CONG HALVORSON, JOHNSON SUPPORT IL CORN EFFORTS

My kids, four and six, often ask me what I do.  My job isn’t easy to describe to a four year old or a six year old or even the class of first graders I talked to the other day.  Put simply, all the staff at Illinois Corn are trying to help farmers, support farmers, and make it as easy as it possibly can be to do their jobs.

One of the ways we’ve been trying to do just that is to address the federal crop insurance program.

Have we fixed it yet?  Not at all, but we are working on it.  Will our current solution make a dent in the problems crop insurance presents to Illinois corn farmers?  Definitely.  In fact, experts predict that the current route we’re taking to fix crop insurance will “fix” about 50% of the problems farmers have with the program.

As with any federal program, our fix for crop insurance is complicated.  If I were to put it in layman’s terms, I’d tell you simply that Illinois Corn Growers Association is working on an endorsement that will take into account the exponential growth in corn yields over time.  Right now, farmers are typically underinsured because the current program assumes that yields stay the same over time.  The “fix” will help farmers who try to insure 80% of their expected yield actually insure nearly 80% of their expected yield.

But here’s the take home message.  Because we’re working with the federal government (USDA Risk Management Agency) on this possible new endorsement, its a long and complicated and involved procedure.  So the Illinois Corn Growers Association would like to express their sincere appreciation to the Illinois Congressional Delegation that sent a letter to the RMA Administrator this week in support of our proposal.

Thank you, Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, for spear-heading a letter that was signed by Congressmen Hare, Foster, Bean, Costello, and Lipinski among other out of state Congressmen.  And thank you to Congressman Tim Johnson for heading up a letter signed by Congressmen Schock and Shimkus as well as other Congressmen from Iowa and Nebraska.

Illinois corn farmers appreciate your assistance and your support!

 

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

A QUICK VISIT TO THE WORLD DAIRY EXPO …

The World Dairy Expo was held September 28 through October 2 in Madison, Wisconsin. As a dairy enthusiast myself, attending Expo is always a great treat. It is the meeting place for over 65,000 people from around the world for this five day event. It is much more than the famed dairy cattle shows and sales, but includes seminars, collegiate and 4-H judging contests and exhibits of all kinds. As a stop for many on the “tanbark trail,” the best cattle from the United States and Canada are exhibited at this amazing exposition. While some are exhibiting, thousands come to watch the show, view the modern equipment exhibits, learn about the latest in feed and nutrition, check out colleges, discover new advances in genetics, and to just mingle with members of the dairy and agriculture industry from around the globe.
A major attraction is the trade show. It includes over 750 exhibitors from within the United States and internationally as well. A trip through the whole trade show, exhibition hall, or coliseum is well over a full day’s event. Freebies and lots of information can be gained on a treck through the trade show buildings. One of these exhibits was the Illinois Livestock Development Group. The Illinois Corn Marketing Board works with this development group to bring cattle to Illinois. Illinois produces lots of corn, and livestock is the number one market for number two yellow corn. It is a win win situation, strong corn state and strong dairy state. There is a strong connection between the gold crop and the big black and whites…or any dairy cow for that matter.
In addition to the trade show and exhibition hall, one can enjoy a variety of exhibits outside and some delicious food as well. Dairy products are presented at their finest at such an event as this. Whether it is the traditional grilled cheese, a milkshake, or some awesome cheese curds, one will not be disappointed. If the cattle are more of interest, a trip through the numerous cattle barns or a venture through the sale tent will be sure to satisfy.

The World Dairy Expo was a great experience and did not disappoint. From watching the shows, to sitting next to many international guest and hearing their opinions of the shows, to enjoying my grilled cheese sandwiches and milk, to talking about future plans with exhibitors present, to purchasing a jacket, expo met my expectations. Though it is a little too late to watch the shows live online, all the results can be found on the website. www.worlddairyexpo.com. Also, the site includes a lot of information about this year’s expo besides show results. Whether you are a diary enthusiast or not, the World Dairy Expo is a great event to experience, so I would suggest that you work that into your plans for next fall!

Amy Schaufelberger
University of Illinois student and Illinois farm girl

AVENTINE HEADQUARTERS MOVING TO TEXAS

Sadly, last week brought about the news that the headquarters for Aventine Renewable Energy in Pekin, IL will be moving out of Illinois to Texas.  Aventine is a leading producer and marketer of ethanol and related by-products.

Early reports indicate that the move has been brought about simply because the top executives for the company reside in Dallas. 

Aventine has its roots in sugar beet processing in Pekin, extending more than 100 years to the 1890’s. 

You can read more in the Chicago Tribune.

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Guru

IT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA, WE HAVE TO JOIN IN!

She’s Country, a Facebook page that we follow here at Illinois Corn, proposed an interesting question today.

In your own words, what is a “family farm?”

She’s Country is right, there is no universally accepted definition.  And I think that if forced to write down a definition, you might just find that a family farm is exactly what you thought it was and maybe even something more.

Visit She’s County, become a fan, and add your thought to the mix.  This is an interesting exercise in realizing what we have, what makes us strong, and why we all love to be family farmers.

CITY PRODUCE PROGRAM PROVIDES NUTRITION, EDUCATION, AND UNDERSTANDING

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to visit one of our partner sites in the City Produce Program, the Cook County Jail.

It was exciting to see all the fresh produce being gathered which will then be distributed to families without access to fresh veggies in inner city Chicago.  It was equally exciting to see the inmates at Cook County Jail learning about horticulture, becoming certified Master Gardners through the University of Illinois Extension program, and adding a trade to their resume to use as they rebuild their future.

But I’m interested in the new connections being built between urban and rural citizens of Illinois.

This project is about nutrition and goodwill towards our neighbors, but its also about awareness.  How often do the farmers in Illinois consider those without access to a grocery store other than the local gas station convenience store?  I can guess that its not often.

Likewise, how much do Chicago residents understand about farming as an occupation?  About the ups and downs of the market, the vulnerability of the weather, the long hours and sneaky insects that equal risky paychecks?  Not much, I’m sure.  And through this program, volunteers that simply want to contribute to the fresh vegetable access are seeing first hand what it really is to be a farmer.

There is a gap right now between the reality for urban Illinoisans and the reality for rural Illinoisans.  That gap causes distrust and confusion because of a mutual lack of understanding between the two.  What the Chicago Produce Project seeks to do for Illinois corn farmers is create understanding.

Become a Facebook fan of the City Produce Project, Illinois Corn, and Monsanto (all partners in this effort) so that you can learn more about the good we are doing in urban Chicago.  Check out Crain’s coverage of the project here.  Consider getting involved.

Rodney Weinzierl
Executive Director, ICGA/ICMB

SPRING AND SUMMER INTERNS NEEDED!

Becky Finfrock and I spent the day at Illinois State University’s Ag Career Fair today, recruiting for our spring and summer ag communications internships.  We had a great time chatting with ISU ag students, some of which were interested in ag communications and some of which weren’t interested at all!  But everyone seemed to want to know more about Illinois Corn and what exactly we do on behalf of corn farmers.
We advocate for them.  In case you were confused as well.

 

Here’s hoping that the fruits of our labors today will be intelligent, motivated college students who are passionate about agriculture and the image of farmers and modern food production!
Students, if you’re out there, we need more of you to step up to the plate and get active on behalf of Illinois agriculture.  Consider an internship with Illinois Corn for the spring or summer semester.  Spring semester interns will be focused on the social media application of their choice (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) and will independently populate, manage, and collect data on that social media tool.  Illinois Corn wants to know what motivates different audiences to interact and dialogue via social media!
Our summer interns are also focused on social media, but are expected to work in our office all summer and are more heavily focused on YouTube videos and other video applications.
Interns must be Illinois residents.
To apply, email me at lmitchell@ilcorn.org.
mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

LAWYERS AIM TO HARASS, INTIMIDATE GROWERS IN ATRAZINE ISSUES

Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something. In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly “conservation” farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field. Atrazine’s ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they’d better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—“If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?”

Looking at the information above, it’s no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It’s no wonder that they work with atrazine’s major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.

But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

The subpoenas come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can’t imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer’s meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.

Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine? The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don’t scare that easily.

Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association and is the Chairman of the Triazine Network, a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine.

HARVEST A BIT DISAPPOINTING IN ILLINOIS

While it is a bit of a rarity for harvest to be completed before October 1, we’re just about to do just that in 2010.  What a surprise given the late, late, and even later harvest we dealt with last year, when crops were still in the field at Thanksgiving!

Kent, who farms in Central Illinois, indicates that he’s 70% done with corn and 0% done with beans. Corn so far is at 160 bushels per acre. Lots of variability, but the whole field averages are at 160.

In Northern Illinois, Jim is harvesting early beans with success – 56-65 bushels per acre.  The corn sprayed with Headline that Jim cut has performed better than without Headline … the Headline crop made 205-210 bushels per acre with the other making only 170.

For a point of reference, national average yields in 2009 were 165 bushels per acre, with Illinois average hitting the 183 bushels per acre mark.

Scott reports from the eastern Illinois border that “We are about 1\4 done with field averages from 110 to 190.  I hope to find more fields with the higher end of that spectrum, but know there are going to be some fields below 100 bushels per acre.”

Some Illinois Corn Directors mentioned that they’ve had enough rain and fields are starting to resemble last year’s rutted, muddy mess.  Here’s hoping Illinois corn farmers can hurry up and finish before any more rain hits our area!