted, the physical composition of the cow’s stomachs is pretty interesting, but it does not have to be that complicated.

holstein, milk cow, mom and babyQuestion:  In November of this year, a farmer has 5 cows that are due to have babies in March of next year. By April, how many cows will the farmer have? Answer:  10 cows. What just happened? That is a question with agriculture incorporated into it! Put pictures of cows with the question, and you have kids learning two things at once. Yes, this is kind of a remedial question, really for elementary children, but these kinds of questions can be designed for any grade level.

There are so many wonderful resources that can help you incorporate agriculture into your personal curriculums. Here are just a few:

Other resources available would be associations within your state, such as  Corn Growers, Beef Association, Pork Producers, and just about anything else. Just Google it! Everything agriculture will be at your fingertips. Most of these associations already have lesson plans, ready to use, for you on their website. All you have to do is download, or call them and they can send it to you. It is as easy as pie, which is also made from all things agriculture! It really cannot get much easier than that.

There are other ideas for incorporating agriculture into your classroom. If you do not want to use it in your math or science lessons, try having your students write a paper. It does not have to be all that extensive, and would be perfect for any grade level. Have each student write a paper, giving each student a different career to research. Then, have each student read his or her paper, or just summarize it with the class. With one career per person, everyone can learn about many different careers they may not have known existed.

Careers in agriculture are not always as different from a career outside of agriculture as you may think. Accounting, for example; it is all the same concepts, just with different subjects and a few different rules. Teaching:  most of the same requirements as any other teacher, you just get to teach a diverse array of topics. Even other areas, such as horticulture, are heavily influenced by agriculture, although you  may not realize it. From growing corn to growing watermelons, they all include agriculture, from necessary nutrients to sun exposure, every plant needs someone to take care of it.

In the end, incorporating agriculture is not really as hard as it may sound. Any student can benefit from having this in their every day classroom. From a simple math lesson, to a research paper, it is all beneficial for the growing minds of our future leaders. Our country was founded with agriculture being a main ideal. Why not keep it that way?

Katlyn PieperKatie Pieper
Illinois State University student

FARMING IS A LIFE LONG LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

Illinois corn farmers, road regulations, state police

Last week, Illinois Corn Growers Association sponsored a session for the corn farmers in Illinois to learn more about the regulations they are under. Farmers reviewed fertilizer handling regulations, truck and driver licensing regulations, and pesticide containment regulations.

Did you realize that farmers were so heavily regulated? Does it make you feel better about your food production to know so? Let us know what you think!

SNOW DAYS

Read this post where originally published at Watch Us Grow.

Our first snow this winter happened to be a blizzard in West Central IL. Within a hour of it beginning, I found myself starting my 20 mile drive home from work down the county highway. I had to first pick up my kids in the nearest small town before heading home. Halfway to the babysitter’s house, I saw faint emergency vehicle lights ahead. Within a few seconds, I was stopped completely, and I continued to sit in the same spot for over 20 minutes behind three other cars. Visibility was anywhere from 0 to 100 feet due to the snow fall and the intense wind that whipped across the fields. It was obvious from the emergency vehicles, the lack of any traffic coming from the opposite direction, and our standstill that the highway was closed and there was no way of telling when we’d be on the move again.

Knowing that the snow storm was just beginning and I’d soon be driving in the dark, I became nervous. I noticed that there was a road in front of where the emergency vehicles were parked and that I could possibly make it around the other cars and turn onto an open country road. I assessed the situation: if I remained stopped on the highway, I had no idea how long it would be until we’d be allowed to continue our journey. I still had to pick up my kiddos and drive 10 miles in the blizzard all the while losing daylight. I also knew that after five winters of living in the country (and trading in my cute sports car for a huge Tahoe after my first winter on the farm), that I’d be able to brave the country roads on my own. So, with the courage of an “experienced” country driver, I turned on my hazard lights, slowly drove around the stopped cars in front of me, and turned onto the empty country road with the blizzard to brave on my own. I was able to detour around the accident and make it to my babysitter’s house before dark.

My drive home from the babysitter’s house was a whole different story. With the dwindling daylight the visibility was so poor, I had to stop completely a few times because I literally couldn’t see out my window. I had never felt so unsure of our safety. I even considered pulling off and knocking on the closest farm house in hopes of warm shelter to wait the storm out. Thankfully, I somehow made it home safe with only the frozen snow on vehicle to show the beating we just took in the blizzard.

While growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I rarely worried about road conditions during less than ideal weather conditions, just the traffic it would cause. Snow plows were constantly on the move and the weather never kept us from our destination. This is not true of country living. Things can get dangerous, and they get that way fast. During the winter, most country drivers are sure to travel with blankets in case of emergency as well as fully charged cell phones. We also don’t leave home unless it’s necessary. The school district I teach at even builds in five snow days to our school calendar, assuming we may have to take all of them. In the five years teaching there, on average we take three days off due to snow/ice/below zero temperatures. However, growing up, I only ever remember having one snow day…and we took advantage by sledding in our backyard and sipping on hot cocoa.

While living in the country, I’ve learned many things, most of which include how to brave the elements of snow, rain, ice, and wind. If I hadn’t had the experience of living in the country, I would have never dared to blaze my own path during a blizzard through untraveled country roads, and I surely would have waited until the storm died down to leave my babysitter’s house to drive home.

My third winter on my husband’s family farm, a massive ice and wind storm caused power lines to blow down, leaving us without power. Our thermostat dropped to under 50 degrees, and we contemplated sleeping over at my in-laws across the road who had a generator hooked up so they’d have heat. Thankfully, the power came on before bedtime and we snuggled under the covers to keep warm.

The following winter, we were stuck for four days inside our house during a blizzard. We prepared in advanced by buying our own generator, shopping for the major grocery staples, and filling the bathtub with water in case we lost power to our well. Our road wasn’t plowed for 48 hours, and even then, we didn’t dare to drive through snow drifts. That same blizzard hit Chicago, and city-dwellers were upset that Lake Shore Drive shut down and that their cars were stuck on city streets, sometimes in the middle of them because they tried to drive despite the warning not to. When I lived in downtown Chicago for a couple of years, I kept a shovel in my sports car to get myself out of a parking spot in case I got plowed in overnight. I don’t miss the shoveling, but I do miss the ease of travel during snowy weather. For now, I make sure we all have our hats, gloves, and winter coats when we leave home and that my Tahoe has a few warm blankets just in case of an emergency. And if there’s a blizzard, we stay inside our cozy home where it’s safe and sound, and hopefully warm.

Kristen Strom

Brimfield, IL

AND ON THE FIFTEENTH, WE GET NEWS ABOUT E-15

We couldn’t have scripted it better had this been the story line of a movie. Here on the 15th day of January, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied petitions for rehearing in the case of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, et al. v. EPA, which challenged the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to permit the commercial use of E15. Get it? News about E-15 on the 15th? Yup, we’re pretty easy to entertain here at the IL Corn offices!

All that legalese up above boils down to this: another court threw out the nonsensical challenges to E-15, a blend of fuel made from 15% ethanol and 85% petroleum based fuels. In the late summer of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved E-15 as a new fuel for cars and light trucks, model years 2001 and newer, along with flex-fuel vehicles.

In this case, there were those in the food industry that unsuccessfully tried to resurrect the worn-out argument that ethanol raises food prices. Although one can understand how someone might come to that conclusion based on so much bad information that is available on the topic, it doesn’t make it right.

Wasn’t it Mark Twain that said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Boy, that’s appropriate in the case of ethanol, for sure.

Here are some great points to keep in mind if you hear arguments against ethanol, its performance, its ability to lessen our dependence on foreign energy, its benefits to the local economy, and the fact that it’s renewable.

  • Without ethanol, gasoline would cost $0.20-$0.35 cents more per gallon.  That      translates into an additional $6.00-$10.50 to purchase 30 gallons a month. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2008)
  • The U.S. Ethanol industry accounts for only 3% of the world’s grain supply on a net basis, and none of its food supply. (Source: USDA and Renewable Fuels Association)
  • In the U.S., only about 1% of the corn  grown is needed to meet the demand for direct human consumption (sweet corn).  Less than 10% of the field corn grown is needed for processing for food uses.  Sweet corn, in fact, is consumed in only a small percentage of the world’s countries.
  • One-third of the corn that goes into  ethanol production is recycled into the food chain as ready-made livestock  feed, a byproduct called Dried Distillers Grains (DDGS).  DDGS has a higher protein concentration  than pre-ethanol corn, making it more efficient as animal feed.
  • Corn is not the sole food source for  livestock.  Up to 25% of swine feed and up to 30% of cattle feed is comprised of soybean meal.  94% of U.S. soybeans are made into      animal feed, but only about 40% of U.S. corn goes to animals.

1-15-13 pie charts

Braid Terry_Tricia  mugshotTricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director