#TBT: RAIN CAN BE A HUGE PAIN

[Originally published June 29, 2015]

We love this parody by Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins.  Rain IS a big pain all over the Midwest.

On Friday, after leaving IL Corn’s rained out golf outing, I took this quick video (below). You can see clearly see the damaged caused to this corn by standing water and inadequate drainage. The dark spots are higher ground where the corn wasn’t trying to grow in standing water. The lighter green spots are lower ground where the corn is struggling to survive.

Here’s a photo I took today on my way back to the office after lunch. See how the corn is lighter colored where it’s excessively wet?

wet field

This damage is everywhere. Farmers are starting to get nervous. THIS is one of the reasons why farming is such a risky business.

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Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

SIX REASONS FARMERS VISIT WASHINGTON, DC

  1. TO EXPLAIN HOW THEY LIVE: It’s no secret that every single year, more and more kids leave the farm and the rural areas where they’ve grown up for the bigger cities.  Flat out, there is just more opportunity in ST. Louis or Chicago for those young Americans.  Even if they want to stay in the ag industry, they have multiple opportunities to work for the Chicago Board of Trade or for Monsanto in the bigger cities than they do in the rural areas.  The result is that many of our legislators just don’t know what it is to live on the farm or even in a rural area.  Who better to explain farm family life to them, but farmers?
  2. FARMERS ARE LESS THAN 2 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION: And even among those 2 percent, a majority will never travel to Washington, DC and will never make an appointment to see their elected official.  It means so much to those elected officials to see real farmers in their Washington, DC offices – to have someone to ask questions of and to reflect on problems with.  Farmers really ought to visit our nation’s capital more often!
  3. TO EXPLAIN HOW POLICIES MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT WORK: Because legislators aren’t always super aware of rural life or of how to farm, they need farmers in their office to talk them through potential policy ideas.  While a farm bill is being debated, for example, farmers need to be available to point out successes or pitfalls of potential policy.  How will legislators who have never farmed understand how a policy might really work on an actual farm?
  4. TO SEE HOW THEY CAN HELP: Sometimes, legislators that really do try hard to represent their district and enact policies that make a difference need help too.  An elected official might be trying to do the right thing, but media or other non-supporters in his or her district are swinging the other way, which makes the right thing difficult.  Farmers often ask how they can help their Congressman on any potential issues in the district.  If a Congressman is genuinely trying to do the right thing for his district, farmers definitely want to help that Congressman so that he or she can remain in office.
  5. TO DONATE MONEY: It takes money to get elected into Congress and to remain in Congress.  Whether that’s right or wrong, farmers will often visit Washington, DC to donate funds to the elected officials who help them on pro-farm and pro-rural life policy initiatives.  Farmer leaders want to enable the best Congressman who try to understand agriculture and rural life to remain in office.
  6. TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE DYNAMICS OF VARIOUS POLICY INITIATIVES: Often when farmers visit Washington, DC, they are able to meet with other national associations, companies, and think tanks to gather information and get a better picture of the dynamics influencing policy decisions.  For example, if farmers really want to pass tax reform, they need to meet with other impacted parties to determine how certain tax reforms might work for them.  Perhaps there’s a negative impact that the farmers haven’t considered and the policy idea can be changed.  Perhaps many associations are in favor of the same tax fix and they can all work together to show Congress why one idea is better than another.

When IL Corn farmer leaders travel to Washington, DC, there is almost no free time!  By the time we schedule in meetings with other interested associations and companies, by the time we background ourselves on what’s going on in Washington, DC and meet with our elected officials (all 20 of them!), and by the time we participate in fundraisers for the Congressmen who have helped us, we’re running from 6 am til 9 pm and that’s no exaggeration.

But the work farmers do in D.C. is so important to protecting farm families and rural life.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

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AG CAREER PROFILES: COOPERATIVE BOARD MEMBER

Sam Deal is a local farmer in the Danvers area and serves on the Board of the Danvers Farmers Elevator (DFE) cooperative. A cooperative is a business where a group of farmers comes together to buy and sell crop inputs and commodities in bulk to obtain the best prices. Farmers make the decisions for each cooperative by electing members to their local board. Sam is one of the many farmers who serves on cooperative boards to help run the business.

DFE Cooperative is full-service cooperative with a retail business of agronomic products such as seed, fertilizer, and crop protection products. The business provides grain marketing services and grain storage for members of its business.

Cameron: What is your role as a member of the DFE Cooperative Board?

Sam: I serve on the board of the cooperative and help run the business. I help hire the general manager for the cooperative, who oversees the business. I also examine quarterly financial statements to ensure the business is profitable. From those statements, I help make decisions to spend less money or grow the business. I also have a unique role on the board where I am the Secretary. With that job, I oversee keeping the minutes of the monthly meetings of the board.

Cameron: Why did you choose to be in this role on the DFE Cooperative Board?

Sam: Serving on the board of a local cooperative allows me to help make decisions that are better for my operation, as I am a member of the cooperative itself. Additionally, it allows me to help out my neighbors by listening to their problems and fighting for changes on the local level to help their farming operation out.

Cameron:  Can you tell us how the DFE Cooperative impacts the farmers it serves?

Sam: Farmers across Central Illinois utilize DFE Cooperative’s services for agronomic and grain resources. For over 100 years, the business has helped farmers get the best prices, service, and knowledge of their farming operations. Additionally, the cooperative’s grain advantage allows the business to offer higher prices for corn and soybeans due to larger amounts of commodities being sold.

Cameron: What role do you see cooperatives playing in the future of agriculture?

Sam: Cooperatives provide an outlet for farmers for their grain to get a higher price, something that will be needed as the price to a produce a bushel of corn and soybeans rises. I see the cooperative, not only DFE, but all others grow and get bigger to stay competitive.

Cameron Jodlowski
Iowa State University Graduate

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #9: WHAT DOES AN AGRIBUSINESS CONTROLLER DO?

[Originally published: July 7, 2016]

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 incredibly 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

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #8: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A FARMER – JANUARY

How fitting! As we head into the new year, make sure you read this series to see what’s in store for farmers and their families!

[Originally published: January 19, 2016]

As a farmer’s wife I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the question “Where’s your husband?” when attending social functions by myself. Depending on the time of year, I typically respond with “in the fields… hauling grain… working cows… baling hay… in the shop…” etc. Farmers are just BUSY — All the time!

Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. I’m beginning a one-year series that will give you an idea of a farmer’s work load. Watch for my monthly article to stay up-to-date with what farmers might be up to at different times of the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.

Year in the life of a farmerStart at the beginning!

FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER

Bookkeeping

The agriculture fiscal year-end is December 31st meaning that January is a very busy month for bookkeeping and tax preparation. Farm taxes are due a little earlier than other individuals’: March 1st. Between now and then there will be several meetings with accountants to go through the business’s income and expenses from the prior year. Most farmers do not pay into incomes taxes through the course of the year, because there’s not regular paychecks to deduct taxes from. This means a (big?) payment to Uncle Sam is due by March 1st.

Hauling grain

Hauling grainJanuary is a big month for hauling last year’s stored grain to the local elevator. Up until now, the farmer may have been keeping last fall’s harvest in bins at his own farm. This saves him from paying a storage fee to the elevator for holding it there. The elevator constantly puts out corn prices for certain delivery months and at any time the farmer can call up his elevator to lock in a sale price for that month. The thing is, he doesn’t get paid until he delivers it to the elevator. This requires him to unload the grain out of his bins, put it into a semi or grain truck and drive it to the elevator.

Planning ahead for next year’s crop

Planning aheadFor a lot of farmers, as soon as last year’s crop has been harvested, it’s time to start considering decisions that need to be made in preparation for next year’s crop. Depending on which fiscal year the farmer wants his expenses to go in, December and January are a prime time for deciding which field will be planted in what seed variety and locking in input costs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals. Many dealers offer discounts and the earlier you lock in their product/price the better the discount.

Meetings

MeetingsAg groups host a lot of meetings in the winter because they know they’ll have better turnouts in the off-season. There will be association meetings, chemical training courses, annual reports from elevators and other co-ops, market outlook discussions and other industry-related get-togethers.

 

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

If anything’s been needing fixin’ now’s the time to finally get to it! Clean and organize the work bench. Sweep out the empty grain bins. Patch a bad spot in the barn. Make sure the generator is in good working condition. Get a load of gravel delivered for the lane. Rearrange the equipment in the shed so you can get the snow blower to hook onto the right tractor.

When you’re ready for a break from farm things, make sure to ask your wife what you can check off of her honey-do list… Then take her out to dinner because she’s been patiently waiting for this little breather as well! The closer planting season gets, the busier the farmer becomes!

ADeal_Ashleyshley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #7: A LETTER TO MY FUTURE DAUGHTER

[Originally published: April 11, 2016]

Have you ever thought about what you would tell your daughter if you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet?  You expect that she will be great and take after you, but have you made any mistakes that you definitely do not want her making?  What scares you for your children’s futures?  I could go on for days thinking and writing what I would want her to know.  Women’s roles in society have changed so much in the last century.  Just think how much it will continue to change and evolve into something that today’s moms are not even expecting.

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Dear Daughter,

In your lifetime you will experience many new things.  Societal, agricultural, technological, and many other advances will be made.  Sometimes it will be cool and other times it will be scary.  The best advice I can give you is to try to keep up with the advances, but do not let them consume you.  People will always grow, change, and develop.  I wish for you to follow your heart, chase your dreams, no matter how cliché that may sound.

When it comes to agricultural advances, there will be fads, practices, and trends.  Traditions that will all change during your lifetime as it did mine.  I encourage you to become well-educated in areas that may concern you.  Articles published through different media outlets may not be the most reliable.  Check multiple reliable sources and take away your own ideas from your research.

Technology: isn’t it a great thing?  What has changed since you were a little girl?  Keeping up with technology is a job within itself.  Some words for the wise: technology consumes you if you let it.  You are only as advanced as you allow yourself to become.  Sometimes technology can make life easier but sometimes it makes life 10 times more difficult.  Social media are great for keeping up with friends who you do not see very often, yet it takes away from those you are with on a daily basis.  Find a way to balance your life and don’t let one piece consume you.

In conclusion, have fun with life. After all, you never know how long you have to live.  You are the youngest you will ever be right now and the oldest you have yet to be.  As many people say, “live well, laugh often, love much” quoted by Bessie Anderson Stanley.  This quote within itself means a great deal because it reminds us to live life to its fullest, while still having time to laugh, and always love like there is no tomorrow.  I challenge you to set extreme goals and even if you do not accomplish them they will take you to great places.

With much love,

Mom

I encourage all moms who have read this, write a letter every so often to your daughter and then give them to her when she moves out.  These letters can be whatever you choose to make them.  You can talk about things that have happened since the last letter you wrote or they could write them on big occasions.  The task is up to you, let me know what you think of this.

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Elizabeth Lewis
Southern Illinois University

TOP POSTS OF 2016 #6: 5 THINGS ABOUT THIS PHOTO-HUGE PILES OF CORN

[Originally published: January 15, 2016]

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!

Huge Piles of Corn!

corn pile with men

  1. When corn comes out of the field, farmers put it into semi trucks (or other sorts of trucks, but usually semis) and haul it to the elevator.  The elevator is a company that buys, sells, and stores grain.  It is called an “elevator” because the corn is elevated into huge silos for storage.
  2. But in some years like 2014, we produce more corn than we have room to store.  So the elevators put up temporary storage, like the piles you see above, just to keep grain moving out of the field.  To maintain the grain in the same quality in which it arrived, these piles will be covered with huge tarps to keep moisture from getting in.  The piles were also poured on top of huge tiles that will circulate air under the pile and prevent spoilage, damage, and mold
  3. Elevators must apply for a permit from the state to create temporary storage like this – and they can only leave this corn laying here for a short time.  So as they sell the corn, the corn in these piles will be the first to go.
  4. Corn leaves the elevator via train, truck, or river barge to go to other states (like Texas) or other countries to feed livestock.  In Illinois, just under half of our corn leaves the state to feed livestock.
  5. Many people who aren’t familiar with farming understand that the yields we get per acre are pretty static, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Every year, because of superior seed genetics and more efficient crop management practices, our potential yields increase.  Weather or pests sometimes challenge the yields, but the fact remains that our yield potential has a significant upward trend.  We are producing more corn every year than the year before!  That’s great news for a growing world population!