APPS ON THE FARM

Technology…it seems that we, as consumers, are constantly hearing about the latest and greatest gadgets and apps for smartphone devices to make our lives simple.  According to commercials and advertisements I have observed, the media stereotype smartphone and mobile device users to be between the ages of 15-27, or business-attired individuals living in the larger cities with a busy lifestyle.  What is often left out are the farmers and ranchers in the less populated areas who are also using smart mobile devices to simplify their way of living.

Farming is not an easy task, but with apps created especially for the farmer, the job can be completed more efficiently.  There are hundreds of agriculture related apps available in the iTunes store and Android marketplace, but I have chosen only 10 in which I feel are the most useful to the farmer.

10. Farm Manager App assists the farmers to manage the farm overall, as well as keeping track of detailed records for equipment and crops. This app can be linked to an account online for the user to easily access records at any time.

9. Corn Planting Calculator allows the user to calculate planting information resulting in valuable information such as row spacing, seed count, cost per acre, and much more.

8. Corn yield can be determined using Optimizer 2.0.  This app uses information based on products used and geographic location to determine an approximate yield.  It also sends daily reminders to the phone allowing users to be up-to-date on the projected yields.

7. What type of soil are you standing on?  With SoilWeb that information is available to you anytime.  Simply allow your phone to use your location as of GPS, and information and type of soil can be easily accessed.

6. PureSense is a way for users to get information on the moisture near the roots of crops.

5. Staying on top of the agriculture news is important, but not always available.  AGWired allows users access to news releases and happening within the agriculture world.

4. CropNAtion allows farmers to connect with other farmers by communicating through message boards and posting photos.

3. TankMix from Dupont assists in calculating how much mixture is needed in a volume-to-volume ration for a specific area of the field.

2. PrecisionEarth uses the GPS locator to provide any and all information regarding farmland.

1.  …and if you’re not quite sure how farming works, download Farmville where the user learns all about planting, harvesting, and managing every day activities on a farm.

Smartphones aren’t just for the younger generation or city slickers.  They are a valuable resource that are sometimes overlooked as being too complicated, when in reality using the right app just might make your life a little easier.

Abby Coers
St. Joseph, IL

JUNK SCIENCE GIVES HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP A BLACK EYE

Originally Posted on Prairie Farmer by Josh Flint

This had me screaming at the television last night. Our local news picked up the story and just ran a blanket summary.

It went something like this: “High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. According to a new study, type 2 diabetes is 20% more common in countries that use high-fructose corn syrup, such as the U.S.” And, on to the next story.

Before even digging into the matter, I yelled, “Correlation does not equal causation!” This is a basic scientific principle. Yet, the folks at the University of Southern California seem to be pretty good at ignoring it.

After a little news search, I see the New York Times dug a little deeper than the fine folks at St. Louis’ KSDK. Here’s a quote from the initial rote coverage of the release.

“HFCS appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale,” says principal study author Michael I. Goran, MD, professor of preventive medicine, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, and co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at USC in a release. “The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar.”

The Times actually looked at the corn industry’s side of the thing. And, oh, what! There’s a feud going on between the Corn Refiners Association and The Sugar Association? This topic is highly political? Crazy!

The Times article notes in the lead that the study was “under attack” before it was even released. Even more impressive is the quote they received from Goran.

“We’re not saying that high-fructose corn syrup causes diabetes or that it is the only factor or even the only dietary factor with a relation to diabetes,” says Goran. “But it does support a growing body of evidence linking high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes.”

Sounds like someone is back peddling a bit. The Times also notes this isn’t the first HFCS-critical “research” published by Goran. He and the Corn Refiners have traded barbs previously.

Here’s my gripe: a good number of St. Louisans probably now believe HFCS will cause type 2 diabetes. Unless they realized this is highly controversial, they’re probably in the grocery stores now looking for “natural sugar” on labels. KSDK did us a real disservice. With Monsanto’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis, you would have thought they’d researched this a bit more.

Now, how many cities across the U.S. saw the same one-sided news coverage?

Josh Flint
Prairie Farmer

THANKFUL FOR GROWING UP ON A FARM

Thanksgiving is a time to remember what we are thankful for and be grateful for the opportunities we have had that make us who we are. As I remember what I am thankful for I think about what has impacted my life the most. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Although the farm was not big I learned working hard was the key to being successful.

My grandparents (who were originally from Chicago) decided to buy a small farm in Northern Illinois and start a dairy operation. Although they did not know the hard work they were going to face, they hit the challenge head-on. Dairy farms raise female dairy breed cattle that produce milk for ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Dairy farming was not financially feasible for my family which made my farm switch from dairy to grain.

Thankfully, my family decided and were able to keep up with farming rather than give up on it all. Sadly, many farmers have had to stop farming because of financial issues and the younger generations not wanting or able to take over the farming operation. Luckily, my family was able to start a corn and soybean farm and my dad was willing to it take over.

When I was young I can remember how hard my dad worked to create a successful farming operation; but it was not until I was older when I had to get down and dirty learning it the hard way. Although not all times of the year are always busy and stressful, the busiest time of the year is where I learned the most about hard work. And that time of the year is both spring when planting and the fall when harvesting (picking the corn and soybeans). During spring and fall time the most physical labor is done as well as the longest hours. Of course if the weather is accommodating planting and harvest would go a lot smoother. Nevertheless, as we all know, the weather is unpredictable this makes planning for these two seasons almost impossible. But no matter what Mother Nature has in store, the job has to get done and patience was important to be able to keep working hard through long hours day and night.

This is only one example out of many others of how I have learned hard work from being on the farm. I am thankful for having the opportunity to live and work on my family’s farm. Through my experiences, I learned the importance of patience and the rewards of hard work. Qualities like this many farm kids acquire at a young age and use throughout their life, whether they decide to stay on the farm or pursue other careers.

Remember to be thankful for your experiences because they shape who you are.

Bronwyn Burgweger
Illinois State University

SO, YOU THINK FARMERS ARE RICH?

It is a common misconception, thinking that farmers are big money-makers. Did you know that in 2011, the average total farm household income was $57,067, with the farm income alone being NEGATIVE $2,250? Still think farmers are rich?

Commodity prices are publicly broadcasted, but the input prices are not. It has become more expensive than ever to put seed corn and soybeans in the ground. It cost farmers just at $500 per acre to put the crop in the ground. So, figure they get lucky and sell their corn for $7.00 per bushel. With a yield of 150 bushels to the acre, that would be about $1,000. Take out the $500 for the seed, fertilizers, crop insurance, storage, hired labor, and all things necessary to keep the crop healthy, and the farmer is left with $500 per acre. With that money they have to buy their big pieces of machinery, such as a tractor, planter, or combine. Still think they are rich?

For most farmers, their crop production is their only source of income. So after all the business operations are complete, they have to support their family. With all of that, they do not have the leisure of having the opportunity of calling in sick or just taking the day off. Each day is crucial in their operation so they can be as productive as possible. There is always that possibility that they could lose everything in a matter of days, weeks, or months by wind, fire, or other disaster. Farming is an unbelievably uncertain profession to go into.

Farm subsidies are a very important part of a farmer’s business. What happens if there is a really bad drought? Or a new insect or disease introduced to their area? What if commodity prices are down? The farmer still paid that initial money up front to put the crop in the ground. When the yield is below normal, the government steps in and helps the farmer out. Private companies do not have the means of accommodating the riskiness associated with farming.

The subsidies are not free money, either. The farmers have to put forth a lot of work in order to show that their yields are down. For most programs, there is an average bushel per acre that they have as a standard. Another stipulation is that the farmer cannot enroll in multiple programs. They choose what best fits their needs.

The government is helping out its producers, but that gives a lot of help to the consumers too. Farmers are our source of food, fuel, clothing, basically anything you can think of. Would you rather support the government and our farmers, or rely of the Middle Eastern countries to provide us with our gasoline? The government has to guarantee food security for its citizens. Also, to make sure we can sustain our country and not have to rely on others to support our needs.

Do you still think that farmers are rich? Maybe the farm subsidies are not such a bad deal after all.

Katlyn Pieper
Illinois State University

A FARMER’S VOICE

What comes to mind when you think of a farmer? Is it someone who grows food for us and hogs up the road with their tractors in the fall? Or maybe someone who works for the government, providing specifically what they are told. If you are not involved in the agriculture world, you may not know what really goes in to farming, and in return, what comes out of it.

Agriculture is all around us, we sometimes just don’t realize. Think about what you ate today, a good percentage of that food was most likely grown by a farmer. It was planted, harvested, and sent to the store for your consumption. But do you ever wonder where all of that food comes from? And what the decision-making process is behind growing the product was? The answer links back to our American farmers.

A common misconception among today’s society is that the government tells farmers what to plant and how to plant it. This is in fact false. Farmers do have their own voice on their farm. It is ultimately their decision what type of crop they want to grow, as well as what brand of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, etc. they desire to use once it is planted. Whether its corn, beans, wheat, grass, or another type of plant, farmers make the decision on their own with limited help from outside influences.

Much of their decision on what to plant each year relies on personal preference. Many farmers follow a field rotation of planting corn one year, and then beans the next.  Although, sometimes this pattern can be disrupted if the farmer feels they will receive more money from planting a certain crop back-to-back years, or if other incentives arise that persuade them in a different direction.

When to plant, and when to harvest are determined by the farmer as well. Depending on the crop and the weather conditions throughout the growing season, farmers can assume the best time to take action in their fields. Farmers are their own boss, and can make the decisions on what is best for themselves and their business on their own. (Insert image 2 here).

However, the government does have a say on a certain type of land. This exception is called Highly Erodible Land, or HEL. HEL is land that is steeper sloping and has a higher possibility of eroding, or washing away. Government regulations on this type of land state that you must do a no-till process on the field. No-till means, that after harvesting the crops in the fall, farmers will not do any tilling work to loosen up the ground to prepare for planting the following spring. This process will leave the ground firmer, and thus make it more difficult to wash away, therefore slowing down the erosion process in the future.

Most farms are independently run operations. Hard work and sweat are the things we notice about farmers from a distance, but behind the scenes is another story. Not only do they work hard to feed America, but farmers tackle a major decision-making process every day. They have their own voice, and success on their farms can be measured by their decisions.

Amy Erlandson
Illinois State University

FOOD FOR THOUGHT AT THANKSGIVING

My favorite time of the year is coming around again—Thanksgiving.  Not only do I get to spend time with the family and watch some football, I get to eat my favorite food.  Some of my earliest memories include eating Thanksgiving food…the delicious turkey, steamed asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy, and my Grandmother’s infamous Jell-O made with sparkling grape juice and whole grapes. ­­­Though years have passed, I appreciate the traditions that remain, especially since my life as a college student is constantly evolving.

However, something has recently been popping up in the news and will now be making a known appearance on my table.  This guest has been served as food since I was a young child. But until recently, I never knew their presence really mattered… or does it? The special guest:

GMO’s, otherwise known as genetically modified organisms.

While some consumers are worried about their food containing GMO’s, I personally am not.  A complicated science, I can see why society is uneasy about biotechnology—it is hard to understand. However, the portrayal from the media has blown concerns out of proportion.  GMO’s have even been coined the nickname “Frankenfood” — an inaccurate name for consumers to hear. Recently, Proposition 37 was voted on by the California citizens. This initiative proposed on the ballot and if passed, labeling of GMO products would have been mandatory on products sold in the state.  The initiative did not pass, but leaves people feeling distrust with the food industry and the FDA. For more information on this, check out California Fails to Pass Genetically Modified Foods Labeling Initiative.

The intent of food companies who use and create GM food and the US government is not to feed their people potentially harmful food, but to improve performance of food safely. According to GMO Food Debate In The National Spotlight, the FDA “recognizes the desirability of establishing consensus within the industry, the scientific community, and the public on the agency’s scientific assessment approach to food safety presented in this guidance section. For this reason, FDA plans to announce, in a future Federal Register notice, a workshop to discuss specific scientific issues.”

I think this is a good step to take rather than slapping a label that could potentially cause a panic and distrust amongst consumers. A label, mind you, that does not include food bought at restaurants or fast food joints and excludes meat and poultry. There is a better solution than to cause further distrust and panic.  The FDA has the consumer’s interest at heart, as do the companies who use and create GM foods.  It will be interesting to see what materializes in the years to come, but until then, I will enjoy my Thanksgiving dinners just the same—GMO’s or not.

Lauren M Smith
University of Illinois Food Science student

ELECTION UPDATE: WHAT’S NEXT? CONTINUED GRIDLOCK?

This election cycle did not disappoint, it was full of ups and down and the occasional surprise. I, like probably most of America, was up late Tuesday night frantically following the vote totals waiting to see who would be the next President. It was a close hard fought campaign and I feel that both men gave it their all, unfortunately there had to be a winner and a loser like always. President Obama will take the victory and highlighted his goals for the next 4 years in his speech last night.

Though the presidential race was the most televised and it was not the only race as you know. A big story was the battle over which party would control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as you know the Republicans held a majority in House while the Democrats had a slim majority in the Senate. Both parties waged massive and expensive campaigns in attempted to gain more seats in this election. Here in Illinois there were 6 highlighted congressional races that Democrats’set their sights on picking up, in hopes of gaining a majority in the House. They fell short on Tuesday and were only able to swing 4 of the 6, yet there was no change in the balance of power in Washington D.C.

So, just over 4 billion dollars later nothing has changed in government except maybe the sentiment. The Democrats retain the Presidency and majority in the Senate while the Republicans keep control of the House. The questions I find myself asking now following the election is “What is going to happen now?” and “How will the next congress work together to fix the issues facing the nation?”

When I woke up yesterday and turned on the news all I have been hearing about in the election aftermath and the looming“Fiscal Cliff”. The Fiscal Cliff is the compilation of Bush Era Tax Cuts that are set to expire at the same time as $100 billion Spending Cuts go into effect January 1st. Many economic experts fear that these both will cause the US to fall into another recession. Legislators are on record calling for the needed action to prevent the Fiscal Cliff as soon as possible, yet nothing has been done. Now it’s up to the lame-duck Congress to sort out that along with other crucial legislation such as the Farm Bill, Budget Reform as well as issues with the Debt Ceiling.

Although these issues have been sitting on the back burner for so long I am optimistic that they will be addressed soon. Yesterday, both the Majority Leader of the Senate, Sen. Harry Reid (D), and the Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R), made public statements on the election outcomes and the future path that this nation. Both addressed the major issues that are facing our country and talked about the importance of working together to break the gridlock. This is a step in the right direction, but, there are still more questions to be asked and more debates to be had as we work to fix the issues that have plagued us for so long.

Through all of this I am optimistic that a change for the better is on the horizon. I believe that today is a new day in Washington D.C. and truly hope that our elected officials begin to work with each other again to put our country back on the path to success and prosperity.

Ed Gallagher
Go Beyond the Spin

IN CASE YOU AREN’T TIRED OF BEING TOLD TO VOTE…

Over the past several days, the media has been bombarding us with “GO VOTE!” messages. While I agree that this is an important message, I also think that those Americans who were not going to vote in the first place will not be affected by these messages.

If you ask me, this can be attributed to our tendencies to take things (such as the right to vote) for granted. We see this tendency often within the agriculture industry. In the U.S., consumers have the privilege of being able to be picky at the grocery store. Many people look for food that was produced organically, without sub-therapeutic antibiotics or hormones, grass-fed, etc. All of these production methods are great– except for one thing: they often don’t produce the high yields that we can achieve with the use of modern farming practices. This abundance of food in turn gives us the ability to be picky at the grocery store.

The problem is that most of us have had the privilege of an abundant food supply for our entire lives. We have not experienced anything different, so it is easy for us to take it for granted. This same idea applies to our right to vote. Obtaining this right took years of fighting and sacrifice, and yet so many of us choose not to take advantage of it.

No one can force you to vote, but if you take a step back and try to realize what you are giving up by not voting, it may change your mind. Billions of people around the world are still fighting today for the rights that you have always had as an American; don’t take that for granted.

Everyone together now… GO VOTE!!!

Rosalie Sanderson

Membership Administrative Assistant