ILLINOIS HARVEST UPDATE

Some of the farmers in Illinois have more than half of their crop out of the field, while others haven’t started harvest at all! Here’s a look at the harvest conditions in three areas of the state.

Glenn Ginder, Peotone – Virtually none of the corn has been harvested in my area and maybe only one percent of the soybeans. This week, we’ve had just over two inches of rain and the grass is lush and green again, just like May!

 

Rob Elliott, Cameron – Our corn harvest is progressing well. We have a wide range of yields from 140 bushels per acre to 235 bushels per acre* with moistures between 18-24 percent.** This particular crop is a testimony to the genetic and trait advances coupled with agronomic practices. We’ve suffered an excessively wet June, a hot July with 1+ inches of rain, and a massively hot August with zero rain. The corn crop is fairy fragile with the dryness creating some problems; it won’t tolerate much wind and remain standing so this week’s wind and rain are troublesome.

Stephanie Elliott getting into her tractor during 2011 harvest.

Jeff Scates, Shawneetown – Harvest in southern Illinois is creeping right along. We received five and a half inches of rain over last weekend. Most of the April corn has been harvested along with the mid-May corn though it is still averaging in the low 20’s for percentage moisture. Late May and June corn is still in the 30ish percent moisture levels. Yields have been very inconsistent due to drainage from all the early rains. Overall, yields have been on the better than expected side, but we still have to see what the late corn that pollinated during the extreme heat is going to do. A few beans have been cut with yields a little below average.

*Average yield in 2010 was 165 bushels per acre.
**Percentage moisture indicates how much of the corn kernel remains water during the dry down period. Corn is typically dried to 15 percent before storing to ensure quality. Farmers either allow corn to dry in the field or will harvest at a higher percentage moisture and dry in the bin.

NO SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION

“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

This week, the world will celebrate “Ask a stupid question” day.  Apparently it was created in the 1980s to encourage school children to ask more questions in class and not feel scared or that they’d be ridiculed.

So today, Illinois Corn brings you a variety of questions that we think are anything but stupid!

When the weather affects the crops, how do the farmers recoup their losses?

Farmers are a vital part of the country’s economy. They help grocery stores stay stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Farmers rely on several things to help get them through a difficult farming year.

Crop insurance can provide financial relief to people who suffer the loss of their crops for whatever reason. Usually farmers lose their crops due to weather incidents that take place. These include rain, tornadoes, droughts, or floods.  Most farmers purchase some type of crop insurance to protect themselves.

Some farmers never recoup their costs from a bad growing season.  Sometimes they have to take a loss and rely on whatever savings they have stored up from previous years.

What’s ethanol, and why do we need it?

Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Ethanol-blended fuel substantially reduces carbon monoxide and volatile organic compound emissions, which are precursors to ozone. Adding ethanol to gasoline reduces harmful emissions, lowers the cost of our transportation fuels – and reduces our reliance on foreign oil imports. Find more information about ethanol at www.ethanolfacts.com

Wouldn’t our food be healthier if you didn’t use chemicals?

Much like people don’t want ants in the kitchen or weeds in the garden, corn and soybean farmers don’t want insects and weeds in our crops. Pests cause significant damage, spread diseases and destroy otherwise healthy crops.

When we need to use a pesticide or herbicide, we use the least amount possible, of the safest material possible.  Farmers are trained and certified to apply chemicals by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  We also have to follow very strict rules from the EPA and FDA on how and when to apply farm chemicals. You can find more information at http://www.aicr.org/site/DocServer/FPC-E7B-FSPW.pdf

How much ethanol will one bushel of corn produce?

One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products.  Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.

Ethanol can also be used in several forms to meet the needs of our transportation.  A 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline is the most widely available blend.  More than 90% of our national gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  In Illinois over 95% of our gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, makes an excellent environmentally friendly fuel.  Ethanol’s desirable characteristics (higher octane, cleaner burning, less carcinogenic) assure its viability even as new engine technology is developed.

I’m not sure if high fructose corn syrup is good or bad for me. Can you tell me more?

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is simply the naturally occurring sugar in the corn kernel, pulled out and used as a sweetener in processed foods.  By comparison, table sugar is the naturally occurring sugar in the sugar cane plant, pulled out and processed into the sugar that you recognize.

Studies show that your body processed HFCS and table sugar exactly the same and that HFCS doesn’t contribute to obesity any more than any other sugar does.

Visit Sweet Surprise, Sweet Scam, or Corn Sugar.com to learn the facts about high fructose corn syrup.

Do you have a question that you’d like to ask an Illlinois farmer?  Comment here to raise your question or visit www.watchusgrow.org to ask.  Remember, there are no stupid questions!  Illinois farmers want you to understand that they are responsible and careful stewards of the land and the food that they produce.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: STEEL TOE BOOTS

On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.” The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot!

 

I’ve grown up riding horses; therefore I’ve grown up in a pair of boots, whether they have been steel toe or pink cowboy boots.   Now, I’m a student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where I study agricultural communications. On a daily basis when I walk into the Ag Building and look at the shoes everyone is wearing, a majority of them are boots.  

 

What kind of shoes do farmers wear? What kind of shoes do cowboys/cowgirls wear? What kind of shoes do foresters wear? BOOTS! See a trend here?  Boots are related to agriculture.

Boots aren’t worn just because people involved in agriculture are ‘supposed to’ but for their functionality – by protecting the foot and leg from water, snow, mud or other hazards and providing ankle support for laborious activities – and of course for fashion reasons, because farm girls don’t actually wear overalls all the time. 

 

 

These sorts of boots are definitely a tool of the trade, though.  Muddy ol’ farm boots equals agriculture, no matter which way you look at it!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern

FARMERS MUST BE GOOD NEIGHBORS

Years ago farmers wore two hats. They were both livestock and grain farmers.

Most farmers produced grain to feed their livestock, and their livestock was produced to feed their families. However, like every other industry in the world, things change. Agriculture has changed.

Today’s farmers must specialize in one division of the agricultural industry to be successful. Margins are small.  Even farmers who still grow a few crops, raise a few livestock, and milk a few cows are typically growing for a niche like “locally grown” or “organic.”  While this creates an opportunity for local farmers to become professionals and the entire agriculture sector to grow, it has also created conflict.

Due to the growing demand for ethanol and other market factors at play in the world, corn prices are on the rise. While this is a positive for the grain farmers, livestock farmers are having more difficulty making a living and are having to learn to manage risk more than they have in the past.  Livestock farmers often attack grain farmers on this issue.  Similarly, grain farmers unjustly have issues with siting new livestock farms and accuse them of ruining water supply, ruining roads, and smell issues.  Is this fighting between agricultural pursuits positive for our industry?

Many people outside of the farm community do not really see or understand what goes on within it.  All farmers need to work together as much as they can and be good “farming neighbors.”  After all, collectively, we only represent less than two percent of the population.  If we are divided, what will we gain?

In some areas we are still working well together.  Some livestock farmers are spreading manure on nearby grain farmers’ fields in exchange for bailing their corn stalks.  This creates a co-dependency where grain farmers utilize manure as a cheaper alternative to man-made fertilizer and livestock farmers use corn stalks as an alternative feed and bedding source.  We do still need each other.

Additionally, though ethanol is seen as a thief stealing way livestock feed, one-third of every bushel of the corn that is being sold to the ethanol plants ends up being a by-product called distillers grain that works well as a livestock feed.  Having an ethanol plant nearby ends up being a huge win for livestock farmers. 

Farmers have always enjoyed a reputation of being good, trustworthy, cooperative individuals and we need to continue to embody that image.  More often that not, we need to start at the farm with our neighbors and stand united as one agricultural industry.

Jessi Vance

Illinois Central College student

 

 

FARM WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT

Typically, when one thinks of agriculture, who or what comes to mind? Do you think of men in their tractors or working their livestock? Do you picture a successful woman behind a huge farming operation? Today, agriculture is so much more than sows, cows, and plows; it is a lifestyle. As September is ‘Women of Achievement Month’ I would like to honor all those hard working farmer gals out there who support their farmer husbands all year round and of course bring the brains to the operation. Predominately a male field, more and more women are finding careers within agriculture. I know, for me, I can’t picture living anywhere else and hopefully some day in the future, I will be able to have a farm I can call my own, but for now I am trying to make a name for myself within the agricultural industry.

One such woman who deserves to be honored is Pat Dumoulin out of Hampshire,Illinois. She is a very humble lady and when asked about her achievements in agriculture, she laughs and said she isn’t sure exactly of how many achievements she has had, but has definitely led a very nice life with her husband. Currently, Dumoulin serves as the District 2 Director for the Illinois Soybean Association. She also works with her husband, two sons, and her son-in-law on their corn and soybean farm. They also run a 2,100 sow operation as well as a compost operation. She taught Economics & Statistics at Elgin Community College and has served as the past secretary and treasurer of the Illinois Corn Grower’s Association among many other activities.

Like all farmers, Dumoulin relies on good weather conditions for a bountiful crop. Some years are better than others when it comes to rain, weeds, and bugs. After harvest, the Dumoulin’s soybeans are sent to Cargill or ADM and exported down the Illinois River to the Port of New Orleans where it is ground into soybean meal which is fed to the livestock. The livestock industry is a big consumer of corn/soybean industries making the whole farming operation a full circle.

When not farming or serving on her many boards, Dumoulin enjoys spending time with her 20 grandchildren. They all live close to each other and she enjoys this special family time. She feels honored that she has been able to be so active within agriculture and privileged to work with all the farmers she has come in contact with throughout her life. In conclusion, I would like to applaud Pat for all her accomplishments, both personally and professionally, and would like to encourage all you farm wives and future farm wives to continue doing what you are doing; the industry needs you!

Katlyn Rumbold
Illinois State University student

TOOLS OF THE TRADE – A HAMMER!

On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

When I was younger my parents were my alarm clock. Their way of waking me up usually consisted of turning on my VERY bright light and saying, “Jenna it’s time to wake up!” The one morning when we were remodeling our bathroom, my mom thought of a new way to wake me up (keep in mind the bathroom is right beside my bedroom). She enters my room, turns on the light and then goes into the bathroom and takes the hammer to the tile on the wall..then I was up! 

I’m sure most people don’t use a hammer as an alarm clock but I’m sure everyone does own a hammer! Think of all the things this tool can be used for! Anywhere from hanging picture frames to building a barn, a hammer is a very important tool in agriculture.

A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and they vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features of a hammer are a handle and a head, with most of the weight in the head. The hammer may be one of the oldest tools and a basic tool of many professions.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern

BETTER BREAKFAST

September brings an ending to summer and beginning of fall, which brings us to “Better Breakfast Month.” What is a “better” breakfast? To me, a better breakfast would be just simply eating breakfast. I only eat breakfast on days in which time allows. Little did I know that by skipping breakfast, I am missing the most important meal of the day. What are the benefits of eating a breakfast?

Breakfast not only gives us a jumpstart to our day, but can also be linked to health benefits, such as maintaining a healthy body weight or an increase in metabolism. Surprisingly, eating breakfast will not make us over eat at lunch. Skipping breakfast causes increased hunger and we then eat too much at lunchtime. We know that eating breakfast increases metabolism which helps burn fat more effectively throughout the day. Adding a few extra minutes to our routine each morning can benefit our health and performance. Let us go beyond just simply eating a breakfast because it is the healthy thing to do, and dig deeper into eating a better breakfast. How can I make my occasional breakfast a “better” breakfast?

Eating something for breakfast is better than no breakfast at all, but there is such a thing as a better breakfast. A better breakfast incorporates three main components: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. The carbohydrates our body needs in the morning comes from whole grain products. Food items such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread are included in this category. The term whole grain simply refers to the entire kernel; not only the inside part of the grain but the outer part as well, which is known as the husk. The second important component is fat. When reading the term “fat” do not imply that it is bad. There are in fact good fats and these include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This means that fatty food products are oils such as canola, sunflower and olive, just to name a few. Pecans, peanuts and almonds are also a healthy choice. Nuts not only provide our bodies with good fats, but also contain protein, which leads to the third main component of a better breakfast. Protein cannot be stored in the body, so it is vital to ensure protein is in our daily diet. If you are not lactose intolerant, then dairy products provide an easy way to obtain protein. Milk, yogurt, cheese are all protein rich. If, however, you are lactose intolerant, an alternative to dairy products such as soy milk, provides protein in the diet.

In addition to not overeating at lunch and having an increase in metabolism, eating a better breakfast provides the body with more energy to stay focused (carbohydrates), lowers cholesterol (good fats), and repairs tissues and maintains health (protein). Instead of drinking a soda and eating a buttered-down piece of white toast, followed by a doughnut; try a glass of milk and a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter spread. And if you are feeling really healthy, sprinkle some chopped up pecans on the toast and take a banana for the road. Even though fall is just beginning, incorporating a “better” breakfast will put you ahead of the game come winter mornings when one is reluctant to head out into the cold.

Carly Holcomb
Agriculture Communications & Leadership
Illinois State University

AGRICULTURE AND CONSTITUTION DAY

Its strange for me, 20 years-old, to think about how half of my life has been post September 11th. For many readers, you may think that all I’ve grown up in was fear and certainly fear has been a part of many of my formative years.  But I do remember a time before September 11th, 2011. When we were worried more about presidential interns and the hard times of 1998 for hog farmers.  Better than that, we never felt insecure from attacks on our soil. The USS Cole seemed so distant and the Oklahoma City Bombing was easy to dismiss as a rogue lunatic.  Life may have been hard at times (again 1998 rings a bell for those of us who love the other white meat) but life was simple at risk of sounding too cliché. 

So lets jump forward a little bit, we’re 10 years after 9/11 and we’ve made strides towards putting the tragedies to the back of our minds. We are still actively engaged Afghanistan, where we started the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the network of terrorists that caused the worst loss of American civilian life and the first major attack on the mainland since the War of 1812 (fought in a much more ‘civil’ manner).  It is in Afghanistan that we hear stories of poverty, lack of infrastructure and depleted resources.

Jumping again (not nearly as much this time), I was sitting at the SIU Ag Alumni Association’s Du Quoin State Fair BBQ listening the evenings’ program (munching on some delicious pork BBQ – I’m partial to my pork and meat in general) as many of the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences’ faculty present on the work they’ve been doing in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard 1-14th Agribusiness Development Team.  First off, a huge salute to our men and women serving at home and abroad and second off – how awesome is it that there is actually an agribusiness development team as a part of our work in Afghanistan? While I knew a little bit about the 1-14th and SIU COAS’ efforts in agricultural development for Afghanistan, I was glad to sit in on the presentation.

This semester I am enrolled in vegetable production at SIU, and my professor Dr. Walters was one of our faculty who offered up his time to assist in agricultural development and research in improving farming systems in Afghanistan. Dr. Walters talked about how impoverished and primitive the systems are in Afghanistan. As a vegetable scientist, his focus was of course on vegetables and some fruits. The challenges go beyond the less than desirable growing conditions as post harvest storage is essentially impossible as there is more cold storage in Mahomet, IL than there is in Afghanistan.  Farmers use wasteful practices in irrigation that do not maximize use of water nor do these methods protect the soil and sometimes hinder plant growth. Farmers there don’t have the educational opportunities that we cherish here in the Heartland and throughout America.

This is in part why it is important to support our men and women in units like the 1-14th and faculty who work with them to improve agriculture worldwide.  Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education teamed up with FFA chapters around our state to collect thousands of magazines to send to our troops serving us overseas.  There can be no question that rural Americans play a pivotal role in the defense of our country as well as the stabilization of the world.  Now when I was asked to write a blog for Illinois Corn, I was asked to write about the constitution in honor of Constitution Day and relations to agriculture. So far I have not drawn a clear line (clear lines are overrated anyway). I’ll be honest with all of you; I started writing about the constitution and agriculture and found myself writing more of a thesis and less of a blog. Not only is there so much to discuss, there is a lot of political philosophy and ideology involved that would bore you, the reader, to your grave. Therefore here is my abridged version of the connection.

I gave you examples of modern day agriculturalists serving our country (yes, heartwarming and cheerful). Our constitution is ripe with defense, general welfare, and being for the people. These examples highlight how stabilizing regions like Afghanistan can assist in developing sustainable agricultural systems and a middle class thus serving in our national defense. The general welfare clause is often repudiated by many of my own political philosophies as being overly exaggerated and abused. I suppose I find solace knowing that the research and data that we collect in Afghanistan can provide strong insights to improving the baselines for our own modernized agriculture. 

Clear as mud? I thought so. What I am getting at is that we in rural America have nasty habits like seeking out opportunities, helping those in need, challenging the status quo while understanding the past, present and future. When we are asked to serve, many of us answer the call. I suppose you could say that we are the few, the proud, the agriculturalists (I really like cliché sounding phrases). Our founding farmers/fathers understood that a nation needs a strong rooting in agriculture to grow and prosper, something that Maslow indirectly reinforced with his famous hierarchy of needs. Only after we satisfy our basic human needs can we be concerned with the “finer” points of life.  

We must have a vibrant and strong national agriculture in order to have a vibrant and strong nation. As we celebrate Constitution Day and progress into the harvest season, let us remember the idealic “amber waves of grain” as well as the farmers who have kept our country going and growing.

Thomas Martin
Southern IL University Ag student