HFCS IS A “NO BRAINER”

I see online that yesterday was “No Brainer Day.” What this is supposed to mean exactly, I’m not sure, but I felt like taking a moment to set our readership straight on what I think is one of the bigger “no brainers” in agriculture today.

High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s nutritionally no different than regular sugar. The end.

Instead of taking my word for it (because I’m not a nutritionist), and instead of listening to Michael Pollan (a journalist) or a TV commercial or some other less qualified source of information, listen to the professionals.

Don’t be confused by good marketing. Research shows that high fructose corn syrup is the same as sugar.

It’s a no brainer.


Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ETHANOL’S BIG DEBUT

It’s been nearly a week since ethanol made its debut at the Daytona 500 but we’re still as excited as ever!

American Ethanol is an official partner of NASCAR and this year every car and truck in the three series will be running on a fifteen percent blend of fuel made with homegrown, corn based ethanol. The fuel is Sunoco Green E15.

It’s as American as NASCAR. The fans are supportive, the drivers are supportive, and so are the mechanics.

In fact, 120,000 American Ethanol Green Flags were distributed so that everyone could help start the Daytona 500 waiving their own green flag. This year, every NASCAR race start and restart will be made with the American Ethanol Green Flag.

Each race team has their own specific fuel cans. In fact, NASCAR changed the entire fueling system this year. That change was nothing to do with the switch to E15. Each can is clearly marked with the car and driver, as well as Sunoco Green E15.

And in those pit stops that last only a few seconds, those fuel cans empty into the car. Each can weighs about 92 pounds when full and holds about 12 gallons.

Every car advertises the American Ethanol logo with a green circle around the fuel port, recognizing the positive environmental impact that E15 brings to the sport. 

And along with that positive environmental impact comes increased horsepower! The cars were running at unprecedented speeds. In this photo, you’ll see Kenny Wallace’s No. 09 car drafting with the Brandt Consolidated car. It’s great to see NASCAR and farming teaming up.

We hope you’ll continue to watch and listen to NASCAR broadcasts this year. You’ll definitely hear more about farmers and ethanol. And so will NASCAR’s 75 million dedicated fans. Now that’s an audience you can be proud of!

Tricia Braid
Communications Director

FARMERS AND TECHNOLOGY

Back in the old days, a family farm would often consist of two people farming. These two independent individuals strived on increasing awareness of their farm, but did not have the right tools to do so. Social media has changed farmer’s lives from helping them make decisions about their questions to informing society about farming stories. When it comes to social media it gives farmers the opportunity to interact with and educate the public, not to mention promote their farms and their products. I came to grasp the idea, after my research, that social media is here to stay. It is becoming the primary means for connecting with the public. One of the reasons is the next generation of farmers are beginning to take the wheel from the previous generation. The average age of farm owners is steadily decreasing and with that technology is more prone to be part of the business.

A large amount of research has been done on the economic changes caused by technological innovation. The goal is to remind our readers that such change brings wealth and that technology is driving great productivity increases in our economy. From years ago to today, the amount of physical labor that farmers have had to do has changed dramatically. Years ago farmers had to go and cut the crops and bring them all in by hand, to now when you can simply drive a combine up and down the fields. Technology has benefited farmers from what they use on the fields to spreading the word about their stories.

An individual that knows his agriculture facts definitely spreads the word for our farmers. Nate Taylor, a member of the Ag Chat Foundation Board answered questions and educated me on how technology has changed farmer’s lives. Taylor spends a great deal of his time on many farms throughout the Midwest and western US. He spends time in the field collecting data like soil moisture, weather, crop stage, and crop vigor to use for agronomic models. Furthermore, Taylor is an AG genius!

I asked Nate how he thinks farming has changed and helped farmer’s lives and one key piece of technology he believes made a huge impact is GPS. “Farmers can now use guidance to plant, apply inputs, and harvest using the same “lines” each and every season,” Taylor added. Another key piece is the ISOBUS; this electronic piece allows farmers to interact on the tractor.

A piece of technology that will be released within a few years is the Variable Rate Technology. “The days of blanket applying inputs are numbered and are very costly to farmers. Using VRT helps farmers apply the right input, and the right time, in the right amount, and the right place thereby ensuring optimal yield and lowering input costs,” Taylor replied.

If you have not checked out his amazing blog that is updated daily about the changes and facts about agriculture, then I recommend everyone to read the articles that are posted! A post that everyone should read is the 5 reasons he thinks Wi-Fi everywhere is good for agriculture. Taylor says that for one, farmers have access information anywhere; farmers at any time can get onto the internet and see what the best decision is for them. Also, they are able to raise the awareness of the latest news in farming through internet, because social media is what the world relies on. It allows farmers to share knowledge, share their stories to consumers who are misinformed with information, small business growth and data acquisition. This article is one of my favorite posts that really inform the public about how technology has helped farmers’ reputation in the past decades.

As time follows, social media is going to continue to grow. Farmers, who are not, should utilize the technology advancement in order to decrease the misconceptions, this way helping their reputation. Taylor spends a large amount of time using social media to reach out to consumers and correct misinformation. He also encourages farmers in his community to participate in social media activities and share their stories. But, that isn’t all Taylor does to inform consumer about farmers, he also works hand in hand with The Agchat Foundation to provide his knowledge to those farmers trying to do their part in sharing the love of agriculture. “After all, agriculture is a vast community. Global reach, local strong!”

Consumers and activists are going to continue to converse but, that does not mean we can start spreading the right facts quicker. We must help farmers share their story. Taylor added, “It is imperative to help our farmer’s reputation! We now have the tools available to use through social media to fight back with personal stories, knowledge sharing, and bridge building.” To the farmers and all their friends who help put affordable food on our tables, we say thank you and look forward to all the agricultural innovations of the future.

Megan Moore
Illinois State University student

LESSONS LEARNED IN A BLUE JACKET

Originally published on KellyMRivard.com by Kelly Rivard

It’s National FFA Week, which means that I HAVE to write a post about one of my favorite youth organizations!

I only spent one year in FFA. In many ways, I consider that year one of the best I’ve lived so far. I know that isn’t saying much, as I’m only 20. However, the lessons I took away from that FFA chapter are ones that you don’t readily forget.

Our chapter was brand new. I served as the President in its founding year. It was a wonderful, stressful, exhausting, amazing experience. It was a million different things, but it will never be something I regret.

So what lessons did I take away from my short stint in a blue jacket?

Responsibility. I had my job cut out for me, forging the way for a brand new chapter. Our advisor ran under the principle that the students should do most of the work, and learn from it. That meant I spent a lot of time dealing with adults to make things happen. Whether it was planning for trips, organizing banquets, or fundraising, we had to be on the ball. We had to be mature, because it was the only way things would get done.

Teamwork. Our chapter was a combination of three schools, all ran by one teacher. My local 4-H friends were easy to work with, but integrating a new group of kids I’d never met before, across different backgrounds, ages, and maturity levels, meant that we all had to put a little extra work into cooperating. Here’s a picture of our officer team and advisor at our first ever River Valley FFA Awards banquet.

Organization. Record books for projects, homework for class, paperwork for trips, minutes for meetings…we had to be organized.

Confidence. Nothing will boost a kid’s self-confidence like achieving something on their own. Whether it’s by successfully orchestrating an awards banquet or placing at agronomy contests, success helps shape young minds into strong leaders for tomorrow.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ll take with me from my time in a blue jacket. There are many, many more lessons that I could never possibly put into words. I could never possibly phrase them into something that means as much as they deserve. My FFA advisor is one of my heroes, and continues to be a role model for me, even well into my college career. My FFA memories will always be fond ones.

Now, rather than a blue jacket, I proudly wear a blue polo, that says “River Valley FFA Alumni.”

Kelly Rivard
College Student and Former IL Corn Intern

And we have to ask…

RESPONSIBLE ANIMAL CARE – WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month!  While a lot of folks probably don’t think that livestock farmers think of their cows, chickens, and pigs as pets … well, a lot of them do.  Here’s how we participate in Responsible Pet Owner’s Month – agriculture style. 

Thanks to Rosie for helping us understand reponsible livestock care from a farmer’s perspective!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We have all seen and read numerous articles from humane societies and other organizations about American farmers and our “mistreatment” of animals. Whenever I see one of these articles, I often wonder what the answer would be if I asked the authors of those articles exactly how many farms they have visited lately to see first hand how farmers handle their animals. If I had to guess, it is a very small number, if any.

When people read articles like these, they forget to take one very important thing into consideration: credibility of the author. Even if the authors hold a position of authority for a company or site other sources for their information, I find that the topic of livestock production and treatment of the animals can only be truly understood from a first hand experience. Sure, you could research the topic and find information about it, but how do you really know what is happening on our farms unless you have experienced it first-hand?

As someone with 20 years of experience on a livestock production farm, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK our farmers for their hard work and responsible animal care- this should be a nice change of pace!

Like any typical farm kid, I spent ten years participating in the County 4-H fairs showing cattle and pigs. In those ten years, I got to see not only how my family handles our animals, but how numerous other families handle their livestock as well. I can honestly say that farm families have a great respect for the animals that they raise, in fact, the only minor mistreatment of animals I can remember were caused by pedestrians at the fairs who were unfamiliar with how to properly handle animals. 

Many practices that farmers commonly use are misconstrued by the general public and seen as mistreatment when, in fact, it is helpful to the animal. One example of this is our use of a “show stick” when showing cattle. From a spectator’s point of view, it looks like the people showing the animals are just poking the cattle with a sharp stick. The show sticks are used to communicate to the animal how we would like their feet placed on the ground. As is the case with most large animals, cattle have much deeper nerve endings than humans, so what we would see as a painful poke, they feel as a nudge and they move their feet accordingly. Another main use of these show sticks is to rub the under bellies of the cattle in the show ring to keep them calm and comfort them because they are in a new setting. This is just one of many examples of misinterpreted actions that farmers use when handling animals.

Growing up in a farm community, I also got to see how other farm operations handled their livestock at home on the farm. Once again, I have always seen animals treated with respect and often cared for like members of the family. On our farm, each of our cows is still named and that is how we keep track of them in our record books!

Responsible animal care is an important issue, and thus should not be overlooked. For any skeptics about my claims of good animal care on farms, look into the regulations that producers have to follow that were put into place by government organizations. Just like anyone else, farmers have rules to follow that ensure the well-being of every animal, and from my first hand experience of 20 years on a farm, farmers are glad to follow those rules and would not raise their animals without the care and respect that they deserve.

Once again, thank you farmers for your hard work and responsible animal care! Even though the countless articles that paint a bad picture of our farms continue to come, farmers continue to believe in what they do and the manner in which they do it, and I am proud to call myself one of them.

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student 
Animal Industry Management

CELEBRATE ETHANOL DURING SUNDAY’S NASCAR RACE AT DAYTONA

Ethanol, racing, daytonaBe a part of history as American Ethanol and your corn checkoff help start the engines when NASCAR kicks off the 2011 season in Daytona.  You are officially invited to celebrate your part in making Sunoco Green E15 the official fuel of NASCAR.

Please join the broadcast on FOX as millions watch the green ethanol flag start the race and a new era for ethanol made from corn.  The NASCAR move to American Ethanol will showcase the performance you have known about for years.  Now everyone will know thanks to your corn checkoff investment.

ILLINOIS STATE BUDGET ADDRESS

On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn delivered his 2012 proposed state budget to the Illinois General Assembly as required by the state constitution.  The fundamentals of the budget are:

  • A total budget of $52.7 Billion, approximately 4.1% higher than the current fiscal year 2011 expenditure.
  • His contention that $ 1 Billion is being cut, although generally not specific, other than elimination of certain Medicaid payments, elimination of k-12 Transportation funds, further reduction of Soil and Water District funds, and a suggestion of “saving” of approximately $100 million by consolidating school districts by forcing consolidation (although he starts the discussion only by forming a commission to look at doing this). His cuts also included elimination of all Regional School Superintendents funding throughout the state.
  • A proposal to borrow, through bonding, about $ 8.7 Billion to pay offer existing state debt to vendors.  The existing debt to vendors totals $ 7 Billion.
  • The Governor issued a specific challenge to lawmakers to come up with alternatives if they did not like the borrowing, especially since it will mean telling vendors in their legislative districts their payments will continue to be delayed.
  • Within the budget, selected programs  receive additional funding.  Included are proposals to increase the number of Prison guards and state police, although training funds for new hires is eliminated (curiously).
  • The Illinois Department of Agriculture funding is flat, or without growth, from the 2011 budget.

Many analyses following his budget message, especially from Republican lawmakers in both chambers, produced reluctance to support more borrowing without addressing the need to scale back the cost of government.  Even Democratic leadership in each chamber hardly embraced the proposal, suggesting they are still apart in terms of the priorities involved, and especially with the freshness of the vote to raise income taxes still on every one’s collective mind.

Republican lawmakers especially seem united to block the borrowing, and especially now that they have won back enough seats to keep the vote lower than the three-fifths majority needed to pass any bonding proposal. 

Just like the ice cream you can get, it appears the Governor’s proposal has a “rocky road” to travel before it can be swallowed in the legislature.

The legislature, with a tough budget to work out, and the responsibility to redistrict legislative districts this year to re-balance their population, have a long road to travel before the proposed adjournment date of May 31.

Rich Clemmons
GovPlus Consulting

ATRAZINE IMPORTANT TO JOBS, RURAL AMERICA, AND CROP PRODUCTION

Although we’ve discussed Atrazine a few times throughout the short life of this blog, I’m not sure we’ve ever just come out and said how important the herbicide is for the American farmer.

So now, if you’re interested, you can find out exactly what atrazine’s impact is on jobs, rural America, and crop production.

The Agricultural Retailers Association is hosting a news conference to discuss the latest research on exactly this issue.  With panel members from the University of Wisconsin, Iowa State University, and the University of Chicago, the information shared is sure to leave an impression.

WHEN: Thursday, Feb 17, 2011 *RESCHEDULED – DATE AND TIME TBA*

WEB CAST: http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=75913

AGRICULTURE AND VALENTINE’S DAY

Growing up around agriculture my entire life, getting recently engaged to a “farm boy,” and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I find it appropriate to talk about what I LOVE most about agriculture and how it actually relates to my Valentine’s Day plans.  My plans for this Valentine’s Day are probably similar to many others, and as I was thinking about my plans I quickly realized how everything is related back to agriculture, and that’s what I love most about it.  food, heart, bread, valentine

For Valentine’s Day, I will be buying my fiancé a box of his favorite chocolates, he will probably “surprise” me with flowers, and then we will go out for a nice romantic dinner where we will both enjoy our favorite restaurants dinner rolls, followed by a salad, and then onto the steak and potatoes, and then if we have room, we might splurge and get some dessert too. 

Did you realize it too?  From the chocolates to the dinner rolls to the steak and potatoes, all of my plans for the day can be traced back to agriculture. 

Valentine’s Day is a special day to some, but not just the things you do on Valentine’s Day can be related back to agriculture.  Everything you do everyday can be traced back to agriculture, and it’s really pretty interesting to think about. 

Everything you use in your life can be traced back to agriculture, and that fact is so often times over looked, but that’s what I love most about agriculture.  So, thank a farmer for not only being able to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day with that special someone, but for being able to go out and live everyday! 

Kristen Wyman

Illinois State University student