Your Congressman is back at home this week in your district. Have you called him or her yet to discuss the issues that are important to you? Call today and tell your elected official that you want a Farm Bill Now!
Growing up I have been lucky enough to see life through the eyes of a farmer and learn from those experiences. As a little girl, I would ask my dad what he was doing in the combine or the planter and every time his answer would be the same, “helping to feed the world”. This has been a statement that has stuck with me and helped me to realize that farmers work hard to provide the world with safe and affordable food.
In the United States, we sometimes take for granted the food that we eat every day. We have never had to wonder if our food will be contaminated or unhealthy, and we know that we can always get a cart full of groceries for a good price. Have we ever stopped to wonder how our food is safe and affordable?
Many regulations and stipulations are in place so that our food is safe for us to consume. Take beef for instance, the USDA has many regulations in place so that the meat you buy in the grocery store is safe. Whether the farm is certified to be “natural”, hormone free raised livestock, or grain fed, farmers have to go through USDA checks and regulations approvals that may take years to be able to sell the meat at market. Fruits and vegetables must follow the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 that ensures mandatory, science-based, minimum standards will be followed for the safe growing, harvesting, sorting, packing, and storage of fresh fruits and vegetables. All farmers growing produce must follow these steps so that the nation will have healthy food options. Why would a farmer go through all of those regulations just to be able to sell their product? To help feed the world.
Affordability is a huge issue in today’s world. Even with a struggling economy, food in the United States is still the most affordable in the world. Only about 9% of disposable income is spent on food in America, this is amazing compared to the 11 to 15 percent spent by other countries such as Germany and Spain.
This cycle of farmers providing safe and affordable food for the nation comes full circle. By providing safe and affordable food for the United States, they are providing the same standard for the food they eat. Farmers, just like my dad, grow the same food that they eat every day.
I am grateful for the food that is grown in this country and the comfort of knowing that it will be safe and affordable. Farmer’s work hard every day to fulfill regulations, go through tests, and following growing standards. My dad had a great outlook on what his job as a farmer truly meant to the nation and the world. He is working everyday to feed the world, and whether it be a small or large farm everyone can help contribute.
For most of this year, Illinois farmers (along with every U.S. farmer and many environmental groups) have advocated for a Farm Bill Now. What we’ve really been asking for is a farm bill to be passed before the end of the year because once the passage of the legislation gets pushed into 2013, our baseline budget gets substantially reduced.
Please note: Farmers are not trying to dismiss the fact that the federal budget needs cuts to be sustainable. We actually proposed substantial cuts to our own programming in return for much smaller budget investments in crop insurance. We feel we have already contributed to balancing the federal budget and we are unwilling to take more than our fair share of cuts.
What happened last week is that Congress decided to recess early so that members could campaign in their districts and, you guess it, they didn’t pass a farm bill before they left. Speaker Boehner even through in the towel and said that he just didn’t have the votes to pass anything out of the House.
What that means for Illinois farmers is that they have exactly six weeks today to convince their elected officials that in order to get a vote for them in the district, we need a vote from them in Washington, DC on the farm bill.
If we don’t get a farm bill before the end of the year, the current bill gets extended. Not only does this mean that we’ve lost all the good work by the Senate earlier this year to get a bill that Illinois agriculture really liked, but also that farmers will sustain severe cuts to crop insurance which is the program that keeps them in business in years of major devastation like this year with the historic drought.
Without crop insurance, when farmers spend thousands to millions of dollars to put a crop in the ground and then experience a total crop failure, they go out of business. That means that your food is less secure, less reliable, and less affordable. The Federal government does have a place in helping to insure farmers and we need to pass a farm bill in 2012 to make that insurance the best that it can be given current budget constraints.
If this makes sense to you, please call your Congressman today and ask him or her to pass a farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress.
Growing up in a rural community, I have always associated fall with agriculture. The smell of soil and seeing the dust in the air as the combines and tractors work tirelessly to harvest crops of corn and soybeans. Pumpkin patches, orchards, and corn mazes are open, filled with laughter as families come to pick out pumpkins to take home and carve for Halloween.
Agriculture in the Classroom is an organization helping teachers to incorporate agriculture in to lesson plans and working with teachers to offer agriculture lessons to students in grades Kindergarten through 12. Be sure to check out their website for ideas to use during the fall but also year round!
Perhaps the perfect solution for a fun Halloween lesson is the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Pumpkin Ag Mag. This little booklet is full of information about how pumpkins grow and has fun facts about pumpkins! Such as – Did you know that Illinois is the number one pumpkin producing state? This Ag Mag also has activities that could be done with a class. Like one of my personal favorites, a recipe for “Pumpkin Pie in a Bag.” What a great way to round out a lesson about pumpkins – eating some pumpkin pie! New York Agriculture in the Classroom also has a lesson plan for kindergarten and first grades. This lesson plan is a great introduction to pumpkins for young students. It helps them learn new words relating to pumpkins and also what foods are made from pumpkin!
Halloween and pumpkins are not the only fall holiday that can be taken advantage of to learn about agriculture! The First Thanksgiving was a celebration of the pilgrims first harvest, the natives had helped them learn about agriculture and ensured that they would be able to survive the winter. The pilgrims were then able to grow their own food. Today farmers still grow all of our food for Thanksgiving, check out this picture from Agriculture in the Classroom to learn where everything is grown for a modern Thanksgiving Dinner.
