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You guys. It’s July. Whoa. We’re moving right through summer, even though it doesn’t feel like it. You see, we don’t have air conditioning, so I’m grateful for the mild summer weather we’re having. Right now, having my windows open actually feels like air conditioning! H and I even woke up this morning with scratchy throats because it got so cool overnight. We could, however, do with a little less rain. Seriously, you guys, I haven’t mowed my yard in three weeks. At this point, I need to just windrow and bale it. That is, if it dries out long enough to actually do that.

The creek a mile north of our house and the corn field directly across from our house. I almost needed a boat to get home!

The corn field directly across from our house and the creek river a mile north of our house. I almost needed a boat to get home!

Anyway, on to the Weekly Round Up:

  • You guys, it’s almost that most magical time of year where there’s delicious food on a stick and anytime you eat something terrible the calories don’t count. I’m talking about State Fair. And speaking of delicious fair food, check out this article from the Des Moines Register which talks about the big business of fair food — and the awesome stuff slated for this year’s Iowa State Fair. Can I go please? Mmmmmm, makes me want one of the Illinois State Fair milkshakes from the junior barn…
  • And speaking of fairs, this, because it’s awesome. Value of things
  • Do you love awesomely bad fashion? How about awesomely bad fashion from the ’80s and ’90s? Believe it or not, we all fall victim to it — especially those of us showing livestock. Ranch House Designs highlights some awesomely bad beef show attire, but trust me when I say, it happens to all of us. If you can’t tell, that’s a red felt hat, red jeans and a tuxedo shirt with red roses that I’m wearing. Whatever, at least I matched my nifty little wagon and pony. rachel9
  • Check out this story about technology on the farm and how farmers are utilizing it. Pretty awesome, especially since I know some of the folks working on this technology.
  • And this because, well, how could I not? Tractor Down
  • Finally, this post from Alarm Clock Wars. It talks about sweet corn of a GMO variety, and the need to manage weeds. It’s short, sweet and to the point, and pretty interesting if you aren’t familiar with how Round Up or GMOs work.

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up. This week, we’re talking meat labels, the importance of character, a cute little girl and her cow, and why we love farming. Check it out.

  • As you’re wandering through the meat section of your local grocery store, do you look at the labels on the meat and think to yourself, “Holy crap. What does all of this mean?” Or, maybe you think you’ve got it figured out, when in reality, the marketing trap has cornered again. Either way, check out this series of posts from Mom At The Meat Counter. She does a great job of explaining what all of those crazy labels mean.
  • And speaking of labels, did you know this? No Added Hormones
  • This. Because it’s awesome. I love me some little, brown Jersey cows!Being a Friend
  • Speaking of cows, I wanted to share this story. The dairy industry is a small one, but a tight-knit one just the same. Though I don’t personally know Reese, I do remember showing against her mom at the All American Jersey Show in Louisville, Ky. Reese has now been in the hospital for 13 months, following a house fire. While she and her sister were staying at their grandparents’ house, an accidental fire started in Reese’s room and her grandmother, Patricia, literally walked through fire to get to her. Like any little girl separated from her animals, Reese misses her, too, specifically her cow, Pantene. So, Pantene came to Johns Hopkins to visit her. Cheers to the hospital for making it happen.
  • Truer words were never spoken…We Have Livestock
  • Speaking of livestock (see what I’m doing here?), check out this blog post from Jean’s Boots Are Made For Talking. Whether you show livestock or not, this is worth the read. When you’re on the sidelines at a cattle show or a soccer game, are you coaching character?
  • And finally, this from Modern Day Farm Chick. It’s a couple months old, but still sooooo good. It’s all about why farmers farm. No so much about how much or what, but the most important aspect: why.

Time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up. This week we’re talking women on the farm, food storage guidelines (because, honestly, we all need to be better at using up food before it goes bad) and more dairy! And, bonus, dads in honor of Father’s Day!

  • As my friend, Martin, said about this article: “Despite what some may think, agriculture’s actually a clear leader in professional gender equality. Almost any successful farm couple I knew was a true partnership, with a strong woman encouraging, reasoning with, running the numbers (or the planter) alongside, and when necessary, Gilligan-slapping their hardworking hubbies.”
  • This. Oh man, this. Hungry People
  • Ever bought a bunch of carrots at the grocery store and, a month later, found them in the fridge and thought, “Can I still use these? I mean, they look okay.” Let’s be honest, we’ve all done that. Now, you can whip out this trusty guide to find out the shelf life of all your favorite produce!
  • This, because it’s awesome. Despic-hay-bale
  • And, finally, this local-to-Illinois story featuring Lake County Farm Bureau Manager, Greg Koeppen, who organized the breakfast on the farm. Said Greg, “Who doesn’t like pizza for breakfast?” Well, he said a lot more than that, but you’ll have to check out the article to find out what breakfast at Golden Oaks means for the folks who took the time to participate.
  • Bonus: In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, these pictures of my dads. Because I’m lucky, I get two.
    Trail Riding

    The whole family get ready to take part in my dad’s favorite activity: trail riding. Side note: this was our second trailer. The first one we got didn’t last long because when we bought the three-horse, dad said it would be fine because he didn’t ride and wouldn’t need to haul a horse. That lasted about three weeks.

    DSC_0717

    And finally, my second dad, Chuck. He married my mom a few years after my dad passed away and he, well, he’s pretty cool. I couldn’t ask for a better second dad.

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up! This week, we’re talking FFA (and you know how much I love to talk FFA!), more dairy facts, GMOs (again) and women on farms.

  • Another crop of Illinois Association FFA officers were elected this week during the Illinois Association FFA State Convention. I just love seeing another team of officers excited to begin their year of traveling the state, promoting FFA and agricultural education. It makes me think of the day I was elected 12 years ago. I was the only girl on a five person state officer team and I remember thinking, “Okay, I don’t know these guys very well. This year could either be really great, or really bad.” A couple of hours later, late in the evening at the hotel, the five of us were chatting and an incident involving frozen gummy bears being chucked at each other made me think this might be the best decision I ever made. And boy was I right. The boys, well, I don’t know about them. They had to spend the first month of our term carrying my food — and carrying me up and down the stairs — because I was on crutches. At least I hope they remember it as fondly as I do.

    I think this was taken a couple of years after we retired. They must not think I'm too bad, they still take pictures with me, even though they don't have to anymore...

    I think this was taken a couple of years after we retired. They must not think I’m too bad, they still take pictures with me, even though they don’t have to anymore…

  • This, because obviously. I mean, they’re Jerseys! And they’re so cute!How Now Brown Cow
  • Ever looked at a nutrition label on a gallon of milk and been confused? Or, better yet, wondered what that percentage means? 1%, 2%, skim and whole — what they heck? Well, if you’re confused, don’t worry — there’s help!
  • And this. Did you know this? Women have always played an important role on farms across the country, and they still do today, especially as those roles continue to change. Women Farmers
  • And finally, this story out of Oregon. If you read the news at all, GMOs shouldn’t be an alien term to you. Folks want to see GMOs labeled and removed from the market, regardless of what science says. In one Oregon county, they’ve done just that, voting to ban GMO crops in the county. But there’s one problem: How do you enforce it?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave as of late, you’ve probably heard about California’s water woes and Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order to cut water consumption by 25 percent, statewide. You also have probably heard he exempted farms, a move that has some Californians less than thrilled.

The effects of the historic, four-year drought are far-reaching, tough to swallow and affect more than you realize. The drought is even to blame for the newest social media trend sweeping California: #DroughtShaming.

california-drought-before-after

Which leads to the one prevailing question I have: Is it fair to exempt farming, an industry which many media outlets quote as using 80 percent of all the water consumed in the state?

For those of us in the Midwest, or anywhere other than California for that matter, it’s easy to think, “That sucks for them, but what does that have to do with me? No drought here!” Well, that’s where the ‘far-reaching’ and ‘unexpected’ part of this comes into play.

Midwestern states are known for their plentiful production of corn and soybeans — food products that don’t always directly make it to your table. Instead, they’re used for seed, biofuels, or feed for livestock. You get that food product back eventually, but not in it’s raw form, straight from the field.

But where does the rest of the food we eat come from? As in, all the fruits and veggies you love to eat? You guessed it, the sunshine state. It makes the reasoning behind Gov. Brown’s decision to exempt farming easier to understand.

In fact, as this NPR article points out, that 80 percent statistic may not always reflect reality.

“Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have been the only ones to have their water actually completely cut off,” said Dave Puglia, senior vice president with the Western Growers Association.

Puglia likens the “zero percent allocations of water” that most of his growers will get to the ultimate kind of forced water conservation.

“I don’t know how you can ask farmers to conserve more than zero,” he says.

Still, opponents say the farm exemption is a tough pill to swallow, considering California agriculture accounts for only a small part of California’s $2 trillion economy — roughly 2 percent of the gross state product.

On the other hand, that 2 percent is still pretty big from a global perspective: California, if set apart from the U.S., would be one of the world’s ten biggest economies. Indeed, the industry is quick to point out that California now produces the bulk of the country’s fresh food supply, including lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes and, yes, nuts.

Is there a fair way to divide up such a valuable resource among so many people — 38.8 million people to be exact? Right now, California’s water rights basically boil down to if you’re old, you’re gold. In other words, the earlier your land was irrigated, the more senior your water rights and the bigger bucket of the state’s remaining water you’ll receive. If your neighbor didn’t irrigate his land until recently, he might get nothing.

California-drought

And what about the crops that California is growing? Some opponents of agricultural water use are proposing moving the state’s agricultural sector elsewhere in the U.S., saying water-intensive crops shouldn’t be grown in California in the first place. Unfortunately, that mentality disregards a couple pretty important points:

  • Land availability. Last time I checked, land in the Midwest — well, everywhere, really — is already in use. We’re no longer in the frontier age where new land is being discovered. It’s been laid claim to and locked into a purpose. There is the possibility of some land already in use being converted to a new use, like growing fruits and nuts and vegetables, but what about the people already making a living off the land as it is? Or the people in California making a living off of their land?
  • Climate. California is able to raise such a diverse supply of crops because of its Mediterranean-like climate. And, unfortunately, no other state in the union has a climate quite like it, making it the perfect place to grow some of the crops — like almonds — that you don’t see anywhere else.

I suppose all of this boils down to one thing, for me anyway: I get it. I understand why Gov. Brown decided to exclude farmers from the mandated water cuts. But I also think farmers shouldn’t consider themselves “off the hook.”

Drought or no drought, water isn’t an infinite resource. It takes time to replenish. And with a growing population, time isn’t something that will be easy to come by. Farmers are going to have to do their part to help conserve water, too. Some already have, which is a step in the right direction. And I have no doubt that farmers will continue to try to modify their water use. They’re a clever breed, after all. Always adapting to new technology and ways of doing things.

Time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up. And, just so you know, a lot of stuff happened this week. Prepare yourself.

