WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT PORK BURRITOS AND STEAK FAJITAS?

Our office took a stand Friday. We are boycotting Chipotle. But first, let me give you some background so you can understand why you should DEFINITELY boycott Chipotle too.

I have no idea if you’ve been following the animal welfare issues going on in Ohio, so let me start this post out with a summary.

Ohio was chugging along, producing quality grain, meats, and produce for the citizens of our world, when the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) came along and decided to wreak havoc. As they have done in other states, HSUS decided to pursue a ballot initiative that would make certain farming practices illegal. Here’s hoping that any of you reading this already know that HSUS isn’t as concerned for animal welfare as they are for ending animal agriculture and meat production in our country, but if you don’t, read this before you go any further.

Ohio agriculture raised a lot of money and started to fight back. They set up an agency within their state that would oversee animal welfare issues and enforce animal care standards, thus eliminating the need for the HSUS to come in and demand the end of the various farming practices.

But now the HSUS has decided that they will continue to fight. They are currently behind a new ballot initiative that will “require the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt certain minimum standards to prevent animal cruelty, improve health and food safety, support family farms, and safeguard the environment throughout the state of Ohio.” These are their words.

The point to my post, however, is the fact that Chipotle is a corporate sponsor for their effort. They are allowing ballots to be placed in their stores throughout Ohio to make it easier for unsuspecting patrons to vote in their favor, bringing us one step closer to ending animal agriculture in the United States.

Yes, the same Chipotle that serves the pork burritos that my co-worker Becky loves, is trying to end pork production in the U.S. And they know it.

They have statements about their purchasing choices and support of humane animal care all over the store. They were also the first restaurant to remove rBGH from their milk products, buy from family farms and make a real, financial commitment to sustainable meat. (source here)

(Whether or not they actually understand that this production system isn’t sustainable remains to be seen. I guess there could be different definitions of sustainability.)

Obviously, with this background, they are well-educated on the goals of the HSUS and want to support ending animal agriculture. Don’t be surprised if you head into Chipotle next year and the entire menu is vegetarian.

Because of all this, our office decided to make a statement yesterday. Becky, Mark and I had the wonderful pork at Moe’s Southwestern Grill instead.

We couldn’t find anything on Moe’s website indicating that they support activist groups and we wanted to reward them for it. Not to mention that their food is better and their chips are free!

Then we met some more folks from the office and expressed our displeasure for Chipotle.

Why don’t you go ahead and do the same?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FINDING A GOOD BALANCE IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSION

About halfway through my term as President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, I can look back and realize that a good portion of our time has been spent on climate change and the idea that corn is somehow responsible for warming our planet. At the same time, I now have to wonder if the second half will be spent discussing whether or not corn is cooling the planet.

Check this out.

All at once, I am consoled that now I am no longer warming the planet and contributing to an apocalypse, but fueling a “cool hole” in the middle of the country.

To summarize, David Changnon, a climate scientist at Northern Illinois University, has used decades of research to prove that more densely planted corn and soybean fields scattered across the Midwest are changing the regional climate – raising the dew point and reducing the extremely hot summer days.

Is it just me, or do all the other Illinois farmers out there want the public, the researchers, and the government to make up their minds about how we affect the climate? It surely isn’t only me that wishes we were seen as a solution to the problem instead of the problem.

This article indicates that there’s hope.

“It’s a different type of human-induced climate change that has certainly played a role in the changes to Illinois’ weather,” said Jim Angel, a climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign. “It’s kind of an interesting way to look at all this.”

Interesting, but also crucially important, Changnon said, as climate scientists ponder two intriguing questions related to this research: Have Midwest farmers accidentally created a barrier to soften the most severe effects of global warming? And if so, can it be repeated elsewhere?

Finally.

Half a year spent discussing warming and hopefully half a year discussing cooling. Maybe I will exit my term as President with the needle still fully in the middle.

And I will consider it a victory.

Tim Lenz
President, ICGA

CHINA’S PURCHASE READS LIKE A SUSPENSE NOVEL

It’s sad but true. I enjoy my job enough that I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for answers to the question of the day. Today, that question happens to be Will the Chinese government allow US corn to be unloaded in China?

I know it’s isn’t a question that would keep most of you up at night, but for me, it’s almost like a suspense novel.

