SHARING MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT CORN

My name is Brittany Hosselton, the current Ag in the Classroom intern for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board/Illinois Corn Growers Association. During my internship I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel throughout the beautiful state of Illinois and share my passion for agriculture, more specifically corn production, with teachers at various summer agriculture institutes.

Sharing the message of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board/Illinois Corn Growers Association with all levels of educators has been especially exciting for me, due to my background in agricultural education. I recently spent three months student teaching in a high school agricultural classroom, and from that experience I realized who students rely on to receive a majority of their information; their teachers. From this realization, I find it vital to first reach out to teachers and expand their knowledge on the importance of agriculture and corn production.

Even though it is still early in the summer, I have met some wonderful teachers, who have been very receptive to the message I have shared as an intern. My main focus this summer is to talk about common myths when it comes to corn production and then share the facts. With this approach, I spend a majority of my thirty minute presentation talking to teachers about high fructose corn syrup and ethanol production. Before speaking about the facts on either topic, I ask teachers to share with me what they have heard, what they believe to be true, or what they are unsure about when it comes to corn production. At every summer agriculture institute, I get the response that “high fructose corn syrup is bad”. Teachers have also shared their thoughts that “ethanol production is taking away from livestock feed sources” and “the production of ethanol consumes more energy than it produces”. Although these are the responses I sometimes hear at the beginning of my presentation, teachers respond very well to the facts I share with them and have a positive outlook on corn production by the end of my presentation.

There are numerous misleading advertisements out there about corn production, and the responses I hear from teachers at the beginning of my presentation confirms that people are listening to them. In my opinion, the only way corn producers can change these negative thoughts is to educate the public on the facts of corn production, which has been my mission this summer. Again, I feel that teachers are a wonderful first step in this education process because they have the opportunity to share their knowledge with multiple children at one time. However, I am a firm believer that education can reach any person at any age. I have been given the opportunity to share the positive aspects of corn production at summer agriculture institutes, but I believe corn has very powerful message that should be continually shared by all of those who are passionate about corn production.

Brittany Hosselton
ICMB Ag in the Classroom intern

ILLINOIS HOUSE DEVELOPS BIPARTISAN BUDGET

The Illinois legislature adjourned slightly before and after midnight on May 31. The House adjourned around 11 p.m. and the Senate adjourned about an hour later, just after midnight. Considering the fiscal condition of the state, the session was generally viewed as a step forward in dealing with the budget deficit, and creating some “reality” in the budgetary process.

The reality side is that both the House and Senate in a bi-partisan way established a finite number for the amount of revenue they would base their spending (appropriations) on for each element of the budget. Governor Quinn had suggested in February that spending of state dollars should be around $35 billion. The Senate set their number at a billion less than the Governor (real money??) at just over $34 billion, and the House established their revenue number at a billion less than the Senate, at just over $33 billion. Each chamber then went about establishing spending levels in the five large categories of the budget, allocating their suggested available funds within each category. That is where the similarities in process ended, unfortunately for the Senate.

While the House Democrats and Republicans rolled up their sleeves and worked together, the same did not hold true for the Senate. Senators spent their time in partisan wrangling, with Republicans ultimately voting against the Senate version of the budget. House members could not contain themselves in congratulating their colleagues for the engagement process, the spirit of bi-partisanship that held throughout their discussions and debates, and in the final approval process the House budget won out over the Senate version. Hey, they proved that it could be done! And, in a tough budget year when the discussion was based on where to cut (first time in a long time when the budget actually is smaller than the previous year), it was not pleasant for legislators to say no to worthy causes when they are used to saying yes.

There is still the reconciliation of the little $430 million add-on the Senate placed on the Capital projects legislation for regular budget items. The legislature will likely come back into session for a short time in July to deal with that.

At the beginning of the Session in January, two things stood out this year—the requirement that the legislature reconfigure the legislative and U.S. House districts to adjust for population changes, based upon the new census data, and the requirement to pass a budget. The Democratic majorities were determined to do that before May 31, since after that date, majorities for passage of legislation seeking an immediate effective date for implementation of new law require a three fifths majority. A three fifths vote in each chamber would require additional votes from the minority party (Republicans) and give them leverage and a bigger voice in the outcomes of legislation.

Many other bills were passed during the session—reform of workers compensation statutes, energy legislation, gaming expansion, and other important items, but the two things that needed to be done by May 31 were accomplished, for better or worse for Illinois citizens. We will now see the political effects of those two things in the coming fiscal year, and the 2012 election year, when candidates run in those new districts.

Rich Clemmons
GovPlus Consulting

Educating Consumers About America’s Farmers

The “Professor” for the America’s Farmers Mobile Experience is Allan Ciha, pictured here with some NASCAR race fans who came out for the inaugural Nationwide Series STP 300 race. The Monsanto traveling education center was on display in Champions Park at Chicagoland Speedway.

Allan says they talk about the expansion of the world population, farming today and biotechnology that will allow farmers to feed that growing population. He says that people are surprised at the technology being used in farming today. He says that the educational effort has been very well received by both consumers and farmers themselves.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

COBURN AMENDMENT WRAP-UP

Yesterday was an important day for American ethanol.  Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment that would immediately repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and the U.S. Senate failed that amendment 59 to 40.  What was the most important about the vote was that our legislature gave American ethanol a vote of confidence.  They voted in favor of supporting the ethanol industry and the economy engine it provides to rural America.  They voted in favor of the more than 400,000 jobs the industry provides.  And they voted in favor of a domestic fuel source that would end our reliance on other countries.

Illinois farmers are happy to see that our Senators Durbin and Kirk stood with so many other Midwestern Senators against the Coburn amendment and in favor of American ethanol.

