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Hartem FFA members visit state officials in Springfield

[APRIL 11, 2001]   Hartem FFA members recently took part in Agricultural Legislative Awareness Day in Springfield.

Nick Alberts, Kyle Hoerbert, Matthew Wrage, Kory Leesman and Brittney Kavanaugh assisted FFA members from around the state in distributing agricultural commodity baskets and lunches to all the legislators.

These members also got to visit with Director of Agriculture Joe Hampton and their state representative, John Turner.

Also, FFA member Anthony Jones was selected to serve as an honorary page in the House of Representatives.

To finish the day, these members toured the Illinois Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, plus Lincoln's tomb.

[News release]


[Pictured (left to right) with Director of Agriculture Joe Hampton are Anthony Jones, Nick Alberts, Joe Hampton, Kory Leesman, Kyle Hoerbert, Matthew Wrage, Brittney Kavanaugh and Hartem FFA adviser Betsy Pech.]


[Hartem FFA members (left to right) visiting with Rep. John Turner are Brittney Kavanaugh, Nick Alberts, Mr. Turner, Kyle Hoerbert, Matthew Wrage and Kory Leesman.]


4-H teams up with Illinois government

[APRIL 10, 2001]   More than 2,500 4-H members and their families from across Illinois saw state government in action during the 4-H Legislative Connection at the state Capitol on Tuesday, March 27. In its fifth year, this annual event is one in which 4-H youth rub elbows with state lawmakers and learn more about the legislative process. In addition, the youth toured the Capitol complex, the Illinois State Museum and other historic sites in Springfield.

Nearly 1,000 Superior Award-winning exhibits from last summer’s Illinois State Fair were on display in the "Best of the Best" 4-H exhibition. A midday rally in the Capitol rotunda saluted 4-H and its impact on youth.

A number of state officials took part in this 4-H Legislative Connection, and participants from Logan County 4-H included Angela Cunningham, Elkhart; Molly Gleason, Elkhart; Roxanne Horath, Atlanta; Allicent Pech, Lincoln; and Jennifer Schahl, Lincoln.

For further information about opportunities in the 4-H program in Logan County, contact the Logan County Extension unit at 732-8289.

[News release]

Producers in alternative enterprises
have to ‘blaze their own trail’

[APRIL 9, 2001]   When we think of agriculture in Logan County and the central Illinois area in general, we think of corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hogs. All of those enterprises do exist, and in large numbers. Some of the other enterprises help with farm income, provide for using extra labor and fill niches created by consumers.

Logan County operators have U-pick strawberry operations, asparagus plantings, herbs, flowers, traditional garden produce, ostriches, emus, elk, Christmas trees, ornamentals and just about anything else you can think of. Why? Because there is a market, or they have created one.

That is one of the toughest parts about alternative enterprises: marketing. It wouldn’t be called alternative if existing markets were available to sell your produce. Some of the strategies to sell alternative items are direct marketing, contract production, grower cooperatives, buyer cooperatives and wholesaling where some type of market does exist. Wholesaling is generally a last option since producer profits tend to shrink with each marketing partner, but there is safety in being able to sell at least some of the produce.

Many producers in alternative enterprises have to "blaze their own trail." Each one has to find out where a potential market exists and then produce for that market. Many of these enterprises also are done on a small scale because they are labor intensive. Think for a moment of picking 20 acres of strawberries or hand-cutting 40 acres of flowers or herbs. A tenth of an acre is plenty for many of these enterprises when you start out, but research must be done.


Existing research done by third-party groups (such as colleges and universities) may be hard to come by. That leaves producers trying to find others who have had experience or possibly adapting information from other areas of the country or overseas. Risk comfort level and the entrepreneurial spirit have a lot to do with checking out alternative ag enterprises. If the tolerance for risk is low or you want a ready-made market, many of the options (or possible cash incentives) disappear.


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The newest trend among traditional producers is to produce something that is already grown but has added value. For example, premiums are available for certain types of soybeans that require only slight modifications in management. An extra 20 cents per bushel may worth using a special herbicide, storing the crop separately and delivering the crop to a certain location. Most commonly this is a type of contract production with a contract between a producer and a processor or local elevator. The downside that we have already seen is that when several producers are willing to produce the special crop, the premiums tend to decrease.

University of Illinois Extension in Logan County has been involved in value-added corn and soybean plots for the last three years, and I will do some follow-up work later this year with the soybean plots in place this year. We also conducted a major producer survey last summer dealing with value-added crops and had producer meetings this winter.

Alternative enterprises aren’t for everyone. They can be a good option if the people interested are able to "blaze their own trail."

[John Fulton]

IALP Washington trip in review

[APRIL 5, 2001]   WASHINGTON — Phil Donahoe didn’t hesitate when Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Agricultural Affairs James M. Murphy asked the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program (IALP) Class of 2002 how the next farm bill should be constructed. The LaFox, Ill., farmer suggested America’s top trade negotiators consider shifting some monetary supports toward infrastructure improvements rather than focusing so much on direct payments to farmers.

Participating in such exchanges was commonplace throughout the recent Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program (IALP) National Travel seminar to Washington, D.C., Maryland and New York. The 10-day study experience brought IALP class members in contact with a cross section of government officials, agriculture industry executives, financial leaders, farmers and watermen along the East Coast. Lincoln resident Marty Ahrends participated in the seminar.

In addition to briefings from the U.S. trade representative, participants visited with officials from the departments of agriculture, energy and state, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. A panel discussion with attorneys from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission sparked an interesting dialogue on past and present agriculture acquisitions and mergers.

Personal visits with Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas, ranking minority member of the House Agriculture Committee, and Edward M. Gramlich, governor of the Federal Reserve Bank, put class participants in direct contact with the people who actually make policy.

IALP class members traveled from Washington to Maryland for two days of study on the poultry and fishing industries along with initiatives and programs relating to smart growth, water quality and agriculture nutrient regulations.

"The most shocking thing is that many of the environmental problems and potential regulations we only talk about in the Midwest are real and foremost in the Chesapeake Bay area," said Matt Hughes, IALP participant and farmer from Shirley, Ill.

While in Maryland, IALP class members were hosted by Perdue Farms and felt honored to meet with company patriarch and former chairman Frank Perdue. His son, Jim Perdue, represents the third generation in the family to head the company. The class toured a broiler operation and Perdue’s grain and oilseed division that processes 3.7 million tons of poultry feed annually. Perdue’s marketing and environmental directors shared their emphasis on future markets and the environmental awareness issues surrounding animal feeding operations. Gary Baise, Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation board member and a Washington, D.C., attorney, joined the class on the Perdue tour and reminded the class of the environmental lobby’s strength in waging lawsuits against agriculture.


[to top of second column in this article]

From Maryland the class traveled to New York, taking in a Broadway musical before devoting a day to studying the financial markets. Farm Credit Funding Corporation hosted the class with tours of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. Jim Brickley, president and chief executive officer of the Farm Credit Funding Corp., provided an overview of the vital role their institutions have in fulfilling the financial needs of production agriculture operations and agribusinesses.

Senior analysts from Merrill Lynch and Moody’s Investor Services provided background on the structure of financial markets and budgets during a time of market unrest and declining interest rates.

"Receiving the budget projections from Merrill Lynch comparing the Bush administration, the congressional budget office and Merrill Lynch was very helpful in comprehending the many variables that affect budget projections," said Steve Arnold, Kane County Farm Bureau manager and IALP participant. "It gave me a greater understanding of how monies are accounted for in the federal budget."

The seminar concluded with a tour and briefing at the United Nations, where Daniel Martz, manager of planning and programs for Philip Morris Management Corp., discussed world trade and global warming issues.

For more information about the IALP Class of 2002’s National Travel seminar, visit www.agleadership.org to view the diary compiled by the class during the seminar.

[News release]

Honors & Awards

Hartem FFA member wins state award

[APRIL 5, 2001]  Kate Wrage was named the state winner in the Fruit/Vegetable category at the recent Proficiency Awards Day judging. After progressing through an interview, along with a review of her record books, Kate was selected the state winner and will now represent Illinois at the national FFA’s regional competition. Daniel Eeten, also of the Hartem FFA, was chosen as the runner-up in Diversified Crop Production.

[Ted Uftcus, state FFA vice-president, and Kate Wrage.]

Hartsburg-Emden FFA wins Agriculture Sales Contest

[MARCH 17, 2001]  The Hartsburg-Emden FFA Chapter recently won the Section 14 FFA Agriculture Sales Contest. The five members participating each received first place in their respective subject areas. Those members are Anthony Jones in product display, Natalie Coers in newspaper advertising, Kent Leesman in customer relations, Matt Duckworth in telephone skills and Kate Wrage in sales presentation. The team as a whole also received first in market analysis. These FFA members will advance to district competition March 28.

[Hartsburg-Emden participants in the Section 14 FFA Agriculture Sales Contest were (left to right) Kent Leesman, Kate Wrage, Natalie Coers and Anthony Jones. Contest participant Matt Duckworth is not pictured.]

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