MORE INTERESTING INFO ON ANTI-LIVESTOCK GROUPS

There’s quite a bit of news out today attacking the anti-livestock/anti-meat groups.  Check out this article from an Australian paper, the Herald Sun.

To quote the author, “I would have thought treating women like pieces of meat makes any message they have against animal cruelty both hollow and meaningless.”

We agree.

Then, check out the latest video on the Humane Society of the United States.

If you need still more information to convince you that HSUS and PeTA are radical elitists, follow www.humanewatch.org.

This message brought to you by a steak-loving farmer’s daughter who spent a majority of her life raising cattle …

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

LAWNS ARE ADDING TO CHESAPEAKE BAY POLLUTION, STUDY SAYS

from the Washington Post, March 28, 2011:

Lawns are adding to Chesapeake Bay pollution, study says.

Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed.  There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops, says the study by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center.

It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it?  Illinois farmers have been closely watching the activity in the Chesapeake Bay, knowing that whatever regulations the EPA plans to minimize hypoxia zones in the bay are headed straight for the Mississippi River next.

And while Illinois farmers are willing to look at their impact to the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico and are willing to adapt Best Management Practices that mitigate the damage to fish and wildlife, they are not willing to accept 100 percent of the blame.

Interesting then, that a new study finally points a finger at other sources.  According to the Washington Post article, the study criticized Maryland’s regulation of the state’s turf crop as lax.  Tracking fertilizer use on developed land is such a low priority that the state doesn’t keep statistics on it, but Maryland Department of Agriculture records show non-farm-use fertilizers are quickly catching up to farm fertilizer sales.

The article further states that researchers found 56 percent of nutrients in one stream in a watershed in suburban Baltimore came from lawn fertilizer.

Ultimately, Illinois farmers hope to see everyone involved in an environmental solution on the Mississippi River.  Just regulating municipalities, farmers, and corporations won’t solve any problems.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

CELEBRATE NATIONAL TEACH AG DAY

On March 24, agricultural education students and teachers across the country will be celebrating the second annual National Teach Ag Day.  National Teach Ag Day was started by the National Council for Agricultural Education as part of the National Teach Ag Campaign.  The campaign began to celebrate agricultural education and to promote the possibilities of a career in the profession.  There is a national shortage of agricultural educators in the United States, and the National Teach Ag Campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of the career.

Anyone who has been in agriculture classes in high school or participated in FFA understands the important role an ag teacher can play in the life of a high school student.  However, many people do not have those opportunities and therefore, do not know that ag teachers don’t just talk about cows and corn. 

Agriculture teachers prepare students for high-demand careers in cutting edge industries like biotechnology, renewable energies, food production, and more.  Ag teachers also teach students how to be leaders and prepare them to take on the challenges of the next generation.  Many people do not realize that students enrolled in agriculture classes at the high school level are learning things they cannot get elsewhere.  Not only are they learning basic shop, horticulture, and ag science concepts, but they are getting math, science, and language arts skills in a hands-on way that helps them apply their lessons to real life.

So to celebrate National Teach Ag Day, help share the importance of agriculture programs in schools and consider the possibilities of a career in agricultural education.  Get involved in your local ag programs.  Join the FFA alumni, go to your FFA pork chop dinners, talk to the ag teacher, do anything to show the students and teachers that the community supports the program.  Happy National Teach Ag Day and remember to tell the ag teachers in your life thank you for all their hard work!

Sarah Carson
Agricultural Education
University of Illinois
Class of 2012

BRAWN OF 16 MEN ENSURES $17 BILLION U.S. WATERWAYS SHIPMENTS

Four times this year, as many as 16 men working at Lock 52 on the Ohio River near Brookport, Illinois, have climbed onto a floating platform to hook 487 wooden barriers on the river floor to a steam-powered crane.

It takes as long as 30 hours to pull up the wickets, one by one, to form a dam that adjusts water levels to keep the river navigable, a process that’s automated elsewhere. Deterioration of the 82-year-old lock, the busiest by shipping tonnage in the U.S. inland-waterways system, risks a breakdown that could snarl $17 billion a year in shipments of coal, grain, and steel. A project to replace Lock 52 and its downstream twin is 18 years
behind schedule.

American Electric Power Co., the largest U.S. electricity generator, is so reliant on coal barges navigating Lock 52 that its failure may lead to power outages for some of its 5.3 million customers, said Mark Knoy, president of AEP River Operations.

“I want to be careful not to cause too much concern but that’s the reality of the situation,” he said. “Lock 52 is critically important, but any lock failure on inland  waterways would have a direct impact on the economy, not just at our power plants but for oil refiners, steel companies and others.”

Although President Barack Obama proposes spending about 88 percent of his inland waterways budget next year on a project to replace Lock 52 and Lock 53 downstream, work won’t be completed until 2018.

Billions Needed

About 12,000 miles of rivers weave through the U.S. heartland, carrying almost $70 billion in goods annually, according to Waterways Council Inc., an industry group. Lock 52 handles $17 billion in annual shipments, according to the council.

About 20,500 barges operate on the Mississippi River and connecting waterways including the Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, according to a 2010 report by Informa Economics Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee-based research
firm.

About $7 billion will be needed over 20 years to keep inland waterways navigable, said Rick Calhoun, president of Cargill Marine and Terminal Inc. Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc., which depends on inland waterways to transport grain, is the largest closely held company in the U.S.

Delays caused by lock breakdowns “add to the cost of shipping whether it’s the end product to the consumer or by making products less competitive on the world market,” Calhoun said in a telephone interview.

Advocating Tax Increase

U.S. inland waterways projects are financed by a 20-cents-a gallon fuel tax on barge and tow operators. The tax provides about $85 million a year and is matched by federal funds.

Companies and industry groups are asking Congress for a 35 percent increase in the tax, Calhoun said.  “The only people who pay the fuel tax are the towboat industry, and we’re asking for an increase,” he said.

Congress will consider the industry’s request if the money is dedicated to inland waterways, said Representative Bob Gibbs, an Ohio Republican, who chairs the House Water Resources and Environment subcommittee.

“This is more like a user fee rather than a tax,” Gibbs said in a telephone interview. “If this is something the industry wants, we’ll be willing to look at it.”

Congress allocated $775 million in 1988 to replace Locks 52 and 53, and construction was expected to be completed in 2000, said Cornel Martin, the chief executive officer of the Waterways Council, based in Arlington, Virginia. The estimated cost of replacing Locks 52 and 53 has climbed to $2.1 billion because of the delays, he said.

Funds Diverted

Money has been diverted over the years to emergency repairs on other locks or other projects requested by members of Congress, said Calhoun, who is chairman of the council’s board.

“It’s devastating to see what’s happening to the inland waterways because of lack of funding,” Mike Morris, chief executive officer of Columbus, Ohio-based AEP, said in an
interview.

In 2004, $20.6 million of Lock 52’s funding was redirected to repair the McAlpine Lock in Louisville, Kentucky, after a gate failed, resulting in a 10-day shutdown, according to a
report by the Corps of Engineers. Money to repair the McAlpine Lock was authorized in 1991 but shifted to other projects, the report said.

“We’re seeing that going on across the system,” Martin said. If Locks 52 and 53 were fixed, “it would save shippers hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

1,050 Trucks

Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget dedicated $170 million to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Of that about $150 million of the amount would go to the Olmsted Dam and Lock project, which will replace Locks 52 and 53.

“We’re on track with funding this year to make the progress we need, but it’s hard to predict if the funding stream will continue or not,” said Carol Labashosky, a Corps of
Engineers spokeswoman.

AEP, which in 2012 will move 36 million tons of coal along the Ohio River to 25 power plants, is bracing for a complete breakdown of Lock 52 by 2015 because of its age and lack of maintenance, Knoy said. That may cause power outages as coal supplies dwindle, Knoy said.

If the lock fails, 1,050 tractor trailer trucks per day would be needed to replace the barge loads, he said.

Lock 52 was down for 32 days in September and October 2010, resulting in as much as 206 hours of traffic delays for AEP, Knoy said. That added $1.70 per ton in costs on 972,000 tons of coal, increasing AEP’s shipping costs by $4.6 million, he said.

 1929 Technology

Nucor Corp., the biggest U.S. steel producer by market value, ships about 4 million tons of raw material, including pig iron, and finished products, like tubing and piping, on the inland waterways, said John Guin, materials manager for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company.

“A lot of our mills are located by the river and that’s not by accident,” Guin said in an interview. “With the congestion on the highways and railroads and the weight of our
materials, the inland waterways are critical to our business.”

The wickets that make up the dam at Lock 52 lay across the floor of the Ohio River attached to hinges.

