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Posts Tagged ‘Illinois Farm Bureau’

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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I like to bust myths here on the ol’ blog.

From the so-called dangers associated with GMOs to ethanol production, regulations, animal welfare and the often misquoted study that speaks of environmental degradation and ozone depletion associated with livestock production, I’ve covered it. But a friend of mine brought to my attention there’s one myth I haven’t done much to address: the Farm Bureau myth.

In other words, the often repeated myth that the Farm Bureau, both on the national and state level, is just a shill for ‘big ag,’ lobbying for the interests of enormous corporations rather than the farmers that make up the membership.

So, if the Illinois Farm Bureau isn’t a shill for big ag, what exactly is it? And what does it do?

For starters, the crowd accusing the Illinois Farm Bureau of being a lobbyist group for ‘industrial agriculture’ is partially correct. The Illinois Farm Bureau does devote some of its resources to lobbying, both on the state an national level. Where shill-crying crowd goes astray is the ‘big ag’ or ‘industrial agriculture’ part of the equation.

Trust me when I say that companies like Monsanto or Tyson or any other seed or food company have enough liquidity to pay for their own lobbyists, and certainly don’t need us to take care of that for them. Instead, when the Illinois Farm Bureau is talking with Congressmen and Senators, we’re doing it on behalf of our members. Illinois Farm Bureau has contacted state and national elected officials to talk about everything from GMOs, water quality and regulations, to the farm bill, animal care and free trade.

What’s more, we ask our members to do the same:

Sometimes our stance on an issue may fall in line with an agricultural company, but that doesn’t mean we’re on their payroll.

And here’s the thing: it’s Illinois Farm Bureau members who direct lobbying efforts, set priority issues and even direct staff on how to work with the media and consumers.

Each December, at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting, members of the organization gather together and vote on policy and priorities for the coming year.

Policy ResolutionsFrom education, energy and national affairs, to transportation, marketing and commodity programs and government finance, and everything in between, our members review current policy and vote to keep it the same or amend it. They also introduce new resolutions based on current events or legislation and vote on whether they should be included in the policy resolutions for the coming year.

Once those resolutions are finalized at the end of the meeting, it’s up to Illinois Farm Bureau staff to make sure that our activities, lobbying and outreach match what was voted on by the members.

But lobbying isn’t the only thing the Illinois Farm Bureau does. We also work with farmers to answer consumers’ questions about farming, work with the media to provide sources and information for agricultural stories, provide legal advice and information for farmers who need it, fund scholarships and agricultural education initiatives and even develop advertising and social media campaigns — all for our more than 82,000 farmer members.

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Thirty days. It’s a long time. Tack on the challenge of blogging EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and you might have found my kryptonite.

But I’m game. It’s on.

This November, I’m taking part in Holly Spangler’s 30 Day Challenge. Each day during November, I’ll highlight the Faces Behind Your Food, whether they be farmers — organic, traditional or somewhere in between — bankers, truck drivers, food processors and even Farm Bureau managers.

Did you know all those people were involved in that ribeye steak you enjoy so much? No? Then stick around. There are so many people who have a hand in making sure there’s food on the table and I can’t wait to introduce you to them!

First up, Lee County Farm Bureau Manager Danelle Burrs. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out why Danelle chose to be a Farm Bureau manager and how she helps the farmers who grow your food.

To see Holly’s 30 Day series – and all of the other awesome bloggers participating – check out Prairie Farmer

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Tomorrow is World Environment Day – a day designated by the United Nations as a day to raise awareness of the need for protection and sustainable use of natural resources around the world. This day is celebrated by many countries – including the United States.

Of course, today isn’t the only day to be thinking about our environment. Members of the agriculture community are committed to improving the environment and increasing sustainable practices – something that cannot be accomplished in one day, but must be focused on each and every day.

For example, our organization, the Illinois Farm Bureau®, encourages the continued use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) by farmers in all phases of their farming operations in order to maximize nutrient utilization, minimize negative environmental impact and improve water quality.

Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau aren’t the only ones focusing on improving environmental quality. Farmers around the country, in all areas of production, are too. Go to www.watchusgrow.org for more information on sustainability and conservation efforts straight from Illinois farmers!

This infographic produced by the USDA also demonstrates some of the progress made:

Image

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As energy transmission line projects continue to multiply in Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau and its members are keeping a close eye on their progress. Here, Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson shares his thoughts on the many proposed projects.

By Philip Nelson, president, Illinois Farm Bureau

By Philip Nelson, president, Illinois Farm Bureau

Illinois has become the frontline in the battleground of Midwestern energy transmission. But for many residents, the argument isn’t with wind energy production itself. Instead, the controversy lies with how to get that wind energy from point A to point B.

With the growth of wind energy, Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates and reliability issues, transmission lines are popping up all over the country.

Rock Island Clean Line is just one of those proposed lines. The 500-mile overhead high-voltage direct current line in northern Illinois will transmit wind energy produced at point A, in Iowa and further west, to point B, a conversion station in Grundy County, Illinois. In addition to Rock Island Clean Line, several other transmission lines are currently in the works or proposed in Illinois.

The Grain Belt Express and the Illinois Rivers project are two such projects. Owned by the same company as Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express Clean Line is set to travel through several Midwestern states, including Illinois and stretch more than 750 miles.

The Illinois Rivers Project by Ameren will span 380 miles, 18 Illinois counties and three states. But, opposition to the expedited review process that Ameren chose to pursue before the Illinois Commerce Commission for the project is growing at a rapid pace.

It’s easy to see the benefits of renewable energy projects, but the issue with transmission lines is a bit more complicated. Farmers and landowners oppose the transmission lines because they don’t always follow established routes. Instead, they cut through farmland, leaving thousands of acres of farm ground dotted with lines and towers, making farming much more difficult.

In most cases, transmission lines cut through open farmland diagonally, in the shortest possible distance, rather than following the roadways, property lines or field lines.

In the case of Rock Island Clean Line, the electricity is ultimately destined for markets east of Illinois. In other words, this transmission line is like a one-way interstate highway with no on ramp, and only one off ramp in Illinois.

Rock Island Clean Line also is seeking public utility status from the Illinois Commerce Commission, which would be the first step toward the company receiving eminent domain authority. If landowners in the area want to grant an easement to Rock Island Clean Line, they have that option, but Illinois Farm Bureau opposes granting a private company public utility status for a merchant transmission line, especially when the need for the line has been questioned.

While Illinois Farm Bureau supports wind energy generation as a component of the U.S.’ energy portfolio, it’s important to remember that building the wind energy industry in the state must be done in a way that is mutually beneficial to both the consumers buying the energy, and the farmers and landowners who have to live with the structures on their land.

Renewable fuels like biodiesel, ethanol and wind energy are necessary for our continued growth and energy independence. However, these must be considered with care and thought. Companies should work together with farmers and land owners to put a long-term plan in in place. A comprehensive approach that minimizes the impact on farmland, rather than a case by case approach, will create the best outcome for everyone.

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The editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, David Zinzcenko (author of Eat This, Not That), recently wrote about the 15 biggest nutrition myths for an article in Yahoo! Health.  In it, he busts a couple of urban myths that we hope are soon (but suspect never will be) put to rest:

MYTH #1: High fructose corn syrup is worse than table sugar. 

Here’s what Mr. Zinzcenko had to say: “Both HFCS and table sugar, or sucrose, are built with roughly a 50-50 blend of two sugars, fructose, and glucose. That means in all likelihood that your body can’t tell one from the other—they’re both just sugar . . .  HFCS’s role as nutritional enemy #1 has been exaggerated.”

MYTH #14: Organic is always better

Writes Mr. Zinzcenko: “Organic produce is almost nutritionally identical to its conventional counterpart. The issue is pesticide exposure—pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of obesity in some studies. But many conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are very low in pesticides.”

MYTH #15: Meat is bad for you.

“Pork, beef, and lamb are among the world’s best sources of complete protein, and a Danish study found that dieting with 25 percent of calories from protein can help you lose twice as much weight as dieting with 12 percent protein. Then there’s vitamin B12, which is prevalent only in animal-based foods. B12 is essential to your body’s ability to decode DNA and build red blood cells, and British researchers found that adequate intakes protect against age-related brain shrinkage. Now, if you’re worried that meat will increase your risk for heart disease, don’t be. A Harvard review last year looked at 20 studies and found that meat’s link to heart disease exists only with processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli cuts. Unprocessed meats, those that hadn’t been smoked, cured, or chemically preserved, presented absolutely zero risk.”

We couldn’t have made those points any better.  However, Mr. Zinzcenko needs to be pressed on the logic he presents in one of his myths.  In principle, Myth #7 (Foods labeled “natural” are healthier), is spot on—those ‘natural’ labels are more about marketing than nutrition.  But in attacking the myth, he points out that “7UP boasts that it’s made with ‘100% Natural Flavors’ when, in fact, the soda is sweetened with a decidedly un-natural dose of high fructose corn syrup. ‘Corn’ is natural, but ‘high fructose corn syrup’ is produced using a centrifuge and a series of chemical reactions.”

Hold on.  Didn’t he just get done saying HFCS isn’t necessarily a bad thing? 

His characterization of the making of HFCS also needs to be taken in context.  HFCS is made by soaking corn in water to loosen the starch from the protein, separated in a centrifuge (as he correctly points out) and treated with enzymes.  If that sounds too “processed,” think about cheese.  Cheese is ‘separated’ from an animal when it is milked, and then treated with enzymes to get the desired flavor and consistency.  That’s why parmesan is different from brie.  Bread is another example of something that can be made to sound overly processed: it’s made with yeast, which is (are?) eukaryotic micro-organisms.  Kind of gives grandma’s homemade bread an ick factor, when put that way.

And as compared to “natural” cane sugar?  Cane sugar has to be milled, liquefied, treated with lime, boiled and also spun in a centrifuge before it’s useable.  Turning it into table or powdered sugar requires even more processing.

I’d give Mr. Zinczenko a 9.5 out of 10 for his article.  He started and finished strong, but a little extra twist in the middle cost him a perfect score.

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There’s been a lot going on in the news lately.  With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the flooding of the Mississippi and the Governator’s troubles in California, you might understandably have missed a proclamation that came out of the White House last week.

In it, President Obama declared this week to be World Trade Week.

But for folks in agriculture, every week recently has been World Trade Week, as we wait for the final i to be dotted on a deal that would send three long-pending Free Trade Agreements to Congress for approval.

These FTAs, with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, have been languishing since 2006 and 2007.  We’ve lost a billion dollars in market share in South America, much of it in corn exports, as our friends and allies there make pacts with other countries because they’re tired of—and insulted by having to—wait for us to enact the agreements.

Colon Container Terminal, Panama (Photo courtesy Julie Root, RFD Radio)

Very few trades and even fewer political issues are considered win-win.  This, however, is one of them.  These countries are clamoring for our goods.  We’re clamoring for their markets.  Passing the FTAs would support 9,000 in America for every billion dollars in new exports.  The Korea FTA alone is expected to create about 70,000 jobs, according to the Obama Administration.  More than 22,000 of those jobs would be in agriculture. 

You can see why every week is World Trade Week for farmers and ranchers.  We’ve been working hard to get these FTAs passed.  As Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson recently wrote in an opinion piece to newspapers around the state, it’s like we’re in first place with 100 yards left in a marathon, and we’ve stopped to re-tie our shoes as our competition comes up from behind.  If we don’t get up and finish, we’re going to be overtaken and lose out.

And so, we have a proclamation of our own, since President Obama’s didn’t mention passage of the FTAs:

Whereas

  • Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia were negotiated in 2006 and 2007, and have not yet been sent to Capitol Hill for approval;
  • The U.S. has lost more than $400 million in corn exports to Colombia alone in the past two years;
  • American heavy equipment manufacturers would finally be able to ship their products without excessive tariffs;
  • And, whereas unemployment claims rose in three of four weeks from April to May;
  • Now, therefore, the Illinois Farm Bureau, representing two out of every three Illinois farmers, does hereby proclaim that President Obama should immediately send, and that Congress should immediately pass, the Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.  Doing so would benefit our economy and create jobs.  Doing so would be the perfect way to celebrate “World Trade Week.”

Dated the eighteenth of May, of the year two thousand eleven.

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