dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

Here’s the thing: an organization like ours appreciates the opportunity to get things done.  Getting things done within a non-functioning government framework is very, very difficult.  Ergo, our organization isn’t getting anything done for farmers – and it’s frustrating.

Illinois State House Capitol - Springfield
Illinois State House Capitol – Springfield

Illinois is in a bit different scenario than some of our fellow Midwestern ag states.  Most of them are dealing with the same frustrating federal government status quo, but they find opportunities to benefit farmers in their states by moving state initiatives and they still accomplish some good.

In Illinois, we can’t move state OR federal initiatives.  So we often feel like we’re twiddling our thumbs.

In spite of the broken state of our state and federal government, we have accomplished a few things:

  1. The livestock industry in Illinois is growing.  Certainly, this has much to do with market signals that are screaming at farmers to invest, but the economic impact that results from investment in the livestock industry (an estimated $70 million!) can’t hurt our broken state.
  2. We are effectively working with our state EPA and other agencies to clean up Illinois water.  To date, we have several important projects going on – both research and educational – to help farmers understand the VOLUNTARY practices that will minimize nutrient run off.  When we keep the practices voluntary but still accomplish the goal, we relieve the burden of paperwork for farmers and the cost of implementation for our state.
  3. We’ve secured some federal grant monies to help with that fuel pump standardization priority that I mentioned yesterday.  With any luck, many of the fuel pumps will be ready to handle higher blends of ethanol by this time next year!

Though we’ve found places to make a difference and we’re continuing to positively impact the farmers in Illinois, it would definitely be nice to have a functioning government to help and not hinder our growth.

Santa, this is a huge ask, but can you make our government work!?


Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

2. More Stable Farm Profitability


dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



4. Fuel Pump Standardization

Ethanol, and the policy changes we want related to ethanol are so complicated, huh?

But not this time.  This time, what we want is pretty straightforward.  This time, all we want is fuel pumps that are able to pump higher blends of ethanol.

ethanol ghg emissionsYes, the pumps at the gas stations.  The pumps that you pull your car up to when you fuel up.  Those are all certified to pump various fuels – the diesel pump to pump diesel and the gasoline pump to pump gasoline with up to 10% ethanol.  What we really want is for every pump to have the capability to pump gasoline with higher percentages of ethanol.

It isn’t such an extreme request, is it?

What we want is for fuel pumps to have the capability to pump more ethanol.  We want higher blends of ethanol to be a choice for consumers who care about the environment.  We want more ethanol to be an option for Americans who want or need cheaper fuel.  We want service men and women to be able to fill up with more of the fuel that doesn’t send them overseas into wars over oil.

Our fuel pump standardization plan is simply to begin now installing pumps that can handle higher blends of ethanol so that when and if retailers want to sell higher blends of ethanol, we’re ready.

Is that such a crazy request?

It seems really logical to me and something that Santa should have no problems delivering.  What do you say, big guy?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

2. More Stable Farm Profitability



dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

When I interviewed our staff and this one floated to the top of the list, I have to admit thinking that it was a bit different from the things we’ve asked for in past years.  Still, having a good relationship with our customers is a really important thing and maybe something so broad that we’ve overlooked the impact it could have on a host of other things we’d love to have.

Relationship building at its best: IL Corn hosts a Japanese trade team!
Relationship building at its best: IL Corn hosts a Japanese trade team!

Having a better relationship with our overseas customers – really understanding what Chinese buyers want in terms of quality corn and amazing meat products as an example – would have a massive impact on what we were able to supply them and the markets we could drive in the U.S.

It could minimize impacts to U.S. farmers when new traits are approved in our country, but not yet approved for sale to other countries.  What results from this catastrophe is that a lot of corn sits around waiting for a place to be sold.

It could maximize the extent to which the entire globe works together to get food to the hungry people who need it.  Better relationships with customers always seem to impact other areas of our lives, don’t they?  A better working relationship with Colombia for example would surely result our countries working together more efficiently to accomplish other goals, wouldn’t it?

And we're trying to talk to all the Americans who eat about what we do as well!
And we’re trying to talk to all the Americans who eat about what we do as well!

Having a better relationship with our domestic customers (livestock farmers, ethanol manufacturers, and the Americans who eat) would change a lot of dynamics here in the States as well.  Understanding each other would help us to be on the same page for legislative initiatives or attacks on agriculture.

Having a better understanding of what Americans who eat are looking for could help us in a host of ways as well – I’m sure we’re already doing a lot of what they hope we’re doing, but we just don’t understand each other well enough to speak the same language!

In the end, this relationship building gift would impact market opportunities in a huge way and would help us to communicate better with the folks who buy our corn.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Please Santa, please!  Help an industry out!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:

4. Fuel Pump Standardization

3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

2. More Stable Farm Profitability


Recipes for Success: Your Food and the Farm it is From

The world today is full of diets, food advice, food controversy, gluten-free, organic, free-range, and all sorts of other things that make choosing the food you eat down right confusing. So today we are going to try and provide you with resources that will hopefully be useful in your search for delicious food.

  1. Farmland

farmlandThis film takes a candid look at American farmers and ranchers from around the United States. It is a documentary funded by U.S. Farmers and Rancher Alliance and takes a look at 6 different farms and ranches while getting the farmers’ perspective on controversial topics like GMOs, antibiotic use, and the overall treatment of animals. It is an excellent film and provides a close look at places your food could be coming from.


watch us grow logoThis website is simply awesome and provides a look into Illinois farms. Watch Us Grow has partnered with Illinois Corn for their main program. The main program they have brings urban moms to rural farms in order to see how they food they eat is produced. They discuss livestock as well as crops. It is a good resource if you have the time browse.

  1. This Article on Pesticides and this Website Discussing Antibiotics

There is a lot of misinformation about food being unsafe because of pesticides and antibiotics, as well as the belief that organic is outright healthier than conventionally raised foods. Both of these places discuss these issues and talk about the facts.

  1. Your Food, Farm to Table

This is a great video short that shows how farming has changed since it first began. “Your Food, Farm to Table” is an animated video made by the International Food Information Council Foundation to give consumers an idea of just where there food comes from. While not nearly as controversial as some of the other topics in this list, it is still worthwhile to watch if you have a couple of minutes to spare.

  1. The Official USDA Website

USDA logoThis page is a good place to go get some general information about anything from food production to current food programs that are going on in the US. From here you can also read about the current laws and regulations in place by the USDA for crop and animal production. You can also access the 2012 farm census data.

6. Lastly…….

Stay up to date and be sure to continue to check out CornCorps!

derekDerek DeVries
Illinois State University student


A Recipe for a Rustic Christmas

Ever wondered what to do with an old rake you cannot use anymore? Well here is an option. Rakes are used in farms all over. They help scatter bedding and rake up materials.

christmas rake

This is what you will need:

  1. An old rake
  2. Some greenery or garland
  3. Pine cones
  4. Some type of material to tie it together. Wire works well or twine.
  5. Any type of colorful flowers to add to the arrangement.


Do you need an idea of what to do with those old horseshoes you have lying around? Not only would this make a great decoration to have in your house but also would make a great gift! Horse Shoes are used to help protect the feet of horses. This helps keep their feet from becoming sore and makes it more comfortable for horses to walk in areas such as rocks or hard surfaces.


Horse Shoe Christmas Tree

These are the items you will need:

  1. Horseshoes – the amount you need depends on how big you want your tree to be.
  2. Some type of sticking agent, or welding materials.
  3. Any choice of ornaments you prefer!


Do we have any cowboys or cowgirls with any extra Lassos? A lasso is a loop of rope designed as a restraint to be thrown around a target and tightened when pulled. As you can see, the lasso wreaths make beautiful decorations for the home.


Laso Christmas Wreath

This is what you will need to make your own lasso wreath:

  1. Lasso
  2. Ribbon of your choice and design
  3. Garland or greenery
  4. Any extra flowers of your choice
  5. Some wire or twine to tie your arrangement around your lasso


What better way to use a shovel than for decoration? These will make beautiful decorations with paintings of your choice and garland.


Christmas Shovel

Here are the items you will need:

  1. Shovel of your choice and size
  2. Paint, colors depending on what you want as your design
  3. Garland, pine cones, flowers of your choice
  4. Ribbon for a bow
  5. Door hanger


Do you have any old milk canisters that you have no use for? Well here is an idea to put that antique to use. Milk jugs use to be used to transport milk from farm to farm before we had the technology that is being used today. So lets use it now in the form of a beautiful decoration.

Milk Container flower arrangement

Here is what you will need:

  1. Milk Canister
  2. Paint color of your choice
  3. Lots of greenery and garland
  4. Pine cones and Christmas flowers

If you need some more Christmas decoration ideas, take a look around the farm or in old antique shops. You’ll always find unique ideas and ways to incorporate your taste in decorating.

hannah st pierreHannah St. Pierre
Illinois State University student



Snack time is a delicacy in the eyes of children. It’s a time where they can eat crackers, cheese and drink milk. Snack time can also be a time to teach about different topics such as agriculture.

Hands-on activities help children learn in a new dimension. Creating butter from whipping cream allows kids to learn where a food, that is in about everything, comes from, and no, the answer is not Wal-Mart. This activity teaches kids how butter is made and provides a tasty snack.

small containersFor this activity, all you need is:

  • whipping cream
  • crackers
  • small plastic containers WITH lids
  • marbles
  • plastic baggies.

After passing out the containers, marbles, and plastic baggies to the kids (one per kid), fill each container about half way full. Once the container is halfway filled, allow the kids to drop their marble in the cream and put the lids on. Then they can put the container into the baggie and close it. Warn them not to shake it until you say to shake it. From my experience, kids will want to shake it after the lid is adhered, so I always had to give them a command word when they could start shaking it. Without the baggie, sometimes the lid will move and cream will drip out; the baggie contains the possibility of a mess which will make everyone happy. After the kids snap their lids on and place the container in the baggie, give them the command word to shake the container.

The best motion to shake the container is side to side instead of up and down. A figure 8 is also a popular method.  The shaking should last about five minutes which can be too long for some kids, so assistance may be needed depending on the age. K-2 needed more help than kids 3-5.

MarblesWhen the shaking continues, the cream will become very thick to the point where you can’t hear or feel the marble move from side to side. To disbelief, the butter isn’t done at that point. Once you reach the stage where the cream is very thick, keep shaking until the butter and liquid separate. You will hear and feel the marble moving again. After the butter forms, the kids can pour their buttermilk out in the sink or they can keep it in their container. After all the kids have butter, pass out the crackers. The salt embedded on the cracker will give flavor to the butter just like the butter we buy in the store. The kids can dip their crackers in the containers or you can pass out spoons for them to spread onto the cracker. Enjoy!

Find this activity and other fun ways to engage kids in learning here!

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois



Don’t be discouraged by the name! This spin on a Christmas classic is only deadly to your calorie count this holiday season! Once you’ve made a pecan pie in a cast-iron skillet, you may never go back to a pie plate. Simply press a refrigerated pie crust into the skillet, sprinkle with sugar, top with the pecan mixture, and bake. Serving it in the skillet is also easy and makes the dish even more Southern.

Don’t forget the farm to table connection!

Be sure to watch this short video featuring Natchitoches Pecans, Inc. based in Louisiana that shows how pecans go from the tree to your pie!


    Pecans still on the tree.
    Pecans still on the tree.

  • 1/2 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon*
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Fit piecrust into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; sprinkle piecrust with powdered sugar.
  2. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until foamy; whisk in brown sugar and next 6 ingredients. Pour mixture into piecrust, and top with pecan halves.
  3. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 300°, and bake 30 more minutes. Turn oven off, and let pie stand in oven, with door closed, 3 hours.

*Vanilla extract may be substituted.

Did you know?  More facts about pecans …

  • Pecans are native tree nuts to the United States and North America. Before European settlers arrived, Native Americans widely consumed and traded pecans.
A native pecan tree.
A native pecan tree.
  • “Pecan” is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack.
  • It takes a magnificent tree to produce a great-tasting nut. Pecan trees usually range in height from 70 to 100 feet, but some trees grow as tall as 150 feet or higher. Native pecan trees – those over 150 years old – have trunks more than three feet in diameter
  • The U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world’s pecan crop.
  • Georgia is the number one producer of pecans in the U.S. followed closely by New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. In fact, Georgia has been the top pecan producing state in the nation since the late 1800s.
  • America’s President, food connoisseur and gardener, Thomas Jefferson, was very taken by the flavor of pecans and had trees imported from Louisiana for his Monticello orchards.
  • The pecan is heart healthy and contains antioxidants, 19 vitamins and minerals and healthy fat. One of the mineral components is zinc, which is important in producing testosterone in both males and females.
  • One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake.

derek rapp

Derek Rapp
Illinois State University



More fun pecan facts can be found here!

Recipe website:


IMG_6272 edit

As part of the Pork Power: Partnering to Fight Hunger in Illinois campaign, the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA), along with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB) and the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), presented $9,050 to provide ground pork to the Midwest Food Bank (MFB). The groups also partnered with Steidinger Foods of Fairbury and Calihan Pork Processors of Peoria in this donation which in total will amount to 12,500 pounds of ground pork donated to MFB.


This post was originally posted on January 15, 2015.

Farmers, livestock feed, texas mission, ddgsDried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) have become a valuable part of agriculture.  A by-product of ethanol production, this product makes an excellent livestock feed and is transported by rail to various parts of the U.S. so that the livestock centers of the world can take advantage of it.  DDGS are also exported to other countries to feed livestock there.

coop, livestock feed, ethanol plant by productDDGS can be either dry or wet.  In the Midwest, it is very common for ethanol plants to dry their DDGS in a dryer.  This dry product stays fresh for a much longer time and is able to be transported across the country or world.  It is also cheaper to transport because ethanol plants are not shipping so much water weight.  The DDGS in the photo above are dried.

ethanol plant, by product, livestock feed, wet distillers grains

The Distillers Grains in this photo are wet.  Often, ethanol plants that are co-located with livestock farms don’t undergo the additional cost to dry their DDGS because they can be used nearly instantly by area livestock.  Also, with livestock close by, these WDGS don’t need to be transported great distances, thus the water weight does not matter.  The WDGS pictured here are produced in Texas and feed almost immediately to cattle.

One-third of the corn used in ethanol production returns to the market as livestock feed.  In fact, DDGS have replaced soybean meal as the second largest livestock feed component, second behind corn.

Want to learn more about DDGS?  Check out these links:



Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


If you didn’t hear, the EPA announced the final RVO (Renewable Volume Obligation) numbers yesterday.  The numbers indicate the amount of ethanol we have to use in 2014, 2015, and 2016.  In reality, the RVO numbers are a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll move on.

The numbers the EPA released still fall short of the numbers Congress approved in 2007.  For those that don’t understand, it might feel like the EPA knows something you don’t know – like that ethanol is really bad for the environment or that ethanol hurts American pocketbooks.  

That couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Read on to my previously posted “Why Ethanol Mandates” to help you understand the politics behind the EPA’s decision.  


Most Americans don’t like mandates.

As Americans, we typically believe in capitalism and a business model that sends products out into the world and asks them to stand on their own two feet or die trying.  Yet, farmers have continuously asked for ethanol mandates and I know that’s confusing.

It’s a complex issue – aren’t they all?  You’ll have to stick with me, but I know we’ll come out at the end much smarter …

1. Gas Stations are largely owned by or on contract with “Big Oil.”

rfs lowers costs at the pumpThere are a few locally owned gas stations – in Central Illinois a company called Qik N EZ is popular and those stations do not apply here – but most stations are owned or on contract with the big oil refiners like BP, Shell, or Mobil.

BP, Shell, and Mobil have a significant interest in petroleum-based fuels.  I think we can all agree on that.  And if they don’t own the station, they spell out the terms in a contract that ties the hands of the local owner and doesn’t allow him to make all his own decisions regarding the fuels he can offer.

2. “Big Oil” wants to protect its market.

Of course.  This makes sense.  If I’m a company in the business of refining and retailing petroleum-based fuel, then I obviously want to protect my market and continue making money off petroleum-based fuel.

No one begrudges the oil industry for their self-preservation.  It’s the American way and exactly what we’d expect any other industry to do.

FYI – Exxon Mobil made $4.9 billion in the first quarter of 2015 for reference.

3. But “Big Oil” has little interest in the ethanol industry.  Anything more than 10% ethanol is a competitor.

In a different world, if we were writing a different story, the oil industry would have seen the potential for corn-based ethanol and invested heavily.  If that were the case, we’d be fighting some other battle right now because “Big Oil” would want to see ethanol succeed.  But that didn’t happen.

As it stands, we have a corn-based fuel and a petroleum-based fuel fighting for market share.  Cost of production and cost to the consumer ends up being a huge player in who will succeed.

Ethanol is cheaper and cleaner with better performance so we are poised to win.  But …

4. All those gas stations are owned or contracted with “Big Oil” so they won’t allow ethanol* to be sold.

flex fuel pumpYou know what?  This makes sense too.  It’s sort of like asking Kroger to sell Wal-Mart products out of the goodness of their heart when we all know that the Wal-Mart prices are going to be cheaper.

Selling cheaper corn-based fuel is not in the best interest of the oil industry who wants to protect its market and profit, even though selling corn-based fuel is in the best interest of Americans who want to save money, protect the environment, and not send their sons and daughters overseas to fight for oil.

5. Here’s where the mandate comes in.

It’s not the best option, but America isn’t a Utopian society.  Since selling ethanol* doesn’t make sense for the oil industry and they won’t do it just to be nice (who would?), we have to make them sell it because it’s better for the country.

By the way, the “mandate” is more commonly referred to as the RFS – the Renewable Fuel Standard.  It’s a piece of legislation that forces retailers to sell increasing amounts of ethanol every year because Congress understands that ethanol is good for America.

6. And all those negative things you hear about ethanol?  Those are stories spun by a very wealthy oil industry that doesn’t want to lose market share.

Questions?  Comments?  Let’s chat in the comments …

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



*beyond 10% blends