Learn more about the fight against atrazine regulation at http://www.FightEpa.com
In 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.
Illinois 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.
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.
A 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.
THE FARM BILL IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD AND FARMING
The 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.
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.
THE GLOBAL POPULATION HAS A LIMIT – WE WILL BE ABLE TO FEED EVERYONE.
The 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.
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.
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.
FARMERS GET WATER FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
For 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.
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.
University of Illinois
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
1. 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.
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!?
We also want:
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.
This past week, most of our staff was in Washington, D.C. for Corn Congress.
Some Illinois farmers as well as farmers from all over the U.S. had the change to “Rally for Rural America” and to advocate on current issues that effect the agriculture industry.
Our staff was able to capture a few great moments!
Congresswoman and veteran Tammy Duckworth delivered a moving and motivating speech at the Rally for Rural America. She reminded these farmers that they are not only fighting for their own families, neighbors, and communities, but also every serviceman and woman protecting our country overseas or laying in a hospital bed right now. American bushels, not foreign barrels.
Even Captain Cornelius was in D.C. to show support. He also took a moment to pose for a picture with a few of our board members.
A quick visit to Washington, DC this week for these farmers, a visit that included lobbying for a national GMO labeling bill, advocating for Congress NOT to open up the Farm Bill, and asking for funding for pre engineering funds for locks and dams.
Coincidentally, we were there for Aaron Schock’s announcement that he’s resigning from Congress!
In this photo, Congressman Rodney Davis gave us a moment of his time.