A FARMER’S BLACK FRIDAY

I have studied every Black Friday ad, made my list, and checked it twice.  I find some thrill in getting pushed around to save a few bucks.  It is often crazy this time of year, running about trying to find the best deal on the big screen TV or getting clothes 50% off. We frequently think more about marking all the items off the list rather than where they actually come from. I know I fall into the same category, rarely thanking the farmer.

black-friday-2012-line

If you have ever experienced Black Friday shopping, you know it’s unlike anything else.  People will go to unrealistic lengths to get what they want.  Did you know the farmer is with you every step of the way?

While standing in line, waiting for the store to open, we need a big cup of coffee.  Not only does this drink give you caffeine for the rest of the night, but also it keeps you warm in what will be a 30-degree night.  Without the farmer, we would not have the refreshing coffee beans.

The store’s doors have opened and everyone is rushing in.  Our first goal is to grab the sale items and get to the cash registers.  With recent regulations retail stores no longer use plastic bags made from petroleum, they now use corn plastic!

images-4

The new items have been stashed in the trunk and we jump in the car to head to the next store.  As we rev up the engine, have you ever considered what is fueling your vehicle?  Most often we fill up with gasoline containing 10% ethanol but more and more we are seeing 15-30% ethanol available.  If you own a Flex-Fuel automobile you can take advantage of E85.  This fuel is cheaper and supports the agriculture industry.

My favorite stop of the night is the breakfast run.  This often happens around 4 a.m. and nothing sounds better than an egg sandwich.  The items making the meal are often very relatable to the farm.  It is easy to see the eggs came from the chicken and the cheese from the dairy.  Although without these producers, what would be eat?

By the end of the night, or what may be early morning, everyone is exhausted.  It is time to hit the hay, or in most cases the cotton mattress.  This quilted material is grown and harvested to create your bed, sheets and clothing.

While heading out during the crazy hours of Black Friday or during the Christmas shopping season, look down at the bag you are carrying, and Thank A Farmer!

thankafarmer(3)

Sarah LuceSarah Luce
University of Illinois student

FARM COMMUNITIES PULL TOGETHER AFTER THE STORM

tornado damagePeople throughout the state of Illinois experienced severe storm damage or even lost their homes over the weekend. It seems as though its times like these that a community’s strength and willingness to help is tested. We have seen people making donations, taking in their neighbors, volunteering to help clean up, and doing anything else they can to help those who experienced such great loss. Farming communities are no exception to this great sense of community and willingness to help a neighbor in need.

In Washington County, a dairy farm was hit by this devastating storm. Rain, shine, or tornado, these cows need to be milked twice a day and have fresh food and water. What is a farmer to do when his farm has been torn apart by Mother Nature?

Luckily, he has neighbors like the Hasheider family. After the storm hit around 12:30pm on Sunday, Larry and his brother hooked up their livestock trailer and helped to relocate the displaced cows to 3 different farms in the area that were willing to take care of them until their barn is rebuilt… All in time for the cows to be milked Sunday evening.

As devastating as these events have been, the outpouring of support and aid that people have been willing to give instills hope and gratitude in all of us. All communities, rural and urban, have proved that there is still a lot of good in the world with the actions they have taken to help others. Of course, everyone hopes that something like this will never happen to them. But it is comforting to know that if something so devastating ever did happen, your friends and neighbors will be there to help you pick up the pieces.

Rosie PhotoRosie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant

WHERE’S THE BEEF? IN ILLINOIS!

The number of head of cattle in Illinois are increasing according to some recent data compiled by the Illinois Livestock Development Group.

6-24-11 cattleAnalyzing both the number of animal spaces in Illinois (the number of cattle we can accommodate) and the Notices of Intent to Construct (the first step with the Illinois Department of Agriculture to build or expand your livestock facility), we have seen a significant increase in the past five years.

This means a lot of things:

  • Profitability is returning to the cattle industry.  I know non-farmers don’t like to hear it, but farming is both a lifestyle and a business.  Farmers can’t farm unless they can feed their families.  When we see farmers increasing animal spaces or building new buildings, that means that the economic signals are telling them that now is a good time to raise cattle.
  • Illinois is a great place to raise cattle.  Water isn’t a concern for Illinois farmers needing to water their livestock nor is feed.  In fact, feed is much cheaper in Illinois where you don’t have to add the cost of transportation.  Feeding livestock where the feed is, makes economic sense and saves energy.
  • Monoslope buildings* and rubber matting on concrete slats are improvements to cattle housing that are making a huge difference in the industry.  These new improvements are making cattle comfort a priority and also minimizing injury.  Happy cattle and healthy cattle are a priority for Illinois.
  • The Illinois Livestock Development Group has a “man on the street” helping livestock farmers through the rules and regulations about building livestock facilities.  The rules and regulations are there to protect farmers, non-farmers and cattle, but sometimes they can be hard to understand (aren’t most laws!?) and difficult to navigate.  Having someone on hand to help farmers figure out what the rules and regulations say, helps them choose the right site for their new building and build away!

monoslope buildings*Monoslope buildings are barn structures with a roof that is high on one side and low on the other, with one slope.  By facing the monoslope’s high opening to the south, the barn that serves the dual task of shading the herd in the high summer sun and warming it in the low winter sun. At the same time, the design also manipulates airflow to reduce heat and humidity in the summer and impede cold north winds in the winter.

MAKIN’ A LIVING OFF THE LAND

From sunup to sundown, all year round, farmers watch Mother Nature evolve. They witness her worst, from draught to flooding, and witness her best, at just the right temperatures with just the right amount of precipitation to make the crops flourish.

harvest gray skies

They feel the days shorten as the weeks progress into the fall harvest and the air grow crisper. They clear out fields for miles where corn and soybeans once stood. They watch the tree leaves change from green to oranges, reds, and yellows.

deer in fall

They plant the winter wheat seed into the bare ground, and soon close up shop for winter months to come. Although it may seem like a stand-still for farmers, it’s only the beginning of preparation for the coming spring. During this time is when paperwork is caught up with, equipment is cleaned and maintained, and inputs (seed, chemicals, fertilizers, fuel, etc.) are purchased for next season.

sunset planting

As winter months go by and the weather starts to grow warmer, planting season is just within reaching distance. Farmers come out of the woodwork, anxious to be working out in the fields again. This time of the year is the most crucial. Farmers, farmer’s wives, and farmer’s children constantly have to watch the weather. There have been times my dad is listening to the weather forecast on the radio, my mom is watching the weather update on the local news station, and I’m watching the weather radar on the internet. It seems a little overdone, but a farmer has to make sure he is going to have clear skies when he goes to plant. Otherwise, all of the seed will be washed out by the rain, and he will have to buy more seed to replant. Mother Nature is not 100% predictable so this does happen from time to time, but we predict the best we can, and the rest is uncontrollable.

planter through rain

April is the ideal time for farmers to plant corn and soybeans, so they can harvest in October, before the frost. Day and night, the air is filled with the smell of fresh dirt, as it’s torn up for planting. Wave-like ripples soon fill the fields, where the seeds have been planted.

planting in mirror

Come May and months ahead, farming is in full swing. The wheat has grown and begins to develop head.

wheat

The corn and soybean seeds have sprouted.

planted rows

Come June, wheat alters from green to golden brown within just a few weeks.

wheat field

Farmers constantly check the fields to see if the grain is ready for harvest.

Before you know it, wheat harvest is underway!

combining wheat

Once the wheat is cut, double-crop beans (double-crop means growing more than one crop in the same field in a single growing season) are planted in the wheat stubble.

farmer and john deere

The summer days pass by, and the corn and soybeans grow tremendously (with warm temps and the right amount of precipitation). It’s a phenomenal opportunity to be able to watch these crops grow from tiny sprouts up to 6 or 7 feet tall within a short amount of time! (Corn that is)

corn sunset

As fall approaches, the corn and soybeans’ green color begins to dull. Shortly, the stalks and leaves turn brown, showing that they have reached their full maturity and are ready to soon be harvested. Mid-late October, roads flood with red and green equipment and traffic is backed up. It’s harvest time once again.

combine at night

You see, farmers work alongside Mother Nature all year round. They base their decisions on her, and she, in a way, decides if farmers are profitable or unprofitable. My dad once said, “it can be pretty frustrating at times, but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything else.” This lifestyle is a gamble, and it takes passionate, patient, and determined individuals to live the farm life.

farmer anhydrous

Farmers appreciate this land more than anyone else, and I say that with confidence because the land is how they earn a living. To be able to physically see their hard work paying off as the crops grow and mature and then watch the grain pour into the hopper as they harvest is just so incomparable to working an 8-hour job for a piece of paper called a paycheck.

farmer at dusk

Kelsey FritscheKelsey Fritsche
Southern Illinois University student and
Farmer’s Daughter

IF YOU ARE REALLY THANKFUL, YOU SHARE

Since we were born, we have been told to be thankful for everything we have in life and to share, but what does that really mean? To be thankful means to be aware and have appreciation of a benefit; to be grateful and express gratitude towards something or someone. To share means to let someone else have or be apart of something you have. These words are not something we think about doing but rather do it subconsciously.

fall color

As we all know, Thanksgiving is near and that means family time, football, and food, but I think we should all take a minute to remember the roots of the holiday. A quote that I believe represents Thanksgiving well is “ If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” this quote was made famous by W. Clement Stone. It means that if a person is truly grateful for what they have, they will share it. They will pass along whatever they have to someone else no matter their personal connection to it.

This holiday season, most of us will go to a family gathering and expect that there be food there, but why? Well, the answer is simple; we expect to have food because we always have. What if that all of a sudden stopped? We woke up one day and there is no food for us to eat, what would you do? We would all be shocked and of course hungry. Although this is not likely, we should all start taking precaution and treat our environment and those who work to make our food with more respect.

All of us this holiday season need to share in the responsibility of making sure our food supply never ends. We can easily do this by making minor changes in our lives.

Most people believe that being a farmer is just a hobby and don’t realize that it is an actual occupation. People don’t understand how much of a time commitment being a farmer is. It takes hard work, long hours, and commitment. This holiday season I want everyone to say thank you to a farmer they know. Share with them how thankful you are for all the hard work you put into making sure we have something to eat every day. If all of the farmers just stopped doing their job, our food supply would be more than scarce so take some time out of your day and share with them how much you appreciate what they do.

As for our environment, one of the very popular trends happening now is people switch to ethanol gasoline. For those of you who don’t know what ethanol is, it is a clean-burning, high-octane motor fuel that is produced from a renewable source. It is a grain alcohol and is produced from crops such as corn. Overall, ethanol is considered to be better for the environment than gasoline. The cars that run on ethanol fuel produce lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Go the extra mile, literally, and switch to the environment-friendly way by using ethanol.

So as this holiday season approaches, take some time to think and appreciate everything and everyone. Appreciate the little things in life, such as food and those who produce it. Share your kindness with others and let them know you are thankful.

maschingGrace Masching
ISU Student

 

MORE CORN THAN WE KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH

piles of corn at harvestIn today’s WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate) Report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that U.S. corn farmers will produce about 14 billion bushels of corn.  This is a record high!

All that corn will be more than enough to supply our ethanol markets, livestock markets, export markets, and human consumption markets with bushels and bushels left over!

WHATS IN STORE FOR OUR FARM BILL NEGOTIATIONS?

Illinois, farm, field, farmer, country, scenicOn October 30, 2013, the House and Senate Farm Bill Conferees held their first public conference committee meeting.  The conference committee is chaired by Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Chair of the House Agriculture Committee.  Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) called the meeting the “beginning of the end” of the Farm Bill, which has been a 3 years in the making effort.  Each of the Farm Bill conferees made introductory statements in which they outlined their priorities for the Farm Bill conference committee.

The three main points of controversy in the conference committee process will be:

SNAP cuts: The House Farm Bill proposes $39 Billion in SNAP/food stamp cuts over 10 years.  The Senate version only proposes $4 Billion over the same time period.  The resulting “compromise” number/amount of cuts is hard to predict, but a reasonable middle ground number will be necessary to complete a bill and have it pass both chambers of Congress. Senator Stabenow, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said that she thinks it will be difficult to get 60 votes in the Senate for a bill that cuts more than $10 Billion in food stamps.

Crop Insurance:  Differences between the House and Senate version of the Farm Bill are significant with regards to crop insurance.  The House version is more favored by Southern commodity crops for its target price formula provisions, while the Senate version is more favored by Midwestern farmers, who prefer what’s referred to as a “shallow loss coverage” program.  How those differences will be resolved could also indicate how the conference process will unfold.

Permanent law vs. 1938 and 1949 law: The Senate bill retains the 1938 and 1949 farm laws as the basis for agricultural programs.  The House bill would make the 2013 commodity title permanent law. The Democrats are opposed to making the 2013 law permanent.  They would argue that one of the reasons the Farm Bill is reauthorized every 5 years is due to the threat posed by failing to act.  A return to the 1938 and 1949 farm laws would be detrimental to the farming community, given the multitude of important provisions that did not exist in those farm laws that exist in modern law.  How these conversations evolve will determine how and whether a Farm Bill can be signed into law by year’s end.

It is difficult to predict at this point how these differences will be sorted out as the conference committee continues its work on the Farm Bill, but most Farm Bill observers are cautiously optimistic that a Farm Bill can be completed and sent to the President for his signature by the end of 2013.

David Beaudreau
DC Legislative and Regulatory Services

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS

As I sat down to write today’s blog post, I scrolled through some of my older posts for topic inspiration. When I came across a post about the growing conditions we had last year, I stopped. This year may not have been ideal—it was a dry summer, the recent rain is slowing down harvest, we have even had SNOW in some parts of the state already—but, wow, are we better off than we were a year ago or what?

Sometimes, it seems as though farmers are never satisfied. It’s either too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet… but I can honestly say I have noticed a big difference in attitude this year. Isn’t that how it always goes? It takes some bad days to get us to really appreciate the good ones. Sometimes, we don’t even need to experience a bad day ourselves, we just have to see others go through it. How about those ranchers in South Dakota that experienced such great loss in their cattle herds this year? I bet that put things into perspective for many other cattle farmers across the nation.

So, today I am counting my blessings. Even if rain (or snow) is keeping your combine out of the fields today, take a moment to appreciate the many blessings we do have this year. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but don’t wait until then to give thanks. We have so much to be thankful for, we should take more than one day a year to recognize our blessings!

Rosie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant