Monday, February 28, 2011

National FFA Week

Last week FFA members across the nation celebrated National FFA Week. At the University of Tennessee we had the honor of hosting 4 of the 8 State FFA Officers on their Goodwill Tour across the state. Check out of latest Ag in Under 10 to see how we celebrated in our department and get some interesting FFA facts to share with others.

Now that FFA week is over - make sure you continue to tell the story of agriculture and agriculture education every chance you get!

Weekly Ag Update - Farm Bureau Executive Newswatch

U.S. Farm Exports Hit Record-High in 2010
U.S. farm exports reached an all-time high of $115.8 billion in calendar year 2010, surpassing the previous high of $114.8 billion set in 2008. Both the value and volume of U.S. agricultural exports worldwide has increased.
“Today’s numbers indicate that the demand for U.S. food and agricultural products is soaring worldwide,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is good news for all Americans in these trying economic times. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 8,000 American jobs, which means agricultural exports supported nearly 1 million jobs in 2010.”
Export sales surged both in bulk commodities, which increased 19 percent to $47.2 billion, and for consumer-oriented agricultural products, which increased 15 percent to $45.4 billion.

For the first time in history, China is the top market for U.S. agricultural exports. China imported agricultural products valued at $17.5 billion from the U.S. in 2010. This accounts for 15.1 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports. Soybeans are the primary farm product China imports from the U.S. China relies on other nations for soybeans, cotton, vegetable oil and edible sugar but does not depend on international markets for major grains including rice, wheat and corn. Canada is now the No. 2 market for U.S. farm exports, valued at $16.9 billion in 2010.
The latest export data is available via the Global Agricultural Trade System.

Perhaps after reading this article we'll all thank a farmer today - not just for the food or clothing we use but for supplying jobs in America and continuing to help our economic situation overall while theirs seems to worsen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sharing Agriculture Knowledge

I know a lot of times people are unsure where to find agriculture knowledge. Sometimes I am even unsure of the best way to share the message. I am going to post information like this to my blog weekly for anyone interested in keeping up with current agricultural issues - especially for my state FFA officer candidate friends who need to be really up-to-date heading into State FFA Convention in March!
For: March 2011
By Bob Stallman, President
 American Farm Bureau Federation
The Ethanol Question
Ethanol is under fire once again.  The “food v. fuel” debate is heating up with an intensity not seen for several years.  But, unfortunately, the critics don’t have it right.
Instead of pointing fingers at ethanol for increased corn prices, we need to look at what’s really driving demand—energy prices, weather-related issues and a growing global middle class. The days of $2 bushel corn are over. It’s a whole new ballgame and we, as a planet, need to accept this new reality.
In Retrospect
Corn supplies are currently tight and in high demand.  It’s understandable why naysayers would point to ethanol as the culprit. It’s an easy target.  But, if we look back at 1996, the last time U.S. corn supplies were as low as is expected at the end of this year, the ethanol industry didn’t even have both feet on the ground.
At the end of 1996, corn stocks dipped to 426 million bushels, or a stocks-to-use ratio of 5 percent.  This year we again expect to see the stocks-to-use ratio dip to 5 percent.  Due to higher use of corn, however, that same 5 percent rate translates to ending stocks of 675 million bushels. 
The comparison of 1996 and our circumstances today tell an interesting story.  Then, our total use of corn for ethanol was only 396 million bushels.  This year we expect to use 4.95 billion bushels for ethanol, a near 4.5 billion bushel increase. 
But, in 1996, we planted 71.5 million acres of corn as opposed to the 88.2 million acres we planted this year.  Further, because of the increase in acreage and improved yields, U.S. production is actually 5 billion bushels higher than it was 15 years ago.  Feed use for corn, along with other food and industrial uses not associated with ethanol, have also increased by 425 million bushels from the 1996 levels.  
 In short, we have expanded production in order to provide for not only more feed and industrial use of corn, but for nearly 10 percent of our nation’s automobile fuel supplies, as well.
Coming to Terms
Many critics would tell you that current increased production would have occurred without ethanol demand, but without economic signals driven by ethanol why would we expect farmers to boost planting?
One of the key elements we must all begin to come to terms with are the full implications of higher energy costs, particularly gasoline priced at $3 per gallon as opposed to the 75 cents per gallon that was the average in 1996.  At $40 per barrel for oil, the energy value  of corn is  roughly $2.50 per bushel; at $100 per barrel that same bushel of corn is worth more than $6.50.  And this is strictly the energy value of the corn as fuel in our fireplaces, not as a value added product that has been converted into valuable livestock feed and a fuel able to be mixed with gasoline and fully functional in our automobiles.
This general rise in the price of grains has not been limited to corn.  Soybean prices, too, have moved to new levels, certainly due in part to spillover effects from corn, but also due to exploding demand from China and other rapidly developing economies.  In 1996 China imported 320,000 tons of soybeans.  This year it is expected to import 57 million tons from world markets. As the global middle class increases, so does protein consumption. 
Weather-related issues around the world also are having an impact on corn supply and demand.
In short, it’s never as black-and-white as the critics would have us believe. Many factors are playing a role in increased corn prices and the “food v. fuel” cliché is growing tiresome. Ethanol is a good, clean, home-grown fuel that lessens U.S. reliance on foreign fuel while adding jobs to the American economy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ALEC Ag in Under 10

This week students report on animal welfare as it relates to the agriculture industry. Check out the video!

ALEC Ag in Under 10: Animal Welfare

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Home with New Enthusiasm

Last night I arrived back in Knoxville from a short trip to Corpus Christi, Texas for the AAAE conference. There I had the opportunity to present a poster on some of the research I have been working on concerning agritourism in Tennessee. I also had the opportunity to network with people from other universities and listen to some great speakers. During lunch, our speaker Dr. Don Johnson a professor in Agriculture Extension and Education from the University of Arkansas challenged everyone in the room with some great thoughts on teaching. He referenced Banner and Cannon's work, The Elements of Teaching (1997). For me these 7 points really hit home. As a future (I hope) professor who will teach and research at the university level, I know all too well (already) the struggles of balancing research, home life, professional development, being healthy and being a good teacher. Dr. Johnson encouraged us to remember that teaching should be our number one priority. We do the rest to compliment it. Here is a description of his modified list of things great teachers do well.
1. Learning
Great teachers know a lot about what they are teaching so that they can teach it well.
They themselves have a love of learning and keep learning in order to better their students.
2. Ethics
Great teachers put student needs first and hold high academic standards for students and help them to acheive them. The teachers are seen as role models.
3. Imagination (my favorite)
Great teachers are creative and innovative. Students can have fun and learn in their classrooms.
4. Compassion
Great teachers understand and emphathize with students. These teachers seem real and less distant to their students.
5. Patience
Great teachers are willing to spend time with their students. They are willing to work extra hard to find and present different approaches and they don't give up.
6. Pleasure
Great teachers enjoy being in the classroom with students. They enjoy teaching and learning and would do it even if they didn't get paid.
7. Optimism
Great teachers see the potential in ALL students. They actively share the potential they see with a student. They can see what a student CAN be, even when the student cannot.
8. Humility
Great teachers remember that no one, "knows it all". They don't make students or others feel inferioir but instead remember that we're all "blockheads". "We are all ignorant. The subjects just vary." - Will Rogers via Don Johnson.

Those are a lot of things for one person to get right all the time. Teaching can sometimes be discouraging with the issues facing education, agriculture and even leadership. However, I plan to post this list in my officer to remind me what I should strive for every class as an educator. I am sure it will serve as motivation as I work toward starting a doctoral program in the fall.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our first ALEC "Ag in under 10"

Our Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communcations department (or as we like to call it, ALEC) decided that we should find a way to share some agricultural knowledge with anyone looking for it. Sometimes information can be really hard to find. So our posts pull together several resources and spend less than ten minutes giving some general information about current, hot topics in agriculture. Students from my 412 class will be hosts from week to week. This first posting was just for them to see a format. My coworker Allison and I serve as hosts. Our other very talented coworker Rebekah films, produces and edits!
Hope you enjoy our weekly posts of ALEC's Ag in under 10!

Welcome to February!

Wow! Is it already February? I guess so. January flew by and a lot seemed to happen in a little amount of time. And from past experience I already know February will be a whirlwind. So let me update you on January and what all has happened!
*January 2011*
  • We celebrated New Years with some great friends from out of state that we hope will be returning soon because we miss them and can't wait to see them regularly.
  • The post survey for my research went out to nearly 200 respondents, and needless to say I've been getting lots of mail and been busy entering data daily.
  • I started teaching 2 courses of leadership this semester. One is a personal leadership development course (with 53 students) and the other is 412 which I mentioned in an earlier post.
  • We've had lots of snow. The most I've seen in Tennessee in years.
  • We finally got to go snowboarding - A hobby hubby and I both love and have been missing for about the past year and a half.
  • I managed to lose a phone, a car key, house keys (which I found), mascara (I found it too) and a $20 bill. I don't know how this happened because I am usually so careful and am not known to be the one misplacing or losing things. Hope that improves in February!
  • Chris's basketball team has been winning - a lot. We are now 20-2 and have a really big game tonight! I am so proud of the team, the coaches, the managers and everyone involved. I have never been part of such a welcoming school with parents who truly care and appreciate every little thing the program is about.
  • I've gotten to watch my sister play some ball. Man has she gotten good!!
  • I joined a Relay for Life team. More to come on that!
  • I have been working out daily and eating healthier in hopes of reaching a goal set with my parents for each of us to lose 20lbs. by summer!
  • My wonderful mother celebrated her 50th birthday! I don't think she minds me telling people that she's 50, because she looks so darn good people don't believe it!
  • UT hosted the public speaking career development events for FFA and everyone turned out by the masses to volunteer and help. Congratulations to all those FFA students who competed!
  • The ALEC program recorded it's first "Ag in under 10" educational video which I will post for everyone to see. It's a clip on a new ag topic every week for students to view who are looking for more info about ag!
  • We celebrated the engagement of our dear friends Drew and Erin who are planning a November wedding, only to wake up the next morning and hear the best news that our other friends John and Ashley are engaged! Love is definitely in the air, and it's only January!!!
Whew! Seriously!!!! All of that in January? And February is notorious for being more jam packed!?