Yesterday, China (actually COFCO, the largest oils and food importer and exporter in China) bought six cargos of U.S. corn from Bunge. The shipments are to be delivered between June and September 2010.
This is great news because the U.S. has been waiting to gain entry into the Chinese market for years. We have worked long and hard to ensure that when China needed more corn, they would buy it from us. In 2001, we heard the great news that they had purchased three cargos of corn, but we were all disappointed later when they cancelled them.
Now can you imagine that when I heard the news about China buying six cargos of corn yesterday I was jumping out of my chair? Ok, maybe I wasn’t that enthusiastic, but I was cautiously optimistic that this market was finally open to Illinois corn farmers.
Illinois corn farmers have a lot to gain from new exports to China. We have three river systems … the Illinois, the Ohio, and the Mississippi. We have a comparative advantage when it comes to exporting corn because it’s cheapest for us to get it to a river and load it on a barge. Cargos of corn going to China is great news for the overabundance of corn Illinois farmers are predicted to produce in 2010.
This announcement came just in time.
Except a second announcement came right on its heels – the Chinese inspection papers, or whatever they call the government document that allows US corn to be unloaded in China, haven’t been issued yet. To me, that means another cancellation could be in our future.
I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m waiting to see what happens. I can’t wait to flip to that final page of the story and find out the answer.
What can I say? I love a good story. Instead of a book worm, I’m a corn wor … no wait.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director

WHAT QUALIFIES AS GLUTTONOUS PROFITS? HOW ABOUT 8,000%!

If you’re looking for a good read, I think you might have just stumbled across one.

Take a look at this article by Marc J. Rauch, Executive Vice President of The Auto Channel which claims to be the “largest independent automotive information resource.” I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mr. Rauch is in favor of calling a spade, a spade.

The article quickly chronicles the arrival of a news tip in his inbox entitled Automakers Concerns with E15, and his thoughts on the folks that wrote the article, their lack of facts, and their unbiased support of the oil industry.

He offers some great quotes. For one, “The story’s byline claims that its author is with the ‘Ethanol Transparency Project,’ a sponsored program of “The Agribusiness Council.” After perusing information about The Agribusiness Council I would say that its name is as ill-conceived in describing its real purpose as “National Socialism” was to describe Hitler’s Nazi Party.”

And he summarizes the article by saying, “Except for those people who make gluttonous profits from the petroleum oil, it is in everyone’s best interests to destroy OPEC and the ruling hierarchy of the gasoline companies. Energy independence from foreign dictators and terrorism supporters can be had, and there are economically viable alternatives to gasoline that are available right now. Alcohol (ethanol) is one, and it may be as close to a viable single source solution to oil as is possible.”

I won’t ruin it for you. Come check it out here.

By: Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

CONFRONTING THE AG TECH MYTH

The other day, I was being interviewed for a special feature on my school’s website. I go to a small fine arts school in the Chicago suburbs, which is situated in a fairly wealthy area. Here, agriculture doesn’t get thought about much. When I saw the initial story written, I was more than a little shocked by one sentence.

“Kelly Rivard, sophomore, is bringing new technology to an old-tech industry.”

What!? This story about my activity in social media and agriculture was written by an educated lady who was a wonderful writer. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. She was born and raised in the suburbs. It wasn’t an intentional attack against ag; it was a misinformed but well-meaning profile of me.

I knocked on her office door and she seemed happy to see me. She was willing to talk about the article, so we sat down and made some changes. First off, I didn’t want undue credit. Agriculturalists were using social media long before I was on the scene. Secondly, I strongly advocate urban and suburban education in terms of agriculture. The people who see this website should know that farmers are educating themselves in some pretty sophisticated technology!

While I can’t restate it word-for-word, the revision went something similar to this:

“Kelly Rivard, sophomore, has immersed herself in new technology to help promote a very old industry.”

After all, agriculture was the first industry. As the oldest type of trade, it has a long history of tradition. Part of that tradition is the on-going innovation that takes place every single day. Research is always going on, and it has to continue. With populations rising at alarming rates and farmland disappearing quickly, we need cutting-edge technology to make the best products in large quantities. Farmers are doing more with less these days.

Maybe I encounter this more because of my school. Maybe I’m just especially alert to the fact that suburban and urban folks make well-meaning mistakes and misconceptions in regards to farming. Either way, it’s important to teach those who don’t know. It is encounters like this that keep me reaching out. If the ag community doesn’t teach the public, who will?