On Thanksgiving, turkey is of course most always the main dish! This lesson plan about “The Presidential Turkey” from Agriculture in the Classroom and the Poultry Ag Mag both have lesson plans, and fun facts about Turkey’s. These also provide fun ideas for activities and some history about Turkey in the United States. The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Website also has ideas about preparing students for standardized tests using the Ag Mags! These are a great way to incorporate agriculture and test preparation into a whole week!
Agriculture surrounds us in our daily lives; food, cloth, and so many other items start off in the hands of farmers, this offers endless opportunities for learning! I hope these ideas help you to talk to students about agriculture this fall!
John is the District 12 Director on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Learn more about him and the rest of our Illinois farmer leaders by spending a few minutes with them via these videos!
Bill Long, Franklin, IL
Paul Taylor, Esmond, IL
Lou Lamoreux, Lanark, IL
Aron Carlson, Winnebago, IL
Jeff Jarboe, Loda, IL
Bill Christ, Metamora, IL
Kent Kleinschmidt, Emden, IL
Eric Kunzeman, Tremont, IL
Larry Hasheider, Okawville, IL
Being from a big city, the talk is usually a long way from anything agriculture related. Some people have never been to a farm, don’t know what a combine is, or where their food truly comes from. That however is the one factor that binds us all together in agriculture. We all love to eat. Seeing where our food comes from is something that I am very grateful for.
Its easy to see a steak or a burger on a plate and not really thing about how it got there. Truth is, as hard as it is to think about, that steak came from a cute little cow, that a farmer raised since it was a calf. He and his family raised that cow and then sent it off to market because they had to. Not because they wanted to. Farmers and their families have to make huge sacrifices that most others will never have to do. There is no other job where you put love and time into raising and caring for living things, ensuring that they have the best life possible to then turn around and sell them to be slaughtered for food.
You may ask yourself; why do they do this? These production animals, being chickens, cows, or pigs, are in every essence of the word, the farmer’s livelihood. Farmers are not rich by any means, so producing these animals are what they do in order to feed their families, send their kids to school, pay house payments, etc.
That is why farmers take such good care, and pride in their animals. They value them so highly. Farmers don’t get a day off. The cows need to eat whether its 80 degrees outside or -20 degrees outside, and they do that, because they love their animals and want them taken care of.
Going shopping in the meat department of the grocery store is a long way from the farm that the animals are raised on. However, what the farmers have done directly relates to the quality you see in that meat. Making sure animals are healthy and free of disease is a big thing that can not be overlooked by consumers. Without farmers caring for their animals so well, we would not have healthy meat to eat.
Being grateful for the animals sacrifice may not be something that we think about everyday, but it is something can not forgotten. Because of these animals, we live the way we do, and we are able to care and provide for our families. Livestock farming is no easy task, it is important to remember the sacrifices being made on both ends.
Sitting next to the Illinois Family Farmers exhibit outside of Chicagoland Speedway this past weekend was some big iron. As in a New Holland combine and other equipment like tractors and utility vehicles. New Holland is the official ag equipment of NASCAR and lent their support to the exhibit by bringing out the equipment along with some educational materials.
On hand to visit with race fans was Greg Kiesewetter, north Illinois sales manager. Greg is pictured talking with several visitors to the exhibit area on race morning. He says they brought out a variety of equipment for not only farming but also for the construction and consumer market. In supporting Illinois Corn Growers he says they brought a combine with a corn head and a tractor pulling a grain cart to show how the equipment is used in the field. Greg says New Holland is very pumped up about their partnership with Growth Energy and American Ethanol as well as working with the Illinois Corn Growers.
Listen to my interview with Greg here:
The Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board is Kent Kleinschmidt, pictured here with his wife Sara and NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace. They were attending the Saturday Illinois Corn Growers get together before the race at Chicagoland Speedway. It’s the second year that they’ve held the event. Kent says the sponsorship of the race and Kenny’s #99 car is a very different kind of promotion than they are used to. But once NASCAR decided to move to an E15 fuel blend it opened up a big opportunity and audience to showcase the fuel.
Listen to my interview with Kent here:
What does the President of the Chicagoland Speedway think of Illinois Family Farmers and ethanol? Let’s find out. I spoke with him prior to last Saturday’s Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Scott says Illinois Family Farmers have been a great partner and this venue is a great place to get the word out to consumers about all the benefits of an American made fuel. He thinks the big equipment in the Family Farmers exhibit is a big hit with race fans who are curious about how their food is grown and made. He also says the track has recently invested significant dollars in track upgrades and new areas for a great fan experience on the infield.
Listen to my interview with Scott here:
On Saturday race morning at Chicagoland Speedway the driver of the American Ethanol car, Austin Dillon, paid a visit to the Family Farmers exhibit in Champions Park outside the track. He made some remarks to the people who had gathered around to see him before signing autographs.
I was able to get a moment with Austin. He says he’s always excited to come to the midwestern tracks in the heart of corn country where a majority of the feedstock that’s making the Sunoco Green E15 he’s racing on is grown. He’s glad that corn growers can come out to see him race and have a good time at the track.
Listen to my interview with Austin here:
Listen to Austin’s remarks to the crowd here: