CELEBRATE MAPLE SYRUP DAY!

 

funks grove, maple sirup

Its maple syrup day and we’ve got some of the best maple sirup just a few miles south of the Illinois Corn office in Central Illinois.  Visit the Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup website to read all about their rich history and even richer sirup!

For some fun ideas on how to celebrate Maple Syrup Day, click here!

ILLINOIS EPA PREPARES TO REGULATE PESTICIDE APPLICATIONS

In January 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH ruled that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act are required for any pesticide applications that reach waters of the U.S. This was a game changing decision, as the ruling was written so broadly that growers now have no assurance that they are exempt from this requirement.

You and I are more vulnerable to citizen lawsuits on the Clean Water Act than ever before.

In the past, the EPA had decided that pesticides were adequately regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and did not subject farmers to Clean Water Act requirements. That is no longer the case.

The new permitting program is scheduled to take effect in April, 2011 which is sneaking up on us. Legislation introduced in the House and Senate this past year would have overturned the 6th Circuit decision and clarified that permits are not necessarily with pesticide applicators are following the FIFRA label. As we begin a new session of Congress, we’ll have to start over on this type of legislation and try, try again.

But while we wait on that …the Illinois EPA moves forward preparing their rules for the new NPDES permits. And they don’t look pretty. In fact, Illinois Corn’s initial assessment (and that of other commodity and farm organizations within the state) is that the state of Illinois is taking the new ruling much further than they need to.

Whether this is due to oversight or intention remains to be seen. What I can assure you is that Illinois Corn and NCGA continue to watch over this matter, making sure that realistic guidelines for the application of crop protection products are considered.

Stay tuned.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICGA/ICMB Executive Director

HOLIDAYS ARE NON-EXISTENT FOR FARMERS

There are only a few more days until Santa comes down our chimneys and the Christmas cheer is sent to rest for yet another year. Farmers have the same two things on their list each year, high crop market prices and a much needed break. That’s right a break. Many have the perception that farmers only work six to eight months out of the year, fall and spring. False; farmers have many duties which they perform when they are not physically working in the fields.

Planting and harvesting may be the simplest components to farming. One drives back and forth through hundreds to thousands of acres, which takes patience and mental awareness to get the job complete. But, once the field work is done they immediately start the next step to their never ending process to feed America. For instance, when the crop is harvested and the combines are put away, farmers begin to analyze data. This data includes information on crop yields, understanding which seed varieties worked and those that failed, and discovering which fertilizers and techniques worked best. They use this information to prepare and finalize a plan for the upcoming spring.

Farmers have a constant desire to become more educated. As technologies advance, companies are working to create the most efficient and most productive farming applications. To learn about these, farmers attend meetings and conventions as well as read farm reports. Recently, Chicago held a DTN (Data Transmission Network) Progressive Farmer Ag Summit which was a three day seminar including topics on finance and the economies affects on grain prices. Along with understanding the business aspects of farming, the farmer must be educated in the agronomical side. Meetings and classes are held to teach farmers and introduce them to new practices and available supplies to better soils and increase crop growth. During harvest, farmers typically meet with sales representatives from various seed companies to compare results and determine which varieties and fertilizers to use.

An often multi-daily activity for farmers is to watch the grain markets. Monthly reports are sent out with updated information on demand, allowing farmers to make decisions as to when they should sell their crop. The government delivers these supply and demand reports and submits updated farm policy reports. As a farmer it is crucial to follow and understand the government amendments. Along with following North American supply and demand, farmers must look at other continents like South America, which has a planting season at the time of our harvest. If South American countries experience a drought that will greatly affect the American commodity prices. Market pricing reflects on the economy and prices depend on storage capacity. Another factor includes America’s relationships with foreign countries and the frequency of exports and imports. If a country overseas decides to purchase billions of bushels of corn, our prices will rise due to the principles of economics.

This Christmas, as you gather with your family and eat a wholesome meal make sure to take a minute to thank to people who allow you to be able to eat, be dressed, and in warmth. Unlike many other professionals, holidays are nonexistent for farmers. Their minds are constantly worrying about the idea of a sudden downfall in prices, accidents with equipment, and having the ability to provide for their families and country.

Traci Pitstick
Illinois State University student

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ANIMAL WELFARE VS. ANIMAL RIGHTS

I grew up on a dairy farm. The experiences and values I gained from that experience have been invaluable to me. I have learned the value of hard work, perseverance, but just as importantly, I learned how to properly care for a cow.  I realize this isn’t a commonly sought after education, but it is one that I am proud of.

I have a strong connection to dairy cattle, especially Holsteins. I milk cows and I’ve shown cows and there is a definite bond I’ve developed with the animals.  Of course, it’s a different bond than you might have with your pet because these cows are my family’s livelihood.

At home, someone gets up to milk the cows at four in the morning and then milks them again at four in the afternoon. Yes, it is hard work, but sometimes the harder work is caring for the cows.  Of course we treat our cows well simply because they deserve it, but also because if the cattle aren’t healthy, they aren’t producing as much milk.  That milk is putting me through college!  As a farmer, you learn to keep this perspective … yes, you love the cows and you take care of them but also, they are animals and not humans.  You cry over the loss of your favorite cow, but in the end you know that you treated that animal with unparalleled care while they were with you.

This is a fundamental difference – the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  I believe in animal welfare and I can’t think of a farmer that doesn’t.  Animal welfare means that your animals are cared for when they are sick, provided housing in the winter, soft bedding to sleep, feed and water and a clean barn.  Animal rights are about animals having rights, literally, much like human rights. That, I disagree with.

I am thankful for the animals, especially dairy cows, because they provide us with such wholesome products and I am grateful for the role that they play on earth. It is said well in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Though I know an animal’s place on this earth, I still believe that like anything else in life, the better you take care of something, the better condition it will be in. I have a strong connection to the cows, as does the rest of my family. We see it as more than a job, but rather a passion for dairy cattle. It takes a lot to want to do the incredible amount of work that it requires to raise healthy high producing cows. Animal welfare is a great priority when dealing with dairy cattle and with any livestock operation.

The difference between animal welfare and animal rights is often one that goes unnoticed to consumers. As a consumer, an American, it is your job to know the difference. I believe in animal welfare, and I am sure that you do too, but supporting groups like PETA and HSUS is supporting animal rights, NOT necessarily animal welfare.

As producers, we know the value in animal welfare. As consumers, we hope that you know the difference.

Amy Schaufelberger
University of Illinois student
Daughter of a dairy farmer

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THE CHRISTMAS GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

  While the rest of us are stressing over Christmas packages, errands, and holiday feasts, our high school and college students are stressed over finals, research papers, getting home for the holidays, and … what in the heck they are going to do for the rest of their lives.

Yes, while we may remember college as the best time of our lives, let us not forget the weight of your entire life resting on your shoulders during those years. High school and college students have tough decisions to make, life-altering decisions, and they hardly get a break from those during a few weeks in the winter.

Fortunately, the Illinois Agri-Women have one solution to all that worry and stress. Women Changing the Face of Agriculture will be held on March 4, 2010 at the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. Early registration deadline is December 24, so be sure your high school or college daughter, granddaughter, or cousin are signed up before heading off to cook the holiday ham.

The inaugural Women Changing the Face of Ag (WCFA) event was held last year and it was a huge success. More than 100 students from Illinois high schools and colleges attended the event, learning about agricultural careers first-hand from women in various agricultural fields.

Maybe you have a senior thinking about ag communications? We’ve got women talking agriculture from several different companies with careers ranging from social media to news writing to marketing. Does your sister enjoy politics? Come visit with some of our female ag lobbyists to find out how they got where they are within their companies. Maybe her teachers have indicated that she has real talent in chemistry or biology. We have women who are soil scientists, plant breeders, and chemical reps that may help you along in your journey.
women in agricultureThis event isn’t exactly a job fair, although she is sure to meet some really great women and make some wonderful connections. It’s more of an opportunity for dialogue and mentoring. The event will help her understand how the women leading agricultural today got where they are and how they would advise her to accomplish her goals in the agricultural field. For Illinois Agri-Women, it is an investment in the future of our industry and in the well-being of our daughters.

Attendees can register online at www.womenchangingthefaceofagriculture.com and can also look up the Illinois Agri-Women on Facebook. Students are urged to talk to their ag teachers about bringing all the females in the ag program. Teachers are urged to contact Illinois Agri-Women to find out how we can help get your women to Bloomington for this event.

Give the high school and college students in your life a real gift this holiday season – some valued insight into their future, wherever they hope to end up, and how to get there. Consider registering for Women Changing the Face of Agriculture.

women changing the face of ag

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

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GROWING UP POOR, LIVING RICH

My friends Jeff Glascock and Destry Campbell, both good cowboys, notified me when I was 20 that I grew up in poverty. Until I heard these two swapping stories about their childhoods, I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to have more siblings than seat belts in the family vehicle. I didn’t realize my sister and I received free hot lunches form our public school because my family lived below the federal poverty line. I just knew the lunch lady made me finish my broccoli before she gave me seconds of fruit cocktail.

I called my older sister, Lacy, and asked, “Did you know we were poor when we were little?”

“Well, I slept in a drawer, so I kinda figured.” Dad insists the drawer was a temporary travel solution one night in a motel room. They left the motel and went home to a cozy mobile home/log cabin/shack tribrid.

Camping at the county fair was our annual family vacation. Nothing promotes family fun like a 113-degree tent by the demolition-derby racetrack and showering with your shoes on. I showed my bummer lamb at the fair, and Mom made him a blanket from a pillowcase. Dad helped win the team-roping event and we ate cotton candy, so a good time was had by all.

At home, Mom picked pears from the tree in the yard and made fruit leather in the dehydrator. We recycled soda cans. Mom taught us to make graham crackers from scratch and refrigerator magnets from Popsicle sticks. I never felt poor, probably because we always had plenty of food. Hamburger Helper nourishes a growing body as well as a filet mignon. What’s culinary appeal to a six-year-old? Just add more ketchup.

When I was nine, we moved from the family ranch, located in a remote canyon, to two-and-a-half acres in a rural subdivision. I was excited because now my horse, Karl, was in a pen by the yard instead of a mile away in a flood-irrigated hay field. Dad got a job as a carpenter and helped build the new hospital in town. My sister and I were happy because Mom deemed the family budget secure enough to splurge on Pop Tarts.

We had neighbors! And TV! Back in the canyon, we tried to watch channel 10, but all we could see were clumps of fuzzy gray dots moving around a lighter-gray, but equally fuzzy, background. Friends from town recorded the National Finals Rodeo and we watched each round on videocassette, peering around the Christmas-tree limbs to watch Ty Murray spur another bronc. Dad leaned forward in his recliner and pushed the fast-forward button during commercials using a large stick that a beaver had peeled and whittled smooth. DVR technology has nothing on a beaver-trapping hillbilly.

Because I was unknowingly raised up poor in the cattle business, I learned to seek happiness in nonmonetary ways. I don’t need money to smell rain on sagebrush, laugh when a colt touches noses with a barn cat, or listen to a wild cow-chasin’ story. I need very little money to eat a shredded beef sandwich from the cattlewoman’s booth at the county fair and get barbeque sauce all over my face.

I’m glad I didn’t know my family was poor while I was growing up. The social stigma attached to poverty might have ruined the fun of running through the sprinkler, building a tree fort, and sharing a blanket on the couch to watch the rodeo finals. We didn’t even have to watch commercials – how can it get any better than that?

