WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT ILLINOIS AG EDUCATION?

The first blog post celebrating American Education Week talked about Agriculture Education. Illinois has a rich history with our Agriculture Ed Programs, FFA and SAE courses. In addition to other state Ag Education Programs that look to the ‘well oiled machine’ that Illinois has with our Agriculture Ed Program, other Career and Technical Education programs across the nation look to the model that Illinois has built. Career and Technical Education (CTE) may be a new term to you—but these programs exist in nearly every district in the state at the secondary level. You might know them best as former ‘Vocational Education’ programs of Business, Marketing and Computer Education, Family and Consumer Science, Health Science Technology and Technical and Engineering Education. Agriculture classes, Agriculture Education Teacher Training, and expectations in the work force have come a long way and the classes you might have know as Business, Home Economics, and Shop have also come a long way.

One advantage we have in Agriculture is the Agriculture Literacy effort across the state. Illinois houses our Agriculture Literacy within the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program. This program combines the efforts of Illinois Farm Bureau, UI Extension, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and commodity groups at the state and local level to deliver high quality agriculture messages to teachers and students outside the traditional High School Agriculture program.
education agriculture classroomIllinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) can trace its roots to the early 1920’s as the IAA Record has photos and stories of local farmers bringing examples of crops and animals into schools across the state. In 1981, as John Block headed to Washington, he brought the concept of teaching students and teachers about their food, fiber and fuel system to the USDA. IAITC has undergone many changes in the past three decades, most importantly the emphasis of sharing the story of farmers and their work remains in tact.

IAITC is recognized as one of the strongest program in the nations, due in large part to the outstanding support of farmers across the state. Our decentralized distribution system of materials, classroom presentations and teacher training is one of a kind in the US. Each county in Illinois has a county contact, either a paid Agriculture Literacy coordinator or key volunteers that implement the program at the local level. During the 2009-2010 school year 2,899 volunteers assisted in local efforts. Our program is valued in urban, suburban and rural areas. Lack of understanding of the food, fiber and fuel chain exists across the state!

In the last school year, 30,454 teachers utilized IAITC materials in 2,392 attendance centers across the state. 486,610 students were reached with an AITC in classroom presentations. An additional 1,627 Pre-Service Teachers (University students ready to student teach) were presented with materials and training about how to incorporate agriculture into their existing classroom curriculum.
As local school districts become more focused on the ISAT/PSAE high stakes test, at IAITC we’ve worked to find ways to further incorporate agriculture into math, science, social studies and language arts. Teachers are very open to using IAITC materials, especially after they see the size and scope of agriculture. Many only associate agriculture with actual production. When we are able to show processing, research, sales, marketing among other career options teachers begin to see how agriculture has a direct impact on them as well as their students.
The cornerstone of Illinois AITC is our teacher training. Providing teachers with high quality, standards based, scientifically sound agriculture information that can be easily integrated by teacher into existing classroom curriculum is our goal at the state and local level. Although the program has had a mainstay in the elementary classrooms, our program is working to expand to the middle school and high school levels.
How can you get involved? There are multiple volunteer opportunities at the local level. Log on to our website http://www.agintheclassroom.org/ and click on contact your county to see where you could assist. At the state level, consider our ‘Adopt a Classroom’ program. For over 25 years, we’ve paired ‘farm writers’ with classrooms in Chicago in a pen pal program. In this program you can write to a classroom and share what you do on your farm, and share what goes on in Illinois Agriculture.
How are things changing? As teachers gain access to more technology, our AITC program has branched out to include SMART Board related materials, and we’ll be featuring new interactive Ag Mags with video and hot links on our website during the coming school year.
At Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom we are working to spread an accurate message about what it means to be an ‘Illinois Farmer’. Training teachers and working with students can help promote a positive dialogue about agriculture in classrooms and at home.
If you have additional questions, please contact me at kdaugherty@ilfb.org or check out our website!

Kevin Daugherty
Illinois Ag in the Classroom Education Director
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TELLING YOUR STORY AT ILLINOIS COMMODITY CONFERENCE!

I know you’ve been hearing more and more talk of late about social media and why you should get involved. Sure you understand what the issues are, you even understand how we got to this point, but do you really understand how social media can help fix them and why you should be a part of the solution?

