FOOD POLICY, NOT FOOD PRODUCTION, CAUSES WORLD HUNGER

Assuming most of you are corn farmers or have an interest in producing corn, it’s no secret that corn prices are significantly lower than the high we saw in 2008. In fact, right now, corn is barely $3 when 2008 prices were $7.

Other prices were high in 2008 – wheat was around $6.50 when it’s now $4.30. Freight was extremely high compared to what we see today.

Yet, according to this article, food costs are so extremely high that poorer countries have hungry citizens in droves.

“With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition, while inflation stays moderate in the United States and Europe,” Joe McDonald, author, says.

We need to fix world trade. Market distortions obviously exist that prevent food from flowing into regions of the world when it makes economic sense. We have corn in the US. In fact, carryout of world grains are steadily increasing, so I see little reason for the bag of flour to cost three times what it did two years ago, as a Pakistani mother of five mentions in the article.

In addition, media and humanitarian efforts are consistently calling on corn farmers for increased productivity even as the elitists in the US pursue policies that will stagnate productivity or even cause it to decline. Obviously these people need food and a food policy that focuses around lower productivity doesn’t make sense.

The food is there and it’s less expensive than it has been in recent times, but due to artificial trade barriers, and to some extent the overall economy, the people who need the food can’t get the food.

Prices, policies, and productivity – they are things we seriously need to consider if we are to tackle the growing world hunger problem.
Rodney M. Weinzierl, Executive Director,
ICGA/ICMB

ORGANIC, FREE RANGE, LOCALLY GROWN AND OTHER HYPE

Although it comes as no surprise to anyone that knows me personally, I tend to be fairly opinionated.

I enjoy a good debate, especially when I’m armed with the knowledge that will enable me to win. I love the feeling of always having the retort that completely derails my competitor’s argument, of having the last word. And, of course, I feel so completely over-educated about the organic and locally grown movements, that I will argue which is better (organic vs. conventional) all day, every day and never tire.

In fact, I have. Maybe “argue” is too strong a word here, but the folks at my church probably steer a conversation away from these topics at all costs. My Facebook friends are likely sick to death of me providing links and other information about organic vs. conventional produce. Now, I must air my thoughts here.

While I always start a conversation with the fact that consumers have a choice and should be able to purchase whatever sort of food they want, I quickly turn it to the fact that I want them to really UNDERSTAND their choices. Because I believe they are being jaded by the media and popular journalists (ie, Michael Pollan) into an emotional response to their food choices instead of a scientific one.

This article by Tamar Haspel really drives the point home and I couldn’t have been happier to read it.

Haspel and her husband raise chickens and really wanted to believe that their fresh, locally grown, free range eggs taste better. They went the scientific route – engaged their friends to come over for a taste test – and came up with some interesting results. Read for yourself because I really don’t want to ruin her lovely experiment and wonderful writing by telling you what happens.

While this likely won’t change their purchasing decisions (Why would Haspel buy eggs when she has free eggs in her backyard!?) the information she’s discovered will likely put her decision in context. Does she eat home grown eggs? Yes. Does she think they are the ONLY eggs? Nope.

This is what I wish for the elite in America (the ones that can afford these high priced options) that believe organic and locally grown foods are the ONLY choices for better health and taste. Context to your choices is so important. Is a locally grown tomato from your neighbor’s garden better in your salad? Probably. Is it the ONLY choice? Nope.

Should it be the only choice? Not by a long shot.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

FRONTIER LEAGUE BASEBALL HAPPY TO SEE CORN GROWER SUPPORT

The Commissioner of the Frontier League, Independent Professional Baseball, is Bill Lee. Here’s Bill making some opening remarks prior to the first home game of the Normal CornBelters in the Corn Crib. I spoke to him about this new franchise and what he thinks about the support of Illinois Corn Growers.

Bill says it’s a wonderful thing because it’s a “field of dreams.” He hopes the CornBelters are very successful. You can listen to my interview with Jim here (mp3).

I thought I’d also include a new video about the opening home game in the Corn Crib that was produced by the Illinois Corn Growers summer interns. I think they did a great job. How about you?

Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman
AgWired

KNEE HIGH BY THE 4TH OF…. JUNE?

We at Illinois Corn love the Midwestern Gold blog. We love it so much we feel like honoring them by ripping off their Friday Farm Photo idea! After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

This photo comes from Shawneetown farmer Jeff Scates. He finished up replanting corn about a week ago, but this picture is from the first field that was planted back on April 2.
So much for the saying “knee high by the 4th of July!”

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is part of the Corn Farmers Coalition along with several other state corn grower groups and the National Corn Growers Association. Earlier this week, they launched a new phase of their educational campaign that started last year, whose goal is to let policy makers – and those who influence them from think tanks to environmental groups in Washington, DC – know that corn farmers really are environmental stewards, conscious about food safety, and enjoying every minute of life on the farm with their family at their side.

We covered the launch on our website if you’d like to read more.

The thing is the Environmental Working Group is calling our campaign “Greenwashing,” meaning that we’re trying to paint our industry as an environmentally friendly industry even though it’s not. Well, call me old fashioned, but when someone I love is attacked, it ruffles my feathers a bit and this blatant disregard for facts about corn farmers just doesn’t sit well with me.

The FACT is farmers are green.

CFC ads report data like “Thanks to new, innovative fertilization methods, today’s American corn farmers are producing 70% more corn per pound of fertilizer.” That data comes straight from the USDA and that data reflects an industry that is conscious of what they are using and placing on the land in their care. Show me another industry that is so environmentally conscious or has such a great story to tell.

The FACT is farmers are operating family (not corporate) farms.

I’ll speak from experience here; I know a lot of farmers. Every single one of them is just a regular, down home guy – the sort that would wave at a stranger from the cab of their pick-up truck, the sort that would stop and help you if you had car trouble, the sort that jumps from the tractor to the shower and speeds into town to watch their son’s t-ball game or their daughter’s dance recital.

EWG says that “There are thousands of large, plantation-scale corn factories dotting the American landscape, family-owned or not. And family ownership does not necessarily equal small. Agricultural supply giant Cargill is family-owned. So are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Twins.”

To compare the family farm I grew up on to the Minnesota Twins is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. My dad farms a lot of acres – some his own, some his brother’s, and some his neighbor’s that retired from farming. To the local farmer’s market consumer, I know he looks like a plantation owner. But he’s the one driving the tractor. He’s the one stressing over marketing decisions. He’s the one dealing with environmental regulations that EPA bureaucrats decide are relevant. He’s the one trying to make his small business work with only the help of a wife at home to support him and his dad at the end of the row to bring him a drink. I doubt Cargill and the Minnesota Twins are operated in the same manner.

And he’s not unique.

The FACT is farmers are using less land, not more.

EWG says that “According to a National Wildlife Federation report this year, the corn ethanol gold rush has been responsible for plowing up thousands of acres of pristine wildlife habitat (and prime carbon sequestration vegetation) and converting it to corn production.”

Well, I suppose that depends on who you feel is the authority.

Our federal government (the USDA), who runs the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) indicated that from 1982 to 2007, cropland acreage declined from about 420 million acres to 357 million acres. CRP, or acres returned their natural state, reflects more than half of that diverted acreage.

There are multiple other facts that EWG has gotten wrong, but you can read those for yourself.

At the end of the day, I’d say the only “greenwashing” we’re trying to accomplish is to make every other industry in the country green with envy at the wholesome, slow-paced, family environment in which we get to work and the fabulous story we have to tell about corn farmers that are conscious stewards of the land.

Eat your heart out, EWG.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

IT’S THE ILLINOIS FIELD OF DREAMS

corn cribIt’s definitely a field of dreams, but instead of building a ball field in a corn field, Illinois corn farmers are growing corn in a ball field.

As part of the landscaping at the new home for the Normal CornBelters, the Corn Crib has small plots of corn planted under the scoreboard. “We wanted to show as much as we could actually what corn is,” said Illinois Corn Growers Field Services Director Jim Tarmann. “So, we’ve got six different mini-plots of field corn that are already coming up and we planted that ourselves.” Local FFA chapters are growing specialty corn, including popcorn and sweet corn, that will be worked into the as-yet-unfinished landscape in and around the ball park. Pioneer and Syngenta are also part of that project as co-sponsors of the new team and stadium.

corn cribJim says the Illinois beef and pork producers and Prairie Farms are sponsors as well. “We’re all very excited about this new venue to talk about modern production agriculture,” he said during an interview with Cindy Zimmerman, AgWired, in the Illinois Corn Growers office the morning following the game.

Nearly 6,000 fans attended the opening home game Tuesday night against the Windy City Thunderbolts, and even though the Cornbelters lost the game 3-2, it was an exciting game in the end and everyone had a great time. Listen to the interview with Jim here (mp3).
Take a look at our updated photos from game night: Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album
Chuck Zimmerman

ICMB CHAIRMAN THROWS OPENING PITCH AT CORN CRIB

Interviewing Jim RappThrowing out one of the opening pitches for the Normal CornBelters baseball home game at the Corn Crib was Jim Rapp, Illinois Corn Marketing Board Chairman. He had a big wind up before throwing a pitch that was so fast it didn’t even register on the meter. Wait, we didn’t have a speed gun out there. Anyway he did a great job.

Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired, talked to Jim about the ICMB support for this stadium and team. Jim thinks it’s great and says he wishes he had a chance to do some practice pitches before getting on the mound in front of the crowd.

You can see a lot of photos from the opener in the AgWired photo album: Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Jim here (mp3).

RAINFALL HAMPERS FARMERS IN CENTRAL IL

Though nothing like the rain that just wouldn’t quit coming last spring, a series of showers and thunderstorms has slowed up the planting progress in the past month. Luckily, most Illinois corn farmers were able to get their corn in the ground early and have minimal acres of soybeans left to plant.

Here’s a field update from former ICGA President Rob Elliott from Cameron, IL:
May 27 – Finally back in the field after an extended rain delay since May 5th. Had a couple small pop up showers the last few days but missed the more significant rain that some received. The warmer temperatures have helped dry the ground out, but some are planting around some pretty big wet spots that still remain. Many in southeast Iowa and west central Illinois have had 12 -15 inches of rain in the last month.

The last of the corn should be pretty well in and the remaining beans will go in fairly quickly. There will be corn knee high by the 4th of June and some just coming up. We need some warm weather and sunshine to perk things up including a lot of “soggy attitudes.”

And another update from ICGA Vice President Jim Reed from Monticello, IL:

May 30 – Fields have finally dried out enough to finish spraying corn. Some corn is knee high. I hope to replant beans in ponds next week.

Had some marble size hail damage over 300 acres last Monday night that resulted in 2-3% cut offs in corn and major leaf damage.

Still other ICGA leaders like Steve Ruh of Sugar Grove, IL are asking for rain!
May 28 – I will be putting the finishing touches on bean planting as well as side-dressing and cutting hay this weekend. Corn looks great! First crop hay has good feed value and yielded very well.
Will be looking for a rain around 2pm Memorial Day, is that too much to ask?
I don’t know about Steve, but we received that 2 pm rain here at the Illinois Corn home office so here’s hoping he received a bit too.
Are you a farmer or a farm enthusiast? How is your planting season going or what do you see happening around you? Let us know in the comments where you’re from and how the corn looks in your area. Feel free to upload planting photos to our Facebook page as well!

CAUTION: MEN AT WORK

The Illinois Corn home office is under construction this week. We’re trying to prepare for our June board meetings by repairing some massive pot holes in our parking lot and driveway. What that means for those of us in the office is parking a little further away and doing a bit of a hopscotch move to get into the front door of the building without stepping in drying cement.


Inside the office, we’re under construction too. In fact, there’s a host of issues and events that we’re working on! Some have short deadlines, some have been in progress for decades, but much like the men outside pouring cement, we’re dedicated and can’t wait to see these projects to completion.

It’s just that we’re going to do so with our shirts ON.

Locks and Dams

If you take a look at our website and visit the locks and dams section, we boast that this just might be the year that Illinois corn farmers finally see funding for lock and dam upgrades. What led us to that conclusion is partly that industry and the Army Corps of Engineers have come to an agreement on how to fund the upgrades AND complete them efficiency. We’ve been taking this message to Congress and have found that they are particularly receptive to groups that have their own funding streams to partner with federal dollars! But we also know that if we don’t get lock and dam funding this year, we might have to wait a few more before we push it again. So … 2010 is the year in our minds because the timing just won’t be right next year. Call your Congressman and ask that they fund lock and dam upgrades!

CornBelters

Opening day is June 1! That means that the rest of the week and Tuesday, we’ll be hard at work preparing messaging, coordinating media, assigning tickets, outfitting our suite, and doing all the other miscellaneous work that accompanies our CornBelters partnership. Please join us for opening day when our ICMB Chairman, Jim Rapp, will throw the first pitch! If this is something that interests you, you might check out our recent podcast.

Ethanol

Now that we finally have the first blender pump operating in Sullivan, IL, we can return to other ethanol issues that are close at hand. The EPA indicates that they will issue a decision on higher ethanol blends this summer and we continue to press our Illinois Delegation to co-sponsor HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This act would extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit among other things and will help ethanol remain a valuable partner in developing rural communities, lessoning our environmental impact, and accomplishing energy security. Kuddos to the Illinois Congressman that have already co-sponsored this important bill – if your Congressman doesn’t appear here, give him or her a call today!

Social Media

We have hired several interns for the summer that will start next week working on social media projects and helping us continue to gear up our social media presence. As you’ve obviously noticed, our blog posts and content are improving daily, but we can’t wait for them to arrive, helping us populate our youtube channel with valuable information and maybe even getting more facts and data our on facebook and twitter. If you aren’t already following us on all of these important outlets, I’d encourage you to check into them!

There are a million other “projects under construction” in our office but this definitely gives you a flavor for what the Illinois Corn staff and boards are up to right now. Please notice that we can’t complete many of these projects without your help! Consider contacting your Congressman on the above issues to thank him and ask for his help on the things that matter to you. Consider partnering with us on the social media front by following us on twitter, Facebook, youtube, or the blog and forward our messaging to your friends and family.

As they say, it takes a village. And I could sure use your help as I traverse the construction area outside our door! That’s one construction project that can’t be done soon enough.

By: Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP A BRIDGE BETWEEN FARMERS AND COMMUNITIES

Perhaps you’ve seen it in previous news outlets, or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, the gist of the message is that the Illinois Corn Marketing Board believes in our own version of “If you build it, they will come.”

In October of last year, ICMB and the Normal CornBelters entered into a partnership – a partnership that is actually quite rare as far as sports teams and not-for-profit associations go.

The thing is, Illinois corn farmers know that what they do is confusing for everyone outside the agricultural industry. They understand that others just don’t get the dynamics of tillage, huge machinery, chemical applications, and export markets. They realize that everyone wants to know more about our nation’s food production systems, but doesn’t personally know a farmer to ask. And Illinois corn farmers want to change that.

There are parents, teachers, ministers, and policemen in Bloomington-Normal that live five minutes from a corn field, and even right in the middle of the largest corn producing county in the nation, that believe myths about corn production and the safety or efficiency of corn products. Farmers want to encourage the one-on-one dialogue that will improve understanding and build trust between farmers and consumers, even in their own communities.

A partnership with the CornBelters will help us do this. A partnership with the CornBelters makes us more visible and provides us the opportunity to stand in front of you and explain who we are, what we do, what’s important to us, and that we love our jobs.

So please consider joining us for a game at the Corn Crib and don’t be surprised to see us rooting for the home team with our families while we enjoy a cold beer and a ballpark hot dog. We are your neighbors and we are proud to be doing a job that we love while serving your needs and the needs of folks all over the world.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director