During this week’s Farm Progress Show, farmers wrote more than 1,100 letters to their Congressmen. Most letters asked Congress to use some of the only nine legislative days in September to finalize a farm bill. The current farm bill extention expires on September 30.
This week has been a hot one for the IL Corn staff. We’ve been outside all week, talking with Illinois farmers about their futures and what working together can accomplish at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.
No matter what, the Farm Progress Show is always excrutiatingly hot or cold and rainy. But we love being there because we love farmers.
The thing is, farmers tend to be solitary creatures. I mean, you aren’t raised out in the middle of the country with your nearest neighbor a couple of miles away without developing a love of doing things on your own and being set apart. But when it comes to legislative and regulatory concerns – things that could put farmers out of business – one farmer acting on his own just can’t get it done.
That’s why farmers have the IL Corn Growers Association and the IL Corn Marketing Board. It’s a way to pool money, to accomplish things that are for the common good of all corn farmers. We work to minimize regulations and paperwork farmers have to complete. Farmers became farmers because they love being outside, not because they like sitting at a desk and doing paperwork.
We work to represent them in Congress on issues like crop insurance. After all, it’s hard to keep a farm in the family when Mother Nature is working against you and destroys a year of hard work.
We help them create markets for their crops so that they can focus on providing yields and managing the resources in their care. And we teach them how to talk about their story and their farm – how to share their story. It is pretty important in this technological age after all.
So this week, we sat at the Farm Progress Show. We talked to farmers about things coming up that they might want to think about. We encouraged them to talk to their elected officials. And we reminded them that their association always has their back.
It was a good week.
Farmers are being encouraged to consider growing cover crops on their fields through the winter. Studies show that a living, growing plant in the ground year round improves the soil, productivity, and nutrient runoff.
The science behind this makes sense. On a big picture level, Illinois is prairie and having grasses growing on our soil year round is a return to what built the rich organic soils in the first place. But looking closer, planting rye grass or cereal rye after you harvest your corn crop makes sense.
In central Illinois, many farmers plant corn on corn (this is the way we describe a crop rotation of corn every single year without planting another crop in between). Because corn uses nitrogen from the soil to grow, farmers apply nitrogen every year to replenish what the corn used the previous year. If that nitrogen isn’t applied at exactly the right time, the plant doesn’t get to use all of it, meaning that valuable nitrogen is lost to the soil and water, causing problems in the environment and costing farmers money.
Additionally, corn doesn’t grow well in the leftover stalks and leaves from the previous year. This causes farmers using a corn on corn rotation to have to till the soil which isn’t good for soil erosion. The current industry standard is to no till the soil, meaning, literally, no tillage.
Growing crop like cereal rye or rye grass from the time you harvest the corn until you replant in April, helps with both concerns.
As the cover crop grows in the fall, it uses the nitrogen left in the soil to grow and stores it within the plant. In the spring when the farmer kills the cover crop, the nitrogen is released back into the soil for the corn crop to use. This management technique significantly minimizes the nitrogen remaining to run off into the water supply.
A cover crop also reduces compaction, increases organic matter in the soil, and otherwise helps the health of the soil and increases productivity for the farmer. In fact, some farmers doing trials in Illinois this past year have noticed up to 20 bushels per acre increase in yield!
The Council on Best Management Practices is now working one-on-one with farmers in the Springfield, IL area (they had a bigger problem than most, remember?). Several will be growing cover crops this winter as a trial and demonstration for other local farmers. And we hope to show farmers the environmental and economic benefit of growing cover crops on their fields as a part of the normal corn on corn rotation.
Using science as our base, farmers will definitely be on board for improving the resources in their care.
This month we’re celebrating what farmers do to provide food for your family at
the grocery store. In partnership with our friends at Dominick’s, Illinois Farm Families will visit with you at select Chicago-area store locations on August 31.
We invite you to stop by during your weekend grocery run. We’re glad to share
what we do on the farm, and we can’t wait to learn more about what’s important
to you when feeding your family.
Find us at 15 Dominick’s stores from Chicago to the suburbs (store
locations list here) on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. –
We’ll be serving up tasty Illinois products and sharing family recipes
for you to try. Did you know Illinois is No. 4 in the U.S. for pork production? Last Saturday, we sampled ground pork and handed out a $1 off ground pork coupon. This Saturday, we’ll feature cheese products. Illinois is home to 760 dairy farms. You can sample a bite of cheese and get a $1 off coupon (product will be specified by Dominick’s, 50 coupons/store location).
So write down your questions and head on over. We can’t wait to meet you!
Are you going to the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL next week? If you are, stop by our tent to see us! Here are some of the things we are doing for the event this year:
Navigate the Farm Progress Show
IL Corn will feature a geocache contest during the Farm Progress Show which will allow you an opportunity to visit our partner companies, see the show, geocache, and enter to win an iPad! Participants of all ages are welcome; FFA and 4-H students encouraged to participate and engage in this contest.
Navigate through the muck of Regulations
We heard our membership say that the increasing number of government regulations was concerning to them. Talk with our IL Corn staff about what you can do to help minimize the impact these burdensome regulations on your farm and hear about upcoming regulations that might impact you!
Navigate your way to a five-year Farm Bill
Fighting for a Farm Bill continues to be a top priority for IL Corn. Make your voice heard by faxing your Congressman on site at the Farm Progress Show and letting him or her know how important a Farm Bill is to the future of your family farm.
Navigate to the nearest E85 station
Based on the fall prices for corn right now, margins will be tight during the 2013 crop year. Increase the demand for your product by fueling up with E85 in your flex fuel vehicle!
The American Lung Association will be on hand in the IL Corn tent with their E85 locator and some interesting information on ethanol blends. You might even consider looking up whether or not your vehicle is flex fuel before you arrive!
IL Corn has even more educational opportunities for you at the Farm Progress Show. Make sure to stop by, talk to your IL Corn staff, and pick up the free give-a-ways that we have for you. You won’t be sorry!
The Illinois State Fair wrapped up over the weekend in Springfield. The Fair, with its roots firmly established in agriculture, might be the most heavily trafficked one-stop-shop chance to expose the general public to agriculture here in Illinois. With that in mind, Illinois corn checkoff dollars supported one of the most popular exhibits at the fair…Farmers Little Helpers.
It’s been reported that general admissions to the Fair increased by about 3% year over year. And although fair food and concerts may be the top of mind for most visitors, Farmers Little Helpers is a “gem” that definitely adds a unique element to the visitor’s day!
Located just inside Gate 2, Farmers Little Helpers targets young children and their families for a fun visit to learn more about farmers and farming. Gate 2 is the most heavily used gate at the fairgrounds from a foot-traffic standpoint. The visibility of the location is highly valued, and coordinates with one of the boarding areas of the Sky-Glider.
Within Farmers Little Helpers is a child-sized corn field featuring fun messages about corn and its uses. Also, in a 12’ by 16’ building dubbed, “The Tool Shed,” kids and their parents can play in a sandbox filled with corn and soybeans, as well as look at fun exhibit displays.
The “Piglets on Parade” exhibit was relocated last year to the Farmers Little Helpers area. In this exhibit, Illinois Pork Producers Association, supported by the corn checkoff, lets visitors experience in-real-life the birth of piglets.
If you didn’t see the exhibit this year, make sure to add it to your must-see list for next year. Remember! Farmers aren’t the audience…its children and their parents!
Earlier this month we’ve established that nutrient runoff in Illinois is a complicated thing and that we’ve got Illinois Director of Agriculture Bob Flider on our side. As we dive further into water quality month, let’s explore one problem in central Illinois and efforts on behalf of Illinois farmers to correct it.
The Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP), funded by IL Corn and other commodity groups and agri-businesses, realized early on that the drought of 2012 was going to be bad news for water quality. It was almost a perfect storm – pun intended.
There was no rain during the 2012 growing season, which left the corn growing significantly less than anticipated in early 2012 and using significantly less nitrogen than farmers applied. That left a bunch of extra nitrogen sitting in the soil not being used by any plants. Then, heavy rains hit Illinois in early 2013 delaying planting season until much later than usual. All that extra rain flushed the extra nitrogen away from the fields and into the drinking water.
And actually, though we anticipated a big problem the problem was smaller than we thought. Remember this? There wasn’t a larger problem in the Gulf of Mexico.
But there was one community significantly affected. Springfield, IL was dealing with higher than usual nitrates in their water and they had no water treatment system available to deal with it. The EPA standard is 10 parts per billion and the water in Lake Springfield got dangerously close. Springfield’s problems were greater than other central Illinois communities because of the soil types in that area and their water drainage capacity.
Enter N Watch. CBMP realized that this would be an issue so they alerted the city of Springfield early on. They then commenced N Watch to measure the nitrogen left in fields draining into Lake Springfield and determine a course of action to stop the runoff.
This year, N Watch has over 5000 soil samples over 300 different field sites. They are monitoring different practices, different soil types, and different nitrogen application timings to figure out how nitrogen moves throughout the soils and hopefully prevent this from happening again.
Find out how Illinois farmers are using the data from N Watch to launch another proactive solution next week … cover crops!
We received a lot of great videos for the Shoot it Straight Video Contest and have narrowed it down to these four finalists. Vote for your favorite (you can vote once a day) and let us know who you want to win!
Ethanol and the American Farmer
Dylan Stahly, Huron, SD
Michelle Goffreda, Perrineville, NJ
Lewie Kloster, Minneapolis, MN
Agriculture: The Fuel Behind Ethanol
Jason Girouard, Brimfield, MA
As reported in our water quality post last week, the issue of nutrient run off and water quality is much bigger and more confusing than some people think. In fact, there are researchers, policy makers, and vocal citizens throughout our nation and our world that believe that the issue can be cleared up with a few well intentioned, though misguided policies.
We don’t believe that is the case. And neither does the Illinois Director of Agriculture Bob Flider.
After the U.S. EPA wrote to offer their assistance to Illinois in dealing what they feel is a large agricultural problem, Director Flider returned their offer with an explanation of all the good work we are doing in Illinois to actually figure out the cause of the problem and correct agriculture’s portion.
He cited programs at the University of Illinois to assess the current extent of the problem. He cited continued work on a strategy to help farmers correct any problem that might be uncovered in our research. And he cited an extensive amount of programs with the agricultural industry to educate farmers about best management practices to reduce nutrient losses from farm fields.
Agriculture certainly cannot be called lazy as relates to this issue. Our Keep it for the Crop 2025 program is helping. The development of the Nutrient Research and Education Council is helping. And farmers themselves are helping by changing their methods.
How can you be sure that farmers have pure motives to correct the quality of the water around them? For one, farmers are drinking from wells located right in the middle of their fields. They aren’t drinking city water that has undergone treatment. They are just as motived to provide clean water for their families as you are.
And farmers are paying a premium for the nutrients they apply on their fields to help the crops grow. If the plants aren’t using the nutrients and instead, the nutrients are lost in the water supply, that’s wasted money out of an already extremely tight budget. Losing nutrients doesn’t make economic sense.
Next week we’ll dive into one such program that is really making a difference on the farms in terms of determining a nutrient loss problem and correcting it!