In an interview with the USDA Illinois Director of Rural Affairs, Doug Wilson said quality of life is what rural dwellers seek most — we have details. Also making rural and farm headlines last week: Illinois dairy farmers are aligning renewable energy goals with the Future Energy Jobs Act, and the 11th annual Illinois Products Farmers Market has begun. For these and more news items for Illinois farmers and rural dwellers, please read on …
Rural Director working toward e-connectivity
CHAMPAIGN — Third-generation farmer Doug Wilson, a northeast Illinoisan who is serving his second term as Illinois rural director for the USDA, says he will always remain “a farmer first” though he is enjoying his second go-around in the state office (a 2017 President Donald Trump appointee, Wilson first served from 2001-08 under President George Bush). Like most Illinois farmers, as of May 3 Wilson had planted all of his corn and was working on planting soybeans.
But he is also working in his capacity as Illinois Rural Director to extend e-connectivity into as many rural areas of the state he can assist. In fact, Wilson expressed frustration at the “copper line” hookup his farm still has that prohibits high-speed internet from reaching the property. To Wilson, in order to extend “quality of life” to rural areas and attract businesses and young families, e-connectivity must lead the way.
“E-connectivity represents quality of life to most young people, and it includes their health care, housing, education resources, infrastructure. In rural areas there are not a lot of resources available and we at Rural Development are working to help by expanding e-connectivity to those areas that are still unserved,” said Wilson, in a phone interview. “A real estate agent-friend told me that young families love the rural farm setting but when they go out to the farm or rural homestead, if they don’t have connectivity with their cell phones or don’t have high-speed (internet) available, young families may not be as interested in your community or in a rural setting. We don’t like to see that happening.”
In January, a special rural task force assembled by USDA suggested more than 100 steps that could be taken to revitalize rural communities, with e-connectivity at the top of the list. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but there are more resources available to bring e-connectivity to the countryside than ever before,” Wilson added. “USDA Rural Development is playing a leading role in that, so I am excited to see what will happen.”
Illinois dairy farmers align energy goals
FORREST — Over 600 Illinois dairy farmers in the constituency of the American Dairy Association (ADA) of the Midwest announced a partnership last week with the UpField Group to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy, specifically, solar energy usage on dairy farms. The effort will align the farmers with Future Energy Jobs Act of Illinois in an effort to reach the dairy industry’s goal of further reducing on-farm greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020. FEJA will substantially expand renewable energy efficiency programs in Illinois, protect 4,200 jobs and preserve $1.2 billion in annual economic activity, according to proponents, while positioning the state as a leader in zero-carbon electricity.
“Adoption of renewable energy solutions such as biomass, anaerobic digestion and solar power on farms are just a few ways we strive to be more efficient and reduce our carbon footprint,” stated Bill Deutsch, a DeKalb County dairy producer. UpField Group is described as “an ag-centric consulting and partnership marketing firm located in Illinois that exists to help companies grow by connecting people, communities and corporations to agri-business.”(ADA news release)
Soy growers share soy latte with pols
SPRINGFIELD — In what is becoming a yearly custom, coffee and soybeans fueled legislators and staff in Springfield while they mingled with some of the state’s soy growers at the Free Press Coffee House in the Illinois State Capitol Building. On May 9, state lawmakers enjoyed a honey vanilla or lavender soy latte while learning how agricultural advancements help them grow more soybeans using fewer resources.
Growers such as Stan Born, an Illinois Soybean Association director from Lovington, shared insights on precision farm equipment, crop protectant advancements, biotechnology and resource efficiency. According to a 2016 report, from 1980-2015 farmers increased resource efficiency by decreasing per-bushel land use (40 percent), irrigation water (35 percent), greenhouse gas emissions (38 percent) and more. “Illinois soybean farmers are working hard to protect our natural resources for our families, our neighbors and future generations,” Born said. (ISA news release)
Illinois Farm Fact:
The six main breeds of dairy cattle are Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Milking Shorthorn. (Midwest Dairy Association)
‘Illinois Products’ market opens to public
SPRINGFIELD — The popular Illinois Products Farmer’s Market in Springfield opened for its 11th season at the State Fairgrounds “Shed” on May 10 from 4-7 p.m., and will return each Thursday through Oct. 11 (other than during the Illinois State Fair in August). Live entertainment provides the background as consumers shop for Illinois products and enjoy Illinois wine in the wine garden during the market’s operating hours. A different local food truck offers local treats each week.
“If each of the 4.7 million households in Illinois dedicate $10 of their existing weekly budget to purchasing Illinois products, we could generate $47 million in one week for our state’s economy,” noted Erin Cleary, head of marketing and promotions for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which hosts the market.
In observance of Illinois’ bicentennial year of 2018, commemorative T-shirts will be sold and various bicentennial-themed wines will make appearances at the market throughout the season, according to an IDOA news release. There is still room for vendors who are interested in participating in this year’s farmer’s market, Cleary said, providing all products sold at the Illinois Products Farmer’s Market are processed, produced, and packaged by a vendor in the state of Illinois. Applications for vendors can be found on the IDOA website.
–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Energy goals, Illinois products market and more–