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.

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 dead 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 everyday 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 the 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!

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.

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Braid Terry_Tricia  mugshotTricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

It’s a new year and IL Corn has New Year’s Resolutions too!  In 2013, we hope to:

  1. Pass a workable Farm Bill
  2. Defend the Renewable Fuel Standard
  3. Secure funding to upgrade locks and dams on the Mississippi River
  4. Reintroduce ourselves to the non-farming public

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4. REINTRODUCE OURSELVES TO THE NON-FARMING PUBLIC

If a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re prepared to use a thousand pictures to help non-farmers understand what farmers are really about.  Today, for “Friday Farm Photo” day, I’d like to share a few pictures to illustrate who Illinois farm families really are and the values and goals they have defined for themselves.

illinois farm family, justin durdan95% of all corn farmers in America are family owned

This means that the picture of “big, corporate farming” that the media has used to instill fear in the public is actually just a mom and pop farm getting bigger to capitalize on economies of scale, just like the rest of the American economy.  Most of our farmers are family farmers who have specialized in one or two crops or a specific livestock species, and started producing more of that product in order to afford costly inputs like machinery, seed, regulatory guidelines, and more.

corn, corn stalks, tillage, farm, agriculture

American farmers have cut soil erosion by 44% by using innovative conservation methods.

One such method is called “strip till,” where the remains of last year’s corn crop are left on the field over the winter to secure the soil during the spring thaw season, and the next year’s corn crop is planted in a strip of dirt where a previous pass has cleared away some of the stalks and leaves.  Another method would be “no till” where the next year’s crop is simply planted into the refuse of the previous year with no tillage performed.  This method works best in a crop rotation as soybeans can perform well with the remains of the corn crop around them.  Corn doesn’t do as well growing in the remains of the previous year.

Illinois family farmer, farm boys, eric kunzeman

Corn farmers plant genetically modified crops because they perform well under more stressful conditions, require less maintenance, and produce more food … not because they believe that GM crops are likely to harm people and simply don’t care.

GM crops perform better in stressful conditions, eliminating some of the crop loss when Mother Nature strikes.  This gives the U.S. a more even corn crop across the years and fuels our livestock and ethanol markets.  GM crops require less pesticides and less pesticides requires less trips over the field and less fuel.  Farmers are interesting in growing more, using less.  GM crops produce more food even under these circumstances to feed a growing world population.

Science has proven GM crops to have no nutritional impact to humans or animals.

Farmers don’t bend on emotional whims.  They stick with scientifically proven fact and strive to reduce their inputs, feed more people, and produce safe food for their families and yours.

We are trying to help the non-farming public understand what we are doing and why through important programs like Corn Farmers Coalition, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, Illinois Farm Families, Illinois Family Farmers Racing Team, and our work at the Normal CornBelters.  In 2013, we look forward to continuing those important programs to help you understand who we are and how we are growing your food with care.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

LOCK AND DAM FUNDING NEEDED!

It’s a new year and IL Corn has New Year’s Resolutions too!  In 2013, we hope to:

  1. Pass a workable Farm Bill
  2. Defend the Renewable Fuel Standard
  3. Secure funding to upgrade locks and dams on the Mississippi River
  4. Reintroduce ourselves to the non-farming public

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3. SECURE FUNDING TO UPGRADE LOCKS AND DAMS ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER

I really feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but here goes …

bargeIllinois farmers, as well as Illinois business and Illinois citizens, need upgraded locks and dams.  They are an important part of the economic driver that agriculture is to the state (more than 50% of our corn is exported) and they are the means by which we receive coal, road salt, and other important inputs.

To put it mildly, if a lock or dam was to fail and commerce on the Mississippi was to stop, every single one of us would feel it.

Commerce on the Mississippi has been significantly slowed this winter as the effects of the 2012 drought linger on.  If Mississippi River commerce had closed in the two month period of December to January:

  • Over 410 tows would be impacted, and more than 10,600 barges would be stopped
  • 4,100 towboat jobs would be impacted
  • 5 million barrels of domestic crude oil would be replaced by imported crude, costing $545M in additional imports
  • About 300 million bushels of farm products delayed in reaching market
  • Coal worth $192M would be shut in
  • Total cargo valued at $7 billion would stop moving if the river were closed between St. Louis and Cairo, IL, due to low water

And that’s just a two-month closure!  What we’re actually looking at is a catastrophic failure that will take months to fix unless we proactively update the locks and dams.

The locks we’re using were built for paddle boats in Mark Twain’s era.  We need to upgrade them so we can compete with other nations.  Not to mention, that we will become second to Panama (SECOND TO PANAMA) when their expanded locks and dams open and ours are still old, crumbling, and inefficient.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director