‘Family farmer’ – informing policymakers

John Adams farms outside Atlanta, Ill., with his wife, Susan. Adams spoke during a late-May press conference highlighting the Corn Farmer Coalition’s campaign to educate policymakers regarding the true nature of family farm in the United States.

Among his comments:

“I’m the fifth generation on the family farm, which was founded in 1862. I started farming in 1972. This is a true family farm. My landowners are my dad, my mother, my sister, my wife, two cousins and myself. We farm about 962 acres.

“In the mid-1970s, we stopped plowing and began reduced tillage. We’ve been doing it ever since. We did it to reduce soil and water erosion. We use integrated pest management (IPM) when determining which crop protection products to use to control weeds and insects.

“Sue and I have worked with the University of Illinois in nitrogen rate studies to better determine the proper amount of N to supply our corn crop. The reason is we want to maximize income, not necessarily yield.

“We used to raise hogs but quit in 1998. At that time, we switched to 100 percent no-till.

“We also use modern technology — especially on the corn and soybean crops. We variable rate our P and K and apply fertilizer only when needed.

“Over the last 38 years, we’ve probably increased our average farm yields by 60 to 75 bushels per acre on corn. And I know we’re putting out a lot less insecticides, crop protection products and are using a lot less fuel…

“Sue is in charge of running our grain drying system at harvest. She hauls the crop in, weighs it, tests it and dries the corn down to the proper moisture. She did a good job (in 2009), with 83,000 bushels.

“While she does all the hard work, I do the easy work: running the combine with auto-steer. With yield-mapping I keep track of what the yields are.

“We’re working hard to keep up with rapid changes in agriculture. It can be a challenge. But we feel we’re getting better business and environmental advantages to the family farm to help us survive and meet the growing needs of society.

“The reason I’m involved in this is about 10 or 15 years ago I was more active with the Illinois Corn Growers (Association). We’d come to Washington, D.C., and visit our (congressional delegation). We always had good rapport…

“Two years ago, I came again and was quite shocked. A lot of the people we were meeting didn’t realize family farms still existed. … Quite often, we’d hear, ‘We didn’t know there were any family farms back there in Illinois. We thought it was all big, corporate farms.’ That really bothered me a lot.

“This is something we need to address and I’m glad the NCGA is doing it with this program…

“There are people making decisions that affect our lives, our income and environment that don’t know the true facts about family farms. We’re here, we’re alive and we are producing food.

“We want people to recognize we’re here and working hard. When I say ‘I’m a farmer’ a lot of people have the perception of what I do. The first thing I tell them is ‘I eat products I grow.’ Sue and I were really good at eating pigs when we (raised swine). … We drink the water that falls on our ground so we don’t want to contaminate anything.

“I want people to know we’re careful stewards of the land. We’re trying to do the next job we can. (Farmers) are the original environmentalists.”

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