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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THANKS AND GIVING: HISTORY
AGRICULTURE, MY HOME AWAY FROM HOME
FROM THE PASTURE TO THE PLATE: IF YOU DON’T TELL …
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.
Gov Plus Consulting
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WINNERS AND LOSERS
NOVEMBER 2ND AND NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED
DIRTY ADVERTISING IS NOT A NEW TACTIC
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.
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EPA’s VERSION OF A HALLOWEEN DECORATION
WHAT DOES NOVEMBER 2 MEAN FOR IL AGRICULTURE
US MILITARY AND US (IL) AGRICULTURE
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.
Help spread the love this Christmas by giving cookies in a jar:
Christmas Cookies in a Jar
• 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
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.
ISU Ag Student
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Having just come off of several policy and priority setting meetings with Illinois corn farmers all over the state, I feel very confident of this fact: selling corn for export outside of the country is the largest market for Illinois corn.
The reasons for this are simple. Illinois has a great location on three major rivers: the Illinois, the Ohio, and the mighty Mississippi. With adequate and efficient river transportation, we are a powerhouse of exporting capacity.
However, that stands to change. Illinois corn farmers are continuing to increase yields exponentially, and export markets aren’t dwindling. But the simple fact is that our current infrastructure no longer allows for the efficient transportation of our goods to market … and it’s going to get worse.
Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers has typically maintained the authorized depth of 45 feet on the Mississippi by dredging. When they were not allocated enough funds to dredge and maintain this depth, they “reprogrammed” funds from other projects, speculating that maintaining the authorized depth was the most important. However, as their fiscal year 2011 began, ACE announced that they would no longer “reprogram” funds to dredge and would stay within the budgeted funding amount.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the river is currently at its lowest levels in a decade. Certain points in the river are already becoming unsafe for larger ships and passage is restricted to daylight only. When spring comes with its additional rains and runoff, ACE warns that they will only be able to guarantee 40 feet instead of the 45-47 feed that shippers need.
This means shipping is less efficient, grain prices will drop, and American’s will lose out to foreign buyers.
Bottom line, America’s failure to make long term investments in its infrastructure is an insurmountable hurdle, this dredging issue AND the larger issue of needed lock and dam improvements included. President Obama has already declared his intent to double exports over the next five years. Although an ambitious goal, Americans can produce and other countries will demand enough to make this possible, if only our transportation system would allow it.
There is no way we can double exports if cargo ships cannot use the Mississippi River. Experts indicate that the Pacific Northwest is already at 100% capacity. This means any increased growth in US exports must travel to market via the Mississippi River system and when that system is broken, how exactly does the President plan to get the additional goods out of America?
Corn farmers have been shouting it and we’ll continue until someone finally listens. We need investment in river infrastructure.
Come on, folks. If Brazil and Panama can do it, so can we.
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MR. PRESIDENT, WHERE ARE THE LOCKS AND DAMS?
TRADE MISSIONS ARE VITAL TO ILLINOIS AGRICULTURE
Earlier in November I had the opportunity to visit my aunt in Arizona and to help her celebrate her 98th birthday. Born on a farm in northeastern, IL, this woman has had quite a life as she has lived in cities including Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago as well as traveled internationally. With little prompting, Aunt Vi loves to talk about growing up on the farm. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think about how life has changed for farm women over the past several generations.
My aunt spoke as if it were yesterday about bridling her horse, Beauty, each morning to herd the cows to the pasture and then doing the same each day after school to bring the cows back to the barn for the night. She told me how one fall and winter she and Grandma were “in charge” of the farm while Grandpa was working on another farm some 20 miles away. Each morning, before school, my aunt and Grandma would milk the cows and then load the milk cans in the buggy. With Beauty providing the horsepower, Aunt Vi would take the cans of milk, one from the night before and one from the morning, to the streetcar station in town. There she would unload the milk cans. At 11 years old, less than five feet tall and about 75 pounds this was quite a task. But she said if she timed it right, the streetcar would arrive just as she was backing the buggy to the ramp and the conductor would help her pull the milk cans from the buggy. Each time I look at the milk can that is now a decoration on my porch, I can’t help but thinking about those wintery mornings and seeing my Grandma and aunt caring for those cows.
Like my Grandma, Aunt Vi, and my Mom before me, I have the opportunity to be a partner in our family farm. Although we do not milk cows, our farm involves growing corn and soybeans. My fall days are not spent herding cows, but rather driving a tractor or combine. After the crop is harvested, I find myself preparing annual reports for our landlords and working with my husband to secure inputs for the coming crop year. During the winter months I will attend meetings and conferences representing local corn farmers as their director to the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Also during these months much of the corn and soybeans that we have grown will be sold and delivered to our customers, both domestically and internationally.
Each time I walk outside and pass that milk can, I think about the many women and men who have had the opportunity to grow food for our brothers and sisters around the world. It is a privilege to work on the farm today, to be a part of this effort to feed the world, and to have grown up with a love of the land in my blood, passed down from my Grandma and Aunt Vi.
For them and for all the strong farm women like them, I continue the legacy and look forward to sharing the joy I get from the farm with my children and grandchildren.
Illinois family farmer, mom, wife &
This post originally posted at Corn Commentary.
It is interesting to note the group change.org, on their “Sustainable Food” web site takes issue with the new CommonGround campaign which seeks to give exposure to family farmers and their efforts to educate the public about food and the people who raise/grow it.
There are numerous efforts today like Common Ground (from the Corn Farmers Coalition to The Hands That Feed Us) that seek to give a voice to family farmers. Doing so in an organized fashion and giving farm women an opportunity to be heard makes perfect sense. This public outreach effort is neither anti-sustainability, against social change or antagonistic.
Traditional farming is driving social change and has made incredible gains in environmental improvement and sustainability. In fact, all segments of Ag are moving more to the middle – saving soil, cutting pesticide and fertilizer applications, reducing carbon footprint – so it is really the rate of change that is at issue.
To continue to feed an additional 9 billion people by 2050 this speed of change will be critical to nourishing an expanding world population. Safe, abundant and affordable food is something that we can all agreement upon and is a core goal for all of the farmers supporting CommonGround.
“There are many misconceptions about agriculture in the media today, and we are working, as we have over the past 35 years, to be a voice for truth in communicating to others about agriculture,” Wilson says, so maybe it is the organized effort and the amplification of the message that is disturbing some who are used to dominating the conversation about food in this nation.
Thanks American Agri-Women for showing continued leadership and thanks for all the farmers supporting this important effort by contributing your hard-earned dollars.
Read more from Corn Commentary here!
Part of our Illinois Commodity Conference agenda was a discussion on the research Illinois Corn has funded with Illinois Beef, Illinois Pork, Illinois Soybeans, and Illinois Farm Bureau. This is the research that provides a baseline for us, telling us where consumers are, what they think about farmers, and how we can best reconnect with them.
Knowing some of what we were learning from consumers in focus groups and statistical analysis, we sent our interns out to create this video.
This is what people really think about farmers. The sad fact is, they don’t know much and what they do know is wrong. And they don’t have to be from Chicago to have incorrect notions … some of these consumers are living in the number one corn producing county in America!