R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Ag in the Classroom receives boost

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Visitors to the 2021 Farm Progress Show, held Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in Decatur, selected five Illinois FFA chapters to receive $1,000 in GROWMARK-FS grant awards. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

Disaster relief aid is coming for farmers in 12 Illinois counties who experienced flooding this spring and summer, along with assistance for livestock forage losses to producers in six counties. For more information on who qualifies — along with other top farm and rural news updates — please read on.


Illinois farmers, ranchers to receive disaster aid

SPRINGFIELD — Farmers in Calhoun, Cass, Edgar, Jefferson, Jersey, McLean, Macoupin, Monroe, Morgan, Moultrie, St. Clair and Sangamon counties have received a disaster designation from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help cover production losses associated with spring and summertime flooding across the state. USDA natural disaster designations were also issued for 32 contiguous counties. A natural disaster designation issued by the agriculture secretary allows the USDA Farm Service Agency to provide emergency loans to producers recovering from natural disasters.

“This year’s growing season saw multiple weather issues depending on where you were located in Illinois,” said Jerry Costello II, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director. “I want to thank Gov. J.B. Pritzker for working with Secretary Vilsack and the USDA to ensure our farmers have the resources they need to come back after a natural disaster.”

In addition, disaster assistance for 2021 livestock forage losses has been extended to producers in Boone, Cook, DeKalb, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Winnebago counties under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. The program provides relief for producers suffering losses for covered livestock due to drought on privately owned or cash leased land (or fire on federally managed land, for those in the west).

Restrictions apply to LFP eligibility and payments; livestock producers should contact their county USDA Service Center or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.


NRCS: Look for field breaches during harvest

  1. CLAIR — A state district conservationist is urging Illinois farmers to keep a keen eye on sensitive crop grounds during harvest this year. St. Clair County USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service conservationist Michael Birchler is encouraging producers to evaluate how their conservation programs are performing in protecting natural resources, with special attention to erosion concerns, soil productivity, infiltration or water management issues.

“If you see anything that concerns you, give your district conservationist or NRCS team a call. Set up a time for us to come out to the farm. We can help you look things over after all the crops are off the field and we can see the big picture, the whole watershed, your drainage area,” Birchler said, in an Illinois USDA-NRCS news release.

He explained that fall, winter and early spring are the ideal times for NRCS staff to visit a farm due to better visibility. However, early field scouting by farmers during harvest can help NRCS staff more quickly identify and address any conservation-related issues. Local Illinois NRCS teams can be located at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/il/contact/local/.


GROWMARK/FS donates to Illinois FFA

BLOOMINGTON — Coinciding with the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis this week, GROWMARK and FS Systems announced the winning FFA chapters for its Check-In to Cash-In promotion at the 2021 Farm Progress Show. During the three days of the show, visitors to the GROWMARK/FS tent (this columnist included) were encouraged to register a vote in support of their favorite FFA chapter. For every check-in cataloged at the FS Tent, the Illinois Association FFA received $1 (up to $5,000), while the five FFA chapters with the most check-ins at the end of the three-day show received $1,000 each.

The winning FFA chapters that received $1,000 each were Maroa-Forsythe, Newton, Greenville, Oblong and Meridian-Macon. A local FS member company representative presented the gifts, which were made possible by the GROWMARK Foundation, to each of the chapters. It was the second year for the promotion.

“GROWMARK, Inc. is a tremendously generous friend to Illinois FFA, not only by their generosity to our organization at the state level, but also with the impact and contributions they are making at the local level,” said Mindy Bunselmeyer, Illinois FFA Center Executive Director. “Check-In to Cash-In is just one of countless examples of how GROWMARK and local FS companies connect with and support FFA chapters throughout their communities. On behalf of the over 350 FFA Chapters throughout Illinois, we are incredibly grateful for the support provided to our FFA members from GROWMARK.”


Ag in the Classroom receives boost

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program also received a boost last week in the form of Illinois Agricultural Association Foundation grants to local county coalitions. The financial injection of $630,000 in grant dollars to programs in 87 counties comes during a time of program interruptions and outreach issues due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

“Providing these grants helps ensure students are reached with accurate agricultural messages, which help them connect food, fuel and fiber systems back to farming,” said Kevin Daugherty, education director for IAITC.

According to IAITC, more than 650,000 students and close to 40,000 teachers engage in ag literacy lessons. The grants will help fund materials, training, educational lessons and activities taking place during the current school year, which has seen pandemic-related lower outreach numbers and disruptions to virtual learning. County coalition grants for IAITC are made possible through funding by the IAA, the charitable arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“Consistent outreach requires steadfast supporters,” said Susan Moore, director of the IAA Foundation. “We are so grateful to our annual donors who understand how important efforts to enhance agriculture literacy can be. Every year there are new fourth-graders to connect with, and our donors understand and appreciate IAITC’s efforts to get the job done.” (IFB news)


Illinois Farm Fact:

The willingness of local IAITC Ag Literacy Coordinators to stay connected and find new and meaningful ways to maintain outreach with local students led to more than 15,000 lessons conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Illinois Ag in the Classroom)