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This past week, most of our staff was in Washington, D.C. for Corn Congress.
Some Illinois farmers as well as farmers from all over the U.S. had the change to “Rally for Rural America” and to advocate on current issues that effect the agriculture industry.
Our staff was able to capture a few great moments!
Congresswoman and veteran Tammy Duckworth delivered a moving and motivating speech at the Rally for Rural America. She reminded these farmers that they are not only fighting for their own families, neighbors, and communities, but also every serviceman and woman protecting our country overseas or laying in a hospital bed right now. American bushels, not foreign barrels.
Even Captain Cornelius was in D.C. to show support. He also took a moment to pose for a picture with a few of our board members.
When learning about where babies come from, we were all told the famous “Birds and the Bees” story to help understand the complicated truth about how babies are made.
Like other things in nature, corn also has a story about how its “babies” are made. Only this story is much easier to explain and much easier to understand.
Just to clarify, corn’s “babies” are the kernels. In sweet corn, kernels are the part you eat.
Every corn plant has both male and female parts.
The male part is the tassel. The tassel is the part of the plant that emerges from the top. The tassel usually consists of several branches which have many small flowers on them.
The female part is the ear. The ear develops on the corn stalk, in which, can produce several ears but the uppermost ear becomes the largest. Before the female ear has been fertilized by the male tassel, the ear consists of a cob, eggs (that will become kernels after pollination) and silks. From each egg, a silk grows and emerges from the tip of the husk. (The husk is the group of leaves that cover the entire ear.)
(Here is where things start to heat up.)
Each male flower releases a large number of pollen grains, each of which contain the male sex cell.
Pollination occurs when pollen falls on the exposed silks. After pollination, a male sex cell grows down each silk to a single egg and then fertilization starts to take place.
Fertilization is the joining of the male and female corn sex cells.
The fertilized egg develops into a kernel and inside each kernel is a single embryo (corn baby.)
A single ear of corn can produce hundreds of kernels.
That is how corn is made. Now go tell all your friends!
We want consumers to know what is in their food and to understand what it means. But what we don’t want is consumers to fear food based on poor marketing tactics. The safety of GMOs is firmly established by the scientific community and health organizations, therefore people should not fear them.
Chuck Spencer of GROWMARK, was quoted in AgWired yesterday. Spencer says GROWMARK is supporting the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act in the House that would create a uniform national food labeling standard for products made with genetically modified organisms. “We understand that consumers want to know more about their food and we need to be increasingly transparent,” explains Spencer. “The National Organic Standard administered by the USDA is a wonderful example of a voluntary program that is nationally consistent and recognized. We feel it could be put to use in that same framework, that USDA could have a non-GMO standard, and it would be a voluntary framework just like the organic standard.”
1. Family farmers start working at sunrise and don’t stop until well after sunset.Corporate farmers work a 9 to 5 job.
2. Family farmers enjoy a family picnic in the field. Corporate farmers eat lunch with executives and other co-workers.
3. Family farmers work all summer to prepare for harvest. Corporate farmers have the time to take a vacation anywhere they desire.
4. Over half of family farmers have a full-time job and farm as a hobby because it’s their true passion. Corporate farmers make plenty “farming.”
5. Family farmers are interested in the good of the animals and the community. Corporate farmers are interested in money and profits.
6. Family farmers try to put an emphasis on conservation practices. Corporate farmers focus mainly on business practices.
7. Family farmers know that Paul Harvey was correct about why “God Made a Farmer” Corporate farmers believe that it was just a Super Bowl commercial meant to sell trucks.
8. Family farmers know the importance of FFA to allow students to develop “premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.” Corporate farmers only see a group of kids in a blue corduroy jacket.
9. Family farmers are able to diversify themselves with many crops or animals to manage the risk of the prices dropping. Corporate farmers usually deal with only one area of the market.
10. Family farmers live a lifestyle, versus corporate farmers only have a job.
As you can see there is no such thing as a corporate farmer that actually does the farming. There are corporate owned farms, but the farmers actually doing the planting, harvesting, and maintenance are the down-to-earth family farmers. According to the USDA about 93% of farming operations in the United States are family run, leaving only 7% being owned by corporations. How many times have you seen a man in a suit planning corn? If you can’t think of any you probably never have because that would be memorable!
After the long stressful days of watching the weather, avoiding as many break-downs as possible, and moving equipment from field to field are over a grain farmer’s work is over, until harvest, right?
That is just the beginning.
Planting is a stressful and vulnerable time for farmers, not only because Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants to, but because they are about to risk a large chunk of change by planting little seeds into a big black field of soil. Many weeks, if not months, go into prepping for planting. Farmers must pick their seed variety, purchase the seed, cultivate their fields (unless they no-till), and eliminate all the weeds they can before nestling the seeds into a cozy bed.
Here’s a list of what farmers do after their planting is finished. As you will see a Farmer’s work is never truly finished.
Check for sprouting/ swelling seeds
Farmers must keep a close eye on their seeds and the amount of moisture they are taking in. If a seed takes up water it will begin to swell and if temperatures aren’t high enough the seed will not germinate and will rot in the ground.
“The seed will take up water with soil temperatures cooler than 50 degrees. The seed imbibes the water, takes it in, but doesn’t germinate because it’s too cold,” says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist in eastern Iowa.
If it has rained, check the soil for crusting
A soil crust forms after rain droplets cause the soil to break into individual particles. The small particles then get washed together and join together into a hard crust, preventing moisture from going in and seeds from going out of the ground. Farmers need to be aware of a crust forming and will have to use appropriate tillage equipment to break the crust if necessary.
Confirm the seed population
Many pocket knives are used for this job. I remember watching my PawPaw get down on one knee and dig through the rich dark soil to look for seeds. Farmers do this to authenticate that their planters released the right about of seeds, not to overcrowd the plants or not use the land to its full potential.
Monitor plants for insect damage
Insects want to munch on the corn and there aren’t many options to prevent this, except spraying pesticides. Check out what this farmer has to say about using pesticides to protect his yield.
Look for weed pressure-if present decide if spraying is necessary
Weeds are a huge hindrance on the growth of a farmer’s crop. Therefore monitoring the amount of weed growth is important, if they are overcrowding and stealing nutrients from the plants a farmer will need to consider spraying his field.
Check color of plants
This may seem strange but the color of the crop will tell you a lot about how it is maturing. Yellowing crops aren’t healthy and need attention, or possibly less rain.
Take a deep breath and relax
I doubt this will be very easy for farmers as they follow grain prices on the roller coaster until the crop is ready to harvest. They can take this down time to get all of the equipment ready for the approaching fall.
This corn was planted on 4-15-15 and emerging on 4-29-15. Conditions for planting in his area of Piatt County have been excellent. Most in the area are done planting corn and beans. Virtually all the corn has emerged and looks very good with little to no stand loss due to poor germination. Many bean fields have emerged and also look very good. He said they are starting to feel a little dry as of 5-7-15 so they are hoping for a little rain over the next several days.
Americans have questions about farm subsidies – and why shouldn’t they? Americans deserve to understand what their taxes are paying for and why. So here’s the top five questions we get on a semi regular basis and the best, short answers we can provide. Do you have more questions on farm subsidies? Ask away in the comments!
The government got involved in helping farmers stay afloat because they were interested in food security. Our country needs to guarantee a safe, affordable, DOMESTIC food supply and not put ourselves in the position to have to import food because American farmers go out of business. The food security portion of this equation is what makes government payments to farmers different than other businesses or industries that are also reliant on weather or market conditions.
Helping farmers stay in business also supports American rural economies that are built on farming and agriculture. Without farm subsidies, rural communities would be completely desolate and Americans would be forced to urban areas to find work. In essence, farm subsidies that keep farmers in business help many more Americans that don’t farm, but live in rural communities.
There was a time in our history when farmers were paid to leave their land fallow. The “set aside” program sought to control supply and increase commodity prices. But we haven’t done this since the 1990s. The “set aside” program was unauthorized in the 1996 Farm Bill.
Government payments to farmers currently come in the form of subsidized crop insurance. Because farming relies on the weather and is so unpredictable, farmers must insure their crops or face investing a ton of money to plant a crop only to have Mother Nature ruin their crop and leave them with no income for the year. Crop insurance protects farmers when this happens.
But private insurance companies find the proposition too risky. No private company can withstand a weather event like the 2012 drought we experienced here in IL. So the government subsidizes crop insurance, making it available for farmers and encouraging them to protect themselves.
Farmers do pay a portion of their premium AND what amounts to an average of a 20 percent deductible in the event of a loss.
(Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at crop insurance and what it means to farmers in the near future!)
Yes. And that would be amazing.
But consider that farming is a different business model than most. In most other small businesses, the business buys inputs at wholesale prices, builds a product or completes a service, and then determines the cost for the product or service based on the input costs. Farmers do not have this business model.
They must buy inputs at retail prices, pray for great weather, and accept whatever commodity price the market dictates for that month and year. Yes, opportunities exist for farmers to mitigate risk, but they should not and can not be compared to all other small businesses because they do not get to dictate market prices that cover their cost of production.
Also, back to the first point, guaranteeing that we have affordable access to domestic food supply is somewhat different than guaranteeing access to barbershops or photographers.
Yes, farmers did have a great year in 2013. Commodity prices were high because of the low corn supply after the drought, but farmers still grew a lot of corn. They did well and they didn’t need/use their crop insurance.
But like all American families know, you have good years and you have bad years. Farmers are well versed at saving money back from the good years like 2013, to pay for the bad years like 2014 (and probably 2015!). Government subsidized crop insurance is still needed because bad years always happen no matter how good the good years were.
I am very excited to answer your questions about farm subsidies and crop insurance. Please leave a comment!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager