Voices of Agriculture event benefits academic programs
Matt Blume serving dessert
January 31, 2013
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URBANA – A recent event at the University of Illinois raised funds for two academic programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). The Jan. 25 event, benefiting the Hospitality Management program and the Dr. James F. Evans Endowed Chair in Agricultural Communications, featured a fine-dining meal paired with a personal book signing with Orion Samuelson, legendary WGN radio farm broadcaster, and a panel of agriculture economists.

The event, entitled “An Evening with the Voices of Illinois Agriculture” was conceived by University of Illinois farm broadcaster Todd Gleason after he and three others purchased a meat package featuring the Illinois State Fair grand champion barrow sold during the ACES Salute to Agriculture tailgate last fall. Gleason, a 1986 agricultural communications alumnus and host of WILLAg.org's Closing Market Report and Commodity Week radio programs, said he wanted a way to give back to the campus that set him on a rewarding career path.

Samuelson, who recently released You Can’t Dream Big Enough told the capacity crowd gathered at the Spice Box in Bevier Hall on the Urbana-Champaign campus that it was important for them to “tell the story of agriculture.” He encouraged the university students in attendance to dream big, which is one of the messages in his book.

An outlook on the 2013 growing season was shared by an experienced agriculture marketing panel including Steve Freed, ADM Investor Services; Gary Schnitkey, professor of agriculture and consumer economics and farmdoc team member; Jacquie Voeks of Stewart Peterson; and Wayne Nelson, L&M Commodities.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty in the commodity markets. The corn contracts in Chicago (CME Group CBOT) are export sensitive, and without that market there isn’t a push to keep new-crop corn prices higher,” Freed said, “This year will be volatile again with the summer weather in the United States being key to prices.”

The four panelists agreed that weather and acreage would be the driving market forces for new-crop prices and that it is prudent that producers cover next fall’s sales soon. Although there were different ideas of how to use futures and options to hedge the crop, all agreed that crop insurance was a must. Crop insurance decisions are made between March 1 and 15 annually. 

“Take crop insurance and make sure to include the trend-adjusted yield option. It makes sense in almost all cases across the state of Illinois,” Schnitkey advised. He posts crop insurance calculators and decision tools on the U of I's farmdoc website at www.farmdoc.illinois.edu.

Agricultural communications trains students to become journalists, broadcasters, and advertisers. In 2012, 100 percent of those graduating in agricultural communications received job offers. Hospitality Management combines food science and business skills to send students on a path toward restaurant management. Students are involved in numerous hands-on experiences on campus and are required to participate in two internships during their program.

The Spice Box is a student-run restaurant serving meals on Friday, and occasional Wednesday, evenings during the spring semester. Themes and menus for this season’s meals are available at www.spicebox.illinois.edu.  Reservations are required.