FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: ILLINOIS STATE FAIR

IMG_8861This past Tuesday (August 16) was Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair. If you’re familiar with the history of the fair, you’ll know the fair’s primary purpose was for agriculture. People brought their animals from across the state and to compete in showing. For instance, the competition would decide which dairy cow had the best features and characteristic of the ideal dairy cow that would best carry on the breed. These competitions still exist today and have varying criteria based on the category/animal.

Since then, the Illinois State Fair has evolved to include a non-farming audience with different games, rides, concerts and foods. While no one is discounting the glory of a funnel cake, Ag Day was created to give a spotlight to the fair’s original intention. This year, IL Corn joined other agriculture organizations, farming families, and government leaders to showcase the industry while also engaging the non-farming community to learn about issues agriculture faces today.

Among the events:

 

 

  • 8-16-16rauner

    Government officials including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and U.S. Congressman for Illinois Cheri Bustos showed their support by meeting with industry leaders.

 

 

 

  • IMG_8851Illinois FFA members interacted with government and industry officials to talk shop as they learn more to become our nation’s next agriculture leaders.

 

 

Check out more from our Facebook, where we livestreamed an interview with Illinois FFA members and heard from IL Corn leaders.

AGRICULTURE: HOW DO THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SHAPE UP?

Less than 83 days remain until the United States determines who will lead the country for the next four years. A new administration means the roll-out of new programs and legislative agendas. Therefore, it’s important to know for what these individuals stand, not just for what makes them famous (or infamous for that matter). The positions that candidates take now on such issues as agriculture can have impacts decades later. That’s why farmers must take a look at how or if the candidates prioritize agriculture.

For this first edition, we’ll start with the major party candidates, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump. The remaining independent party candidates will be covered in a later post.

(Sorting method: Candidates are not divided by preference. Last names are sorted alphabetically.)

Secretary Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party

hillary-accepts-nom-dnc-7-29-16Secretary Clinton has a direct connection to farming communities in her work with constituencies in rural, upstate New York. In August 2015, Secretary Clinton rolled out a plan to revitalize rural communities. While some points do not speak directly to farming, the emphasis on revitalizing rural towns, which are largely farming towns, would likely boost the agriculture economy. Within this plan, Secretary Clinton supported providing government subsidies for farmers that are struggling and helping the next generation of farmers with funding, education, and mentoring for “aspiring farmers and ranchers.”

Secretary Clinton also supports the expansion and use of renewable energy sources, including biofuels. She seeks a strengthening of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and actively opposes the EPA’s cutting back of already-established target blending levels.

On GM foods, Secretary Clinton supports a mandatory labeling program, citing the consumer’s right to know. Yet, in those same remarks, she upheld sound science and the need for GM seeds, particularly in populations that are drought-resistant.

Current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack endorsed Secretary Clinton in 2015.

Donald Trump – Republican Party

Trump_Nom_072216Although Mr. Trump does not have any direct connection to farming or rural communities, many of his stances have implications for the agriculture economy.

In 2015, Mr. Trump gave explicit support to the RFS in order to achieve energy independence from other nations. The federal program has been critical in expanding markets for renewable fuels such as ethanol.

Mr. Trump supports biotechnology and GMO foods and dispels the need for right-to-know labeling mandates. This comes in contradiction with a now-deleted tweet on the candidate’s infamous Twitter feed: “Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?”  The comment was originally made by a Nevada businessman. Mr. Trump later claimed it was an intern that re-posted the remark.

The candidate is also infamous for his plans on immigration reform. However, some have argued that his would decrease workforce numbers in agriculture significantly. The American Farm Bureau Federation noted that the ripple effects of deportation could be decreased production, increased food prices, and a drop in net farm income.

On August 16, 2016, Mr. Trump’s campaign announced that he has formed an agricultural advisory committee composed of several governors, including former 2016 GOP candidates Rick Perry and Jim Gilmore, and lawmakers. We should expect that more concrete agriculture solutions will come from Mr. Trump and his new brain trust in the following weeks.

Trade – A Hot Button Issue

Both presidential candidates are against current free trade agreements, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a wide-reaching, multi-national deal that has been a major focus of President Obama’s remaining time in office. The current White House administration proclaims that the “past seven years have represented the strongest period in history for American agricultural exports…totaling $911.4 billion.” Agriculture exports increased from $56 billion in 2000 to $155 billion in 2014, per the USDA. Clearly, farmers have a major stake in free trade with foreign nations. Aside from the issues that come from working with nations on a case-by-case basis (e.g. lack of multi-national support could reduce leverage and ethos to produce more efficient and effective deals), United States agriculture would fall victim on a financial level as they might severely scale back commodity exports, even just during negotiation of new trade deals.

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This review is not completely exhaustive but can hopefully give a clearer picture on how either candidate would influence the future of American farmers. It’s important that we choose someone who clearly stands in solidarity with the modern farmer.

In my next post, I’ll cover what the three remaining independent presidential candidates say about agriculture.

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Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn

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

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: IL FARMERS IN DC

3-18-16 Photo with Congressman FosterIllinois farmers are pictured here with U.S. Congressman Bill Foster. Illinois farmers met with Illinois delegates in Washington, D.C. over National Ag Week to discuss sustaining the profitability of farming. Illinois farmers shared messages from their home state about issues critical to farming, from the importance of the TPP and free trade to the preservation of crop insurance.

WHY WE NEED FREE TRADE

Free trade is beneficial farmers. For instance, a strong free trade agreement makes it possible for farmers to have market opportunities and meet food demands around the world. The economic stimulus from worldwide demand for American products also helps each of us feed our families.

TPP-AgricultureA study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation o
n the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that is already negotiated and waiting for Congressional approval, explains that the American economy benefits from a $4.4 billion revenue increase that not only sustains farming within the United States but also helps to contribute to a healthy American economy.

  • Livestock receipts with implementation are $5.8 billion higher with approval than without. For the crops sector –including fruits and vegetables—receipts are $2.7 billion higher. Net farm income is also $4.4 billion higher.
  • S. beef and pork exports are expected to be $1 billion and $940 million higher, respectively.
  • Farm prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, fed steers, feeder steers, barrows and gilts, wholesale poultry and milk are all projected to be marginally higher with the agreement in place than without.
  • Net trade rises for rice, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk
  • Net trade of corn declines slightly, but overall use increases and corn revenue rises as higher feed use is needed to provide for the added beef and pork exports rather than being exported as raw commodities.

7 SECRETS ABOUT AGRICULTURE THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

  1. THE FARM BILL IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD AND FARMING

Farm BillThe Agricultural Act of 2014, better known as the Farm Bill, “is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs.” On the contrary to most opinions, the farm bill is not just about farming. In fact, there are twelve separate titles included in the legislation that receive funding.  These programs focus on commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, food assistance (food stamps), credit, rural development, research and extension, forestry, horticulture, crop insurance, and miscellaneous spending.

  1. ORGANIC V. NATURAL

Organic and natural are two separate terminologies. Organic is a defined and regulated process in which food is produced without synthetic fertilizers. In comparison, natural is not defined by the FDA, which allows so many companies to use the term for their products. It is generally believed that natural foods are ‘minimally synthesized.”

There is no evidence that organic foods are healthier than conventional food products, but many people have this belief. Therefore, the price of organic food products is higher, compared to natural and processed foods.

  1. THE GLOBAL POPULATION HAS A LIMIT – WE WILL BE ABLE TO FEED EVERYONE.

people globeThe Malthusian Catastrophe is the theory that, while food production sees linear growth over time, the global population experiences exponential growth. This means that the population will outgrow our food supply. However, this theory was proven inaccurate due to technological innovations that have greatly expanded our food production process. Additionally, while the global population continues to grow, the growth rate is decreasing. This is due to a decrease in birth rates for developed countries, like the United States. As the world becomes more developed, the birth and death rates will begin to even out. Eventually, the population will stabilize, or perhaps even slightly decline.

  1. FARMERS GROW WHAT THEY WANT

The false belief that farmers cannot grow what they want probably originated from the idea of subsidies. A subsidy is an incentive, which can be used to encourage farmers to plant certain seeds, but it certainly does NOT require it. There is no statute that controls how farmers operate. In fact, there are many other factors that influence a farmer’s decision on want to plant. This includes yield potential, soil type, seed availability, seed pricing, geography, how long it takes to be harvested, resistance to drought and pests, etc.

  1. MOST FARMS ARE RUN BY FAMILIES

While there are many who believe that the agriculture industry primarily features corporate farming, the truth is that “97 percent of US farms are operated by families.” In other words, those views could not be farther from the truth.

One of the reasons that the United States is a global agricultural exporter is because of our family-farm setup. These farmers know how to utilize their land much more efficiently than just some corporate entity. Farming is a privilege for families and individuals to make a living by providing food for the world. It is not just about making a profit.

  1. FARMERS GET WATER FROM VARIOUS SOURCES

water sourcesFor water, farmers rely on springs, rivers, creeks, ponds, wells, and municipal options. Accessing groundwater from wells is a popular technique, as farmers can protect its high quality more efficiently.

Additionally, farmers used various practices to preserve their water resources. Rotational grazing and mulch, for example, allow soils to contain higher volumes of water. Such practices are beneficial to farmers, as they do not have to rely on other water sources.

  1. THE CAREER POSSIBILITIES WITHIN AGRICULTURE ARE NOT LIMITED

With huge agricultural-based companies like Cargill, ADM, DuPont Pioneer, and Monsanto, it’s hard to understand why this even needs to be discussed. There are endless career opportunities within the agriculture sector involving marketing, sales, economics, finance, consulting, nutrition, soils, food science, advertising, engineering, insurance, research, animal care, management, policy making, etc.

austin fee

Austin Fee
University of Illinois

5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO: CONG QUIGLEY ON THE FARM!

We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

Congressman Quigley on the Farm

quigley on farm1.  In this photo, Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5) visited the farm to learn more about the primary industry in Illinois.  Congressman Quigley does this very cool “Undercover Congressman” program where he visits Illinoisans and tries to learn more about even the most menial jobs in our state.  I think it shows a real desire to learn – and we couldn’t have been happier to let him farm for a day

2. Connecting Illinois farmers, IL Corn staff, and elected officials is one very important job that IL Corn performs for its members.  As voters, every single American would do well to make at least one connection a year with the people that represent them!  That priority gets lost in the busyness of all of our days – so one job of our association is to help our members connect with elected officials and help elected officials understand as much about farming as possible.

3. The Congressman is standing in front of the machine that harvests corn – called a combine.  A combine is a VERY expensive piece of equipment (just under $500,000!) that a farmer simply can’t do without!  Learn more about combines here.

4. Congressman Quigley was likely shocked to learn about the very technical nature of a modern combine.  Combines monitor yield per acre, utilize GPS to minimize fuel usage and maximize efficiency, and employ a ton of other modern conveniences to make U.S. farming the most efficient food and fuel production industry in the world.

5. As farmer Steve Ruh was harvesting this field in October 2015, he was likely making around 200 bushels per acre.  (A bushel is about the size of a large bag of dog food and an acre is about the size of a football field.)  In October 1980, this same field would have yielded only about 100 bushels per acre.

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: A FUNCTIONING STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

dear santa

 

 

It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …

 

 

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

Here’s the thing: an organization like ours appreciates the opportunity to get things done.  Getting things done within a non-functioning government framework is very, very difficult.  Ergo, our organization isn’t getting anything done for farmers – and it’s frustrating.

Illinois State House Capitol - Springfield
Illinois State House Capitol – Springfield

Illinois is in a bit different scenario than some of our fellow Midwestern ag states.  Most of them are dealing with the same frustrating federal government status quo, but they find opportunities to benefit farmers in their states by moving state initiatives and they still accomplish some good.

In Illinois, we can’t move state OR federal initiatives.  So we often feel like we’re twiddling our thumbs.

In spite of the broken state of our state and federal government, we have accomplished a few things:

  1. The livestock industry in Illinois is growing.  Certainly, this has much to do with market signals that are screaming at farmers to invest, but the economic impact that results from investment in the livestock industry (an estimated $70 million!) can’t hurt our broken state.
  2. We are effectively working with our state EPA and other agencies to clean up Illinois water.  To date, we have several important projects going on – both research and educational – to help farmers understand the VOLUNTARY practices that will minimize nutrient run off.  When we keep the practices voluntary but still accomplish the goal, we relieve the burden of paperwork for farmers and the cost of implementation for our state.
  3. We’ve secured some federal grant monies to help with that fuel pump standardization priority that I mentioned yesterday.  With any luck, many of the fuel pumps will be ready to handle higher blends of ethanol by this time next year!

Though we’ve found places to make a difference and we’re continuing to positively impact the farmers in Illinois, it would definitely be nice to have a functioning government to help and not hinder our growth.

Santa, this is a huge ask, but can you make our government work!?

 

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

 

 

We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

2. More Stable Farm Profitability

PHOTOS FROM AG DAY

Today, some of our staff and board members had the chance to visit the Illinois State Fair for Ag Day.

They spent the day visiting and discussing current ag issues, and even sitting down with Congresswoman Bustos.

8-18-15 Bustos

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Chairman, Lou Lamoreux, discussing Cuba.8-18-15 Lou talking Cuba

Illinois Corn Growers Association Board President, Kenny Hartman, discussing general issues. Kenny on general issues