  • Did you know June is Dairy Month? I love Dairy Month because I grew up with dairy cattle. Everyone else loves Dairy Month because, well, ice cream and hot weather were made for each other. In celebration of Dairy Month, here are all the awesome articles and memes you can check out:
    • Need some new recipes for satisfy your June dairy cravings? Check out this cookbook from http://www.DairyMakesSense.com.
    • This. Because, obviously. Keep Calm
    • Have you ever wondered how real milk stacks up against other popular milks like soy, almond or coconut milk? This handy chart can help.
    • And also this. Consequently, if you love all things cows, visit http://www.steelcow.com. Beautiful artwork that features all things bovine (and a few pigs and chickens, too)!Dairy Month
    • And this. Midwest Dairy
    • And, one more. Because you’re a glutton for punishment. Milk Sales
  • You might have seen this making the rounds this week, but if not, check it out. Flooding in Texas has affected cities and rural communities alike and, in the case of this rancher, the community came together to help him get his stranded cattle to safety — driving them nearly 70 miles! The pictures alone are worth the read.
  • This, which I found last week. Apparently, in June 1938, several members of Congress competed in a milking contest on the Capitol grounds. From the House Agriculture Committee’s Facebook page: “Texas Congressman Marvin Jones, who was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, served as the referee. According to new reports, he declared the contest a draw because after 10 minutes of milking, none of the contestants had more than a pint of milk to show for their efforts.” Wonder how the same contest with today’s Congressional delegation would go? We know they’re good at pulling legs. Milking Contest
  • This editorial, from TruthAboutTrade.org. Written by a Vermont farm mom, this article talks about the price of GMO labeling to the family farm. It’s an excellent read, straight from the horse’s mouth.
  • And finally, this article from BloodHorse.com. As someone who has a lot of experience in the horse industry, this was particularly interesting. The article focuses not on Triple Crown hopeful, American Pharoah, but instead, his pony horse, Smokey. What’s so interesting, for me, is the fact that Smokey has one heck of a pedigree and a whole lot of training to end up ponying horses on the racetrack. I’m just guessing her, but I would bet, with Smokey’s training and breeding, he was a six-figure horse when trainer Bob Baffert bought him to pony horses on the track. And, if all of that was just a foreign language to you, you should still check out the article, because there are pretty pictures of horses. And, it talks about American Pharoah, who just might be the first horse to claim the triple crown since Affirmed did it in 1978.

 

Insanity

What’s the definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time? It think that’s what Einstein said.

If that’s the case, then last week, I felt a little insane. Not so much because I expected different results each time, but more because I spent what seems like the majority of my time issuing statements from the Illinois Farm Bureau on a variety of legislative and regulatory topics which affect the farmers do their jobs.

It was kind of like the perfect storm.

In the last week and a half, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the Trade Promotion Authority (yay!), the Illinois state legislature was busy with budget arguments and passing a few final bills (good and bad and messy), and the EPA announced its final ruling on Waters of the U.S. and issued the 2014, 2015 and 2015 Renewable Fuels Standard mandate (seriously, EPA?) — all of which meant statements from Illinois Farm Bureau were soon to follow.

All of the statements Illinois Farm Bureau issued were important to farmers across the state for one reason or another, but of particular importance was the statement Illinois Farm Bureau issued on EPA’s final Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. From the get-go, farmers have put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard or even hand to phone to let EPA and Congress know the then-proposed rule was, well, hogwash.

The proposed regulation was far-reaching, allowing the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to gobble up privately owned land under regulatory authority and change the way it can and can’t be used. And it proposed regulating, basically, EVERY. DROP. OF. WATER. Which means that water in a ditch, even if that ditch was dry 95 percent of the time, could fall under EPA’s regulatory reach. Tributaries, navigable water, adjacent waters, floodplains — pretty much everything. That feeling of insanity is creeping back in…

This grass waterway could fall under the EPA's regulatory authority under the EPA's 'clarified' WOTUS rule.

This grass waterway could fall under the EPA’s regulatory authority under the EPA’s ‘clarified’ WOTUS rule.

That ‘pretty much everything’ is why business owners, chambers of commerce, farm organizations, and farmers themselves, reached out in droves to let EPA know the rule wouldn’t fly. Instead, after extending the initial comment period twice, the EPA ignored all of their concerns and issued their final rule last week.

And in their final, more than 300-page rule, they changed virtually nothing, hanging business and agriculture out to dry, which really didn’t gain them too many friends.

So what does that mean for the farmers and business owners who were opposed to the proposed rule in the first place? Well, that’s still up in the air. The rule will take effect within 60 days of being published in the Federal Register, so time is short. There’s legislation working its way through the House and Senate to stop the ruling, but given the time it takes to get bills through Congress these days, it may be too late. That, and it can, and probably would be, vetoed by the President.

There’s also talk of some states taking the EPA to court over the ruling because of EPA’s unorthodox, and probably illegal, processes used to gain public support for the rule change. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

Organizations and municipalities continue to review the final rule and discuss options for moving forward. Unfortunately because of the rule’s complexity, that will take time, too.

Either way, it looks like we have a long, drawn out mess on our hands.

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