When the wickets must be hoisted, two of the 16 men lean over the floating platform’s edge to attach what Labashosky called “oversize crochet hooks” to holes at the top of the wicket. The men hook the wickets one by one to the crane, which pulls them into place to form the dam.

The work is done much the same way as it was in 1929, when the lock opened, said Randy Robertson, Lock 52 lock master, in an interview.

“It’s dangerous, backbreaking work, but it was the technology of the time and we’re still dealing with that technology,” Martin said.

By Carol Wolf

–Editors: Bernard Kohn, Joe Winski

To contact the reporter on this story: Carol Wolf in Washington at +1-202-624-1868 or
cwolf@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at +1-202-654-7361 or
bkohn2@bloomberg.net

CORN FARMERS (& SOME STAFF!) ON THE HILL

Illinois Corn spent National Agriculture Week at our nation’s capitol, talking with elected officials, agencies, and NGOs about the upcoming Farm Bill 2012 negotiations, ethanol policy, locks and dams, biotech, and trade.

We might have snuck in a fun picture of the capitol here and there too!

If you have a picture you’d like to submit to be the next Friday Farm Photo, send it to ilcorn@ilcorn.org!

GRAIN ENTRAPMENT TRAINING DAY THIS WEEKEND

If you have loved ones working in the agriculture industry, and you are like me, you probably worry everyday about their safety. While working in agriculture is one of the most productive, fulfilling and prosperous occupations, it comes with great dangers too.

Recognizing the growing need for agriculture safety nationally and the need to promote it locally, our Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader committee decided to take action with the hope of making a difference.

We needed look no further than in our own backyard for guidance.  Our members volunteer to help run Farm Safety Camp 4 Just Kids, a successful outreach event to children in all our communities.  Last year a grain entrapment demonstration was performed by a guest speaker.  Since that time, there has been an infusion of information regarding grain bin safety and the dangers associated with grain bins. With a bit of research, the committee learned that Illinois leads the nation in grain bin fatalities. With 58-grain bin related deaths in the U.S. in 2010, 10 were in Illinois.

To address these growing concerns and bring farm safety to the forefront in Knox County, the Young Leader committee decided to take charge. We decided to try and raise money to purchase grain entrapment rescue tubes, which we would then donate to local fire departments and first responders throughout Knox County and also host a training day.  The rescue tubes would allow first responders to isolate and entrapped victim from additional shifting grain and safely dig them out.  The tubes are lightweight and designed to fit through small man-holes in pieces before being pieced together inside a grain bin.  They are simple and require little maintenance, meaning we could make a dramatic difference with this donation and yet not overburden smaller fire departments with additional maintenance costs of specialized equipment.    

At first our goal to raise funds for the five rescue tubes seemed daunting. But five tubes would be the number necessary to make an impact—Knox County has 14 fire department districts and covers approximately 720 square miles.  An entrapment can happen in a matter of seconds—so the tubes needed to be evenly distributed across the county so that precious time would not be lost.  Moreover, we knew 14 rescue tubes was not prudent or realistic—so it was imperative to pay for a training session, which was valued at the price of another rescue tube.  We knew we needed to raise at least $16,800 to purchase the rescue tubes and provide the training. This seemed a very large number.

Our group of dedicated young leaders went to work contacting local organizations, agri-businesses and individuals to help support our cause. We knew our mission was critical and that promoting agriculture safety is important to so many throughout the county.  Young Leaders identified vendors, businesses, and groups that had similar constituency bases and mission statements and solicited their support.  The results were tremendous.

To date, our committee has raised over $20,000 through the support of our local agri-businesses, individuals and an initial gift from the Galesburg Community Foundation. As we now have more funds than needed for this activity, we are seeding Knox County’s first Farm Safety Fund, which will be used to provide means to promote further farm safety initiatives.

With the funds raised, we are providing five rescue units to local fire departments, including, Galesburg, Oneida-Wataga, Abingdon, Knoxville and Williamsfield- all located here in Knox County.

We are hosting a training day for 60 local Knox County fire fighters, some volunteer and some full-time, this Saturday, March 19, at the Hawthorne Gymnasium and Galesburg Fire Training Center in Galesburg. We begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. 

Andrew Bowman, a member of our committee and local farmer and insurance agent said, “Agriculture is the main industry in our area and no industry can survive unless it’s safe. In the blink of an eye, someone working in a grain bin can be engulfed. While responders can’t always be there right away, with the right equipment they can recover precious time.”

At the training, the 60 fire fighters will learn how to use the tubes to aid in rescue during a grain engulfment.  The tube stops the flow of grain toward the victim and blocks additional pressure that may block rescuers from getting to the entrapped victim.

Without the support of the Galesburg Community Foundation, generous individuals and the several local agri-businesses, purchasing the five rescue units and sponsoring the training would not be possible.

Bowman said, “The community support for this measure was amazing and as a result we had excess funds. Following the spirit of those donations, we are starting an Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County. We hope to use this fund to pursue like focused projects promoting safety in our local agriculture communities.”

Grant Strom, another member of our organization said, “As an owner of a grain storage facility, I find a lot of comfort in knowing that our county fire departments will now have the equipment and training needed to help save a life during a grain entrapment situation.”

If you would like more information about our effort or would like donate to the Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County contact Andrew Bowman (adbowman1780@gmail.com) or myself (k.elliott.bowman@gmail.com).

Contributing organizations include:
Bowman Insurance
CPS
Dyna-Gro Seed
Knox County Corn Growers
Winship Farm Management
Woodhull Co-op
Birkey’s Farm Equipment
Jeff Link, Via Monsanto Charitable Grant
Strom Farms
VandeVoorde Sales Inc. (GSI Dealer)
Knox County Farm Bureau Foundation
Galesburg Community Foundation
Pioneer Hi-Bred
Kelly Compton

Contacts:
Karlie Elliott Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader
217-379-7232
k.elliott.bowman@gmail.com

Andrew Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Farmer
309-368-3544
Bowman.Insurance.Agency@gmail.com

DEBUNKING THE MYTH OF FAMILY FARMS

Have you ever heard that “There’s no such thing as family farms? “ I say we think again! A lot of people think that most farms are run by enterprises, but in all reality, family farms make up more than 95% of all farms!

These family farms are so important to not only the regions they are serving, but to more global regions as well. Family run farms are more conscious of what they are doing in the long run. While corporations and bigger farming enterprises have the economic goals in mind, more small farms and families are aware of other issues at hand such as; preserving surrounding environments from harmful chemicals and preserving green space untouched by development.

Small family farms also aid in their local economies; providing employment, services and food to their friends and neighbors. Looking outside of the local perspective, it is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, family farms represent 78% of all farm sales. This is a HUGE percentage, especially when comparing with corporate farming and industrial agriculture. In doing a little research myself, I find that the family farms have surged ahead, always increasing sales, while the corporate farms aren’t doing as hot, lacking more in the sales department.

Overall, the vast majority of farms are still family owned and operated; they are just shielded by the common misconceptions of today’s economy and corporate farming images. It doesn’t take a whole lot to debunk this myth, but to continue keeping people aware is the challenge.

Kayla Portwood
Illinois State University

THE FUTURE OF CORN

With National Agriculture Week underway, today marks National Agriculture Day.  No matter which day of the week it is, stories about the future of corn are common.  Being from a Chicago suburb, listening to news about how there is not enough corn seems plausible.  However, as I drive down to school at the University of Illinois, the highway is lined with corn for most of the trip.  This makes it hard to believe that we can be running out of corn.

For both 2008 and 2009, corn carry-out numbers were around 1.7 million bushels.  Not having an agricultural background, I was unaware how crop marketing worked.  The carry-out number represents how much corn is left after the crop’s sale and will be added to next year’s crops.  It is like playing a game but starting out with 1.7 million points.  So, as corn production reaches record numbers, there’s still more corn to utilize. The USDA predicted 2012’s carry-out number to reach 865 million bushels.  Although this may be a slight dip from previous years, by no means are we running out of corn. 

Lately, it’s been nearly impossible to read about corn without ethanol entering the picture.  Many who believe that the future of corn is in jeopardy attribute some of the blame to corn ethanol.  However, in 2008, with the second largest crop in history, ethanol only amounted to 30% of the demand for corn. Also, corn used for ethanol still remains in use for the feed market, amounting to some transfer of the percentage of corn used.  There is even considerable questioning of whether corn will remain the crop of choice in the ethanol market. As new technologies and innovations develop, biogas derived from prairie switch grass is expected to become the new face of ethanol production, further freeing up corn for market. 

Have no fear, corn is here for good.  As summer quickly approaches, we can all look forward to some delicious corn on the cob at our barbeques.

