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Grundy County

Spring 2018

Wellness? Check.

How limits on antibiotics are affecting local farms See Page 8

Chris Breyman

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Grundy County

Table of Contents


Future health of a family farm


Farm Bureaus consider merger


Wellness? Check.

Legislators weigh options to ease burden of healthcare costs

Grundy, Kendall weigh future with combined efforts

A year into the Veterinary Feed Directive, we review the limited use of antibiotics on animals

10 Youth, full

4-H EducatorJohn Davis built career encouraging students in agriculture


Agricultural Education


Electronic logging hot topic for local farmers

Returning to the local high school curriculum

State bureau hosts seminar to clear confusion over rules

est. 1851

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 3


Legislators weigh options to ease burden of healthcare costs

By Allison Selk

Being self-employed in a high risk job can make it challenging for farmers when seeking health insurance. Grundy County Farm Bureau Manager Victoria Wax says trends are showing farmers, or someone within the farmer’s family often has to take an off-farm job with medical benefits or to pay a bundle for insurance themselves, despite federal efforts to curb costs through the Affordable Care Act.

Bureau Manager Victoria Wax talks healthcare with local farmer Howard Huntley.

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In March of 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, an effort to make affordable health insurance available to more people. Among its goals, the legislation provided customers with subsidies (premium tax credits) intended to lower costs for households with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Shoshanah Inwood of the School or Environmental Natural Resources at Ohio State University said, similar to the country as a whole, farmers have had a range of experiences with health insurance, some positive and some negative. She said prior to the ACA income and assets determined Medicaid eligibility. The ACA required only income to count toward Medicaid eligibility.


“Farmers tend to be cash poor and land rich, and some have benefited from this provision and were eligible for Medicaid and had health insurance for the first time,� Inwood said.


But for some farmers, Howard Huntley of Minooka, health insurance costs rose. Huntley said he ended up paying more than $30,000 per year for health insurance, up by about $10,000 from just a few years ago. Huntley’s wife has taken taken an off-farm job in order to pay for the family health insurance (which does not include vision or dental) Huntley also works side jobs to make ends meet.

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However, the need to leave the farm to work for benefits or to pay for healthcare can also disrupt the circle of the farm, as Inwood says she has witnessed farmers who go into retirement who need to sell their land to pay for long term health care. Of farmers 18 to 35 years of age, two out of five are currently enrolled in public health, she said, adding that many are faced with the choice to work a 40-hour work week for health coverage which will take away from the farm enterprise, which could be a family farm operation. SM-PR1504591

“We spend an astronomical amount of money on health insurance,� Huntley said, at an Illinois Farm Bureau meeting in December, where he was one of the representatives. During that meeting, the Grundy County Farm Bureau joined bureaus from Cook, Will, DuPage, and Kendall counties to ask the Illinois Farm Bureau to look into this matter further, and consider any options that might be available.

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“Healthcare is a major concern because it’s a major cost issue for our membership,� Mark Gebhards, executive director, Illinois Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs and Commodities said. “As an organization, are there opportunities where we can try to provide some choices or option in this health insurance area for our membership to look at?� So in March, the Illinois Farm Bureau held a summit in Bloomington to discuss the issue. Lori Laughlin, Illinois Farm Bureau Director of Issue Management said topics discussed were the history of farm bureau insurance, what some other state farm bureaus have done in terms of insurance options for their members, what the ACA provides for farmers, help for farmers to navigate the ACA, how professional associations helped their members when it comes to healthcare and details about health sharing. Laughlin also shared Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed farming as the most dangerous industry based on workplace fatalities, and supported that some farmers spend between one-third and one-half of their income on health insurance. “This could impact farm succession-making land available for future generations. Almost half of farmers and ranchers sell due to health related costs,� Inwood said.

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 5

FARM Bureaus consider merger

By Jeanne Millsap


he farm bureaus of neighboring Grundy and Kendall Counties have begun discussing the possibility of a merger, said Grundy County Farm Bureau Director Victoria Wax.

The idea has been gaining ground as the number of working farmers in the area drops. “At this point, it’s just the two counties talking about it,” Wax said. Should directors and members wish to move forward with the idea, a vote on the merger would be taken next fall or winter. “The average age of farmers is rising every year,” she said, adding that as younger generations leave, some farms are bought out by other farmers, consolidating the acres. “There are fewer farmers as farms consolidate, so we have fewer farmers and a smaller membership base.” Reedy said more than half of his farmer members are over the age of 65. In 10 years, he said, the county could see the numbers of its farmer members “dwindle quickly.” “You’d like to have a viable organization,” he said. The Grundy County Farm Bureau, established in 1914, has more than 3,600 members and 12 directors. Kendall County Farm Bureau Director Dan Reedy said his membership runs about 3,500, with 13 directors and was established in 1920. “The two counties are very compatible and very comparable,” Reedy said, “and combined, it would be a very strong unit . . . We would be able to continue with the programs that have been started by both farm bureaus, and we both have strong young leader communities.” Wax says many of the younger members of farming families are exploring other careers – some agriculture-related and some not. And while it isn’t uncommon for people to return to the family farm later in their lives, many are making their livelihoods elsewhere, in related fields. “Their opportunities lie beyond just being a row crop farmer,” she said. If they have an interest in agriculture, Wax says there are jobs with seed companies, developing new genetics for corn and soybeans; with chemical companies that produce

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“Working to provide agricultural leadership and enhance the economic success and quality of life for our members and communities”


fertilizers; with financial institutions that provide loans and crop insurance; in communication; and in agricultural education. There is a large demand for high school agriculture teachers now, in particular, she said.

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Reedy said it just makes sense to consider merging the two farm bureaus, and the time is right.

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“I’m retiring in February 2019, and Victoria will have been at Grundy County two years,” Reedy said, “so it would give them the opportunity to have these discussions without having to worry about who to hire.” Wax said a committee has been formed to discuss the matter, with representatives from each county’s board. The farm bureaus promote agriculture through education, legislation and community involvement. Over the years, the two bureaus have helped local farmers improve their farming practices and prevent livestock disease and have had a voice in governmental regulations that affect farming. Both bureaus also run Ag in the Classroom, a program that teaches 5th grade students about farming. Topics include corn, soybeans, animal agriculture, cattle and nutrition. “There’s a long history of both counties working well together,” Wax said. “The local beef association is the Kendall-Grundy Beef Association. . . A lot of people say this really makes sense. It’s been overall positive from the people I’ve talked to.”

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 7

A year into the Veterinary Feed Directive, we review the limited use of antibiotics on animals By Jeanne Millsap

The more antibiotics are used on animals that are destined to become food for people, doctors say, the better the chance bacteria have to develop resistance and become “superbugs,� infecting and killing people. 8 | Grundy County AG MAG | Spring 2018

A law to curb antibiotic resistance in farm animals was enacted Jan. 2017, and area farmers have adopted its standards. The measure is called the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). The goal of the VFD is to ensure that antibiotics medically important to humans are not overused in livestock. It provides stricter rules than those previously enacted. Under the directive, according to the Illinois Farm Bureau, farmers must obtain a veterinarian’s prescription to give antibiotics to their animals, exactly like people must have a prescription to get their own antibiotics. The law also mandates farmers give the antibiotics only to those animals for which they are prescribed, and keep careful records of antibiotic use for two years. Historically, over-the-counter antibiotics were used by many in the feed or water of farm animals to hasten growth or prevent disease. Some farmers used the drugs continuously.


With the VFD now in place, vets still prescribe antibiotics to animals to prevent, control or treat infections, but antibiotics longer are used as routine “maintenance.” “There was a lot of use of feed antibiotics,” Veterinarian Dr. Jay Nadler, of the Peotone Animal Hospital said of the time before the VFD.“ Mainly [it was] producers buying antibiotics for their feed and water. I’m not sure it was always perfectly medically-driven. Some things were just done because that’s always the way we did it.” Nadler said he knew of farmers giving improper dosages of antibiotics to their animals or treating them with the drugs for too long. “They’re worried about producing an antibiotic-resistant bacteria strain by overfeeding livestock antibiotics,” he said of those who passed the VFD. “It’s a good idea. We need to have more prudent, proper use of antibiotics.

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The VFD drugs include Gentamicin, Neomycin, Streptomycin, Erythromycin, Penicillin, several sulfa antibiotics, tetracyclines and others. The FDA has been limiting their use over several years, and now it’s taking measures to eliminate their use as a stimulant to growth and production. Rather they only may be used for animal health, and with a veterinarian’s prescription.


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For Verona pig farmer Sara Mitchell, getting that prescription is the only difference she sees day to day. Source: American Bankers Association using FDIC data.


“We’ve had a very good working relationship with our veterinarian,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got little pigs right now. They’re about 30 pounds, and they are prone to respiratory disease. I just got a prescription for that for the next 45 days.” Mitchell said she also gives low-grade antibiotics to her mother sows during their birthing and a short time after. “We want our herd to be healthy,” she said. But while the inconvenience of seeing the vet can be easily managed, the cost of that vet visit can add up. A farm visit from a vet can run $150, she said.



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“It protects our consumers, but it’s more difficult for farmers to treat their animals,” Mitchell said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t become cost-prohibitive.”

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 9

YOUTH, FULL 4-H Educator John Davis built career encouraging students in agriculture by Allison Selk


ohn Davis comes from a family of dairy farmers in Wisconsin, and was the first of his family to attend college. As a youth, Davis said he wanted out and away from the dairy farm, but his life’s work has been devoted, in one manner or another, to agriculture.

In April, Davis will step away from that career, most recently as the youth development educator with the University of Illinois Extension, so he can pursue a personal goal and “seize opportunities as they arise.” Fourteen years ago, Davis took the position with Grundy County, but that quickly expanded to include Will and Kankakee counties as well. Beyond the student outreach in schools, Davis was responsible for forty 4-H clubs within his territory. Described as “passionate” by his co-workers, Davis has never been one to sit still for long. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in teaching. He taught in Green Bay, Wisconsin and for Agricultural Science in Chicago. He taught with Joliet Junior College and worked as a resource conservationist for the Soil and Water District and a counselor for the Department of Labor Job Corps program according to the University of Illinois Extension.

At top, In April, John Davis will retire. Each year he led 750 4-H members in 40 clubs across the three counties. (Allison Selk) Above, John Davis instructs science camp students on the use of GPS units. (photo provided)

When he applied for the job as youth development educator, he lived in Joliet with a commute to Chicago and a desire for a job closer to home. He loved to work with children as he says they have “kept him young.” Within the three counties he presented opportunities to learn about agriculture and guided 750 youth in some forty 4-H programs. He said he had four criteria each time he put together a program: Is this program meeting a need? Was it already offered by someone else? How will this make the students and families better? Can I make it fun, so the youth want to be involved? Can I make it creative and let the youth take ownership of the program?

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“He’s not the typical adult who reads and lecture, he gets involved and is hands-on. He puts things in front of the kids and says have at it,” said Elena Cabral, bilingual program coordinator for Davis. Over the years, he helped create, nurture or support such efforts as the Ag in the Classroom through the Grundy County Farm Bureau, Government Days in Morris (where students from Grundy County earn the right to shadow a government worker through an essay application) mystery camps, Ag Olympics, Amazing Race, Earth Expo and other mentoring opportunities through the extension. He helped students with scholarship applications, assisted at county fair shows, organized camp programs and 4-H club mentoring. Cabral says no matter the task Davis used an adventurous, creative approach and brainstormed how to create a fun twist when he taught the children. And, because of that, the children responded to him in a positive manner.

sponsored many programs and helped the youth in agriculture. Anthony Warmack works with Davis and was under his direction as a youth in a 4-H program. He recalled Davis’s response whenever asked if he had time for something. “He would say, ‘I’m always busy, but I always have time.’” Warmack says Davis “pulled him out of his shell” when he, himself was a 4-H youth. “I didn’t want to apply for an award and John kept calling me to encourage me,” he explained. “He sees potential in people.” Among the many reasons Davis offered for his retirement – including his age of 66 and the desire to travel– was his desire to write two books, one about coaching junior high youth and another about churches of different denominations. Both books feed personal passions for Davis, a referee and a track coach, who studied both philosophy and religion.

“In Ag in the Classroom, I would love it when the kids saw an adult who doesn’t act like an adult, their eyes lit up! That’s John,” Cabral said. “Sometimes I sat back and watched the interactions at events and the kids loved him.”

“Maybe I will do a part-time job in the education field or keep being a referee and coach. I want to be more involved in community service through the Kiwanis and Rotary and spend a lot of time going to community events-I might as well give back money to the community,” Davis said.

Davis insists, however, there are others to thank. His own list of people from Grundy County who helped him get started include Debbie Warning who began the first home school 4-H club, his first boss Debbie Jo Kinsella, and the Tesdal and Jorstad families, who

He says he values his involvement with the 4-H program, but noted it took up most of his time in the summer months due it being fair season. “How many cream puffs or elephant ears can one person eat?” he asked.

John Davis shows off a 4-H project completed by one of his members. Davis loaned the member a milk container from his family dairy farm in Wisconsin who then painted it with pictures to represent Davis’s life. He will use it in his home after the fair. (Allison Selk)

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 11


Education returns to local high school curriculum


fter a long absence of farming-centered classes for local teens, the Grundy Area Vocational Center will begin offering agriculture education courses during the 20182019 school year. The Ag Ed class, offered to juniors and seniors, will be held at the on a parcel of farmland the district owns on the Coal City High School campus, and at area farms. GAVC is a cooperative program for students who attend Coal City High School, Morris Community High School, Minooka Community High School and Gardner-South Wilmington High School. Morris has not had an agriculture class in decades. Minooka Community High School has some ag offerings, but nearby Seneca High School has a very strong program, including FFA, which GAVC’s class will incorporate.

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“Seneca is really kind of our model,” GAVC Assistant Director Jeanne Skube said, “and they’ve been so welcoming. They’ve offered to mentor our instructor, they’ve let us come to their facilities, and we’ve really seen how they’ve taken something and have just grown it over the years.” Skube said the board of directors has been considering the class for a while, and it was a community outcry that led to the creation of it. “It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said. “I’m just thrilled we’re going to be able to connect our students with these resources.” And it might be more than your typical farming students who are interested in taking the ag class, Skube said. Careers with ties to agriculture include bankers, lawyers, economists and scientists. The program will be reviewed after this year and could be expanded in years to come.

“We’re really going to take the first year slow and see which direction we want to take it,” Skube said. “There are so many course pathways under the ag umbrella.” The GAVC Agriculture Education class curriculum will include a first semester of animal science, including livestock (beef, dairy sheep, goats and swine), poultry and the large animal industry, with topics of genetics, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, reproduction, animal health and meat science. The second semester will explore agronomy, or plant science, with topics of cell biology, genetics, biotechnology, soil and plant classifications, soil erosion, pest management, crop production methods and more.

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Elise Hackett will be the course’s first teacher. Her undergraduate degree is in animal science, with a minor in agriculture economy and law. Hackett’s also on track to earn her Master of Arts degree in agriculture education this May, from the University of Illinois.

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Skube said many people from the county also have come forward to offer their help with the new GAVC class. Grundy County Farm Bureau Director Victoria Wax is one of them. Wax said she visited several high schools last fall and talked to the students about agriculture education and careers, finding many students wanted a local ag program. “It’s fantastic,” Wax said of the class. “It’s been so long since there was an ag program in Grundy County. . . so it’s bringing that back to this area, filling a void.”

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 13

Electronic logging

hot topic for local farmers

More than 50 local farmers came together in March to hear about the latest trucking rules and transportation regulations from members of the Illinois Farm Bureau. The program was part of its “On The Road” seminar series, and was offered by the Bureau’s Assistant Director of Transportation and Local Government Kirby Wagner and Illinois Farm Bureau Senior Director of Local Government Kevin Rund.

“We want to resolve a lot of coffee shop talk and misinformation passed around not only among truckers, but (also) law enforcement who haven’t had the benefit of the training on when rules apply and when it doesn’t apply,” Rund said.

“The rules change every year, this lays down the basics and then the farmers can go back and check up on what they are doing,” Grundy County Farm Bureau Manager Victoria Wax said.

Intrastate commerce deals with transactions only within state lines.

One of the hottest topics was the implementation of the electronic logging device (ELD), that took into effect on Dec. 18, 2017. An ELD is technology that automatically records driving time and other aspects of the hours-of-service (HOS). According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this allows easier, more accurate HOS recordkeeping. An ELD monitors a vehicle’s engine to capture data on whether the engine is running, whether the vehicle is moving, miles driven, and duration of engine operation (engine hours). With an ELD, law enforcement can review a driver’s hours of service by viewing the ELD’s display screen, by a printout from the ELD, and in the near future by retrieving data electronically from the ELD. Rund said the issue of electronic log device mandates has created some stir in the farm world, but most farmers can find an exemption from the log requirement. While a 90-day waiver was granted to those who haul livestock and other agriculture commodities, that period ended March 18. Rund said farmers can formally request an extension, but it primarily applies to those in the hog industry. Rund said farmers still need to maintain hours and safe operation practices, but exemptions have been put into place to the mandated electronic logs. The farmer can be exempt from only the requirement to have an ELD if the engine manufactured prior to model year 2000 and the truck was driven not more than eight days during a 30-day period. Short haul operators and a vehicle driven which does not require a Commercial Driver’s License can be exempt from maintenance of a log. Seasonal Agriculture Exemption and Covered Farm Vehicle (CFV) drivers have been exempted from all HOS requirements. Different regulations within intrastate commerce and interstate commerce, due to varied rules between states and the federal government, also have been cause for confusion.

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Interstate commerce, as Rund defined, deals with transactions that have any involvement outside a given state’s lines. This could include trade, traffic or transportation: • between a place in a state and a place outside of each state • between two places in a state, but passing through another state • between two places within a state as part of trade, traffic or transportation originating or terminating outside of the state. For instance, if a truck driver takes grain from northern Illinois to a location in southern Illinois, but cuts down through Iowa and over, that would be interstate, even though the start and finish were within Illinois. If a truck driver takes grain from one destination to another within the same state, but the grain then was sent via waterway through many states, it would be classified as interstate commerce. If the product was taken to a facility which loads and ships containers out of the state, it would be interstate commerce. However, if a farmer takes corn to an ethanol plant and the corn changes forminto ethanol- then only the original corn delivery can be tracked on the side of the transporting farmer. The resulting ethanol is a new product, and therefore the original farmer is no longer involved in the logistics. Illinois Farm Bureau members can find a collection of On the Road seminar topics in the Motor Vehicle Rules for Illinois Farmers book, revised in February 2018. Rund said this manual will be revised several times per year to keep its members up to date on new regulations. Both Rund and Wagner also encouraged the farmers to read and refer to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook and the Illinois Vehicle Code handbooks.

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Spring 2018 | Grundy County AG MAG | 15

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