CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign County Farm Bureau is launching a campaign to replace trees toppled by fierce storms that struck the county in November.
At the organization's annual meeting Monday, Treasurer Bev Ehler — on whose farm the tornado that struck Gifford first touched down — announced an effort to provide a maximum of three trees to each household affected by the storms.
The trees will be oaks, hardwood maples and elms, she said, and will be provided and planted for no charge.
"We'll plant 'em, stake 'em, and it will not cost you anything because we want trees to grow again," Ehler said.
The Champaign County Farm Bureau will have a sign-up period for the next two weeks, and people in both the northern and southern parts of the county are welcome to take part in the "Let's Get Growing Again" campaign.
The Farm Bureau, working in concert with other groups, will dig holes, provide stakes and furnish 2-inch-diameter saplings, which Ehler said have a value of $150 to $250 apiece.
Ehler said it's hoped the planting will take place in early and mid-March. A similar announcement of the tree planting effort was made Monday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Gifford, she said.
Also at the annual meeting, Farm Bureau President Lin Warfel urged the 300 or so members in attendance to call the White House and urge that no changes be made to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Chris Hausman, district director for the Illinois Farm Bureau, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed mandating a reduction of 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol. If that were to go through, it would hurt Illinois agriculture "to the tune of $400 million," he said.
Warfel said he'd like to see "a minimum of 100 calls" from Champaign County about the Renewable Fuel Standard, noting that the organization has 2,523 farm-owner members and a total membership of 10,562.
Earlier in the evening, Warfel noted that corn prices have fallen below the cost of production and said prices "might get worse before they get better."
The proposed cutback in the ethanol and biofuels mandate would cause further harm to corn growers, he said.
The evening's featured speaker was Katie Pratt, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance.
Pratt, whose family has a farm in north central Illinois, urged farm families to share their stories — their experiences and points of view — with people who don't have farm backgrounds.
She said many people who have fixed viewpoints on issues such as genetically modified crops and vegetarian diets sometimes change their views after they've visited a farm and met the people involved in agriculture.