Lt. Gov. Simon: Apply for federal farmers market grant PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Kara Beach   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 14:22

Farmers Market Promotion Program helps fund farmers markets, local food projects

SPRINGFIELD – May 3, 2012. An advocate for local foods, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is urging local food producers to apply for a federal grant that promotes farmers markets.

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced the availability of $10 million in competitive grants for FY 2012 through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). Grants are targeted at projects that help improve and expand farmers markets, community supported agriculture and road-side stands. The deadline to apply for FMPP funding is May 21.

“I encourage Illinois’ local food producers to take advantage of this opportunity to grow and gain access to new markets,” said Simon, the only statewide elected official from Southern Illinois. “As a state we spend more than 95 percent of our food dollars on products grown outside of Illinois. Strengthening our local food system will keep dollars in our local communities and help grow our economy.”

Priority status will be granted to those projects that expand healthy food choices in food deserts or low-income areas where the percentage of the population living in poverty is 20 percent or above. Entities eligible to apply for grant funding include agricultural cooperatives, local governments and nonprofit corporations.

As chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council Simon has advocated for expanded use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmers markets. SNAP sales at farmers markets totaled nearly $70,000 in 2011, an increase of over 522 percent since 2009. The number of farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers certified to accept the Link cards that access SNAP benefits has increased from 35 in 2009 to 49 in 2011.

“SNAP use at farmers markets benefits the health of SNAP recipients, local economies, and farmers,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Regional Administrator Ollice Holden. "These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies, and help strengthen efforts to provide access to nutritious and affordable food."

In 2011, four grants from the FMPP were awarded to organizations in Illinois: the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, Food Works of Carbondale and Chicago organizations, Growing Home Inc., and Faith in Place. The SIU board is using a $81,000 grant to establish the Illinois Farmers Market Association, which will provide professional development, resources and support for farmers, markets and community members, including a farmers market manager training manual and a statewide database to connect farmers to markets. The association expects to start accepting members in January 2013.

“The Illinois Farmers Market Association will help provide resources and solutions to the challenges markets face in administering federal nutrition programs such as SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs,” said Pat Stieren, coordinator of the Illinois Farmers Market Association. “With over 20 percent of the population in Chicago living in ‘food deserts’ without access to fresh, healthy foods, and with 1 in 10 Illinoisans receiving SNAP benefits, creating a Farmers Market Association is a crucial step toward helping markets learn how to expand fresh food access and improving health outcomes while supporting local agriculture.”

For additional information on grant eligibility and how to apply, visit


A Farm Bill for all of Rural America PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 14:13

Last week the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the first farm bill in decades that provides no funding for rural community and economic development. Creating rural jobs and economic opportunities should be a Farm Bill priority. Without real commitment and investment, the Rural Microentrepreneur Program will shut down and stop creating jobs. Little help will be available for value-added agriculture. Jobs that would have been created won’t be there for the people of rural Iowa.

These are tough budgetary times. But as the Senate works to tighten Farm Bill spending, they should make choices that reflect America’s priorities. Investing in jobs for people who need them and in the future of America’s rural cities and small towns is one such priority.

Small and midsized farms should be another. But unlimited subsidies to some of the nation’s largest farms and wealthiest landowners should not. Today, if one huge operation farmed all of Iowa, USDA would pay 60 percent of their premiums for insurance against falling crop prices and yields on every single acre in every year - even with record high crop prices and skyrocketing federal deficits.

Thankfully, the Senate Agriculture Committee closed loopholes that mega-farms use to evade caps on traditional farm payments. But they did nothing to rein in unlimited crop insurance subsidies and made no commitment to rural development.

Let’s see – unlimited subsidies for the nation’s largest farms or investments in jobs for rural people and a brighter future for their communities? The best choice is obvious.

Checkoff Invites Farmers to Help Tell Sustainability Story PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by United Soybean Board   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 13:50
Online Tool Compiles Data on U.S. Soy Production Best Practices to Show Customers

ST. LOUIS (May 3, 2012) – An investment of just a few minutes of time and a few clicks of the mouse can help farmers demonstrate the high sustainability performance of U.S. soy. The payoff could include helping to retain and increase all U.S. soybean farmers’ markets.

Some major customers of U.S. soy want to source sustainable ingredients for food, feed, fiber and biofuel.

The United Soybean Board (USB) and soy checkoff remain committed to helping U.S. soy farmers demonstrate their excellent sustainability performance. One new example of the effort is a checkoff partnership with the National Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA) on an Internet-based questionnaire to help gather data to show U.S. soybean farmers already use sustainable management practices.

“We don’t want a list of standards U.S. farmers have to meet that are created by people who know nothing about today’s agriculture,” explains Wisconsin farmer Chuck Prellwitz, a former soy checkoff farmer-director and current NISA board member. “Instead, we want a way of measuring what farmers have already done to grow their products sustainably.”

Farmers can visit to complete the confidential and anonymous Soybean Assessment Tool or Whole-Farm Assessment Tool questionnaires. Prellwitz encourages all U.S. farmers to participate.

The results will be segmented by region because best management practices are dependent on factors that vary regionally, such as soil, water, and weather. As one way of demonstrating soy’s sustainability performance, the checkoff and NISA could use the data to show U.S. soy customers the share of U.S. farmers who have adopted sustainable best management practices appropriate for their region.

“This is another example of a farmer-driven effort to show our customers that we’re sustainable before some non-agriculture group tells us what to do and how to do it,” says soy checkoff farmer-director Mary Lou Smith, who farms in southeastern Michigan and serves on USB’s Sustainability Initiative Leadership Team. “The goal is to compile more information to show that our agricultural practices are sustainable.”

The soy checkoff has already conducted an independent, third-party life-cycle assessment that demonstrates the sustainability performance of U.S. soy production and processing. The checkoff also continues to support the Fieldprint Calculator, another sustainability tool that U.S. farmers may use for free. This tool can show farmers the effects of various farm-management decisions on the sustainability performance of their farm, including the financial impacts of those decisions.

The 69 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.

For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit
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ISU Scott County Extension Calendar PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Amanda Heitz   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 13:45
May 19, 2012: Master Gardener’s Dig and Divide Plant Sale, Scott County Extension Office-9:00 a.m.

May 22, 2012:  Master Gardener Summer Webinar Series, “Garden Goodness,” Scott County Extension Office-6:30 p.m.

June 1, 2012:  Commercial & Private Pesticide Applicator Testing, Scott County Extension Office-10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

June 26, 2012:  Master Gardener Summer Webinar Series, “Garden Goodness,” Scott County Extension Office- 6:30 p.m.

July 6, 2012:  Commercial & Private Pesticide Applicator Testing, Scott County Extension Office-10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

July 24, 2012:  Master Gardener Summer Webinar Series, “Garden Goodness,” Scott County Extension Office-6:30 p.m.

Visit our events calendar at our web site:

Braley Op-Ed: The Right Move for Iowa Farms PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 13:31

On April 26th, the US Department of Labor announced they were withdrawing a proposed regulation that would have severely limited the amount and type of work people younger than 18 years old could perform on farms.  As proposed, these onerous rules would have banned children younger than age 16 from using farm equipment like tractors and would have kept those younger than 18 from working in feed lots, grain silos, and stockyards.

As a longtime opponent of this proposal, I was relieved when I learned of the Labor Department’s decision to withdraw it.  Its demise is a victory for common sense and for farm families across Iowa.

Any Iowan knows that banning young people from working on farms would strike and the very heart of agriculture in the Midwest.  Working on the farm is part of growing up.  It’s part of our culture.

I started working on Iowa farms when I was in junior high.  Bailing hay, shelling corn, chopping thistles, walking beans, and detassling corn was exhausting – but it was rewarding.  We often shared a noon meal around the kitchen table.  It taught me the value of a hard day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and gave me memories I will always cherish.

Defenders of the Labor Department’s proposed rule said it exempted children working on their parents’ farms, so it wouldn’t be a burden.  This made me wonder if these supporters had ever been to an Iowa farm.  Most of our farms rely on labor beyond immediate family members.  I know I spent most of my summers in the fields working for neighbors.

There are definitely hazards working in agriculture.  But few people are more aware of those hazards and how to minimize them more than farmers.  A balanced, common-sense approach to farm safety that focuses on education, safety training, and prevention is the answer – not a one-size-fits-all blanket regulation that imperils the ability of farms to function.

This was an important fight for Iowa agriculture.  And I’m glad the federal government backed down and made the right move for Iowa farms.

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