This year’s Illinois Commodity Conference will help you navigate through the muddy “social media” waters and point you in the right direction. The theme is Telling Your Story which means that we will focus on getting you engaged in telling YOUR own story and encouraging you to utilize social media to its fullest potential. Why? Because it couldn’t be any easier to do. Conversations are already occurring and all you need is your knowledge and a smart phone to join in!

http://www.youtube.com/v/lFZ0z5Fm-Ng?fs=1&hl=en_US

Research tells us that the non-farm public doesn’t understand us. We are also finding out that consumers want to hear the truth FROM FARMERS. Farmers are considered trustworthy sources of information about farming and food production so we are our own best story tellers. Farmers MUST get engaged. We are less than 2% of the U.S. population. There aren’t enough of us to wait around for the neighbor to do it!

We hope that this conference will leave you feeling motivated and educated to participate in the discussions happening all over the web. The non-farm public does not want to hear from associations or trade groups, they want to hear from you. So your associations are now working together to tell you how to get involved.

If you are not already registered, don’t worry it’s not too late! Click here for a brochure or you can register on site on November 23. Stay tuned to the Illinois Corn’s Facebook page this week as well. You might get lucky enough to win a free registration!

A lot of hard work has gone into this conference and while we hope you have good time learning, we also know that it wouldn’t happen without the help from our sponsors. So I’d like to end with a thank you to our biggest corporate sponsors: Syngenta, Pioneer, and Monsanto!

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

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GET SCHOOLED ON AG EDUCATION DURING AMERICAN EDUCATION WEEK!

This week is American Education Week and for me, education means Agriculture Education. I am currently a junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Agricultural Education so it’s easy for me to see the importance of ag education in schools. Unfortunately this is not the case for most people. When people hear “ag education” they either have no idea what you’re talking about, or they think of blue corduroy jackets. Although agriculture education can be college and continuing education through different programs it is most commonly known as a high school program. Agriculture education is extremely beneficial to students and is about more than just sows, cows and plows.

Agriculture education is broken down into three different overlapping categories, the first of which is classroom instruction. Ag classes are extremely varied from small engines, to horticulture, to ag business. It’s easy for students to find a class that suits their interests and gives them many hands on activities. Unfortunately many ag programs are cut from schools because administrators do not see the importance of the content taught in ag classes. Classes teach important content and life skills that pertain to agriculture, an industry that employs 35% of the workforce in the United States. Ag classes also teach science and math skills applied to real life situations. In horticulture, animal science, or vet tech classes students can learn biology through hands on experiences. Math can be learned through ag business and management classes using real life scenarios. Ag classes can be very beneficial, even for students who don’t think they will have a future on the farm.

The second component of Agriculture Education is Supervised Agricultural Experiences or SAE’s. If you are familiar with SAE’s you are probably groaning right now thinking about hours spent keeping and recording diligent records on a project. That is basically what an SAE is, a project, job or experiment that the student conducts with minimal guidance from their teacher. SAE’s can be almost anything, from building a lawn tractor, to hatching eggs, to working in a vet’s office. Students must then keep records on their experience and have the opportunity to compete with their record book for section, state and national awards. By selecting their own projects students get to gain knowledge in subjects they are interested in and expand on the content they learn in the classroom. SAE’s also teach the responsibility of record keeping and allow students to learn from personal experiences.

The final aspect of Agriculture Education is, of course, FFA. What used to be known as Future Farmers of America is now the National FFA Organization. The FFA is the largest national high school organization and provides endless opportunities to its members. Being involved in FFA gives high schoolers the chance to meet students from a school in the next town over, to a school across the country. Students can be learn how to become great leaders from their peers. They can also compete as teams at Career Development Events or CDE’s that pinpoint their interests. CDE’s can range from the very agricultural livestock judging or dairy foods to the very universal and beneficial public speaking, job interview and parliamentary procedure. These CDE’s allow for friendly competition and a chance for students to hone in their skills in the areas that interest them the most. FFA provides students with priceless opportunities that prepare them for the future with leadership skills, career development and working with peers.

Agriculture education can be a vital part any school curriculum and greatly benefits high school students. Whether a student comes from an agricultural background or not, or plans to go into agriculture or not, they can greatly benefit from the opportunities available through agriculture education. Throughout American Education Week keep in mind how important it is to educate youth about agriculture. Agriculture education represents a wide range of subjects and skills that can be learned in and out of a classroom from teachers, peers and the students themselves. It is important to support Ag programs in our schools to give students the opportunity to be the future of the agriculture industry.

Sarah Carson
University of Illinois student
majoring in Ag Education
 
 
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WINNERS AND LOSERS

No. We’re no longer talking about politicians. We’re talking about us!

The Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield next week to begin the Fall Veto Session. It’s a portion of the legislative process where lawmakers are supposed to act upon actions taken by Governor Quinn regarding proposed changes to law sent to him by the assembly during the Spring Session of this year. In reality, some of that will occur. However, this is also the time when parties in power use their majorities to make additional legislative changes before the next General Assembly is sworn into office in January. It’s the kickoff point for the next two year session of the legislature.

We know where we are now. We’re deeply in debt. The debt is only getting larger. And, the means of reducing that obligation are not looking any brighter than they have been for the past several months.

The economy is not growing at a rate fast enough to fill the financial hole. Yet, huge segments of society are clamoring for more money in order to maintain the status quo. So, who will lawmakers determine puts more money in so they have money to give to groups who take money out? And, how do they close the debt they have already amassed?

Now is the time for every state agency to review their spending programs and make hard decisions regarding what programs could be targeted for reduction or elimination. It’s also the time for every segment of recipient entities to review their operations and determine needs versus wants and be prepared to offer realistic input into the process.

Despite providing a significant portion of the states economy, the agriculture industry is not going to be exempt from the budget ax. So, it’s vital that leaders of all aspects of the agriculture community look within their programs and make those same hard decisions – what could be restructured or reduced and what must remain or be revised to improve the industry and, ultimately, the economy of Illinois.

What lawmakers decide to do with the current mess depends upon several factors, including how confident they are that they can raise taxes after voters spoke loud and clear they do not want to pay more until spending is brought under control. Therein lays the problem!

As lawmakers begin the next session I have no doubts there will be cuts in numerous agencies and their programs. I also have no doubt there will eventually be attempts to increase revenues.

In other words – be prepared for activity concerning our industry!

Tom Madsen
GovPlus Consulting

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U.S. MILITARY AND U.S. (IL) AGRICULTURE

Veterans Day is upon us once again and this is a time for us all to think about those that have and are serving our country and those that have given their lives so that we can continue to live the American dream. This may be only one day that many honor those that have or are serving our country, but it shouldn’t be just one day.

There are thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen putting their lives at stake to ensure our freedoms and they should be thanked every day and in every one of our prayers. They spend days, months, and years of their lives away from their families and yes this is their choice, but that is a sacrifice in itself that many take for granted. Military service men and women don’t serve in the military because of the great pay, great benefits or easy lifestyle. It’s quite the contrary. Those that serve in the military, from my experience, have never considered those as factors in their decision to join or remain in the military. Believing in the American way of life and the American dream, setting the example for all to follow, and taking pride for doing something that many in this country would never consider doing are ideals that I know of why many join the service. Those in the military have extremely strong values, such as Honor, Courage, and Commitment. For us in the U.S. Navy these are not just words, but they are a way of life and are reflected in everything we do. Each of the branches of the service have their own values, but they are all similar and in the end, the commonality is a dedication to duty and country.

Some may ask what if any connection there is between the U.S. military and U.S. agriculture. I not only served in the U.S. Navy, but I also come from an agricultural background. Much like those in the Navy, those in my farm community also had strong values and a strong faith. The same values that are extolled in the Navy are very much a part of that farm life I grew up on. Perhaps that is why you see so many young farm men and women join the military. It is comforting to belong to a team and a culture that share your same values and beliefs.

Whether a farmer or a military service member, you are committed to serving your country. Providing the food and feed supply that keeps the nation independent of basic food/feed imports adds to our national security issues. Many nations around the world import a majority of the food they consume. While in the U.S. we do import some food/feed ingredients, overall though, we are a food exporting nation and our producers are increasing trying to meet the global food and feed needs. Farmers and the U.S. military are the backbone of American national security. Having both of these industries, agriculture and defense, as a strong part of our economy puts the U.S. at a very strong strategic advantage over many countries around the world.

The U.S. farmer and service member have a partnership that they may not be aware of, but it is one that is vital to the United States’ leadership role around the world. I don’t expect the values or beliefs of either to change and as more nations need “nation building” assistance both the U.S. farmer will be there to feed that nation’s people and to educate them on how to produce their own food, but the U.S. service men and women will be there to protect them and ensure that they have the same opportunity to grow and live a life free from threats and oppression. So on this Thursday and any day of the year, if you see a farmer or a service member thank them for what they are doing to make this country and you as a citizen safe and secure and also thank them for their sacrifices. It is the least we can do.

Craig A. Ratajczyk
CEO Illinois Soybean Association
(CDR USN)

You can also visit Craig on the ISA Facebook page.

NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL LIVESTOCK EXPO, LOUISVILLE

An upcoming event that brings quite the excitement to the city of Louisville, KY is the North American International Livestock Exposition. The event will be held from November 6th through the 19th. It is a large event where many species of animals will be exhibited. As an exhibitor at NAILE, or a visitor, it is a great way to meet many people from across the United States.

No matter what type of animal you are interested in, at some point throughout the two weeks, they will be present and shown. The best animals will be there to represent their breed. Owners of these animals work for months to get them ready for the show. After lots of special care and grooming, the animals are ready for show. There are junior and open shows, this means that youth will get to show against other youth in the junior show and then at the open show exhibitors of all ages compete. These are some of the top animals of their breed and are not only there to be shown but to also promote the high quality genetics of the breed and the farm or owner that brought that animal to NAILE.

Though the shows are a main part of the exposition, there are many other events to attract people to NAILE. The rodeo is always a hit as it is the Championship for the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association and brings in the Great Lakes Circuit Rodeo Finals. I have never been able to attend the Rodeo, but it is a main event of this Louisville exposition. If the livestock shows and rodeo are not up your alley, there is a “Country Store” to keep you busy. This store is packed with almost two hundred venders. One can buy some good food or a nice pair of boots at this attraction and I have done both. Walking through the store is fun and I normally find something that I need.

In its 35th year, the exposition is still going strong. Take a day to come enjoy the shows and the store and walk through the many livestock barns, one would not be disappointed. If it is not feasible to make the journey to Louisville to take in all the action, check out their website www.livestockexpo.org. There is a press staff, which also includes some student interns from Illinois and Kentucky, which will keep the site updated with current happenings and results, along with some stories from the barns. This site also includes pictures from past years and many schedules of shows and hours for events. So be sure to look at the visitors tab.

For those that are going to show on the green shavings, which is always exciting to see the hard work pay off, to walk through the massive country store, or just to watch and take it in, this upcoming event in agriculture is sure to be worth your time. Try to get this on your calendar and check out the website for event times. If you happen to stroll through the dairy barns be sure to come say hi! Look forward to seeing you there.

Amy Schaufelberger
University of Illinois student

FEDERAL FUNDING FOR BLENDER PUMPS – NOT YET

On October 21, 2010 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made an exciting announcement that USDA will support the installation of up to 10,000 blender pumps in the next five years throughout the U.S. The funds for the program according to the Secretary already exist within USDA.

Based on this announcement the ethanol producers, corn growers and petroleum marketers began talking on how to take advantage of this great opportunity. The Illinois Corn Marketing Board already has a cooperative program in place with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the American Lung Association of Illinois to install E-85 stations and blender pumps. Funding provided by both DCEO and ICMB allow a station to receive up to $20,000 if they install a blender pump system. Blender pumps cost between $25,000 and $30,000. The E-85 program allows grants up to $30,000 for the installation of E-85 underground storage tanks and dispensers.

Funds are tight so the additional funds from USDA would fit right into the existing program. In fact several petroleum marketers have in the last two weeks expressed interest in this new program.

Alas, announcements are easy to make but the real work begins after the press releases. In follow-up discussions with USDA and others it became quite clear that the surplus funds have not been identified. The plan is for the funding to go through Rural Development (which is a very good idea) but the current programs would have to be changed to allow funds to be used specifically for blender pumps. One obvious program is the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which has been identified as a possible vehicle. Unfortunately the guidelines will have to be changed and the solicitations will not be issued until next spring. It is also possible the program will have to be changed legislatively for blender pumps to be allowed.

USDOE with their billions are also in the discussions. They of course are not as excited about funding blender pumps and E-85 infrastructure as USDA. USDOE has significantly reduced their support for ethanol research and E-85 in the last two years. Unspent stimulus funds that go to the states for energy programs were originally identified as an option for funding blender pumps. In Illinois, like many other states, these funds have been obligated already.

We will continue working with USDA, Rural Development as well as USDOE to identify funding opportunities for blender pumps. It just will not happen next week.

The good news is, the Rural Development Director of Illinois and her staff are very supportive of trying to identify the funding in USDA and they are working with ICMB, the American Lung Association and DCEO to develop a program for the petroleum marketers and ethanol industry in Illinois.

In the world of corn-based ethanol, we’re always looking for a silver lining.

Dave Loos
Ethanol Guru

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

Illinois Corn recognized that we will likely see a shift in the Congressmen that represented us, but no one predicted quite this large of a shift! Here are the new faces we look forward to working with in January!

Congratulations to Joe Walsh, Robert Dold, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Bobby Schilling, & Mark Kirk on their new offices and thank you to Cong Bean, Foster, Halvorson, & Hare for your service.

NOVEMBER 2ND: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED

Wow! What happened in that last election (held Tuesday, November 2, 2010 if you have forgotten already)?

Already, much has been written, analysis made, and perhaps even plans formulated about the effect of the national elections. Folks are still trying to figure out how this affects Illinois, especially on the myriad problems and issues facing our new governor (perhaps the old governor) and the newly elected state legislature.

The unusual thing about the Illinois election in terms of the legislature is that really, not much changed. Before the election, Democrats held supermajorities in each chamber. The Illinois House Democratic majority was 70 Democrats to 48 Republicans. After the election, going into the 2011 session, it will be 64-54. Republicans actually won 7 seats formally held by Democrats but lost a north suburban Chicago seat held by a Republican legislator who retired. The net effect is a gain of six seats.
In the Illinois Senate elections, Republicans gained two seats formally held by Democrats. Prior to the election, the Democratic supermajority was 37-22. The majority in the 2011 session will now be 35-24.

Many folks wonder why state elections did not mirror the national trend this year. One of the reasons relates to the redistricting process that each state goes through every ten years following the completion of the national census. States are given the new population data and go through the process of drawing new legislative and congressional district maps that rebalance the population in each district, to essentially provide that the districts have the same number of people in them that a particular officeholder will represent. A significant part of that redistricting planning relates to identifying and consolidating political party affiliation to provide greater opportunity for success by the dominant party in the district.

The legislative maps drawn in 2001 reflected the interests of the dominant political party at that time (Democratic) and reflect those interests in 2010 as well. Legislative district elections tend to focus more on local and state political issues and interests (like tax policies, social service issues, education and the like). Since they are also smaller population political subdivisions, they add credence to the notion that “all politics are local” more so than larger political subdivisions like congressional districts. In comparison, congressional elections (U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats) reflect substantially more on those national policy issues, which oftentimes are separated in the voter’s mind from the state and local political scene.

The Illinois legislature will have redistricting on it’s “must do” list in the 2011 legislative session. Approval of a new plan for re-apportioning legislative and congressional district maps requires only a simple majority vote of the Illinois Senate and Illinois House, and approval by the Governor. However, if the General Assembly cannot agree upon a plan, a Redistrictricting Commission is established under the Illinois Constitution. As witnessed in the November 2010 election results, this decision, made every ten years, has a significant impact over the next ten years that it will be in effect, in terms of elections and ultimately, how the major issues facing the state will be considered, and by those persons elected within that framework.
Rich Clemmons

WHAT DOES NOVEMBER 2 MEAN FOR ILLINOIS AGRICULTURE?

In the wake of a long night waiting up to see the results of the elections (and still waiting to see the outcome of the Gubernatorial race) I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what the outcomes, or proposed outcomes, mean for agriculture. If we assume Governor Quinn wins, we already know he supports an income tax increase and I have to assume that it will be a priority to help resolve our budget mess. The problem with this plan of attack is that it only solves half the annual shortfall at most and does nothing to address our State’s huge backlog of past bills yet to be paid. That means either greater revenue increases or budget cuts, neither of which will be easy.
Furthermore, if Governor Quinn decides to only represent the Chicago area, ag and business are in for a rough four years as additional revenue and/or cuts will not be made over a broad base. Long-term, this continues to put the Illinois economy in a tailspin and business leaves the state.

Farmers can’t move the land so our businesses can’t leave the state! Our choice is to be proactive early on so that the “pain” is shared as equitably as possible and our state’s economy can grow. If not, the result will be that our state will continue its economic decline.

illinois election congressional districtsMoving on to the federal races, I was blown away by the magnitude of the Republican wave. We had four Congressional seats “flip” from Democrat to Republican: Halvorson, Foster, Hare and Bean. I had expected only one or two.

What does this mean? First of all I hope that the zealousness of USEPA on regulations slows down and in some cases stop. Although it was not an election issue, I believe that USEPA is not well-liked in the rural areas for the agenda they have been trying to move forward. The danger for agriculture though is to assume that all of this goes away. Some will slow down, some will be put on the shelf, but some will continue. As an example, nutrient regulation will continue because the movement of nutrient regulation is based on the Clean Water Act that all states were to implement and USEPA was to enforce back in 2000. There’s no getting away from this one.

The other major effect to agriculture is in the area of funding. Nearly everyone elected last night in either the US House or the US Senate will want to demonstrate to the electorate they did something about the deficit when they are up for re-election. This will be a priority. That means that Farm Bill, business tax credits, ethanol tax credits, research, and any other spending by the Federal Government will be under the microscope. This is not a bad thing, but if we expect our elected officials to reduce the federal deficit, ag must be prepared that some of our own programs will be part of the solution.

All in all, it was a fun election night that offers a host of new challenges and opportunities for ag. We have four new US Congressman and a new US Senator that know very little about ag issues and I look forward to the dialogue as we teach them what Illinois’ number one industry is all about.

Rodney M Weinzierl
ICGA Executive Director

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