STABLE AG CAREERS ABOUND

I have been trained as an agriculture education teacher, though I don’t spend my days in a classroom.  Still, bringing up the next generation of agriculture professionals is a task that remains near and dear to my heart.

When I get the opportunity to talk to junior high or high school students, I still highlight to potential of agriculture.

  • Agriculture is the top employer in many states, including Illinois where it provides more than 700,000 jobs.
  • Illinois did almost six billion dollars of export business related to agriculture.  Frankly, people are always going to need to eat and that economic driver isn’t going away.
  • When you’re in agriculture, you’re either creating wealth or supporting those that create wealth.  Think about it … in what other industry do you start with something as small as a seed, something nature provided, and literally create wealth?  Agriculture truly is the industry from which all others spring.

And here’s the really cool thing: it’s an industry that has a job for everyone, regardless of your interest.  There are over 300 careers in the industry and I’m guessing more are created yearly as our technology advanced.  Yes, if you have any skills at all, you can most likely use them in agriculture.scientist_2193498b

Are you an artist?  Consider graphic arts, website design, or marketing.  Every day, I work with an excellent artist that designs our advertisements and communications to membership.  I also work with other talented artists creating infographics that support our industry and logos that bring us into the current century.

Are you a mathematician?  Every farm, every farm association, every farm business needs accountants.  And many of those hire statisticians as well to analyze important data.

Do you excel in the sciences?  Agriculture has opportunities in genetics, biochemistry, veterinary sciences, and a myriad of others.  In fact, agriculture IS science, so your opportunities here are endless.

Do you enjoy writing?  Photography?  You might be a fit for agriculture communications.  The need for excellent communicators in the ag industry is growing as farmers seek to reach out and reconnect with non-farmers for the first time in decades.

Are you a people person?  Enjoy talking and visiting?  You might be a great fit for sales.  Agriculture has seed salesmen, equipment salesmen, fertilizer salesmen, and many others.  And I can tell you first hand that farmers are a great group to chat with!

Ag has opportunities in engineering, law, technical writing, laboring, health, education, biology … the possibilities really are endless.

If you are a student looking for a place to fit, consider agriculture.  You just might have more in common with the people that grow your food than you think.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

TRANSITIONING TO ORGANIC FARMING

Reposted from CommonGround. If you are interested in connecting with women and moms who are growing your food, you must check them out!

Sondra_Pierce_Blog_Photo

Organic farming has been growing in popularity over the past years, and volunteer Sondra Pierce is currently in the process of transitioning her alfalfa farm from conventional to organic.

“When we were researching into going organic we noticed that organic alfalfa sold for $5-10 higher a bale,” said Pierce. “We decided to supply the demand for organic alfalfa in our area which helped increase our ending profits. I’m sure that is the reason why most farmers choose to transition into organic, because of the higher profits.”

According to Boulder County, Pierce’s home county in Colorado, the county is in the process of having at least 20 percent of the county’s farm area organic by 2020. Pierce says she will like make more of a profit from growing organic alfalfa than conventional because of the higher demand for organic alfalfa in the area.

While there are many misconceptions on the idea of organic farming, Pierce points out that there are a lot of similarities between organic and conventional farming.

“Many people assume when you are organic you don’t use pesticides or fertilizers. Many also assume organic farmers use completely different practices than conventional farming. What might surprise people to learn is that organic farmers do use pesticides, fertilizers and many of the same practices as conventional farmers. We just have to use different products. There are hundreds of organic pesticides that we can choose from along with fertilizers. And we use many of the same tools on our conventional farm that we do on our organic farm. We just have to spray them down with hot water before using them in the organic fields.”

Pierce, just like many other farmers in Boulder County, Colorado, is transitioning to organic farming practices due to the higher demand from consumers as well as many of the local organic dairy farms purchasing organic alfalfa from local alfalfa farmers like Pierce in order to have their milk be considered organic.

“We currently rent most of our land from the Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces, which is behind the plan to have 20 percent of the county organic by 2020. We did receive an incentive for transitioning to organic farming from Boulder County. We were able to get a break in our rent payment for the land we farm on as well as a new center pivot from the Boulder County Parks and Open Spaces for deciding to change our farm into organic.”

