Change is the only constant in a perpetually evolving world. Just as life and traditions change, so do farming practices. In today’s day in age, farmers have easy access to tractors and large machinery, which make the profession of farming much easier. Agriculturists also have the technology of fertilizers, that ensure the crops receive necessary nutrients. Advancements in chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are used to rid fields of unwanted weeds and pests. However, farming has not always been this precise of a science. It’s interesting to look back and see how far farmers have come in the past century.
Early in the 20th-century farmers used a system of planting called hill dropping of checked corn. This system required a wire to be strung from one end of a field to the other, and it would be strung through a planter powered by a team of horses. This wire would release a small pile of corn, hence the term ‘hill’, in 42-inch rows. But why 42 inches? Because that’s the average width of a horse! These checked rows allowed for cultivators to be easily pulled through the field. Since there were no herbicides to kill weeds, farmers relied solely upon cultivators to uproot the nuisances. More in-depth information on this practice can be found here!
Fast forward to about 25 years ago, when farming seems to have vastly improved from the seemingly primitive ways of the early 1900’s. Instead of farming in 42-inch rows, corn grew within 30-inch rows. This allowed for more plants to grow in each field, which lead to an increase in yields. By this point in time, farmers were using tractors to pull their planters, which greatly increased the efficiency of their time and efforts. However, these aren’t the only technological benefits! In the 1990’s farmers started utilizing satellite technology to increase their accuracy, which made the farming profession a very meticulous one. Additionally, the number of farmers trying conservation tillage methods continued to rise. This simply means that producers leave more plant residue in the field, with intentions to prevent erosion. This extra plant material will add organic matter to the soil, which will also improve the land’s productivity. On top of all these advancements, in 1997 the first insect and weed resistant crops become commercially available. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about how farming improved in the 90’s, I suggest you check out this link!
Farming in the early 2000’s… was it really that much different from farming today? To start off with, one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding farming practices was passed. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also referred to as the Farm Bill, created rules and regulations for anything from conservation practices, to organic agriculture, to crop insurance. This bill promoted innovative solutions to resource challenges, established a new disaster assistance program, expanded the opportunities for farmers’ markets, and much more! Further information about the full impacts of the 2008 Farm Bill can be found here. Without these past accomplishments, the agriculture industry would certainly not be the same as it is today.
Iowa State University
Scrolling through the archives, I found this article posted on November 10 last year. Reading it takes me back to the uncertainty of America as she woke up following election day 2016. Many of us were surprised by the election results and scrambling to make some sense of what would come next. In the IL Corn office, there were also excited feelings – as following any major change in electorate – about the challenges of educating a new President about our issues and the opportunities that a new administration might hold.
Almost a year through this presidency, we’ve been on a roller coaster ride.
Back then, we were excited about the promise of a Republican-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency and the results that such an alignment might deliver. Happily, nothing negative has happened, but neither have any positive results passed for the country. There’s just – nothing. This conservative voter is disappointed to see that having a majority in both houses of Congress and the Executive Office still doesn’t deliver results.
One year ago, Illinois looked forward to working with our newest member of Congress, Raja Krishnamoorthi. This relationship couldn’t have played out better! Congressman Krishnamoorthi is responsive to our requests and accessible to farmers. He is interested in learning about agriculture – the economic driver of Illinois – and willing to help see farmers succeed.
Senator Duckworth is also finishing out her first year in the Senate with many accolades from IL Corn. We appreciate her support of ethanol and her willingness to learn about the need for lock and dam upgrades, but we had experienced a positive relationship working with her in Congress and expected nothing less.
Farmers are pleased with the team President Trump has assembled for himself, specifically as relates to agriculture. The President’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has been an asset leading our industry and farmers are also happy with nominations for Bill Northey, Steve Censky, Ted McKinney, and others. We see this team coming to agriculture’s defense and helping to promote the industry as recently as last week when Sec Perdue said that withdrawing from NAFTA would have “some tragic consequences.”
Speaking of NAFTA, we worried about it one year ago and we’re still worried about trade today. President Trump’s trade conversations have caused a bit of upheaval with our foreign customers. IL Corn was disappointed to see America step out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and nervous to hear of a potential “cancellation” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At the same time, farmers have seen the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule stopped in its tracks and are mostly pleased with the administration of the Environmental Protection Agency taking more of a commonsense, science-based approach to environmental regulations.
All in all, you win some, you lose some. I suppose that’s the way our government is designed. A win for any one industry or any one person wouldn’t always be good for the whole, right?
Our office remains excited about the opportunity to work with the administration and the Congress towards some of our most important priorities.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
Farmers work diligently every day to feed the ever-growing population. Think about what was on your dinner plate last night. In a world without farmers, that plate would be empty. Society would have to return to the days of hunting and gathering. There is no way we could support the current population in this way.
It’s not enough for farmers to produce the food that sustains life as we know it. They wanted to do more to help fight hunger. Farmers across the country donate to local food banks as individuals and as businesses. Farmers work land that has been passed down for generations. No industry results in deep community ties in the way that farming does. Simply put, farmers care.
Agriculture organizations do their best to encourage this behavior and aid in the cause. Illinois Corn Marketing Board regularly donates to the “Pork Power” program that is run by the Illinois Pork Producers. Donations can be made in the form of the cash value of an animal sold at market or in the form of an animal to the program. The pork is then shared with local food banks to provide a source of healthy protein. Since the program began in 2008, 565,000 pounds of pork have been donated to hungry mouths across the state of Illinois. That totals up to more than 2.3 million servings of pork.
Illinois farmers didn’t stop with just donating pork to the needy, many farmers also donate other foods such as sweet corn to local food banks. Think about a warm summer day, sitting out of the back porch with your family eating sweetcorn along with your dinner. With Sweet Corn for Charity, hungry Illinois residents are now able to share that experience. More than 60 thousand pounds of sweet corn was donated to food banks both locally and into inner-city areas across the state of Illinois.
Instances such as those listed above are far from rarities. Nationally, farmers can be seen donating their fresh produce to local food banks. Access to fresh produce is incredibly challenging for many people both in and out of cities. The generosity of those who are privileged enough to have easy access to fresh produce encourage healthy habits and expand the opportunities for the less fortunate.
Consider how you can join the cause to feed America. Planting a small garden could provide your family with fresh produce over the course of the summer. When the warm summer weather produces a bountiful harvest of produce, you can donate to your own favorite charity. Just like the American farmer, you too can feed the world one hungry mouth at a time.
University of Illinois
Kade Gambill knows his stuff. Ask him just about any questions about agriculture, politics, or agriculture policy and Kade most likely knows it. Kade did not grow up on a farm but once he got into the industry and saw what all it had to offer he was hooked. His goals and passions are very commendable making him a great leader as well as a great young person in ag.
- What college do you attend, what is your major and your future plans?
I am currently a sophomore at Kaskaskia College in Centralia Illinois. After that, I plan to go to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky to major in Agriculture Business with a focus in Economics. I have also really found a passion for Agriculture Policy so that is something I may go into also. I want to work in Southern Illinois where I am originally from and possibly open some sort of AgriBusiness business or work with Farm Bureau or a private company with their agriculture policy and law department. I may not know exactly what I want to do, but I do know that I want to work in the Agriculture Industry.
- What is your involvement at school?
I am involved in multiple different clubs including Ag Club as an officer and PAS. I also work some with the research farm that my agriculture department partnered with the Fayette County Farm Bureau to operate, as well as helping organize different contest for different FFA contests
- High school experience/involvement in ag?
I was involved in numerous clubs and organizations. I was the Section 21 President my senior year of high school and got the opportunity to travel the state as well as to a few states with my 29 other teammates where we lead, organized, and helped with anything Illinois FFA related. My section included about 16 schools and 1000 students and is something that I will never forget. I also was involved with Farm Bureau and served as the student representative on the school board.
My freshman year of high school was the first year that agriculture classes were being offered so I decided to take one. Before high school, I was not even thinking about being any part of the agriculture industry. My agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Casey Bolin really pushed me and encouraged me to be involved and to make my own path in this industry as well as in FFA to take leadership roles that I didn’t think I would normally.
- Some internship highlights?
This past summer I interned for the Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, and her office. I went to Springfield twice a week and assisted her staff on different legislation she was trying to push as well talking to legislators and representatives of various interest about different bills. We also went to different businesses with her and went with to the DuQuoin and Illinois State Fairs. It was a great experience getting to talk with and get close with the Lt. Governor as well as other lawmakers. As well as, getting to see the behind the scenes work at the state government level that goes on. It gives you a new appreciation/look at that process.
- In the terms of age of Agriculture, we are very young people, but do you remember anything that really changed agriculture in any way
I think there has been a lot of misinformation that has gone around. Whether that be because people are not from the farm or people making up things I don’t know. But I think it is our job as young people to hopefully fix that kind of gap of what is right and wrong information.
- How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?
Technology is going to get bigger and better. I look forward to the day that farmers are getting to run their combines or tractors from their phone. Hopefully, by then agriculture companies and interest groups like the Farm Bureau will have been able to bridge that gap we just talked about on what agriculture really is and where people’s food and fiber come from.
- Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?
I may not know exactly what I want to do, but I do know that I want to work in the Agriculture Industry. I have met so many people through FFA, college, and so many other things. This industry is welcoming and encouraging and I want to be a part of that. My advice would be to embrace ALL those welcome people and opportunities. I have regretted some missed opportunities of things that would have helped me in my professional life. You can’t be too involved in a group or organization.
Lake Land College
Farmers are often considered to be a “jack of all trades”, and there is a reason for that. On any given day, they can be mechanics, construction workers, scientists, and meteorologists. What most people don’t think farmers specialize in is policy, but they do that too. It makes sense if you think about it. There are a lot of rules when it comes to farming, and they need to stay up to date on legislative issues because they directly affect their livelihood.
They have a lot to lose
Because farmers have so much invested, they also have a lot. In all reality, it is a wonder that farmers are able to survive in today’s economy. It may seem like their fields of green turn into the best kind of green (money), but that is not always the case. Farmers spend millions on their harvesters, planters fertilizers, irrigation, sheds, seeds and land but that doesn’t mean that they have millions. Their inputs cost so much, that they need the highest prices out of their outputs possible just to stay afloat. The government can help farmers through creating policies that help farmers yield the most out of their inputs.
Farmers are usually self-employed
In my family, my parents’ employers provide insurance and retirement, but that usually isn’t the case for farmers. Especially if the farmer’s spouse does not have outside employment, they have to make room in their income for things that most people are provided in the workplace. In order to afford this, they need to make their voice heard to lawmakers when it comes time to create policies like health care acts. Farmers also need the government to support companies that give them loans to make large purchases like equipment. Especially considering that farming is dangerous, farmers need insurance.
They care about their families
Even if they make enough to provide for their family right now, they can never be certain for the future. Farming is a family tradition. Most farmers have been passed down land from many generations, and they want to pass it down to their children. When farmers get involved in legislative issues involving agriculture, it is because they care about the future of their farm. One year yields could reach an all-time high, and the next year a drought could kill all of the crops. On top of this, land is becoming more and more valuable with technology advancements. Legislators need to implement policies that ensure long-term farming success, and they are more likely to listen to the farmers talk about their families than anyone else.
For some farmers, it’s a hobby
Policy is interesting. Even if a farmer runs a very successful operation, they might be involved just because they can make a difference for other farmers. The agriculture industry is huge, and companies have plenty of representation, but what politicians like to see are the real people, like farmers, who care.
Over the summer, I was able to see how involved farmers actually are in farm policy. They want to talk to legislators, and they want to be heard. Because farming is so necessary to our economy, farming is highly regulated. The people who know agriculture best are the farmers cultivating the land, which is why their voice matters the most.
University of Illinois
Harvest season is in full swing throughout the Midwest region, and with harvest comes farmers (and their equipment) driving on the roads. The ‘average Joe’ would have no clue what really goes into driving combines down a busy-traffic road, but it is really quite dangerous. It is important to realize that a farmer puts his safety at risk every time he/she drives down the road in their farm equipment. Road safety is important, especially in the country this time of year. Here are 5 spooky truths about driving during this harvest, Halloween season.
- Your car is a ‘ghost’ to the equipment driver.
When driving past any piece of farm equipment, passing is very dangerous. Most likely, the driver cannot see you- there is a lot more of him than you, and it can be difficult to get around the vehicle in a timely and safe manner. The last thing anyone wants is a deadly accident. Farm equipment can usually only go a max speed of 30 mph, and they are prone to wide turns.
2. Move with caution, the signs are as orange as pumpkins.
Most farm equipment has large, orange caution signs on the back, visible to other drivers. When you see these signs, be cautious. Realize that you might need to slow down, pass with care, and realize that you have to share the road.
3. Don’t be ‘spooked’ by big farm equipment.
You will know farm equipment when you see it: a giant green or red tractor, combine, carts, or trucks. Most farmers know that their equipment is big, slow, and take up a lot of space. But, don’t forget that a farmer’s 18,000-pound tractor cannot go 70 mph. down the road. Be prepared to slow down to their speed.
4. No need to be a ‘witch’, farmers understand.
Farmers understand that their equipment is slow, they understand you want to pass them as you’re trying to get to your destination. Farmer’s will drive over the shoulder of the road, but you have to give them time. They have to be cautious of guard rails, road signs, and other vehicles on the road. There is no need for you to honk, make angry gestures, or anything of that nature. Realize that farmers are just trying to do their job.
5. Trick or Treat! Farmers are just like you and me.
This is the busiest time of the year for farmers all across the country. Making sure they can get their crops in before snowfall and freezing temperatures is hard. This is their job, we have to respect that. Safety comes first.
The most important thing to remember this time of year is that safety is the most important thing. We have to remember that this is a part of country life, farmers driving is just the norm this time of year. The spooky truth is this- farmers have a family to come home to at the end of each night during harvest, so please drive safe. For more tips and tricks this harvest season- check out this article full of harvest driving to-dos.
To all the farming families here in the Midwest and across the country, we wish you a bountiful harvest and a safe fall and Halloween season!
Illinois State University