Thursday, December 30, 2010

FARMERS ARE FEEDING A HUNGRY WORLD BY DOING MORE WITH LESS

Farmers have to be part agronimist, conservationist, meterologist, economist ...

and all optimist!



Find out more about Illinois farmer's best management practices at www.ilcorn.org.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

HIGH FIVE FOR FARMERS!

This video won second place in the Alpharma Student Video Contest! Tori Frobish is a University of Illinois student from the Champaign-Urbana area.



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Monday, December 27, 2010

KEEP AMERICA MOVING

Now that you've celebrated Merry Christmas and are happily staying warm until Happy New Year, I invite you to join us for VIDEO WEEK!

Yes, this week, Corn Corps will celebrate the holiday by bringing you interesting, informative, and intriguing videos from YouTube that address agriculture.

Today, we share an oldie but a goodie to keep this, our top priority, in the forefront of your minds. Improvements in our river transportation system are imparative if Illinois farmers are to compete in a global marketplace.



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Thursday, December 23, 2010

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: CONSUMER TRUST IN THE AMERICAN FARMER

Dear Santa,

Over the past year Illinois farmers feel that they have been very well behaved. We have worked diligently to once again feed the world while making several changes to help our environment, protect the safety of our consumers, and produce high quality products. In fact, America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods! As far as yields are concerned, nationwide there has been a twenty percent increase since the year 2000. We hope that you will please take our Christmas list into consideration and do whatever you can to help us make the best better in the agricultural industry. Have a Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,

Illinois Corn

1. Free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
2. Corn based ethanol to be allowed to qualify as an advanced biofuel.
3. Upgraded locks and dams.
4. Consumer trust in the American farmer.

The family farmers Illinois Corn represents are misunderstood.

Ninety-eight percent of farmers are family farmers and two percent are corporate farmers. However, the general public would tell you the opposite. Over the past two decades, corn farmers have cut soil erosion by forty-four percent using innovative conservation methods. American consumers will tell you we are destroying the land. Americans spend approximately ten percent of their annual income on food while other countries spend up to seventy percent of their annual income. Yet, the general public is encouraging new laws and regulations that will run our American farmers out of business forcing us to import food.

While I hate to bore you with facts, they have the capacity to change the entire outlook of our industry. The only problem is that the facts are not reaching our consumers.

Everyday United States farmers fight the battle to protect their image in the public eye. Due to groups and organizations such as PeTA, the Humane Society of the US, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and even the Environmental Protection Agency, our battle is getting harder every day. While these groups are attempting to dismantle our industry, farmers are quietly continuing to feed the world, which, if you know any farmers, is our way.

Growing up in the grass roots of production agriculture, I have strong feelings on this issue. Over the past year through my internship with Illinois Corn my eyes have truly been opened. As a Tazewell County farmer’s daughter, former 4-H queen, and an Illinois State Ag Major, I was not aware of the depth of the criticism the agriculture industry was receiving every minute of every day … and I’m taking offense.

My dad does not work an eight to five job. During harvest and planting seasons my mom, sister, and I make meals for the farm hands, help move guys from field to field, run for parts when we have unexpected breakdowns, and are prepared to jump into any piece of machinery at a moment’s notice. Throughout the summer, my dad spends sleepless nights running irrigation systems that allow us to grow crops in fields that we would otherwise not be able to utilize. Every farm family in the United States could tell the same story; we work hard because we love what we do. In fact, feeding the world comes naturally to us and we take a great deal of pride in the family farms our ancestors developed decades ago.

More and more farmers are beginning to understand that quietly feeding the world isn’t going to fix this issue and they are learning to utilize social media to talk about the truth on their farm. For others, though they are independent people that enjoy quiet and solitude, they are inviting school groups for farm tours to prove they are transparent. This is the hard part – how do we convince people who love peace and quiet, who are independent business owners, and who just want to be proud of their family farm legacy to work together with consumers, listen, and take harsh criticisms without being defensive?

Santa, we need your help. Farmers will have to go against years of tradition and become better communicators who are transparent about their businesses. Consumers will have to understand more about farm life and who farmers really are.

What a daunting task.

Kelsey Vance
Illinois State University Student

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: NEW LOCKS AND DAMS

Dear Santa,

Over the past year Illinois farmers feel that they have been very well behaved. We have worked diligently to once again feed the world while making several changes to help our environment, protect the safety of our consumers, and produce high quality products. In fact, America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods! As far as yields are concerned, nationwide there has been a twenty percent increase since the year 2000. We hope that you will please take our Christmas list into consideration and do whatever you can to help us make the best better in the agricultural industry. Have a Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,

Illinois Corn


  1. Free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
  2. Corn based ethanol to be allowed to qualify as an advanced biofuel
  3. Upgraded locks and dams.
Due to Illinois’ geographical location, upgrading locks and dams is vital to our economy. The Mississippi and Illinois Rivers allow Illinois corn farmers to transport their grains all over the world. By utilizing the locks and dams system we are protecting the environment, being energy efficient, preventing congestion on our roadways, providing American jobs, and staying competitive in the world trade market.

Many industries (Illinois Corn is one!) that realize how vital lock and dam upgrades really are have come together in order to help the progress of the upgrades. In fact, the users of the river system have even agreed to increase the fuel tax in order to assist in the funding of the project. Farmers need efficient means to get their product to market so desperately that even with the additional costs, they are money ahead!

And when record federal deficits are the headline in every paper, farmers and barge companies realize what they have to do to get this done.  There are very few groups that are currently willing to fund part of their own project.

There are only a few things that I can add that you probably haven’t already read in the fourteen year time span that Illinois corn has worked for upgraded locks and dams on the Mississippi and Illinois.  And actually, maybe you already knew some of these things too.
  • One barge has the same capacity of seventy semi trucks and sixteen railcars.
  • A barge can travel five hundred and seventy six miles on one gallon of fuel.
  • The present locks and dams were built in the 1930s and 1940s when the paddleboats that Mark Twain writes of traveled the Mississippi. 
  • Panama is nearing completion of their canal expansion, allowing even larger vessels through to the US.  We don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate those larger vessels or their cargo.
  • The Pacific Northwest transportation system is at capacity.  If we plan to increase exports, we will have to utilize the Mississippi River system.
Kelsey Vance
Illinois State University student


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: CORN BASED ETHANOL AS AN ADVANCED BIOFUEL

Dear Santa,

Over the past year Illinois farmers feel that they have been very well behaved. We have worked diligently to once again feed the world while making several changes to help our environment, protect the safety of our consumers, and produce high quality products. In fact, America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods! As far as yields are concerned, nationwide there has been a twenty percent increase since the year 2000. We hope that you will please take our Christmas list into consideration and do whatever you can to help us make the best better in the agricultural industry. Have a Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,
Illinois Corn
  1. Free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
  2. Corn based ethanol to be allowed to qualify as an advanced biofuel.
letter to santa, vintage santa
As we all witnessed the oil spills in the Gulf this year I think our eyes were opened as to how important it is to find a fuel alternative to petroleum. Ethanol is the answer. The use of ethanol would be better for our environment, reduce our dependence on foreign countries, and support our American farmers.

At this point in time the ethanol industry is currently hitting a “blend wall”. Basically we are running out of gasoline to blend our ethanol into. In fact, we are presently exporting a fair share of the ethanol our United States farmers are producing. It is an absolute shame that we are unable to use a larger portion of our own product and not have to rely on foreign countries for our oil.

Here’s where it gets complicated, so bear with me.

According to the law passed in 2007, corn based ethanol (referred to as a biorenewable fuel in the law) was limited to only fifteen billion gallons by 2015. Due to the determination of the American farmer, we are already close to this goal in 2010. But the law states that the rest of the biofuels we use in America must be “advanced biofuels.” Advanced biofuels are biofuels that have a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline. Most believed that the advanced biofuels they described would be cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other crops, but this industry is not anywhere near this mark due to high costs and lack of development.

Corn based ethanol has hit the mark. Depending on how you measure greenhouse gas emissions (which is another problem – there is little sound science in this area, but that’s another discussion) corn-based ethanol is 50% better than gasoline, but is expressly denied from the “advanced biofuel” category in the law.

So that’s what Illinois corn farmers want for Christmas this year … a legislative change that allows corn-based ethanol to compete for the “advanced biofuel” slot. We aren’t asking that any of the requirements be reduced, just that we be allowed to compete. This is an important distinction.

It is a shame that the U.S. would legislate corn based ethanol out of our own marketplace when it helps the environment, national defense, and it’s even cheaper than gasoline. What a great Christmas gift!

Kelsey Vance
Illinois State University student


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Monday, December 20, 2010

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS

Dear Santa,

Over the past year Illinois farmers feel that they have been very well behaved. We have worked diligently to once again feed the world while making several changes to help our environment, protect the safety of our consumers, and produce high quality products. In fact, America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods! As far as yields are concerned, nationwide there has been a twenty percent increase since the year 2000. We hope that you will please take our Christmas list into consideration and do whatever you can to help us make the best better in the agricultural industry. Have a Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,

Illinois Corn
  1. Free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama
The state of Illinois is currently working extremely hard to pass free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Given Illinois’ unique position on the Mississippi River, we would reap endless benefits including job opportunities, increased agriculture exports, a boost to the economy and stronger relationships with foreign countries. The passage of any of these agreements would be extremely advantageous, not only to the Illinois agricultural industry, but to the United States economy as a whole.

Korea is currently one of the United States’ larger corn markets and a strong prospective candidate for corn co-products such as distiller’s dried grains. In 2009, the country of Korea imported over five million tons of corn from the United States. In 2008, Korea imported 184,065 tons of distiller’s dried grains. While this number may not seem very big, it is very likely that Korea will increase their imported distiller’s dried grains in the future. President Obama recognized the importance of this market and has traveled to Korea and negotiated a free trade agreement with them, which now waits in Congress for ratification. Beef and automobiles still pose some problems.

For many years Colombia has been a strong corn export market for the United States. However, over the past couple of years we have started losing Colombia exports to our toughest competitors, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and most of the Mercosur countries. This is due to the Andean-Mercusor Trade Agreement. During the 2008-2009 year the United States exported approximately 48 million bushels of corn down from the 114 million bushels that were exported throughout the 2007-2008 year. Experts are predicting the 2009-2010 year will not be any better. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement would grant the United States Colombia’s need for 2.1 million metric tons of corn, which potential for an additional 133.8 million bushels over time. Increasing the amount of corn exported from the United States will strongly impact the Illinois economy.

The United States has already lost several trade opportunities with Panama due to delayed actions among the United States government. The market is declining significantly through imports of $463 million in 2009 to $383 million in 2010. Currently, the United States is exporting corn, soybean meal, wheat, rice, and horticultural products to Panama while importing high quality beef, frozen turkeys, sorghum, soybeans, soybean meal, crude soybean and corn oil, almost all fruit products, wheat, peanuts, whey, cotton, distilled spirits, and many other processed products. It is predicted that if the free trade agreement is passed the United States to Panama exports could increase $165 million per year until full implementation. In the pork industry specifically, it is estimated that hog prices would raise twenty cents. It is vital in today’s recovering economy that the United States Congress passes the Free Trade Agreement with Panama before it is too late.

United States farmers are extremely reliable and hardworking people. They spend their lives providing for families similar to their own all over the world. In order to allow them to continue what they do best we must allow the passage of the Korea, Panama, and Colombia free trade agreements.

Kelsey Vance
Illinois State University Student


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Friday, December 17, 2010

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!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ILLINOIS EPA PERPARES 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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

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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Monday, December 13, 2010

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 Project Coordinator




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Friday, December 10, 2010

THANK A FARMER THIS HOLIDAY SEASON



Thanks NCGA for this important reminder ... if you're able to enjoy an enormous holiday meal with your family, thank a farmer!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

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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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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
Project Coordinator

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Monday, December 6, 2010

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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Friday, December 3, 2010

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

This photo was snapped way back in 1982 by Ed Nicholson (you can follow him on Twitter @ederdn) while on vacation in Colorado.  The cooler belonged to his brother, an ag teacher.  One comment that surfaced during our focus groups was that farming is a thankless job.  Guess things haven't changed in the last 30 years.  
 

Do you have a picture you'd like to share?  Send it to bfinfrock@ilcorn.org and you might just be the next Friday Farm Photo!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN: AMERICA NEEDS TO INVEST IN RIVER INFRASTRUCTURE

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.

Jim Tarmann
ICGA/ICMB Locks

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

FARM WOMEN LEAVE A STRONG LEGACY

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.

Donna Jeschke
Illinois family farmer, mom, wife &
ICMB Director

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

HOW MANY FARMERS DOES IT TAKE TO BE "BIG AG"?

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.

common ground agri-womenIt is also ironic that if three “foodies” get together to offer their advice on how we should grow food in this country it is advocacy…a movement if you will. However, if a group of family farmers of all sizes and persuasions get together it instantly becomes that nebulous and evil “Big Ag.”

Chris Wilson, president of American Agri-Women, describes the effort well saying, “CommonGround is a program that builds bridges between the passionate women of America’s farms and their counterparts in America’s cities to dispel the misconceptions about our food and the people who 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!

Monday, November 29, 2010

GOOD FARMERS AND BAD FARMERS ...

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!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THE THING THAT TOOK MY BREATH AWAY

Today is the day I’ve been waiting for.

Since Sunday, Illinois Corn Growers Association has held a board meeting, a policy meeting, a PAC Auction, an annual meeting, and coordinated the Illinois Commodity Conference. To say we’ve been busy is an understatement and honestly? I just can’t wait to take a really deep breath.

But if you’re a glass half full sort of person, you could also think of all the things we’ve accomplished. Of course, all the day-to-day operations of the board are completed like updates on key issues and action on items that couldn’t wait until January for a vote, but we’ve also discussed where our members stand on things like how the new Farm Bill should operate, that allowing corn-based ethanol to qualify as an advanced biofuel is a priority, and what we think about the Illinois budget. We’ve raised money to allow us to become more politically active next year, helping to support the candidates that support Illinois agriculture. We’ve learned that consumers believe farmers are the most trustworthy source of information about how their food is being produced and hopefully the farmers in Illinois are now motivated to stand up for their way of life.

And in the middle of all this information and action overload, enough to leave me reeling for the next four days, there was one thing that really took my breath away.

Illinois farmers. All of the farmers that spent the last three days with me left their wives and kids and farms at home in someone else’s care in order to donate three days of their lives to better their industry. All of them offered 72 hours of their own time and energy without asking or expecting monetary gain. All of them are family farmers that are concerned enough about the future of their farms and the possibility of their children having the freedom to farm that same land that they want to talk about current events, discuss legislation and policy, and work towards a common goal.

We all want to eat, right? All of these farmers were working towards a common goal with every other American. All of these farmers want legislation, regulation, communications, and actions that better our food supply and give Americans confidence that their food is safe and plentiful.



This Thanksgiving, I’m in awe of the fathers, husbands, grandfathers, sons, moms, grandmas, and daughters that spent the last three days with me. They are dedicated, tireless, and committed. They believe in the lifestyle handed down to them from their fathers and grandfathers and they work towards perfecting the handiwork that they learned on their mother’s knee. They are smart, engaging, fun, and overall enjoyable to be around.

Thanks to the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board for teaching me something these last three days about what it means to work hard for something bigger than yourself.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING WITH PORK!

Forget the gobble gobble - at my house it isn't Thanksgiving until the ham is sliced. That's right; our family tradition is to gather around a nice PORK dinner. Yes we have a turkey to maintain the American tradition, but the flavorful ham is the center piece. Growing up on a hog farm, I’m used to spending Thanksgiving being thankful for the fresh ham, bacon, and pork roast that were always available for our table.

pork power food pantry donationFortunately, this Thanksgiving there are quite a few more Illinoisans that can be thankful for fresh meat on their table. Through Pork Power, an effort of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) to provide ground pork to food pantries across Illinois, some of the Illinois residents that must get their Thanksgiving meal from a food pantry will receive a little PORK to go with it.

In a partnership between IPPA, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and the Illinois Soybean Association, Pork Power has donated more than 42,000 pounds of safe and nutrition ground pork to Feeding Illinois (a group committed to hunger relief and bettering the quality of life in Illinois communities) this year and more than 200,000 pounds of pork over the last three years to feed families in need.

“We are so grateful for this donation of nutritious protein,” said Tracy Smith, State Director for Feeding Illinois. “This donation comes at a critical time with reserves at food banks being very low due to the increase in demand. Food banks have seen on average a 30 percent increase in the number of people seeking food assistance in the past year,” said Smith. “Because of partners like the IL Pork Producers Association, IL Soybean Association, and IL Corn Marketing Board we will be able to put food on the table for thousands of Illinois families.”

So I guess I have yet another thing to be thankful for this year – that Illinois farmers are just as concerned about feeding those in need as they are about feeding themselves. And that in America, even those in need can look forward to a fabulous PORK dish on their Thanksgiving table!

(Check out the awesome pork recipes for your Thanksgiving here!)

Traci Pitstick
Illinois State University student

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Monday, November 22, 2010

THANKS AND GIVING: HISTORY

So fun to be guest blogging today at the Corn Corps! I'm in the midst of a month-long series at Prairie Farmer called Thanks and Giving, and when the good folks at Illinois Corn invited me over, I couldn't resist. Today…giving thanks for our agricultural history.

During the fall of 1998, Mike Wilson sent me out on a photo shoot at an old grain elevator in Atlanta, Illinois. It turned out to be the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator, and it was on the National Register of Historic Places and it had just gotten a fresh coat of barn red paint. It was a photographer's dream. The photos wound up being my first-ever cover, and Mike even took me to Pontiac to watch it roll off the printing press. And this one here won the top prize in the AAEA photo contest that year. As a fresh-out-of-the-gate ag journalist, I was giddy.

I love this photo in a very large way – large enough to print it on canvas and hang it where everyone who walks in my house will see it. In part because of the red paint and the majestic lines, but also because of the history it holds. I'm a sucker for a little heritage and a good farm history lesson, and the folks at the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum are some of the best teachers you'll ever meet. First, you must check out their website. Don't skip the intro. I always skip the intros, but not this time. Very cool.

Anyway, you can get the full lesson from the website, but in short, the elevator was state of the art when it was built in 1904. It was abandoned in 1976, and ready to be torched for firefighter practice in 1988. Local citizens stepped in, and saved the building.

What I love, though, is how the thing was built in the first place. In the early 1900s, prairie farmers were producing more and more corn each year, as distant grain markets expanded. Greater trade led to the development of a bulk system for inspection, grading and storage in giant bins, instead of individual sacks. All this made storage facilities along rail lines quite necessary. Mr. Hawes simply took a look at the map and noted that Atlanta was the intersection of two major rail lines – Chicago to St. Louis and Peoria to Decatur. And that's where he put his elevator.

We have a lot to be thankful for in Illinois agriculture, from perspective to opportunity to time. And on the lighter side, we've got farm boys and barn kittens and a cold drink. But it's our history that will sustain us, and that's worth being thankful for.

Holly Spangler
Prairie Farmer

Friday, November 19, 2010

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

As I'm sure you've heard by now, the Illinois Commodity Conference is next Tuesday.  If you haven't already registered, that's okay, you can do it at the door! 

Here are a few snapshots from last year's conference: 

Speaker John Carter

Friend of Ag Award Winner Mike Hutjens
 Looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ILLINOIS AG EDUCATION?

The first blog post celebrating American Education Week talked about Agriculture Education. Illinois has a rich history with our Agriculture Ed Programs, FFA and SAE courses. In addition to other state Ag Education Programs that look to the ‘well oiled machine’ that Illinois has with our Agriculture Ed Program, other Career and Technical Education programs across the nation look to the model that Illinois has built. Career and Technical Education (CTE) may be a new term to you—but these programs exist in nearly every district in the state at the secondary level. You might know them best as former ‘Vocational Education’ programs of Business, Marketing and Computer Education, Family and Consumer Science, Health Science Technology and Technical and Engineering Education. Agriculture classes, Agriculture Education Teacher Training, and expectations in the work force have come a long way and the classes you might have know as Business, Home Economics, and Shop have also come a long way.

One advantage we have in Agriculture is the Agriculture Literacy effort across the state. Illinois houses our Agriculture Literacy within the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program. This program combines the efforts of Illinois Farm Bureau, UI Extension, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and commodity groups at the state and local level to deliver high quality agriculture messages to teachers and students outside the traditional High School Agriculture program.

education agriculture classroomIllinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) can trace its roots to the early 1920’s as the IAA Record has photos and stories of local farmers bringing examples of crops and animals into schools across the state. In 1981, as John Block headed to Washington, he brought the concept of teaching students and teachers about their food, fiber and fuel system to the USDA. IAITC has undergone many changes in the past three decades, most importantly the emphasis of sharing the story of farmers and their work remains in tact.

IAITC is recognized as one of the strongest program in the nations, due in large part to the outstanding support of farmers across the state. Our decentralized distribution system of materials, classroom presentations and teacher training is one of a kind in the US. Each county in Illinois has a county contact, either a paid Agriculture Literacy coordinator or key volunteers that implement the program at the local level. During the 2009-2010 school year 2,899 volunteers assisted in local efforts. Our program is valued in urban, suburban and rural areas. Lack of understanding of the food, fiber and fuel chain exists across the state!

In the last school year, 30,454 teachers utilized IAITC materials in 2,392 attendance centers across the state. 486,610 students were reached with an AITC in classroom presentations. An additional 1,627 Pre-Service Teachers (University students ready to student teach) were presented with materials and training about how to incorporate agriculture into their existing classroom curriculum.

As local school districts become more focused on the ISAT/PSAE high stakes test, at IAITC we’ve worked to find ways to further incorporate agriculture into math, science, social studies and language arts. Teachers are very open to using IAITC materials, especially after they see the size and scope of agriculture. Many only associate agriculture with actual production. When we are able to show processing, research, sales, marketing among other career options teachers begin to see how agriculture has a direct impact on them as well as their students.

The cornerstone of Illinois AITC is our teacher training. Providing teachers with high quality, standards based, scientifically sound agriculture information that can be easily integrated by teacher into existing classroom curriculum is our goal at the state and local level. Although the program has had a mainstay in the elementary classrooms, our program is working to expand to the middle school and high school levels.

How can you get involved? There are multiple volunteer opportunities at the local level. Log on to our website http://www.agintheclassroom.org/ and click on contact your county to see where you could assist. At the state level, consider our ‘Adopt a Classroom’ program. For over 25 years, we’ve paired ‘farm writers’ with classrooms in Chicago in a pen pal program. In this program you can write to a classroom and share what you do on your farm, and share what goes on in Illinois Agriculture.

How are things changing? As teachers gain access to more technology, our AITC program has branched out to include SMART Board related materials, and we’ll be featuring new interactive Ag Mags with video and hot links on our website during the coming school year.

At Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom we are working to spread an accurate message about what it means to be an ‘Illinois Farmer’. Training teachers and working with students can help promote a positive dialogue about agriculture in classrooms and at home.

If you have additional questions, please contact me at kdaugherty@ilfb.org or check out our website!


Kevin Daugherty
Illinois Ag in the Classroom Education Director


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