Pierce stated that the higher demand in organic milk has ultimately increased the demand of organic alfalfa in the area that she farms. The higher profits from organic alfalfa than from conventional alfalfa made it a smart decision to transition her farm.

“We looked into the profit differences and knew that becoming an organic farm operation would be in the best interest for our family. But one interesting thing that we have noticed while transitioning our farm to organic is that our carbon footprint is actually bigger than what it was when we were conventional. We used to only make three tills through the fields to keep weeds down, but now, as we transition to organic, we make somewhere between nine to 10 passes. This really surprised me.”

While there have been a few headaches, the profits due to the premiums that consumers are willing to pay for organic outweigh it all for Pierce. “My family means a lot to me, and if there is a way for me to profit and still provide a safe, quality product, I will do it,” said Pierce.

Do you have questions about farming and food? Check out our Twitter and Facebook to learn more and join the conversation. Be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay connected.

FARMERS KNOW IT’S A GREAT DAY WHEN …

Winter Farm

Farming has more than it’s fair share of hardships, whether it be a bad day or a bad year (or more).  But it seems like things go downhill in the winter.  Maybe it’s the dropping temperatures or the craziness of the holiday season, but whatever can go wrong always will. With that being said, the good moments are nothing short of miracles.  Here’s a short list of things that can turn a bleak winter day into one that’s not too bad after all.

  1. Babies are born in good weather

It never fails that animals go into labor at the worst possible time.  Whether it’s right before a meeting in town that you’re already running late for, or in the middle of the worst snowstorm of the season, animals like to make things difficult on their farmers. Think those cute baby farm animals are always born in spring? Think again.  Babies being born in fair winter weather and with no complications can take a load of stress off a farmer.

  1. Farm equipment starts….and runs smoothly

Old TractorIt’s no secret that cold weather doesn’t always mix well with machines. That old tractor that has been in the family for generations, and is almost as old as the dirt it plows, doesn’t work so great in the harsh cold of winter.  Nothing is more frustrating than having to spend time fixing and cranking a machine when you could have been already working.  And getting the machine to start up in freezing temps is just half the battle.  Getting all of the work done without any breakdowns is the greatest in the middle of winter—especially when a hot supper is waiting at home!

  1. The power goes out…but the generator is already hooked up!

To me, the worst part of winter can be summed up in one word…ICE. It makes country roads dangerous, causes your best cow to slip and injure herself, and generally wreaks havoc throughout the farm.  Waking up to three inches of ice over everything and no power is definitely the start of a bad day.  But when the generator is already hooked up and kicked on, it’s like the day has been saved right from the start.

  1. Farmers get to wake up and do the job that they love

Farmer Winter WorkingFarming isn’t an easy profession by any means.  Some days it is nearly impossible for farmers to wake up early, head out into the cold while the rest of the family sleeps in, and tend to their animals and land, but they do it anyway.  They do it because it is in their heart and in their blood to do so. Any day that a farmer gets to wake up and do the thing he was born to do, whether things go right or wrong, is a truly good day.

 

 

This list is all about things that can make a farmer’s day when they go right, but the hardships come even more often.  It’s the lessons learned from tearing apart the whole tractor just to make it run; from rounding up cows that broke through a fence and then working ‘til past dark repairing the fence; from losing half of the new babies in a sudden ice storm, that make the good days that much sweeter.

sydney laySydney Lay
Southern Illinois University

 

FARMERS: IMPORTANT OR NOT?

old irrigation photoEver since the dawn of time agriculture has been a staple in the revelation of the Earth. Although this being said many people do not understand the depth farmers and people of agriculture go to continue this revelation. The answer most people reciprocate with when asked “Are farmers important?” is “Yes, we would not be able to eat without the food they grow.” This is true, but food is just the tip of the iceberg as to why farmers are important.

