Controversial trade deal draws heavy lobbying from U.S. agribusiness

A new trade deal aimed at cutting thousands of taxes and opening markets with 11 Pacific Rim nations has drawn heavy lobbying from some of America’s largest agribusinesses.

The deal – known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership – was reached in early October. It is designed to ease the flow of goods between partner nations by lowering restrictive trade policies and regulations.

Ag Secretary Vilsack announces major USDA biofuel investment

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that his department will award nearly two dozen states with millions of dollars to build the gas pumps and other infrastructure needed to supply American drivers with more renewable fuel.

Former U.S. rep recruits farmers for corn lawsuit

Nearly a year after China re-opened its doors to imported U.S. corn, one former U.S. representative is recruiting Illinois farmers into a mass-action lawsuit as plaintiffs.

Thousands of farmers – along with major agribusinesses Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill – are suing the Swiss chemical company Syngenta for selling a genetically modified strain of corn in the United States before its approval by China.

Flag in front of soybean acres

Federal money woes bring attention to crop insurance

The average yearly amount of taxpayer money funding the highly subsidized federal crop insurance program has more than doubled in just over a decade.

From 2003 through 2007, the government spent an average of $3.4 billion per year on crop insurance, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Record yields mean lower returns for local farmers

After making record profits from 2007-2013, farmers in Champaign County who rent their land are likely to lose money on both corn and soybeans in this year and next, said a University of Illinois economist.
Across the state, 2014 saw record highs for cash rent. In Champaign County, the average cash renter pays $253 per acre.

Closing the sustainability loop

By Lauren Rohr/For — The Sustainable Student Farm serves a variety of purposes on the University of Illinois campus. Hundreds of students gain hands-on experience by working and researching at the farm almost year-round. Dining Services buys the farm’s produce and uses it in meals served to students who live in residence halls. And now, with the farm’s vermicomposting project, farm manager Zack Grant and his team are aiming to close the sustainability loop by using waste to fertilize produce. The Sustainable Student Farm is in operation for at least 10 months of the year.

Feeding the world proves to be a growing challenge

By Claire Everett/ — More than 300 researchers from around the world gathered at the University of Illinois this week for a major conference on how to feed a global population that is expected to rise to 9 billion people by 2050. Organized by The Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment at the University, the conference kicked off at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center with a welcome speech by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. The conference was held Tuesday through Thursday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The problem of feeding the world is bigger than just providing enough food, Revkin said. It also includes issues such as waste, ethics and diversity in the food system.