FARMERS ARE PEOPLE, TOO.

I was talking with a coworker earlier today about yet another celebrity who has made a statement supporting the humane treatment of pigs on farms, and it perplexes me when celebrities (or people in general) do this. Of course you support the humane treatment of animals, what kind of a person wouldn’t? Do people think farmers have quarterly meetings to come up with terrible ways to treat animals just for the heck of it?

I grew up on a farm, and I am all for animals being treated humanely. As a matter of fact, my personal experiences have shown me that many farmers have a greater respect and understanding of animals than a person who has spent little time with livestock. So I find it odd when people declare their support of the humane treatment of animals, because… so do we.

It is frustrating to me, and I assume to other farmers, when people start attacking you for how you raise your animals when the extent of their research has been watching a story about it on the news. Gestation stalls in pork production are a great example. The media shows you pictures of these and portray it as a negative thing, so you automatically form a negative opinion about them. When people talk to me about it, I ask them, “Did you know that pigs are surprisingly aggressive animals? They have a need to establish a pecking order, and in order to do so, they fight with each other leaving gashes and bite marks all over their opponent.” Of course, they don’t usually know that, nor do I expect them to. After all, the only reason I know that is because I have experience working with pigs and studied them in college.

The methods we use to raise livestock were put in place for a reason, believe it or not. We didn’t just decide that it would be easier to put each pig in their own stall and start implementing it. Extensive research showed us that it created a more ideal living environment for a pregnant sow. Are farmers always right? Of course not, no one is. But we spend a lot of time and money on research and we are always trying to grow, learn, and improve.

So, the next time you think farmers are doing something wrong, just remember that we are people, too. We care. We are doing things the best way we know how with the information and resources we are given, just like anybody else. Maybe, just maybe, there is reason behind our actions.

As always, I am a huge advocate of engaging in farmer-consumer conversations. If you don’t understand why we are doing something, just ask! I bet you will walk away with a better understanding and more trust in the people who grow your food.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant

CORN ETHANOL PERFORMS… AND SO DOES KENNY WALLACE!

Congrats to ethanol advocate and NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace on his 3rd place finish at Macon Speedway last night!

corn ethanol performs

And more good news….  the dirt-track race featuring Kenny Wallace has been rescheduled for this coming Monday, July 15, at Peoria Speedway!

You may be aware that the Illinois Corn Marketing Board has been working with NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace since the 2010 racing season. Kenny has worked on behalf of family farmers and ethanol, advocating for your interests in Illinois and beyond.

Please consider joining Kenny on his “Corn Ethanol Performs” summer dirt track racing tour. As an ICGA member, you can request from our office two tickets for you and a guest to the Peoria Speedway on Monday, July 15. Races will start around 7 and gates open earlier in the evening. You’ll have an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity to speak with Kenny and get his autograph, along with a $5 coupon for your use at the concession stands.

If you can make it to the track Monday, July 15, and would like to redeem your ICGA membership benefit, please call our office at (309) 557-3257 to speak with Rosie, the membership assistant.  We need your reservation by NOON on JULY 15.  We’ll verify your membership and put you and your guest’s name on a list and your tickets will be available at the ticket gate.

Please look for information regarding cancellations or race delays from Peoria Speedway in their local announcements or on their website: www.peoriaspeedway.com.

A SPLIT FARM BILL ALSO MAKES A STATEMENT ABOUT U.S. DEMOGRAPHIC

Today, the House of Representatives will vote on a “farm policy only” farm bill.  The GOP, in power in the House, sees separating the farm portion of the bill and the food stamp portion of the bill as the only way to move forward.  This says considerably more about our country than you might first expect.

Yes, it makes a statement about Republicans and Democrats not being able to work together.  Yes, it makes a statement about the dysfunction in our House and their inability to get ANYTHING accomplished, even bills that historically are easy to negotiate and usually pass without fail.

But more importantly, it makes a statement about the very large and ever-widening divide that plagues our country, a chasm between the agricultural roots of the nation and it’s every increasing urban population.city walkers

The U.S. has now morphed into a nation of city-dwellers. One-in-four Americans now live in just 9 cities, each with a population of over 5 million. More than half of all Americans, 55 percent, live in cities with a population of 1 million or more.

As you might imagine, most of our legislators serve these populations as their constituents.  In fact, only about 60 House members have any meaningful portion of their district in a rural area or any significant sectors of their constituents as farmers.

As the two sectors of Americans grow further and further apart, as urban dwellers lose connection with their agrarian neighbors, the country literally begins to split down the middle – and that’s exactly what the “great divide” of the farm bill signifies.

403px-Illinois2010Let’s use Illinois as an example.  During the 2010 gubernatorial election, Governor Quinn was pitted against Rep. Bill Brady.  Although Brady won the vote in 98 of Illinois’ 102 counties, Governor Quinn was elected our next governor.  Why would Gov. Quinn feel any calling to serve or consider the interests of the people in the remaining 98 counties?  He doesn’t need them to get reelected.  Their needs essentially don’t matter.

Yet the Illinois economy is founded on agriculture and trade.  The livestock facilities that Governor Quinn fights against are the very economic engine that used to drive the state.  The grain trade occurring up and down the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers are the economic drivers keeping families working and goods moving throughout the state, yet we have no lock and dam repair.  The very backbone of the Illinois economy is faltering, and any American who watches the news would see that we are in quite a predicament.

In the Bible, Mark 3:25, we read, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Is this America’s future?

One-in-four Americans live in the city. The remaining live in rural areas, but even of that small portion, only 2 percent of American’s are actually involved in the act of farming. What we are actually seeing is a tear in the fabric that ties Americans of all backgrounds together.

Our country was founded on agriculture. When that foundation starts crumbling, everything built upon it can’t help by follow.  Urban legislators who have no foresight to support rural constituents in their state, are sitting by and letting it happen.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

TAKE A RIDE ON MY BIG GREEN TRACTOR!

Country music has been around for quite some time, and generally every artist seems to follow the same underlying themes. One such theme that is often sung about is farming and agriculture. Everyone who grew in farm towns knew how easily you could relate to these hits.

One song that always struck up interesting debate was Jason Aldean’s Big Green Tractor. In the song he says “I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor. We can go slow or make it go faster. Down through the woods and out to the pasture. ‘Long as I’m with you it really don’t matter.” Note that he calls it a green tractor, insinuating that it is a John Deere. This song can sometimes start a heated dispute between John Deere and Case IH fan boys/girls. People tend to be pretty loyal to the brand of tractor they farm with, and can get infuriated when a naysayer comes along.

Of course there are other brands such as AGCO and Caterpillar, but none have quite the magnitude of rivalry that Deere and Case do. Most of the time, brand usage and loyalty are passed down from the prior generations. In some cases one trade name may work better in a certain application, but usually horsepower and torque ratings are pretty close to identical throughout the models.

jd caseFounded in 1837, John Deere has been around for quite some time. The company has adapted over the years with the constantly driving technological force. They have embraced those changes and have tried to help those connected to the land. John Deere’s core values are integrity, quality, commitment and innovation. Founded in 1842, Case IH became a global leader in agricultural equipment. Case IH is a brand of CNH, which is a majority owner of the Fiat Group. Their values are developing the most powerful, productive, reliable equipment to meet today’s needs. When looking to buy a tractor, you have to keep your family’s lineage in mind. Where they came from, where they are going and how they are going to get there are all very important factors

Both offer great machines and have many excellent benefits. John Deere’s keep their value particularly well. So, if you plan on selling the tractor down the line, it is always a good choice. That being said, Case IH tends to have a considerably lower price tag, making it attractive to the smaller or beginning farmer. Both brands are widely available across North America and parts are readily obtainable.

When it comes down to the brass tax, it is all about personal preference. Although, rarely do you see the next generation of farmer disown a brand that has been in their family for years. Ancestry in my opinion is the leading factor for which make of tractor the farmers choose.

What do you think? John Deere or Case IH .. and why?

Nick Rumbold
 ICMB social media intern

Check this out!

Here is an interesting chart that shows you where each company started and where they merged with another corporation.

history of machinery companies

WHY COMBINE FOOD STAMPS AND FARM POLICY?

Farm-bill-spendingAfter the train wreck that became the failure of the Farm Bill in the House of Representatives more than a week ago, there are all sorts of theories on what might happen next.  Maybe the House Ag Committee will take the bill back, make a few changes, and try to get it to the floor for passage again.  Maybe they will do a complete overhaul, taking out anything remotely controversial, just to get it to conference committee with the Senate.

And then there is the push to separate the farm bill and the SNAP program (food stamps) into two separate pieces of legislation.  Some legislators think this would help.

Americans are left wondering, why were farm bill and food stamps combined into one piece of legislation in the first place?

Well, for starters, the two concepts aren’t as far removed as you might think.  The food stamp program is to provide food security for families that struggle to provide for themselves.  The Farm Bill is to provide food security for our nation so that we don’t have to import food from other countries.

Since I assume you all understand food stamps, let me dive into farm policy for a moment … the government got involved in farm policy and provides subsidies to keep farmers in business to guarantee food security for our nation.  Without subsidies, when commodity prices are low (outside of a farmer’s control – unlike other businesses where they set the prices for their products to cover expenses) farmers run the risk of going out of business in mass exodus. This leaves America having to import raw commodities from other nations and leaves us vulnerable to hunger and starvation if the world politics were such that trade couldn’t be accomplished.

Farm policy tends to focus on commodity crops that can be stored for a long time (like corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) instead of veggies that perish quickly – again because of that food security thing.  And these days, farm policy focuses mainly on subsidizing crop insurance so that farmers can insure their crops and protect themselves against mother nature.  (Remember, like flood insurance, private companies can’t afford to insure farmers because it’s too risky.  Much like farming itself.)

Now that we’ve established that farm policy and food stamps aren’t drastically different from each other, the other reason that they are linked is because Congressional representation from rural communities is so small.  As farmers decrease, the number of Congressmen that represent farmers also decreases.  This is the formula our nation is built on … Congressmen represent the population and the population is moving to large cities.

Without a significant number of Congressmen interested in rural communities and farmer’s livelihood (not that ALL Congressmen shouldn’t be invested in food security, just that this is the nature of the beast in current political climates), we had to find a way to interest urban Congressmen in the Farm Bill.  That thing was food stamps.

Urban communities tend to be larger recipients of food stamps.  Yes, they are used in rural communities as well, but urban communities use them more because they have more people.  This makes sense.  By tying the two concepts together, we now have a bill that EVERY Congressman in the U.S. has an interest in, even if they aren’t all interested in the same portions of the bill.

Of course, in our current climate where every group is at odds with every other group, things get complicated.  The Farm Bill was designed this way at first because it allowed the bill to be a collaborative bill where every side had something they wanted and they could all work together to give and take their way to a final product.

Our current Congress has trouble with give and take.  They can’t do collaboration.  They exist only on “my way or the highway.”  So a joint, both-sides-of-the-aisle bill becomes very difficult.

Stay tuned.  Something will happen on the farm bill, we just don’t know what it will be yet.  And one thing is for sure, farmers NEED something to happen because it’s very difficult to manage a family farming business in an unstable climate.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director