A good place to start is with the most obvious, food. These individuals that resort to food as their answer, like mentioned before, are correct. Everything we as humans and animals consume has had some form of connection with a farmer. If you grow your own herbs and vegetables at home in the garden, then you are a type of farmer and are involved with agriculture. Just thinking about what someone eats will lead you directly back to mother Earth. If we just take a look further into a typical candy bar, it will better explain where our food starts. Chocolate for our candy bar comes from cocoa beans grown and harvested in South and Central America. Our next ingredients would be sugar and peanuts which can be grown and farmed in the Southern United States. So as anyone can see even things such as candy bars are related to agriculture and our farmers.

cottonNot only are farmers important to food production, but also fuel and fiber production. Not many people know that roughly 25% OF Illinois corn goes towards the production of ethanol. Not only is ethanol important to the planet and anyone who drives, but the shirts on our backs would not be able to clothe us without farmers in the fiber industry. Many people just think of cotton when they hear of fiber, but there are two other types called flax which is used to make linen, and agave which produces a fiber called sisal. Sisal is a type of twine fiber that is growing in popularity due to its “rustic” look and feel.

Another huge reason farmers are important are the creation of jobs in the world. It is estimated that agriculture is the world’s largest provider of jobs at nearly 40% of the population. Within this 40% are jobs such as agri-science, transportation, horticulture, soil science, forestry, and meat science to name a few. A reason that is somewhat related to jobs in agriculture, is that farmers whether they view themselves this way or not are the stewards of the land. Generation after generation of farm families have been tearing up the Earth and sowing the seeds of human growth, so there is hardly anyone that knows the Earth better than the farmer.

barnLast and definitely not least, is that farm families and rural individuals have a sense of debt to Earth and country. These certain individuals have learned to give back and put the hours in to pay for what they have been blessed with. Studies show that the largest share of the United States military recruits come from rural backgrounds. This goes to show how important farmers and people of agriculture are. Farmers, their families, and agriculture impact something in our lives every day. So yes farmers are important.

Garret EssGarret Ess
Illinois State University student

 

PLEASE SANTA, WE WANT TO EXPORT MORE MEAT

It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS

chinese pork
Take a look – right – at how we’re working with our partners to brand U.S. meat in other countries!

It’s something that we don’t talk about a lot here, but IL Corn wants to export more meat and less corn.

Why?

If we export more red meat and poultry, it means that we have fed the corn here in the U.S. and created more economic gain and more jobs in our country instead of allowing the jobs and the money to be created in another country.

The truth is, corn that we export is 99.9 percent of the time fed to livestock in another country.  What if instead of feeding international livestock, we were feeding American livestock?  What if all the animals were raised here, providing jobs and money to our citizens?  What if we were able to raise the animals according to American humane guidelines where we feel more comfortable that the animals have had a good life instead of however they raise them in other countries?

This makes sense to IL corn farmers.  We want to export more corn in the form of meat and we pursue that every day by partnering with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Santa, what do you think?  Surely you have contacts in international countries!  You think we could increase our meat exports in 2015?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

Read the rest of our Christmas list!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

2. CLEAR AND SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS

PLEASE SANTA, GIVE US MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

renewable fuel, E85, corn based ethanolYes, we’ve definitely talked about this before.  And I don’t want to be like the boy who cried wolf.  But market access for ethanol is definitely a problem.

Illinois farmers believe that ethanol can compete in a fair marketplace, but when was the last time you felt the petroleum industry – otherwise known as Big Oil – was fair?

Retailers do not want to offer ethanol to customers because it just decreases petroleum sales.  Offering gas station owners the opportunity to sell ethanol is sort of like nicely asking Whole Foods to start stocking Walmart brands next to their top sellers.  It just isn’t going to happen because ethanol is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and would beat out the competition at every turn.

So yes, we need legislators to give ethanol market access.  We must make selling ethanol too good of an opportunity to pass up if we hope to increase market demand for corn and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

One of the recent opportunities to do this is in Chicago.  The Chicago City Council is considering a change in their ordinance that would make E15—a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol—available as an option to Chicago drivers.

READ MORE HERE.  AND HERE.

Chicago paved the way for the rest of Illinois to adopt E10, and now 99 percent of the gasoline sold in Illinois is 10 percent ethanol.  If the Chicago City Council passes this E15 ordinance, Illinois could see a significant upswing in ethanol market access in Chicago and eventually throughout the state.

Santa, this sure would be an amazing way to help Illinois farmers market all the extra grain they produced this year.  Would you please give us a “yes” vote in the Chicago City Council for E15 this year?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

Read the rest of our Christmas list!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

2. CLEAR AND SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS

 

IL Corn has asked for ethanol market access before.  Check out these past Christmas list posts!

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

IL CORN’S CHRISTMAS LIST: INCENTIVES TO SELL ETHANOL

 

IT PAYS TO BE ON SANTA’S NICE LIST!

Last night, the Senate voted 76-16 to pass HR5571, tax extenders legislation. This allows farmers to write off capital expenditures in the year that the purchases are made rather than depreciate them overtime.

Also included was the long-awaited 9 cent increase to the barge fuel tax, which should speed up the process for upgrading our locks & dams!

IT’S A MERRY CHRISTMAS AFTER ALL!

 

Read our entire Christmas list here!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

2. CLEAR AND SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS

PLEASE SANTA, WE NEED CLEAR & SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!

2. CLEAR & SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

Labeling is a tricky issue.

All NaturalSome “foodies” and non-farmers want labeling because not knowing enough about how food is grown scares them.  Or maybe they feel like they know a lot, but are getting their information from others who don’t know enough about how food is grown and aren’t getting accurate information.  No matter what, not knowing enough about food production is scary, and labels seem like they would help.

Until the labels get just as confusing as the “where is my food produced” question.

Illinois corn farmers and some others in this debate don’t want food labeling that isn’t based on scientific data.  If a percentage of our population is allergic to peanuts, then mostly certainly, we should include “peanuts” in the nutritional label.  That is labeling based on scientific truth.

The problem is that customers are confused.  There is a very gray line between labeling and marketing; some customers can’t delineate which is which.  Marketing is when a food company places a label that gives it a bump over its competition.  Labeling is when a food company places a label that is scientifically proven to safe lives or improve human health.

Ingredient and nutritional labels safe lives and improve human health.

“All Natural” labels do not.  They only cause you to think about buying their product over another.

Santa, for Christmas this year, IL Corn (and probably millions of Americans who are confused about what to buy for their holiday dinners!) would like more clear food labeling.

We want to know when buying “USDA certified” is better for us than “hormone free.”

We want to understand what organic labels really mean.

We’d definitely like to understand and trust that GMO and GMO free are equally OK because having that extra money in our pocketbook is so enticing.

See what you can do.  OK?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

Read the rest of our Christmas list!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

2. CLEAR AND SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS

 

PLEASE SANTA, GIVE US LOCKS AND DAMS

It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD EXPANDED AND UPGRADED LOCKS AND DAMS

This one has topped our Christmas list for several years.

IL CORN’S CHRISTMAS LIST: WE NEED LOCKS AND DAMS – 2013

LOCK AND DAM FUNDING NEEDED! – 2012

IL CORN’S CHRISTMAS LIST: NEW LOCKS AND DAMS! – 2011

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: NEW LOCKS AND DAMS – 2010

barge and tow2014 is no different.  But 2015 might be, because Congress did pass a Water Resources and Reform Development Act this year that made some necessary changes, allowing less money to be sucked into Olmsted and more money to be freed up for other lock and dam projects.

Read more about that here.

And the user fee increase that we’ve advocated for over the past several years was included in a piece of legislation that passed in the House this month.  All that remains is the Senate to take action and the President to sign – and I’m sure Santa can manage that!

Why are new locks and dams important?

  • 60 percent of the nation’s export-bound grain is transported on the inland waterways.
  • The Panama Canal expansion will create opportunities for increased American trade, but not if our channels are not dredged and our locks and dams are not functioning.
  • American consumers benefit from transportation cost-savings made possible by the inland waterways; for every $1 invested in our inland waterways, $10 is returned in national benefits.

Santa, if you could see it in your heart to just answer one of our Christmas wishes, this is the one.  Let’s start on a new lock in 2015.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

Read our entire Christmas list here!

1. THE MEANS TO BUILD NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

2. CLEAR AND SCIENTIFIC FOOD LABELS

3. MARKET ACCESS FOR ETHANOL

4. INCREASED MEAT EXPORTS