Sources: National Corn Growers Association, Michigan Corn, Reuters “U.S. crop boom not enough to rebuild thin supplies”

Ashley Lavela
U of I Student

SUSTAINABILITY: THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE

Kicking off National Ag Week and on the eve of 2011’s National Ag Day, I have an opportunity to discuss a topic that draws plenty of attention, yet defines the future of agriculture. In today’s society, there is a big misconception concerning production agriculture. This misconception is that farmers don’t care about the environment; they only look at making a profit. If I were to mention the word sustainability, what comes into your mind? Since only two percent of our population live on farms, that leaves about ninety-eight percent of the population that may associate the term sustainability solely with the organic food movement. Although organic farming does incorporate sustainable practices, conventional farming operations are becoming more sustainable. For me to present this topic and dispel a few myths I need to give us a base definition.

Referencing the USDA’s website, “Congress defines sustainable agriculture as ‘… an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long-term—(A) satisfy human food and fiber needs; (B) enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends; (C) make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; (D) sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and (E) enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.’” In simple terms sustainability is the capacity to endure. It is my goal to break down this definition, dispel a few myths and convey information concerning the agriculture industry as it moves forward in the 21st century.

Intrigued by this definition, let me start with the first portion of the definition. Sustainable agriculture is an integrated system of practices and it is site-specific, meaning that each farm will have sustainable practices unique to that operation. For example, a grain farmer in the south may not be able to access swine manure for fertilizer as easily as a grain farm in the Midwest due to the concentration of swine operations in that area. Some examples of practices that may be integrated are tillage practices such as no-till and strip till, use of hybrids, biotechnology, and/or manure handling in livestock operations.

Looking at point A, satisfying human food and fiber needs, I strongly feel that biotechnology is critical here. Through hybridization and plant breeding strategies, many of our food and fiber crops are increasing yields and are more efficient when it comes to nutrient requirements. Despite the current debate over food vs. fuel, there is plenty of corn being produced to satisfy our needs and increased technology is resulting in higher yielding hybrids. Other crops are seeing similar results. In livestock production, farmers are using production data for breeding selections that maximize production of our meat proteins. Also, many livestock feed rations are now including more forage based ingredients, reducing the demand on our grains.

Point B, enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends, really points to where the future of agriculture is moving to. The use of transgenic crops has reduced the need for herbicides and insecticides, keeping those chemicals out of the equation when it comes to reaching our water system. More and more farmers are using modern tillage practices, reducing soil erosion, and preserving the medium in which our crops grow in. The use of cover crops to further reduce erosion and build the soil’s nutrient levels and organic matter is increasing in popularity. Using tillage radishes or turnips as “bio-drilling” tools to reduce compaction in the soil, reduces the power needed to work the soil, thus saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions from farm machinery. Personally, I am very interested in the use of cover crops and am working to encourage more use of them in my area. Using natural means to build soil nutrient levels reduces the amount of additional fertilizers needed, thus reducing the potential for runoff. Farmers are applying improved techniques for nutrient delivery such as variable-rate applicators and banding to reduce the total amounts of fertilizers needed.

Point C, make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls, looks at improving the performance of our farm power machinery to make them more fuel efficient and preserve the nonrenewable resource we know as oil. Many farmers are using on-farm resources, such as animal manure for fertilizer as opposed to synthetic fertilizers, maximizing the production from each animal unit as well as reducing input costs for crops. Farmers using conservation practices such as terracing and contouring are further reducing soil loss and controlling erosion. These are just a couple of examples of using natural controls in agriculture.

Parts D, sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and E, enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole, go together nicely. Through sustainable practices like I mentioned earlier, input costs are reduced, increasing the potential for profit and self-sufficiency in farming operations. In addition, sustainable practices, keep the land going to support future generations of farming on the same land. Efficiency in farming operations through sustainable practices improves family life because more time is spent with the family instead of the fields or barns. And, properly managing nutrients, farmers are working to keep our soils healthy and our water safe, thus enhancing the quality of life for the people of this nation.

Looking at the definition of sustainability in each of the components, it is easy to see that farmers are concerned about the environment. They are working to reduce soil loss, reduce energy needed for farming, and reduce inputs, and protect our water systems. With more and more farmers adopting more and more sustainable practices, I am confident that moving into the future, that in the long term, our farming system will be sustainable.

David Taylor
Joliet Junior Student & Part-Time Farmer