Read more coverage about this symbolic vote for the ethanol industry:

Politico – Senate Keeps Ethanol Subsidies

Washington PostSenate vote to repeal ethanol tax credit fails, but some inGOP break ranks

Biofuels DigestUS Senate defeats Coburn Amendment: Industry reaction

NCGA Appreciates Standing Up for Rural American on Coburn Vote

ICGA Statement Regarding Defeat to Coburn’s Anti-Ethanol Amendment

Becky Finfrock
Communications Assistant

MEET BILL CHRIST, ILLINOIS CORN FARMER

You may remember seeing Bill before, but now you can truly meet him and find out what makes him tick!  Bill is currently serving as Vice Chairman for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board but he has so many interests besides just corn!  Geneology, livestock, grapes and wine … you’ll probably find that you and Bill have something in common too!

I EAT. YOU FARM. SO WHAT?

Originally published on the Gate to Plate Blog by Michele Payn-Knoper

A recently overheard conversation at a suburban grocery store between a person buying food with comments from a farmer who was visiting and knew how to meet people on common territory instead of talking “ag.”

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Here’s the thing; I don’t really get why farmers are on the warpath. Really! We can get our food from anywhere. I just care that our family has food that’s affordable and safe. And I’ve heard some pretty bad things about you farmers.

You are poisoning water and soil by using pesticides and insecticides. Our family plays in the creeks and ponds on our land. Our kids chase fireflies through soybean fields, while playing hide and seek in corn fields. Do you really think we’re going to pour poisons in fields that surround our family home?  By the way, our well for water is between the house and the field. We understand that it’s not cool to use bad chemicals, which is why we rely on a whole lot of science, research and technology to ensure we’re using the right products.

Big farms are bad, and you all seem to be getting bigger. What size of school does your child go to? There are many different sizes of schools that offer options and choices for families. Likewise, we have a mix of large and small businesses in America due to our free marketplace. The same is true for farm families; some choose to farm a large number of acres or work with many animals, while others have small operations.  97% of farms in the U.S. are still owned by families; they deserve a right to choose the best option for their family and business like other Americans, don’t they?

Animals are abused on today’s farms. I’ve worked with animals my whole life. If you’ve seen the sensationalized videos from animal rights groups, I want you to know they probably impact me even more than you.  Animals that live in barns are actually in a lot better conditions – they get to stay at one temperature, avoid predators and have a environment that’s customized to their every need. Barns do look different today than in 1970, but isn’t the same true of computers, doctors offices and stores? Yes, animals die to feed humans, but we respect their sacrifice and care for them in the best way possible.

I’ve heard farm subsidies are making you rich on our tax dollars. There are a lot of mixed opinions on this, even within agriculture. However, the big thing people don’t realize about the “farm” program is that 86% of it is for mothers and children in need of food assistance. And I’m not asking for a handout from anyone, but we manage millions of dollars of risk every year – sometimes the safety net has kept our family in business – and is a tiny part of our national budget.

Biotechnology is evil. Do I look like Satan? Sorry, just joking. Our family chooses biotechnology because it’s the right tool for our farm. But more importantly, there are a lot of hungry people around the world, a problem that’s getting worse with a growing population. I was on a mission trip last year to Africa and saw some this myself. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a hungry child? It haunts me – and that’s why biotechnology is a tool that we choose.

Hormones are making our kids develop way too soon! I have a daughter, so I get your concern – we don’t want to have kindergarteners in bras. Kids are growing more and faster because our diets are better.  Did you know there’s more hormones in a serving of broccoli than in a steak? People need to remember that all food has hormones – and it always has.

It’s been interesting to talk with you.  Are you on Facebook or are there ways we can stay connected? Sure, would be glad to connect with you. Our farm’s Facebook page has a lot of pictures to give you an inside look on what’s happening.  I’m also on Twitter and will put up some videos to show you what we’re doing during harvest. I’d also suggest you check out these websites…

Cool. I like that we share the same values. We may not always agree, but I appreciate what you do as a farmer a lot more after we’ve talked.  And I’ll remember you when I shop for our food.

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If you’re buying food, when have you sought out a person involved on a farm or ranch? Same for those in agriculture… when was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?

NASCAR Director Loves Ethanol

The director of the NASCAR Nationwide Series is Joe Balash, pictured here before the STP 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway. He’s proudly displaying the American Ethanol name around the gas coupler on this car. All the NASCAR cars display that name!

I talked with Joe before the race. He talks about how STP has “come back” to NASCAR as a major race sponsor. Then we moved to ethanol. He says that using a blend of ethanol is “part of the things we’re trying to do to become less dependent on foreign fuels.” Joe believes it’s great to partner with American Ethanol and be able to use ethanol mixed with their Sunoco racing fuel to provide a very high quality, high power fuel for the race cars. He says the fuel is performing very well for the NASCAR teams which is a comment I heard repeatedly over the race weekend.

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

Promoting Ethanol With Good Research & Information

Dave Loos, Director of Research and Commercial Development for the Illinois Corn Growers was out on location during the NASCAR STP 300 race weekend.  Here he is doing some educating with race attendees. It was a little breezy when we did a short interview but I was able to talk about what Dave does and what his primary focus is right now.

I spoke with him prior to the race. He says he works to increase the use of E85, increase the number of blender pumps and strengthen the overall ethanol industry. He says Illinois now has over 220 E85 stations. He says there is a lot of interest in higher blends of ethanol than ten percent with one of the main reasons being the price advantage of ethanol right now. Dave thinks that in the future the auto industry will be able to design engines to make more efficient use of higher blends of ethanol as more and more of it is used by consumers. We also talked about other market influences for ethanol and you can learn more in my interview:

STP 300 Nationwide Series NASCAR Weekend Photos

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired