ILLINOIS CORN AND ILLINOIS FFA TO VISIT WASHINGTON, DC

7-11-16CaptianDCIn less than a week, the Illinois Corn Growers and Marketing Boards, along with FFA Members from across the state, will be traveling to Washington, DC. While in DC, members and students will be spending time meeting with congressional staff talking about big issues in American Agriculture. The top three priorities are:

-Secure funding for the Navigational Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) which will enable new and upgraded locks and dams along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Upgrading the locks and dams will improve efficiency and capacity of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) navigation system, continue to provide an energy-efficient choice to transport freight by water, and improve a crumbling locks and dams system that costs Illinois farmers every day in lost efficiency.

-Preserve a robust and sustainable crop insurance for U.S. farmers. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. employment can be contributed to agriculture and its related industries. Agriculture is an important sector of the U.S. economy, therefore, it is in the public interest to have a financially stable agriculture sector that produces the nation’s safe and affordable food and fiber supply and supports the rural economy.

-Promote programs that stimulate farmer profitability, maintaining family farms in Illinois and preserving the economic boost agriculture is poised to provide.  Among these programs are trade opportunities and the Renewable Fuels Standard, which both create demand.

Attendees will not only be meeting with congressional staff from Illinois, but other states as well. The goal is to inform staff on the importance of agriculture in their own state and across the United States.

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Kaity Spangler
Legislative Intern
IL Corn

AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES AN AGRIBUSINESS CONTROLLER DO?

Mary Mackinson Faber is the 5th generation involved in her family’s farm near Pontiac, Illinois. She grew up on her family’s grain and dairy operations located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. Currently, she is employed with Graymont Cooperative as the Controller, and she manages her family farm’s social media presence online. She graduated from Illinois State with a B.S. in Agribusiness and an MBA. She is married to Jesse Faber, Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor at Pontiac Township High School. They have two kids, Ava and Eli.

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DAKOTA: What made you decide to work in an agribusiness?

MARY: Graduating from high school, I did not know what I wanted to “be when I grew up.”  I took one area that I was and still am incredible passionate about, agriculture and another idea that I really enjoyed, business and decided to major in Agriculture Business at Illinois State University.

DAKOTA:  What is your day to day role in your job?

agribusiness_controllerMARY: I am the Controller for Graymont Cooperative Association a local agriculture cooperative that is a grain storage facility, agronomy input supplier, feed mill and internet provider. My job responsibilities include human resources, customer credit and collections, and accounts payable. I oversee the sale and purchase of common and preferred stock and patronage pay-out and redemption. I take great pride in the reconciliation and presentation of department and company-wide monthly and fiscal year-end financial statements. In addition to making sure that all of the numbers balance, I enjoy serving and engaging with the local farmers. I am extremely proud to work for a company that has been owned by hard-working farm families for more than one hundred years.

DAKOTA: Explain your role on your family’s dairy farm.

MARY: I am the 5th generation to grow up on Mackinson Dairy Farm.  Mackinson Dairy is a dairy and grain farm located north of Pontiac, Illinois or about 100 miles south of Chicago on Interstate 55.  Mackinson Dairy Farm is home to around 165 milking cows and over 150 head of heifer and calves in addition to roughly 2,000 acres of cropland where we grow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.  Growing up, while I loved the cows and agriculture, I knew I was not cut out to be on the farm every day.  As I entered college, I started to realize the disconnect between consumer and farmer and soon discovered my passion for advocacy.  I have been trying to bridge the disconnect ever since but truly became active advocating on social media after I became a Mom.  Today, I am responsible for managing the farm’s social media presence.

7-7-16mary1DAKOTA: To someone outside of the agriculture industry, why should they join in on the careers involved in agriculture?

MARY: As more agriculturists start to tell their amazing stories, people will see agriculture is more than just plows, cows, and sows. The image of what an agriculture career looks like needs to be updated. The image should include the farmer, but also a nutritionist, food scientist, machinist, mechanical engineer and social media expert. Agriculture needs to embrace the diverse opportunities available and build enthusiasm for these types of careers. My husband and I are fortunate to have amazing jobs in the agriculture sector, and it is a wonderful industry for raising a family.

You can find Mary on her blog at MackinsonDairy.com, and their Facebook at facebook.com/MackinsonDairyFarm

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Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

GMOS: ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT?

I recently graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Communication, but I never thought that my degree would take me into agriculture. The closest I ever got to “living country” was growing up with horses on a five-acre lot just outside of Peoria. However, I never really understood the importance of agriculture and how much it really plays a part in my life. It even excites me to say that there are incredible opportunities in the agriculture industry that aren’t directly related to working on a farm. The only downside I’d say about the industry is the fact that American Farmers are not appreciated for all of the hard work they do.

There is a lot of misinformation flooding the media about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A lot of the misconception comes from luring mainstream audiences to believe that GMOs are filled with toxic chemicals that are harmful to the human body. They believe that these toxins are introduced to the plants through unsafe, laboratory experiments where a syringe is commonly seen injecting unquestionable poisons into said plant. This is not the case; in fact, the procedure to develop genetically modified organisms is a lot safer than many realize. What frustrates me about mainstream media in general is that people believe everything they see. They barely question the autonomy and authority of what they read, and they hardly go out of their way to research the claims being made.

There are countless studies and educational resources that any person can find to understand what a GMO is and how safe they are to eat. More than that, the technologies utilized in developing genetically modified organisms can benefit the growth of food for the projected population increase in 2050. It certainly wouldn’t be an end all cure, but with 9 billion coming so soon we definitely have a lot of work to do to feed those hungry mouths.

Another common misconception is that big agriculture companies that invest in the development of GMOs refuse to label genetically modified organisms because they have something to hide. This is simply not the case. The real reason that they do not label GMOs with a specific “this is a GMO” label is because of the fear that it would cause consumers. There is nothing dangerous about consuming GMOs, so there is no point to label them. There have been numerous studies done to prove that they are safe for consumption, and there hasn’t been a single reported death. If they labeled GMOs specifically, people would then think they are implying that GMOs are dangerous to eat. Instead, foods that do not contain GMOS are the ones being labeled. Labeling the foods that do not have GMOs helps consumers that want to avoid buying these products to avoid them. Using this method is sort of a “win win” for both sides.

I think people forget that when a company has a bad reputation, they lose money. More than that, most people don’t realize how much money is spent by organizations to maintain a positive public image. Big agricultureas no reason to hide what they are providing their consumers. I encourage anyone to take the time to educate themselves before deciding what foods they will choose to avoid because of health concerns.

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Deidra Sonnemaker
Graphic Design Intern
IL Corn