Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Milk Mustache Mobile Tour Visits DC during National Agriculture Week

The National "got milk?®" Milk Mustache Mobile Tour made a stop in Washington, DC, during National Agriculture Week as part of its "Milk the Moment" Tour, which is crossing the country from March to September to help celebrate those special moments that families share around the dinner table and show moms that serving milk at dinnertime is an easy, and affordable, way to help make sure their families get the nutrition they need.

Traveling to 75 cities nationwide, the “Milk the Moment” Tour features a variety of fun and educational activities for the entire family. The tour also offers moms a chance to share how they “milk the moment” at dinnertime for a chance to win an unforgettable family dinner experience with Milk Mustache celebrity and chef Tyler Florence

“Milk the Moment” To Win The Milk Mustache Mobile “Milk the Moment” Tour has taken to America’s streets to encourage families to set the dinner table with naturally nutrient-rich milk. This year, the tour will help celebrate family dinners and invite moms to share how they make the most of time together around the table. Do your kids pour each family member a glass of milk? Or does your family do a milk toast to start off every meal? Event attendees can enter the national “Milk the Moment” contest by sharing how they “milk the moment” with their family for a chance to win a trip to San Francisco to have a family dinner with the latest Milk Mustache celebrity and chef Tyler Florence.

To enter, attend a Milk the Moment Tour event in your area or if you can’t make it to the event, visit to enter and for official rules.

Family Fun Activities
Also, as a partner of this year’s tour, the NFL and the National Dairy Council’s (NDC) Fuel Up to Play 60 program will offer kids the opportunity at each event to participate in a fun, dinner-themed football toss activity that teaches kids the importance of getting enough exercise and eating right. The youth-led program empowers children and teens to take charge of their health and work with school leaders to create more opportunities for 60 minutes of daily physical activity and to make more healthy foods available. Also, residents who stop by the mobile tour have a chance to win great prizes and experience free, interactive activities including: an interactive display that puts milk head-to-head with other dinnertime beverage choices, milk samples, and Milk Mustache photos.

Helping Those In Need Build Strong Families
You can also help families in need by passing a virtual gallon of milk to friends on Facebook. Event attendees can pass a gallon on-site at special computer stations, but you also can help by visiting For every virtual gallon passed, $1 will go to Feeding America, up to $100,000. Feeding America is the country’s largest network of food banks that serves more than 37 million people facing hunger in this country. For more information on the importance of serving milk at the dinner table and the National Milk Mustache "got milk?®" Campaign, visit, fan the tour on Facebook at or follow them on Twitter @MilkMustache.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Michigan Teenager Submits Winning AgDay Essay

Christine Vanek, a high school student from Ann Arbor, Mich., was chosen the 2010 winner of the annual AgDay Essay Contest. Vanek, who presented her winning essay at Thursday evening's AgDay dinner in Washington, DC, received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her presentation. As winner of the contest, she also was awarded a $1,000 check. The annual AgDay Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., Country Living Association, Agriculture Council of America,
High Plains Journal,National Association of Farm Broadcasters, McCormick Company, National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). What follows is the text of Vacek's winning essay.

As we drive west with the setting sun through the last miles of Iowa, I stare out my window in awe. The fields stretch uninterrupted to the horizon, and the sky is a beautiful abundance of fading blue. I know that I am almost home.

Although my family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our roots are anchored deep in the Nebraska soil. My appreciation for the importance of American agriculture comes from my experience out at my grandparents' farm. I remember as a small child riding in the tractor with my grandpa as he disked a field in preparation for planting, folding the old corn stalks from last year's crop into the dirt. I remember going along with him one fall in the combine, fascinated at the machine's ability to get the ears off the stalk and the corn off the ears, shooting the kernels into the storage space and spitting out the unusable remainder.

At the age of seven, my mind could not grasp the abundance that is American agriculture. I could not comprehend the space of even one field, which itself was granted my awe. At seventeen, I have come to admire the work that my grandfather and all American farmers do. It is thanks to the abundance of American agriculture - from the corn, soybean and wheat fields of the Great Plains to the expansive fruit orchards in the South - that I, along with the rest of the country, have access to a wide variety of affordable, safe, nutritious foods.

I am thankful as well for the affordability of agriculture in America. My ancestors came to America less than two hundred years ago to escape forced service in the Czechoslovakian army. They did not have a large amount of wealth, but due to the affordability of American agriculture, they were able to build a small house and begin their own modest farm. Living frugally and working the land with dedication, they built up a life and livelihood for themselves in America.

I am a product of American agriculture, and I can testify to its greatness. This spring, I was walking to the pivot in the field on my grandparents' farm, when I stopped to tie my shoe. As I stood back up, I looked at the scene around me, taking it in in a way I hadn't while I was walking. I have experienced no more perfect a moment in my life than standing there with the sun warming my back, looking out at that vast, intensely blue sky with the deep green corn plants stretching for miles beneath it.

Merrigan and Lincoln Address Thursday's AgDay Dinner

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, addressed a sold-out crowd at last-night's AgDay dinner at the USDA's Whitten Hall.

Lincoln and Merrigan stressed the importance of ending child hunger and obesity. Merrigan noted that more than 18 percent of American children live today in food insecure households.

In response to this issue, Sen. Lincoln this week introduced the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill making the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs to date.

Lincoln’s bill provides $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, which is a significant increase over previous efforts. The highest previous increase was $500 million over 10 years.

Both leaders mentioned the importance of increasing consumer understanding of production agriculture and the U. S. food system. Merrigan also cited the Agency's commitment to creating pathways for youth to repopulate and reinvigorate rural communities, as well as the Administration's commitment to growing domestic markets and creating additional demand for exports of agricultural products.

Lincoln reported the Senate has worked hard to quickly approve the Ag Disaster Bill, noting that disaster assistance must be provided in a timely manner. She also mentioned the Administration's focus on increasing exports -- noting several pending trade agreements including opening trade with Cuba.

Well-known agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson served as emcee for the evening's festivities.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Straight From the Farmer--Technology is Key to Bright Agriculture Future

Less than two percent of America’s population is actively engaged in farming. Yet, the agriculture industry is the most productive in history. In fact, each U.S. farmer produces enough food to nourish more than 150 people.

Today’s farmers are engaged in agriculture because they want to be. And if you ask Brent Johnson, a 36-year-old farmer from Manson, Iowa, there’s no more exciting place to be today than on the farm.

A fourth generation farm family, Brent and LuAnn Johnson operate Labre Acres, which includes 900 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and a small cow-calf beef operation. They also operate Labre Crop Consulting, which works with farmers across Iowa to incorporate precision farming technology into their operations for more detailed record-keeping and production efficiencies.

“When my grandfather switched from horses to tractors in 1956, I would imagine he thought agriculture production could never get any better than that,” Brent says. “And today, I feel the same way. With satellite technology, auto-steering, biotechnology, and variable rate application capabilities, I can't even imagine what’s coming that will make things even better than they are today. “

In preparation for coming back to the farm, Brent earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Iowa State University. After graduation, he spent nearly 10 years working in corn research and production in the seed and crop protection industries before moving back to the farm.

As an agronomist, Brent has a keen understanding of the importance of caring for the land, as well as the proper care and feeding of plants once they have been planted in the soil.

In fact, Brent believes that farmers were at the forefront of the green movement before “going green” was even considered cool.

“We live on the land. It is part of our lifestyle. Farmers have done more to protect and conserve the land by developing terraces and waterways than any other segment of the U.S. population. And people just don’t understand that,” Brent says. “We work hard to employ the best technology and management practices we can to ensure that we can be successful with proper placement and reduced applications of fertilizer and pesticides.”

Brent also says he is concerned that so few people have a realistic understanding of agriculture and farmers. “This is not a fairytale existence – agriculture is a business. I’m worried that we have people trying to decide the future of agriculture who do not understand or respect how far this industry has come since the 1950s. We cannot be as efficient without modern technology. Without it, the industry moves backwards. And that way of thinking won’t feed the world.”

Brent believes the way to increase the understanding between farmer and consumer is through education and communication. That’s why he and LuAnn are in Washington, DC, during National Agriculture Week visiting with members of Congress about agriculture’s promise and the hope modern technology can bring to the global food system.

Brent and LuAnn are participating in National Ag Day Festivities today on Capital Hill and at the USDA, as representatives of John Deere’s Outstanding Young Farmers of America group.

“We’re here on behalf of many young farm families around the country,” Brent says. “We are honored to represent these farmers and will do our best to make sure their voices are heard in the discussions about the promise modern agriculture holds in feeding the world.”

Youth Key to Keeping Rural America Vibrant

More than anywhere else in the country, rural America provides tremendous opportunities for youth to make a difference. That's what U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told more than 150 students and agriculture professionals gathered at the USDA this morning to kick-off AgDay celebrations in the nation's capitol.

In his remarks, Secretary Vilsack noted that despite their extraordinary efforts through history and today, American farmers and ranchers receive little credit, like an Oscar or Olympic gold medal, for their efforts in producing the world's food supply. In noting these efforts, Vilsack noted that in 1950, the average farmer fed only 20 people. Today, each American farmer and rancher feeds more than 150 people, and they have assumed much greater responsibility for generating food for the world while often having to rely on off-farm income to survive economically on the farm.

To protect the viability of the 21st Century farm, Vilsack says the USDA must expand its focus to address more of the struggles faced in rural America. Some of the areas of focus include:

  • Continued expansion of agricultural exports and domestic use of agricultural products -- he noted that tremendous opportunities exist in the country's ability to convert agricultural products into energy, for example.
  • Increased connections and understanding between farmers, consumers and the food they eat. He noted the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program as one example of how the USDA was hoping to connect consumers to farmers, and bolster rural economies.
  • Promoting hunting and fishing on conservation acres in rural communities. Vilsack noted that when hunting and fishing enthusiasts visit rural areas, they provide an economic boost to rural communities.
  • Continued exploration of ecosystem markets to address the world's changing climate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consider a Career in Agriculture - - The Choices are Amazing!

By Kent Schescke, FFA Foundation

While farming is possibly the oldest and most well-known agricultural career, more than 300 career opportunities exist in today’s agriculture, food and natural resources sector. Those jobs can be organized in the following categories:

Food Products and Processing Systems
Plant Systems
Natural Resource Systems
Animal Systems
Environmental Service Systems
Agribusiness Systems
Biotechnology Systems

More than 7,400 middle and high school agricultural education programs and FFA chapters exist in schools and communities across the United States to help young people explore, discover and prepare for agricultural career opportunities. What follows are some fast facts about agricultural education today:

Education of students in urban, suburban and rural areas
34% from urban and suburban areas
39% from rural, non-farm areas
27% from rural farm areas
16 of 20 largest U.S. cities have FFA chapters
Changing demographics of membership
39% female (hold 50% state leadership positions)
85% Caucasian, 11% Latino, 4% African-American

The agricultural education community is focused on growth and quality as the future of agricultural education. In fact, our goal is to accelerate GROWTH in education by providing greater access to Ag Ed and FFA by exponentially growing the number of programs in communities not yet served by Ag Ed and FFA, thus assisting students to prepare for opportunities in agriculture, food and natural resources industries.

By strengthening the QUALITY of personal, academic and career education programs in agriculture, we will raise the bar on student achievement in existing Ag Ed and FFA programs.

Accomplishing these goals will require lots of motivated new agricultural education instructors and teachers. Do you have a knack for working with young people? If so, we encourage you to consider Agricultural Education as a major and work toward a career an agricultural education instructor.