Jolyn Laubacher grew up on her family’s commercial Hereford ranch on the Klamath River near Yreka, California. She graduated from California State University, Chico, in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. After a big circle that included cutting horses and hog hunting in Texas, working at a ranch for troubled kids in Arizona, and five weeks in Fort Collins, Colorado, she is happily back in California, where she currently rides horses for the public and substitute teaches.

This article originally published in Range magazine.
 
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IL LEGISLATOR – VETO SESSION AND LIMPING DUCKS?

The Illinois Legislature finished the two scheduled weeks of the annual veto session on December 2, when the Senate adjourned until January 4. The veto sessions during each two year session are required to allow the legislature to deal with changes that the Governor makes to legislation sent to him after the regular legislative session concludes. The veto session takes on additional meaning during an election year, when many legislators decide to retire (or have a forced retirement due to an election loss). Added to this thought is the requirement that every state legislature, following the taking of the national census every ten years, that legislative and U.S. House districts must be re-districted or re-apportioned, to account for changes in population that have occurred over that ten year period.

In Illinois this year, significant changes have take place in the legislature. Many changes have occurred in the both chambers of the Illinois legislature due to numerous retirements, some because of election loss, death or early resignation (not necessarily politically changed hands, however) in 2010. Therefore, increased emphasis is placed on dealing with what may be controversial legislation during the “lame duck” session when many of those “retiring” members are still around to cast votes.

This year in our “veto session” most of the time spent in the Capitol was dedicated to dealing with bills still alive on the regular calendars in each chamber, and not so much time on changes made to bills modify by the Governor. Two controversial energy projects have made their way through the House, and are likely to be called for a vote in the Senate prior to the current session ending, and the new session beginning in early January. In both cases, these projects want electric and gas consumers, through existing utility rate structures, to pay a guaranteed rate of return for the projects to move forward. Proponents of the projects point to the job creation benefits, the use of Illinois coal, and the revitalization of a formerly polluted site for positive benefits of all citizens.

Additional debate in this “veto session” has centered on social issues, like providing legal rights for same sex couples in civil unions. Under legislation sponsored and passed in the Illinois Senate, gaming would expand exponentially under provisions creating 5 new casinos in Illinois and providing existing race tracks to become “racinos” (a combination of casino and horse racing). In part, this legislation has been promoted to generate new revenue to begin digging Illinois out of its huge budget deficit, now pegged at over $13 billion.

So you can see the truth of the old adage in legislation and politics that “anything can happen when the legislature is in session” and it usually does!

Looking ahead to the new 97th General Assembly convening after inauguration and swearing in of the members of the legislature, and the 6 Constitutional Officers on January 12, we will likely see actions on major legislation colored by the one immediate task on the plate of the members, creating new districts that they may run in during the general election in November 2012. The next two years should be very interesting from that perspective, in determining whether we make progress on a whole host of issues, with the largest one being how to address the 800 pound (and gaining weight) gorilla in the room—our state deficit.

Rich Clemmons
Gov Plus Consulting
 
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VOLUMETRIC ETHANOL EXCISE TAX CREDIT (AND OTHER IMPORTANT TAX PROGRAMS) ALMOST A REALITY!

After we reported on the likelihood of VEETC just yesterday (what foresight!), it appears that President Obama and Congressional Republicans have reached an agreement on the expiring Bush tax cuts and a myriad of other tax policies. In essence, this tax package would put to rest several of the items that we’ve been working to protect for Illinois corn farmers. The highlights are an extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), as well as an answer on estate taxes and a big positive for business expensing.

The agreement is a framework that is being crafted into legislative language with some of the finer details still to be worked out. We are hopeful that passage of the legislation will be easy, but we’re still calling for action from our membership!  If you are an ICGA member, or a general corn enthusiast (or maybe you’re super excited about the Child Tax Credit … as a single mom of two, I sure am!), keep reading to find out how you can help.

The agreement will include the following provisions:

  • VEETC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA) are fighting for VEETC to remain at 45 cents until 12/31/2011, but there is a chance it could be cut to 36 cents. A proposal released by Senator Baucus prior to the announcement of a tax deal would extend through 2011 the blender’s credit would be extended at a rate of 36 cents per gallon, while the small producer’s credit would be extended at a rate of 8 cents per gallon. The Baucus bill also extends through 2011 the existing 14.27 cents per liter (54 cents per gallon) tariff on imported ethanol and the related 5.99 cents per liter (22.67 cents per gallon) tariff on ethyl tertiary-butyl ether (ETBE).
  • Biodiesel – The agreement will likely extend the biodiesel tax credit. The Baucus proposal extends through 2011 the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for biodiesel, and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon. The bill also extends through 2011 the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for diesel fuel created from biomass.
  • Income Tax Rates – The agreement would extend current income tax rates for all individuals for two years and also provide alternative minimum tax relief.
  • Estate Taxes – The deal would re-instate estate taxes for two years by imposing a 35% rate on estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.
  • Capital Gains Tax Rate – The compromise maintains the current rate of 15% for capital gains and dividends.
  • Child Tax Credit — The existing $1,000 child tax credit will be extended for two years with the $3,000 refundability threshold established in the Recovery Act.
  • Business Expensing – Businesses will be able to expense 100% of their investments in 2011 and also receive a 50% bonus depreciation in 2012.
  • R&D Tax Credit – The deal would extend the existing Research and Development Tax Credit for two years.
  • Payroll Tax Cuts – This agreement will also include a 2% employee-side payroll tax cut. This will not impact the payroll taxes paid by employers.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit – The agreement would extend for 2 years a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 to cover the cost of college tuition.

If any of this sounds good to you, you might contact your Congressman to let him or her know that you’d appreciate their vote in support of the tax cuts.  I’m assuming that you know who your Congressman is, but if not, don’t be ashamed!  Just check here.

And once you know who he or she is, you can look up their DC phone number on our [Get Involved] section as well as find some other really great opportunities to get involved in advocating for agriculture.

Lindsay Mitchell
Marketing Director

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HOME IS WHERE THE COOKIES ARE

Growing up on a family farm there were a lot of things I never appreciated until I went to college. I never appreciated the open spaces and fresh smells that accompany life in the country. I took for granted watching the cows out of the kitchen windows or seeing the fields change with the seasons. Once I went to college my open spaces and fresh smells became crowded streets and not-so-fresh smells and the cows and fields got replaced with brick walls and chain link fences. I missed all of those things but what I missed most is mom’s home cooking, especially her treats.

christmas cookiesJust in time to prepare cookies for Santa and to give all the neighbors a plate of assorted goodies, I’m reminded of how lucky I was to have mom’s fresh, homemade cookies all those years of my life. Growing up we almost always had fresh cookies in the kitchen, especially during the holidays. I definitely took this for granted until I got to college. Sure, the dorms had cookies sometimes but they certainly weren’t homemade and not even close to as good as moms’. Now that I live in an apartment I can make my own cookies but even if I follow mom’s recipe they’re never quite the same. When someone makes a cookie for you it just tastes better because they make it with love. Now that the holidays are approaching I’m looking forward to going home and getting my hands on those tasty cookies. I can’t wait to spend time in the kitchen with my mom and sister frosting sugar cookies, giving gingerbread men buttons or topping of sprite cookies with a cherry. It doesn’t matter what type of cookie it is, I know it will taste better just because someone made it for me with love and that’s one thing I’ll never stop appreciating.

Help spread the love this Christmas by giving cookies in a jar:

Christmas Cookies in a Jar

Ingredients:
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup quick-cooking oats
• 1 cup orange flavored dried cranberries
• 1 cup vanilla or white chips

Directions:
In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer the sugar and brown sugar, packing well between each layer. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; spoon into jar. Top with oats, cranberries and chips. Cover with a cloth circle and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

Attach ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
Pour cookie mix into a large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Beat in ½ cup butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drop by the tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Sarah Carson
ISU Ag Student
 
 
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