IFB funds variety of agricultural projects

The Illinois Farm Bureau Board of Directors recently granted $128,500 to fund projects provided by seven Illinois organizations and universities.

“IFB is pleased to be able to provide funding support for these projects,” said Richard Guebert Jr., IFB president. “We view our financial contribution as an investment to improve Illinois agriculture.”

This year marks the second for the board to use a specific scoring system to evaluate submitted grant requests, noted Brian Duncan, IFB vice president and finance committee chairman.

“The public/private partnerships are very important. It’s beneficial not only the dollars we bring to the table for the recipients but also Illinois Farm Bureau’s good name goes along with the funds. It means a lot to the recipients to participate with us,” Duncan told the RFD Radio Network.

Illinois 4-H Foundation

Funding will be used for the 2021 4-H Junior Livestock Conference, a two-day, hands-on event for seventh through ninth-grade 4-H youth from across the state. It focuses on leadership, team building and animal advocacy, as well as introducing youth to livestock industry careers.

Funds will also be used for STEM Programming using FarmBot Technology. The funds will be used to pilot an educational program to develop the critical thinking and STEM-related skills of Illinois youth by bringing them into contact with precision agriculture technology and promoting design-thinking approaches to agriculture’s greatest challenges. Funding will also support the purchase of additional FarmBot technology and resources for curriculum expansion.

Illinois State University Farm

Grant money will be used to buy a new livestock feed mixer, which will expand the opportunity to teach a feedlot cattle nutrition laboratory class with more modern equipment. It will also provide the benefit of a higher threshold of precision in order to accurately measure all aspects of the input and perform data comparisons. The cattle industry also benefits from the research outcomes by having access to information that would allow for them to produce the highest yield of quality beef at the lowest cost of production.

Saint Louis Science Center

This year’s funding will be used toward online content development and having a greater online presence. Agricultural related initiatives will be delivered through social media channels and the website. Programs such as science at home and interviews with farmers are among some of the new ways the center is finding to virtually promote agriculture.

The university will purchase a chemical applicator/sprayer. Currently, SIU Farms outsources chemical spraying which results in increased expenses, ultimately affecting crop production and revenue. It will also enable the college to teach and provide research opportunities for SIU agriculture students.

University of Illinois External Education Program

Grant funds will be used for the Food Systems Summer Academy, a program designed for students who want to learn more about the interconnectedness of the food system and how to generate creative solutions to pressing problems. Students will also learn about agricultural issues and careers through a combination of online and small group in-person learning opportunities. Cost is anticipated to be an issue for students. Therefore, the funds will be used to reduce or eliminate the $500 per student participation cost.

Funds will also be used for the Research Apprentice Program, a two-week student virtual program. It is open to current high school sophomores and juniors ranked in the top 20% of their class from underserved minority populations, economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities, and/or urban areas. Students will participate in activities that will help them understand the application of STEM within agriculture, food and natural resources.

University of Illinois-Health & Safety Program

Funds will be used to provide consultation and referral services to farmers with disabilities through Illinois AgrAbility Unlimited. They will contract with a physical therapist and occupational therapist to provide professional consultations, job assessments, and referrals or recommendations for farmers in need of assistance. Any remaining funds will be used to improve online resources for mental health, grain handling safety and air quality.

Western Illinois University

Funds will go toward the 2020 Greenhand Conference intended to get new members motivated to participate in FFA events at the local, state and national levels. The event attracts 200 to 300 FFA members from more than 40 agriculture programs in the west-central region.

Grant money will also be used to purchase additional technology for faculty instructional purposes due to remote learning. Drawing boards for faculty that attach to laptops will allow them to share hand-drawn charts and graphs with students. Document and digital cameras would also be purchased for instructional purposes.