My kids, four and six, often ask me what I do. My job isn’t easy to describe to a four year old or a six year old or even the class of first graders I talked to the other day. Put simply, all the staff at Illinois Corn are trying to help farmers, support farmers, and make it as easy as it possibly can be to do their jobs.
One of the ways we’ve been trying to do just that is to address the federal crop insurance program.
Have we fixed it yet? Not at all, but we are working on it. Will our current solution make a dent in the problems crop insurance presents to Illinois corn farmers? Definitely. In fact, experts predict that the current route we’re taking to fix crop insurance will “fix” about 50% of the problems farmers have with the program.
As with any federal program, our fix for crop insurance is complicated. If I were to put it in layman’s terms, I’d tell you simply that Illinois Corn Growers Association is working on an endorsement that will take into account the exponential growth in corn yields over time. Right now, farmers are typically underinsured because the current program assumes that yields stay the same over time. The “fix” will help farmers who try to insure 80% of their expected yield actually insure nearly 80% of their expected yield.
But here’s the take home message. Because we’re working with the federal government (USDA Risk Management Agency) on this possible new endorsement, its a long and complicated and involved procedure. So the Illinois Corn Growers Association would like to express their sincere appreciation to the Illinois Congressional Delegation that sent a letter to the RMA Administrator this week in support of our proposal.
Thank you, Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, for spear-heading a letter that was signed by Congressmen Hare, Foster, Bean, Costello, and Lipinski among other out of state Congressmen. And thank you to Congressman Tim Johnson for heading up a letter signed by Congressmen Schock and Shimkus as well as other Congressmen from Iowa and Nebraska.
Illinois corn farmers appreciate your assistance and your support!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
The World Dairy Expo was a great experience and did not disappoint. From watching the shows, to sitting next to many international guest and hearing their opinions of the shows, to enjoying my grilled cheese sandwiches and milk, to talking about future plans with exhibitors present, to purchasing a jacket, expo met my expectations. Though it is a little too late to watch the shows live online, all the results can be found on the website. www.worlddairyexpo.com. Also, the site includes a lot of information about this year’s expo besides show results. Whether you are a diary enthusiast or not, the World Dairy Expo is a great event to experience, so I would suggest that you work that into your plans for next fall!
University of Illinois student and Illinois farm girl
Sadly, last week brought about the news that the headquarters for Aventine Renewable Energy in Pekin, IL will be moving out of Illinois to Texas. Aventine is a leading producer and marketer of ethanol and related by-products.
Early reports indicate that the move has been brought about simply because the top executives for the company reside in Dallas.
Aventine has its roots in sugar beet processing in Pekin, extending more than 100 years to the 1890’s.
You can read more in the Chicago Tribune.
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Guru
She’s Country, a Facebook page that we follow here at Illinois Corn, proposed an interesting question today.
In your own words, what is a “family farm?”
She’s Country is right, there is no universally accepted definition. And I think that if forced to write down a definition, you might just find that a family farm is exactly what you thought it was and maybe even something more.
Visit She’s County, become a fan, and add your thought to the mix. This is an interesting exercise in realizing what we have, what makes us strong, and why we all love to be family farmers.
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to visit one of our partner sites in the City Produce Program, the Cook County Jail.
It was exciting to see all the fresh produce being gathered which will then be distributed to families without access to fresh veggies in inner city Chicago. It was equally exciting to see the inmates at Cook County Jail learning about horticulture, becoming certified Master Gardners through the University of Illinois Extension program, and adding a trade to their resume to use as they rebuild their future.
But I’m interested in the new connections being built between urban and rural citizens of Illinois.
This project is about nutrition and goodwill towards our neighbors, but its also about awareness. How often do the farmers in Illinois consider those without access to a grocery store other than the local gas station convenience store? I can guess that its not often.
Likewise, how much do Chicago residents understand about farming as an occupation? About the ups and downs of the market, the vulnerability of the weather, the long hours and sneaky insects that equal risky paychecks? Not much, I’m sure. And through this program, volunteers that simply want to contribute to the fresh vegetable access are seeing first hand what it really is to be a farmer.
There is a gap right now between the reality for urban Illinoisans and the reality for rural Illinoisans. That gap causes distrust and confusion because of a mutual lack of understanding between the two. What the Chicago Produce Project seeks to do for Illinois corn farmers is create understanding.
Become a Facebook fan of the City Produce Project, Illinois Corn, and Monsanto (all partners in this effort) so that you can learn more about the good we are doing in urban Chicago. Check out Crain’s coverage of the project here. Consider getting involved.
Executive Director, ICGA/ICMB
The Truman National Security Project released its 2010 Fuel Scorecard last week. See why ethanol ranks near the top of all fuel solutions to make America a safer, more independent nation.
Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something. In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.
While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly “conservation” farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field. Atrazine’s ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they’d better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—“If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?”
Looking at the information above, it’s no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It’s no wonder that they work with atrazine’s major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.
But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.
The subpoenas come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can’t imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer’s meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.
Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine? The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don’t scare that easily.
Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association and is the Chairman of the Triazine Network, a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine.