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Top Story

2003 Congressional Workshop Among the Best This Year

The St. Louis AgriBusiness Club’s bi-annual Congressional Workshop has built a reputation for being among the best of the agricultural literacy events held for the purpose of informing legislators and their aides on the importance and workings of U.S. agriculture. The three-day 2003 workshop, held August 18-20, was also among the largest in the country during the year.

Sixteen staffers for congressional representatives and senators from Louisiana to California, as well as local congressional leaders, attended.

The event was designed to provide congressional leaders with a first-hand perspective of issues facing agriculture in the St. Louis area and the critical relationship that exists among the various business interests serving the agriculture industry.

An informative and enjoyable portion of the workshop included a tour of the Melvin Price Lock and Dam, followed by a barge cruise down the Mississippi River from Alton to the St. Louis riverfront. Staffers heard from a variety of individuals advocating federal support for river industry improvements and the corresponding importance to agribusiness.

Workshop attendees also toured an area farm and visited the cutting edge Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

St. Louis AgriBusiness Club members recognize the tremendous importance of the event and its role in informing legislators about agriculture. The Congressional Workshop is made possible only through the financial commitment of Club members and others in the St. Louis agricultural community. We extend our appreciation to the sponsors :

STAR ($5,000+)
Missouri Botanical Gardens

GOLD ($2,000 - $4,999)
Nestle Purina
Bunge Corporation
Land O’Lakes
National Corn Growers Association
National Oilseed Processors Association
Carpenters District Council
River Coalition
(Alter Barge Line, Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge North America,
Cargo Carriers, Ceres Consulting LLC, Eagle Marine Industries, Economy River Systems, J. Russell Flowers Inc., Jersey County Grain Company, Madison Coal & Supply, MEMCO Barge Line, Olympic Marine Company, Riverland Resources Inc, Robert B. Miller & Associates Inc., SCF Marine Inc., Seneca Transportation LLC, Stephen and Julie Sheridan, TECO Barge Line, Tennessee Valley Towing Inc., Ursa Farmers Cooperative, Waterways Journal)

Sikeston Standard-Democrat

SILVER ($1,000 - $1,999)
Cargill – AgHorizons
National Grain Trade Council
North American Millers’ Association

BRONZE (up to $999)
MissouriFarm Bureau/Missouri Pork Producers Association
Mon-Clair Corn Growers Association
Osborn & Barr Communications
Busch Agricultural Resources
BiState Development Agency
American Waterways Operators
MARC-IV Consulting
Missouri Soybean Association


In the News...

Bond Secures Funds for National Soybean Research Center

December 11, 2003

U.S. Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond officially announced that he secured $900,000 for a National Center for Soybean Technology to be located at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The funding was included as part of the fiscal year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

“This is huge,” said Dale Ludwig, Missouri Soybean Association executive director/ CEO. “Ultimately, this center will create more business in the state of Missouri, delivering additional jobs and tax revenue. We could not be more pleased with Senator Bond’s leadership. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who has done more to push this technological revolution forward.”

The funding for the National Center for Soybean Technology will be used to accelerate groundbreaking soybean genomics science already taking place at the University
of Missouri-Columbia.

The FY 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act has passed the House of Representatives, but still awaits final approval before the full Senate.


Agriculture remains the ‘steady driver’ in Illinois economy

December 1, 2003
reprinted from Belleville News-Democrat

Curt Deedrich fixes his tractor on weekends. He calculates the seed and fertilizer needs for his 1,000-acre farm in Champaign County late at night.

Most days, he dresses in a shirt and tie and heads for his other job in Urbana to provide his family with health insurance and to help make ends meet.

“I’ve become a very good juggler,” Deedrich said.

His is one of hundreds of Illinois farm families that have made similar adjustments. Such struggles notwithstanding, agriculture continues to be a mainstay of the state’s economy.

Illinois led the nation in exports of feed grains and products last year and was No. 2 in overall farm goods shipped overseas at $3.3 billion.

The state’s 76,000 farms are only part of the story. The food and fiber industry employs nearly 1 million people in Illinois, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Most of those jobs are beyond the farm at grain processing companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and A.E. Staley, or at one of the more than 950 food-manufacturing companies in the state. The state is also home to Deere & Co., one of the world’s largest makers of farm machinery.

“We’re a huge economic engine,” said Charles A. Hartke, director of the state Department of Agriculture. “If the ag economy in Illinois does well, then the entire economy in the state does well.”

Despite fewer farms and declining net farm income since 2000, agriculture in Illinois remains strong, said Dale H. Laitz, an extension farm management specialist for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It’s the steady driver. It’s always there,” he said. “We’d like to see more income … but I think from a balance-sheet situation, debt levels are reasonable and interest rates are real low on that debt.”

Delinquencies on farm debt are at historic lows and the land business has been booming in recent years, said Ron Freen, president and chief executive officer of Farm Credit Services of Illinois, based in Champaign.

Some central Illinois land has sold for more than $4,000 an acre, he said.

Higher land value has helped to improve the industry’s health, Lattz said. But that improvement doesn’t always make it down to smaller farms.

Competition for land makes it harder for a small farmer to make it, Lattz said. It takes more money to buy or rent land, so farmers with more acres and thus more income have an advantage, he said.

Expanding global production of commodities such as corn and soybeans has also increased pressure on Illinois farmers.

“Within the last five years, marketing has changed with the emergence of South America producing more crops,” said Ron Haase, who farms near Gilman in Iroquois County. “Deciding when to sell has become a little bit different because they are a bigger factor than they used to be.”

Haase has brought more technology into his operation to help decide what to market, when to market it and how to control his costs. He now uses a handheld computer to record his plantings and how his fields drain.

Controlling costs and making smart marketing decisions are constant issues for farmers, but perhaps the agriculture industry’s biggest challenge is to sell its importance to policy-makers and a public more familiar with supermarkets than cattle barns, Hartke said.

“I think maybe we’ve done a poor job of relating that importance to our lawmakers,” he said. “We’re good at complaining about things, but we have an obligation to explain why agriculture is so important.”


AgriBusiness Leader of the Year: Chris Brescia

St. Louis AgriBusiness Club member Chris Brescia is the latest addition to a distinguished list of agricultural leaders to be recognized by the Club.

Brescia was named the Club’s 2002 AgriBusiness Leader of the Year at the June 20, 2003, barbecue at Warren Stemme’s Farm.

Brescia, president of the Midwest Area River Coalition 2000 (MARC 2000), represents a coalition of agricultural producers, shippers, workers and individuals promoting modernization of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River transportation systems.

Brescia is a past president of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club and a board member for both the National Waterways Conference and River Resource Alliance. He also serves as chairman of the Coalition to Protest the Missouri River.

Before joining MARC 2000 in 1992, Brescia owned and operated a government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C., as a consultant, government affairs specialist and staffer in the congressional and executive branches.

Brescia joins a list of recipients that includes CEOs of St. Lois-based agricultural corporations and commodity associations, deans and directors of agriculture in Missouri and Illinois, a deputy secretary of agriculture and several noted farmers in the bi-state area.

The annual award, which dates back to the Club’s founding in 1981, recognizes an individual who has had a dramatic impact on agriculture in the St. Louis area. The individual’s service to agriculture reflects exceptional personal accomplishments and leadership that demonstrates outstanding abilities in administration, initiative in serving others and a commitment to the betterment of agriculture.