If you trust your government they are!

While it is good to always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, the pesticides that farmers use are strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are allowed to be conventionally used.

Walking through the EPA’s website on pesticide registration can be tricky, so I am going to try to boil down the important facts. First off, what are pesticides? The EPA states that, “a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest.” Pesticides can include baits, repellents, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, and rodenticides, used to kill harmful insects, fungus, weeds, or anything else causing harm. These different methods of pest control work by interfering with the normal behaviors of the pest and can be lethal or non-lethal.

While these pesticides are intended to rid a crop of its pests, they are first assessed on their human health and environmental effects. They are evaluated on their potential to harm humans, wildlife, fish and plants. They are also tested on their potential to contaminate surface or ground water from leaching, runoff and spray drift. The potential human risks that are looked at include short-term toxicity, such as the residues on fruits and vegetables, as well as long-term effects such as cancer and reproductive system disorders.

When a company is looking to register a new pesticide, or alter an existing pesticide, they must submit an application for registration of that pesticide. This application includes service fees; labeling to include the contents of the product, directions for use, and appropriate warnings; data on potential risk to human health and environment, including potential for pesticide residues on foods (if applicable); and evidence of meeting all legal and financial obligations.

Once the application has been completed, it goes through an evaluation process performed by the EPA. These different pesticides are tested on a number of risks including:
• Human health risks including food, water and residential uses; cumulative risks from pesticides with the same effects; and occupational risks for those applying the product.
• Environmental risks including potential ground water contamination, risks to endangered and threatened species and potential for endocrine-disruption effects.
• Risk assessment peer review: health and environmental risk assessment undergo a process of peer review by scientific experts.
After these risks are reviewed, the EPA then considers the results of the risk assessments and scientific peer reviews. They research and compare alternative pesticides that are already registered, and discuss any modifications to the product or labeling that might need to be made.

Although there may be pesticide residue detected on a fruit or vegetable, this does not mean it is unsafe to eat. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the EPA must ensure all pesticides used on food in the United States meets the FQPA’s strict safety standards. FQPA requires a clear determination that pesticides used on food is safe for infants, children and adults.

Pesticides are not here to cause harm to humans or the environment; they are here to help make farming, gardening, landscaping, and many other jobs easier and more productive. All pesticides are under strict safety regulations.

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Kathryn_BohnerKathryn Bohner
Illinois State University student


When you are about to purchase a product at the grocery store, what things do you normally think about before you buy it? Is it a good price, is it locally grown, and is it environmentally friendly? These are questions as consumers we ask ourselves on a daily basis.

Ethanol actually answers all of those questions that people consider to be important moral purchasing decisions.

It’s Priced Right

5-27-16_EthanolOne gallon of ethanol is actually cheaper than one gallon of gasoline according to the Renewable Fuels Association. This means that a gallon of gasoline containing ten perfect of ethanol (E10) is virtually cheaper than a gallon of conventional gas. In 2010, a study showed that utilizing over 13 billion gallons of ethanol actually reduced the prices of gasoline by about 89 cents per gallon. This means that a typical American household actually spent 800 dollars less in gasoline in 2010. Also, an increase in the use of ethanol also decreases the demand for oil and the market prices. It is also a tremendous source of octane and it is much more valuable and cheaper for refiners compared to other sources of high-octane.

It’s Produced Locally

Ethanol brings more than just the agriculture industry in America together. It brings local farmers, environmental leaders, automobile manufactures, and economic and industry leaders together to achieve a common goal. The production of American-made ethanol serves a vital purpose of helping us to not be dependent on imported foreign oil. There are also other materials that can be utilized in the process of making ethanol such as specialty energy crops such as algae, forestry waste, urban waste, etc. Not only farmers can contribute to this American-made effort, but as a consumer yourself, you can get involved in locally produced ethanol as well!

It’s Environmentally Friendly

E85 fuel pump at Washington DCEthanol is a renewable fuel. Compared to conventional gasoline, ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions by 59%. If you drive a flex-fuel car, utilizing higher blends of ethanol-enhanced gas can assist in preventing greenhouse emissions even more! By utilizing American-made ethanol we are already replacing 661,000 barrels of imported oil. This prevents and decreases the amount of oil spills each year. By already utilizing the E10 standard that is served in a majority of gas stations throughout the country, ten percent ethanol currently decreases emissions that is equivalent to removing 7 million cars off of the road.

Ethanol should be what every consumer wants right now. It fits the mold of the moral and ethical decisions we make on a daily basis. Next time when you go to fill up the tank, remember that ethanol is a consumer-friendly resource that will bring Americans closer together.

Nicole Chance

Nicole Chance
University of Illinois


5-26-16agDoug Anderson has been an agriculture teacher for more than 30 years and has spent the majority of those years at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School (PBL) in Paxton, Illinois. He has played an instrumental role in building the Ag Program at PBL and has played an even bigger role in the lives of countless students.

AMANDA: What made you choose to pursue a career in Agricultural Education?

DOUG: I chose teaching agriculture because I love agriculture and I love young people.  Teaching agriculture allowed me to make the most of 2 interests I have.  Also, I enjoy the variety of what I do each day.  I enjoyed the practical skills that can be taught to students and being able to relate those to everyday life.  I have enjoyed the competitive aspect of Career Development Events, which I learned to appreciate well after I started my career.

AMANDA: What are some things that stand out that helped you get to where you are at today?

agteacherDOUG: I had 2 really good parents that supported me in everything I ever did.  My father farmed for the first 10 years of my life which developed my interest in agriculture.  When he quit farming, he went to work for a seed corn company and so I spent most of my older growing up years closely connected to the agronomy industry.  FFA had a huge impact on my life in helping me develop leadership skills and opportunities to compete outside of athletics.  My ag teacher really pushed me and helped me see opportunities that I would not have discovered had it not been for ag education.  Lastly, I have had the privilege of working with some great teachers, students, parents, alumni, and community members which all had a part in getting me to this point in my career.

AMANDA: Describe a typical day on the job.

DOUG: I’m not sure there is a typical day, which is a big reason why I have enjoyed my career so much.  I’m usually up by 4:30 or 5:00am and at school by 6:45am.  We often have an FFA practice for an upcoming contest or event.  I teach my classes throughout the day and 1 to 2 and sometimes 3 nights a week, we have some kind of FFA activity whether it be a contest, practice, meeting or leadership workshop, etc.

AMANDA: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

5-26-16ag2DOUG: The most rewarding part of my career is seeing students succeed.  Success is different for nearly every student.  For some, it’s choosing a career that they really like and do well in.  For some, it is accomplishing goals in FFA.  For others, it’s finding a place to fit in and develop friendships.  It is very rewarding to watch kids mature into young adults with a purpose and goals for their future.

Anderson will be retiring at the end of this school year. He has loved the career that he has had and, if given the chance, he would not change a single thing. He is thankful for all that his career has given him and is excited to see what this next phase of life has in store.

Are you considering a career in Agricultural Education?

Diesburg_Amanda_IL Corn intern 2x3 16

Amanda Diesburg
Illinois State University
Ag in the Classroom Intern



Have you ever been curious about farming life? Illinois Farm Families is partnering with WGN radio personality Patti Vasquez and Illinois farmer Justin Durdan to get a close-up look at farming using Periscope and Facebook Live. Justin will be fielding questions from viewers to help us better understand America’s farmers as he works on his farm. Thursday’s the day to get real-time answers! Be sure to tune in at 11:30 am CT on Illinois Farm Families’ Periscope account. You can also view it on their Twitter at the time of the broadcast! At noon, Illinois Farm Families will be continuing the event on their Facebook page through Facebook Live.

To learn about Periscope and Facebook Live and how they work, read our introduction here.

IL Corn will be on Justin’s farm, updating our new Snapchat account with clips from the event. Follow us on Snapchat for updates!

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Farmers all over the nation are in varying states of planting and growing the 2016 crop.  Here in Illinois, we get a ton of variation because of the very large size of our state and the fact that the climate near the Wisconsin border can be so different from the climate near Kentucky and Missouri!

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Joe Murphy, Harrisburg, IL (southeast) says: We have been wet and cool. Not much field work done this month. The weather forecast is for rain every day this week starting tomorrow.  I finished planting corn May 6. Some of it is still emerging.  I have not planted any soybeans yet.

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Tom Mueller, Taylor Ridge, IL (northwest) says:  I finished planting corn on April 26, finished planting soybeans last night.    I have 25 acres of hay baled.   Corn looks good after some heat this weekend.

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Bill Leigh, Minonk, IL (central) says:  Corn was finished on April 24.  It is finally looking good after too much cold and cloudy weather.  Soybeans were finished last Friday.  Some that were planted earlier in May are struggling to get through.  Could use the rain that is forecast this week.  

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Aron Carlson, Winnebago, IL (northern) says: Finished planting corn on the 19th, finished planting soybeans on Saturday morning. Hoping to have spraying wrapped up today or tomorrow. Half of the corn is up and looks good,  the frost banged up some of the corn. 

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Grant Noland, Blue Mound, IL (central) says:  Done planting corn and soybeans. Replanting 10-20 acres of each today.  Planted 80 acres of black beans (2 varieties) this year – something new!  Early corn looks great, and heat plus lack of downpours has helped a lot. Started side dressing today.  (sidedressing = applying fertilizers to emerging corn)

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Spencer Janssen, Litchfield, IL (west central): Finished corn the first time April 26th, replanting 25% of corn now.  Half done with beans. Early corn looks great, late April planted is pretty bad so trying to get a better stand this time around. 

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Dennis Green, Lawrenceville, IL (southeast) says: Today is the first time we have been in the field since April 20th.  Several holes in the corn stands, about 25% of corn planted.  Many farmers haven’t planted anything.  No soybeans planted.

Keep praying for a safe planting season!


Kelsey Vance, Retail Sales Representative for Syngenta, uses math, science, and communications skills every day!  She loves her job because everyday is different and she gets to develop relationships with the farmers in her territory.  Does this sound like something you’d enjoy?

Kelsey obtained an Agricultural Transferable Degree from Illinois Central College, an Agribusiness and Agronomy Management Degree from Illinois State University, and is now maximizing those degrees with Syngenta.

Elizabeth: What made you choose this career path?

Kelsey: I was a senior, Dr. Spauldinretail salesmang assigned an agricultural sales ride along project. I rode with Ken, a Syngenta Salesman.  He asked if I had considered a sales career, I said, “no, not really.”  We visited several retailers and farmers cooked lunch for one group of farmers.  I had the opportunity to sit in a spray plane. Ken was a part of the farmers’ operations but he was also part of their family.  At the end of the day, he asked again if I would enjoy a career in sales. Without hesitation, I responded “If a career in sales consists of what you do, absolutely!” In June 2012, I started with Syngenta as Developmental Sales Representative. In May 2016, Ken retired and offered his territory to me, allowing me to move back home.

Elizabeth: What underlying sciences are behind your job?

Kelsey representing Syngenta on the left!
Kelsey representing Syngenta on the left!

Kelsey: Agronomy requires both math and science which play a large role in my career.  If you asked me ten years ago if I would have understood the life cycle of a nematode or been able to differentiate between the various species of foxtails I would have told you that you were crazy! However, the longer I spend in my career the more I learn and the more it excites me! While agronomy is very important, there is much more to my position than agronomy alone. You could be the smartest person in the world and still not be successful in sales. Sales requires communication and I believe communication is key to success in sales and several other businesses. Retailers and growers are very understanding if I have to call my agronomist or a technical expert to answer their question, as long as I get back to them with the correct answer. However, if I do not answer their call at all, or do not follow through with getting them the answer, they are not happy. I thrive on accuracy in a timely manner and follow-through!

Elizabeth: What stands out that helped you get to where you’re at today?

Kelsey: Growing up on my family farm with a loving family and amazing friends has without a doubt led me to where I am today! On the farm, I learned several life lessons at an early age like responsibility, patience, hard work and dedication. My parents taught my sister and me the importance of family, Church, morals and how to carry that on. My friends have been there for me through it all!

Elizabeth: Describe a “a day in the life of Kelsey”?

Kelsey: Every day my career is different, that is one reason why I love it! My favorite part of my job is spending time in the field with retailers and farmers, ensuring we are using the best crop protection program possible for their soil type, seed and geography. A large portion of my time is dedicated to business planning with retailers. As a sales representative, being an expert on your products takes time and patience. We have various training sessions, webinars and conference calls throughout the year to help us better understand our products. The new position I have accepted within Syngenta has given me the opportunity to work with the aerial applicators.  The airplanes allow us to spray several acres in a timely manner, which is crucial to certain diseases and insects. A couple weeks ago, I spent two days helping the pilots calibrate airplanes ensuring they were spraying the correct amount needed. The items I have listed above are merely a glimpse of what my days consist of.  While my career takes me several different directions my goal is to help farmers increase yields to provide food needed to feed our growing population.

Are you considering a career in agriculture yet?

EliLewis_Elizabethzabeth Lewis
Southern Illinois University student


Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the fourth post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.


May - SprayerThis year’s crop

It’s planting time! No matter what part of the state a farmer is in, he’s probably doing SOME amount of planting in the month of May – assuming the weather is cooperating. Corn grows best in temperatures between 60 and 95 degrees. A rainy day can prevent progress for just that day, the day after that, or even a 3rd day depending on how much rain he got and how well his fields drain water. Keep in mind, planting is more than just dropping the seeds in the ground…May 1

  • Possibly apply Ammonia and/or fertilizer
  • Prepare the seed bed by cultivating the ground
  • Calibrate the planter for a variety of factors such as different seeds, field populations, soil type, terrain, etc.
  • Plant the seeds
  • Monitor germination and emergence

germination_5In the midst of all this field work, there are ditches and waterways to mow, equipment maintenance to keep up on, as well as bills to pay and grain markets to follow. A farmer won’t breathe a sigh of relief until all his crops are in the ground.


Deal_AshleyAshley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant