CROP INSURANCE: HOW IT WORKS AND WHY IL CORN IS DISAPPOINTED WITH RMA’S ANNOUNCEMENT

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that they had finalized their premium re-rating that had been in the works for almost a decade.  This news was good and bad for Illinois corn farmers who rely on crop insurance as a risk management tool for their business.

Much the same way that you purchase insurance on your home, car, or life to protect yourself in the event of an accident, farmers are able to purchase insurance on their crops to protect them against harsh weather conditions and insect or disease pressures that they can’t control.  Without crop insurance, farmers could potentially be forced out of business during a rough year … but imagine the devastation when the weather isn’t optimal two or three years in a row!

The RMA manages the federal crop insurance program and they have guidelines to follow which are set by Congress.  The one we’re talking about today, regarding the re-rating, states that for every dollar a farmer pays into the crop insurance program via his premiums, he should get a dollar out.  This is a guidline that stands over time that allows for the program to be accurarially sound and results in no one really making significant profit on the programs.  After all, the programs were created to guarantee food supply and ensure that millions of farmers weren’t going out of business in a rough weather year not for crop insurance companies to make money.

But in Illinois, corn farmers and soybean farmers don’t actually get one dollar out (over time) for every dollar they put in.  For Illinois corn farmers, that number is actually 61 cents out for every dollar in and for Illinois soybean farmers, the number is 66 cents out for every dollar in (1995-2007 data).  What this basically means is that the program isn’t working as it was designed and the RMA was charged with evaluating premiums to determine appropriate numbers to make the program function better.

Where an opportunity existed to make the program function as intended, politics got in the way.  Crop insurance companies that have been making profits off crop insurance spoke to their elected officials, resulting in a letter from several members of Congress that the re-rating process should be open to public debate.  Except the process wasn’t about political power, it was about accurarily sound insurance programs.

Monday’s decision did not result in what’s best for Midwestern farmers and Illinois Corn is disappointed.  What could have been a huge opportunity for the USDA to actually help Midwestern farmers, ended up a watered down political decision.

Read what the ICGA President had to say about the announcement here.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: ALWAYS TIME FOR FAMILY

In November, Americans focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families. At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide.

Twenty-one year old Tony Weber from Newton, Illinois has grown up on a third generation corn and soybean farm.  Tony is the youngest of eight children.

When Tony was younger some of his chores around the farm included mowing the grass, helping drive a tractor or combine, and cleaning out grain bins. “When I was nine years old my dad let me get behind the wheel of a Case Combine.”

The Weber family farm is a little different than other. They use both John Deere and International Harvester equipment.

Working on the farm brought Tony and his siblings closer together. “Sundays have always been family days. We all go to church together, and then we go to my Mom and Dad’s house for brunch. In the summers we have ‘Pond Parties’ where we all get together and swim and grill out.”

weber family farm, newton, IL, agricultureTony is a senior studying Plant and Soil Science with a minor in Agri-Business Economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. As a December graduate, Tony plans to pursue a career in Ag Sales and then eventually work his way back into farming. “Farming is cool where I’m from! Newton is definitely considered a farming community.”

“One of the main things I enjoy most about farming is getting to working outside. I also believe that working with my parents and siblings on the farm is what has kept our family bond so strong.”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

IL CORN CONTRIBUTORS HONORED LAST WEEK!

For IL Corn and the Illinois corn farmers they represent, last week was a busy one!  We held our policy session on Monday (when we decide what we stand for and what we will pursue for the coming year) and our Annual Meeting along with our Illinois Commodity Conference on Tuesday.

Add in a board meeting and a short holiday week and I can assure you, the IL Corn staff was jumping to get everything done.

Still, we were super excited to see all of our leaders after the harvest and hear about their yields, their experiences, and their thankfulness for another bountiful harvest.

Steve Pigg, Munir Cheryan, Jim Kinsella, Glen Poshard, Josh FlintAnd while we’re discussing thankfulness, it was wonderful to be able to recognize (L-R) Jim Kinsella, Dr. Glen Poshard, Dr. Munir Cheryan, Steve Pigg, and Josh Flint at the Annual Meeting for their massive contributions to the Illinois ag industry.

Steve Pigg, our Bushnell, IL World of Corn Award winner, didn’t have any idea that he was at the meeting to be honored, and we thoroughly enjoyed surprising him with a little gift to show him how much we appreciated his leadership over the years.

Post annual meeting, our farmers stuck around to hear more about the future of their industry at the Illinois Commodity Conference.  If you weren’t able to attend that conference (or even if you were!) be sure to check out the presentations our experts shared over at the ICC website and definitely start making your plans to attend the November 20th event next year!

THANKFUL FOR FARM FAMILIES: LOVIN’ THE HOLIDAYS

In November, Americans focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families.  At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide. 

Elizabeth (Allen) James grew up on a 265 acre agricultural farm in southern Illinois that has now been recognized as a Sesquicentennial farm. The Allen farm started in 1848 in Buncombe, Illinois where her family raised horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, and grain. Elizabeth’s father never had a tractor so when it came time for harvesting the crops he would use a little ‘horse’ power. The grain that they grew on their farm went to feeding their livestock and some of their neighbor’s livestock as well.

Elizabeth’s chores started out by milking the cows, gathering eggs, and feeding livestock. Once she realized that milking cows wasn’t for her she took on head role of gathering eggs and housework.

illinois family farm evergreen trees holiday agritourismAround 25 years ago Elizabeth and her husband Harold decided to start up a little project of growing Christmas trees. “I figured it’d be a good project for the grandkids and a nice family project as well,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth started selling her first crop of Christmas trees out of her car where she would hand clean them for her customers. Once the family business started to expand her car operation got moved back home where customers were now starting to come to the family farm to pick out their own Christmas tree.

“Christmas time along with the Christmas sales is my favorite time of year because we get to meet new people and hear about their family stories and traditions. They explain to us what they want in a tree, how they want it cut, and the shape. It’s just a happy time of year!”

The Allen farm is a true definition of a family farm – Elizabeth and her husband Harold work closely with the rest of their family which consists of two sons along with their wives, and five grandchildren. Each family member has a specific role on the farm.

Illinois farm family christmas picture tree“The farm keeps us together and involved as a family. It’s taught the grandkids a lot of responsibility as well.”

People from all over the state of Illinois as well as parts of Kentucky have traveled to the Allen Farm to pick out their very own Christmas tree. “People like to come and roam around and get the farm and family experience.”

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

ILLINOIS FARM FAMILY: RECONNECTING THE FARM AND CITY

This week is Farm-City Week! It’s all about reconnecting the two and making an effort to inform the public about the importance of agriculture. As an intern for the Illinois Corn Marketing Board this semester, I have made it a new goal of mine to bring together the city population and farm population and help others learn the importance of farming! This week fits particularly well to my intern project, since I am in charge of the “Friend a Farmer” Facebook page. I use this page to help facilitate conversation between farmers and an urban population- so looking at organizations that also do this was right up my ally! After looking over various different programs, I came across one which fits particularly well for this week’s purpose: The Illinois Farm Family.

The Illinois Farm Family strives to follow their three commitments: (1) Showing you how they grow food. (2) Answering your questions about farms, farmers, and farming. (3) Sharing with you what really happens on today’s Illinois farms. Their website features a variety of different resources such as a “Meet Our Farmers” portion where visitors can read more about different farm families and view videos about their experience. Viewers can also visit their blog and check out their videos of farm tours. The public is welcome to send in their questions and get them answered by someone from the organization.  Speaking as someone with a smaller agriculture background, I found this site to be incredibly interesting and helpful for some unanswered questions I had.

After thoroughly investigating the site, I think the coolest part that I found was their “Field Mom” program. It features groups of city moms that are selected to tour their farms and share their experiences. They use videos, pictures, and stories about what they learn. It allows a different point of view to share their opinions on farming and brings together the farm-city aspect! Moms can even apply to be a “Field Mom!” It was so interesting to see where each of these moms comes from and what their agricultural background was like. It shows a completely different point of view on farming.

Programs such as the Illinois Farm Family, are exactly what we need to help educate others on the importance of farming and where our food comes from. Living in a more urban environment, as made me realize how few people from the city have a basic knowledge of farming and agriculture. It’s up to us to help build a relationship between the two groups.  We have to utilize organizations such as these and help them grow. By spreading the word about agriculture and farming and getting more involved in organizations such as these, we are greatly helping the farming community. I encourage each and every one of you to have conversations with others about your views on farming and why you view it as important. Get involved with the Illinois Farm Family and make a commitment to bettering our community! Be sure to visit their website to learn more: www.watchusgrow.org

Lauren Gress

Northern Illinois University Student

GLENN POSHARD HONORED FOR HIS COMMITTMENT TO ETHANOL

Dr. Glenn Poshard will receive ICGA’s Ethanol Award on November 22 in Bloomington, IL at the ICGA Annual Meeting.  The Illinois Commodity Conference will follow.  Join us!

America’s farmers need strong advocates at the grassroots level. Here in Illinois we are blessed to have several strong grassroots organizations like the Illinois Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, Beef Association, Corn Growers etc.  We are also blessed to have leaders in communications and public policy but most importantly we have strong family farmers who make the work easier. Finding new markets and developing established markets is essential to maintaining progress and prosperity for rural Illinoisans and the shift back to renewable energy sources in recent times has prompted need for research and support from both public and private sources.

One of the key supporters of such agricultural development Dr. Glenn Poshard, president of the Southern Illinois University system, has led a lifetime dedicated to advancing opportunities for Southern Illinois.  While serving as president of SIU’s Carbondale campus, as well as the Edwardsville campus and the School of Medicine, Dr. Poshard has not lost his roots. He was raised on his family’s farm in White County where he graduated from Carmi Township High School. His service is not limited to higher education as he served in the Army in Korea where he received commendation for outstanding service. After his service he entered SIU (Carbondale) under the G.I. Bill earning his bachelor’s, master’s and a Ph.D. from the university.

While working on his master’s degree he taught and coached for Galatia and Thompsonville high schools. Then he served as the Assistant Director of the Southern Illinois Regional Education Service Center and Director of the Area Service Center for the Educators of the Gifted. He continued on into public service when he was appointed to the Illinois State Senate in 1984, a seat he successfully kept until 1989 when he was elected to represent the 22nd District in the United States Congress. He limited himself to no more than 10 years in office and then was the Democratic nominee in the 1998 gubernatorial election against the then elected Governor George Ryan. Though he was not elected to serve as the Governor of Illinois, Dr. Poshard continued forward and together with his wife, Jo, started the Poshard Foundation which has been a leader in efforts to care for abused, neglected and abandoned children throughout Southern Illinois.

Dr. Poshard has been an active figure on the Carbondale campus serving as the Vice Chancellor for Administration from 1999 until 2003 when he was appointed the SIU Board of Trustees and then later was elected chair of the board until he became the university president.  Dr. Poshard is also the chairman of the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) in Edwardsville which according to its website “…is the only facility in the United States and the world to have under one roof: Analytical Laboratory, Fermentation Laboratory, Pilot Plant and Workforce Training.”

Dr. Todd Winters, Interim Dean of the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences, said that “the NCERC has given the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences credibility in the biofuels research arena, from developing feedstocks to studying policy related to new generation cellulosic ethanol production.” It is clear that not only is the quality of research coming out of the NCERC helping the industry in increasing efficiency but it is also providing unique educational opportunities to students and employees to be actively involved in providing clean, domestic, renewable fuels.

As a student in agricultural systems at SIU, I am very proud of my president for his support of sensible energy solutions that include a variety of resources which means biofuels along with other new technologies.  His support of family farmers rings out in the statement I received from him when he found out he was being honored…

“I want to thank the Illinois Corn Growers’ Association for this award; but more importantly, I want to recognize their continued joint efforts with Southern Illinois University in creating, developing and maintaining the nation’s only full scale ethanol and bio-refining research and testing facility.   Our goal was simple; secure the future of alternative fuels in this country by providing the scientists and the physical resources necessary to support the research and development of a renewable fuels industry in our agricultural heartland.

There are many ethanol facilities located in Illinois that will eventually need to be retrofitted for the next generation of corn to fuel technologies; but as these producers, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in these facilities attempt to grow their businesses and add jobs to our agricultural economy, they must have confidence that there is a vibrant governmental research effort to support them.  Bio-processing is at the heart of revitalizing our downstate rural economy and why my University will continue to be a strong and dependable partner for the industry as this future unfolds.”

Glenn Poshard,
President
Southern Illinois University

Congratulations Dr. Poshard on your award and thank you for your commitment to advancing forward the research and technology to provide a safe and reliable energy future for my generation as well as future generations!

Thomas Marten
Senior in Agricultural Systems at Southern Illinois University
Raymond, Illinois

 

 

Thanks to Dr. Poshard, Mr. Gross, Dr. Winters, and NCERC for their contributions to this post’s content.

DR. MUNIR CHERYAN HONORED WITH ICGA ETHANOL AWARD

Dr. Munir Cheryan will receive ICGA’s Ethanol Award on November 22 in Bloomington, IL at the ICGA Annual Meeting.  The Illinois Commodity Conference will follow.  Join us!

Research Award: Corn Ethanol’s Positive Role in Health and Medical Arenas

researcher university of IllinoisDr. Munir Cheryan will be lauded this Tuesday with an ethanol award for his modern advances in the arena of ethanol production.  Research professor at University of Illinois’ Agriculture Bioprocess Laboratory, he continues to license more patents and works alongside Prairie Gold, Inc. since 2006 toward the commercialization of high-value ethanol by-products.

I called Dr. Cheryan earlier today to garner a further insight into his accomplishments and breakthroughs. Although I will not delve into every shared detail, the main takeaways hold enough magnitude to stand on their own.

Dr. Cheryan’s research ramped up in the 1980s because he wanted to be a part of solution to clean air, reduce pipe emissions and enable a farm support program. Until this time, ethanol production was a costly, time-intensive process that, in his words, relied on “moonshine technology.”  His research and breakthroughs helped augment the time efficacy of ethanol production and brought it from 100 hours down to 24 hours or less by improving the separation process.ethanol refinery, illinois, corn based fuel

In the ‘90s he helped improve the energy ratio for ethanol production by the application of membrane technology in several areas of corn processing. A key driver for efficiency improvement was to drive costs down for ethanol production; Dr. Cheryan saw this market signal’s solution was to seek out higher valued co-products from corn that can co-exist with ethanol. Zein, one of four proteins found in maize, touts a whole suite of applications and can be extracted from the corn without reducing yield of the ethanol end-product; this protein is natural, biodegradable and can be used in agriculture (hay baling), in the manufacturing of plastics, food products (such as a non-stick, biodegradable chewing gum) and in biomedical markets (for medical sutures that safely dissolve in the body).

An accidental co-product discovered from zein extraction demonstrated corn’s ability, after ethanol production, to offer additional benefits to, this time, the health market. Dr. Cheryan explained to me that the compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin, which make corn yellow in color (same for Marigold flowers!) also contribute significantly to retina and cardiovascular health while preventing age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. He envisions a future opportunity to sell the crude material to vitamin companies.

Another coproduct from his technology is a “healthy” corn oil containing much higher levels of health-promoting compounds than conventional corn oil. A unique feature of all Dr. Cheryan’s processes is that corn-based ethanol is used instead of petroleum-based solvents.

Key takeaway: Dr. Cheryan’s devotion will help ethanol stand on its own in a competitive market saturated with petroleum-based products while improving the quality of our air and health.

Lauren Knapp
University of Michigan
Author of Fuel for Thought

JOSH FLINT TO RECEIVE ICGA’S MEDIA AWARD

Josh Flint will receive ICGA’s Media Award on November 22 in Bloomington, IL at the ICGA Annual Meeting.  The Illinois Commodity Conference will follow.  Join us!

The world of agricultural communications is filled with opportunity, but more than that it is a community of people who all share the same passion. In my experience, writing for a newspaper, discussing general issues versus writing for an agricultural audience is completely different. While I enjoy writing for the newspaper covering different news stories, I really enjoy writing about agricultural issues targeted towards the agricultural community. I feel they are so much more appreciative of your work. I’m sure anyone working in agricultural communications can relate to this as they find themselves dealing with similar issues. One such journalist, Josh Flint, who is the editor of Prairie Farmer will be honored at the Illinois Commodity Conference on November 22 as he will receive the ‘Excellence in Media Award’ distributed by the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

Flint grew up in Rolla, Missouri which is about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. Growing up in an agricultural environment, he wasn’t expecting to end up with a career in agricultural communications. He graduated from Truman State University with a degree in journalism. Flint had dreams of writing for a large daily newspaper, but as time went on he realized he wanted to write for a more tailored audience. Farm publications seemed to be a natural place forFlintto be as he grew up around agriculture and the values/morals of that particular community have been instilled within him.

Flint really enjoys the writing and photography aspect of his job. To take a story, to interview multiple sources, to discover the different entry points for the reader, and to take the photographs to go along with it is what Flint truly enjoys about his job. He explained how he fits right into the agriculture community.

“When I got into this industry I knew it was a great opportunity, but I have really been overwhelmed with just how tremendous, not just the farmers, but everyone in this industry is. It is one big group and whether it is a seed company, commodity group, a farmer, an equipment manufacturer, everyone is so nice. There is just a sense of community. Once you get into ag communications, I can see why people have stayed in the industry for 30 years because it is hard to leave. You feel like these are your friends, they’re not just your co-worker. In news writing, you worry about burning bridges with sources, but I have never once thought about that because everyone is so nice and friendly that you’d hate to do that because you’re friends with them. It really is a great community,” Flint said.

Flint also said, for all you future journalists out there, that publications are expecting you to be able to do everything. What you’re told in class is true, editors want you to know how to write, edit, take pictures, shoot video, and utilize social media. This isn’t so much true for the larger publications as it is for smaller staffed publications, but it is still important to have experience with every aspect of communication.

Josh and his wife, Tiffany, currently live in St. Clair County. He covers the entire state of Illinois talking with farmers and attending agricultural conferences.

Listen to my interview with Josh here!

Katlyn Rumbold
ISU student