BIO:
Kelly Rivard is a sophomore at North Central College, where she studies Interactive Media Studies and English. She plans to use her experience in Internet Communications to pursue a career in Agriculture Communications after college.

PROMOTE AG: DO IT YOUR WAY

I grew up on farm, rode in the combine, and showed livestock at the county fair. However, I had not participated in any agriculture classes until recently. If you asked me four years ago what I wanted to do after high school graduation my answer would be move to the city, and that is exactly what I did. However, after two years experience of the larger city and the lack of ‘farm kids’ surrounding me, I decided that was not for me and am now back to my roots of agriculture.

At the beginning of college, I enjoyed my area of study I chose but I wanted to be involved with agriculture, something I missed most when leaving for college. I did some research and I found the area of study perfect for what I have always wanted to do: Agricultural Communications. With this major I am able to communicate about agriculture through journalism and advertising.

Choosing Agriculture Communications opened many doors for choosing a career path. When thinking about agricultural careers, farming automatically comes to mind. Now this is the most logical answer for a career but we need to keep in mind how large the agriculture industry really is. Related to my experience, I found hundreds of career paths related to ag that one could take depending on the area of interest.

One particular path I am currently taking is within the communications field. This semester, I interned with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and had the opportunity to host a panel of three speakers: Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, Chuck Spencer, and Leon Corzine. All three individuals deal with different aspects of agriculture. The three agriculture advocates spoke about how they promote agriculture among others and the importance that agriculture has made in their lives.

Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson is an Associate Professor of Animals Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Johnson is an agriculture advocate dealing with animal rights. An interesting story Dr. Johnson told was about her daughter. Her daughter is younger and wants to become vegetarian because she saw the “cute pig” in Charlotte’s Web. Dr. Johnson informed her daughter of the ag industry and animal rights among livestock and has influenced her daughter to continue eating bacon. Dr. Johnson reiterated the importance of educating people about animal rights correlating with agricultural needs.

Chuck Spencer is the Director of Government Affairs at GROWMARK. Spencer took the business path of agriculture. He manages state and federal legislative issues with GROWMARK. Previously in his agriculture history, he was the Director of National Affairs and Policy Development for the Farm Bureau. Lobbying at the capital is not always done by people who understand agriculture, and that is what Chuck reiterated several times. Voicing your opinion is a way to help the industry, and anyone can become involved. Any age group can lobby or speak about the ways of agriculture and each and every individual will help the government to understand the focus of ag.

Leon Corzine is a 5th generation farmer from Assumption, IL and also currently serving on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. He recently served as President of the National Corn Growers Association, representing corn growers in America. Leon mentioned how social media is becoming an important tool to communicated and create awareness for agriculture. If you log in to your Facebook account, agriculture fan pages and groups are created almost daily. This is a small but effective way to promote and educate individuals about the necessity of agriculture. Within Leon’s previous job, he was able to represent agriculture to the nation. Leon is an agriculture advocate and a role model to many individuals who deal with agriculture, especially corn.

These three spoke on their focus of the agriculture industry. I learned so much about the different paths they took while realizing the importance of agriculture. It is interesting to hear the ways these individuals promote agriculture and how one could easily become involved.

After listening to the speakers and being motivated to promote ag, I encourage each of you to also get involved with agriculture. This could be joining an agriculture group or attending a panel of speakers. Whatever you do, remember the multiple opportunities and rewards that agriculture has to offer!

By: Abi Coers
ICGA/ICMB Intern

EPA: INMATES (INTERNS) RUNNING THE ASYLUM

Hello, my name is Becky and I’m a meat eater.

I can stand up and say that proudly, but why is it that some people try to denounce omnivorism like it’s something that should be part of a 12-step program?

The latest comes from the US EPA’s blog. The author, Nicole Reising, a sophomore intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection, extols her ‘knowledge’ in farming and how meat production is bad for the environment. Her reasonings are:

– Ethics against killing animals.
– Disliking the taste of meat.
– Air pollution due to dust and liquid manures.
– Rainforest erosion and destruction for pasture land.
– Water contamination due to animal waste.
– Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger.

Now I have no problem with someone choosing to be a vegetarian or vegan for personal reasons. I may not agree, but I can understand their choice. What I take issue with is the attempt to restrict animal production for food for those who choose to eat meat, especially when they are basing their decision on misinformation and outright falsehoods.

As far as Ms. Reising’s motives for becoming a vegetarian because of the negative environmental effects, well a little fact she seemed to overlook (that was put out by the EPA, the very organization she is blogging for!) is that the entire U.S. ag sector contributed only 6.4% of total U.S. green house gas (GHG) emissions in 2006. That includes meat production… and that 6.4% is for the ENTIRE U.S. ag sector! Additionally, conventional beef generates 40% LESS GHG emissions and uses 2/3’s less land than beef produced using organic and grass-fed production systems.

And for the argument of “Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger,” only 1% of all the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn to be consumed by humans. The rest of the corn is used for livestock feed, ethanol and other uses. We cannot grow crops in all areas (those areas are great for raising dairy and beef cattle though, which means we can get valuable protein feed from land that can only be used for growing grass and weeds). And in the areas we do grow corn, the quality is not always good enough to be consumed by humans. Thus, we are helping world hunger by feeding this grain to livestock and producing other uses for corn (corn starch, corn syrup, biodegradable plastic, etc.) to allow for more food products that are affordable.

I come from a family farm where we raise beef cattle as well as corn, soybeans and alfalfa and I’m not ashamed of that. We treat the land and animals with respect and love. I would wager a year’s salary that even though we are not vegetarians, we show more respect to animals AND the earth than those who choose not to consume meat. If you feel the same way, go comment on this blog and let your thoughts be heard.

By: Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

HARDWORKING & HOT

Farmers are hard working, farmers are dedicated, farmers are feeding the world, but farmers are also hot! This was the general theme for the Agriculture Awareness Day that I organized on the University of Illinois campus. As a social media intern for the Illinois Corn Growers Association, it was my pleasure to host this event in order to raise awareness for farmers and agriculture, especially to those outside of the agriculture world.
I took a fun and light-hearted approach to this event, naming it Farmers Are Hot Day. My goal was to get college students to stop by and play a few games of Cornhole (also known as bags) and talk to me, a farm kid, about agriculture. Participants also had the chance to pose for a picture to be entered in a “Hottest Farmer” contest. It was interesting to hear what everyone’s thoughts were on hot agriculture topics, especially ethanol, and be able to give my perspective.
In today’s ever-changing world it is important that farmers maintain their wholesome image, and that the family farm stay strong. This can only be done by farm kids such as myself; we need to spread the word and change the opinions of those with negative perceptions of agriculture and farmers! Through this event and my Facebook page I am trying to reach college students and put a fun, positive spin on agriculture, and hopefully, everyone will see just how “HOT” farmers really are!
By: Alyssa Eade
Become a fan of Farmers Are Hot! on Facebook at:

THE FEW, THE PASSIONATE, THE FARMER

People always ask me why I got involved in agriculture. I never really know how to answer. I don’t think that any number of words could accurately communicate my answer to this question.

I did not grow up on a farm, or even in a small town. I did not take agriculture classes in high school. All in all, I had an extremely limited agricultural background before I came to college.

But as soon as I became a part of the Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University, my mind was opened to an absolutely incredible industry. Transforming from a typical consumer to a part of this industry has been awe-inspiring. At times, it has also been extremely overwhelming. Agricultural workers have an unbelievable knowledge of the science and technology they use to feed us. Their countless hours of work are a testament to their dedication. Consumers truly do not realize the rich values and knowledge that are present in the agricultural community. In all honesty, I never really knew until I experienced it for myself.

This spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a really important internship. As a part of my internship, I was given the opportunity to organize an Agriculture Awareness Day. I had an amazing time organizing this event and participating in it. More importantly, it made me realize how much agriculture means to me.

Agriculture has helped shaped me into who I am today. It has turned me into a compassionate, hard-working, confident individual. I know that this would not have happened without the people I have encountered in college. Through agriculture, I have met businessmen, dedicated professors, scientists and communicators, among other things.

In an industry with so many unique individuals, it is hard to imagine that we have one thing in common- our passion. I am confident that I could switch my major an infinite number of times and never be a part of an industry as passionate as this one.

So why am I involved in agriculture? In short, it is because of the people. I am proud to be a part of the agricultural community, but above all, I admire the people who stand next to me. It is what keeps me going!

By: Kristin Apple
ICGA/ICMB Intern