The drought of 2012 might seem to be over, but take a closer look. The sub-soil moisture is still drastically low in many areas. Also, the Mississippi River is illustrating what a lack of rain can do. The River is so low in the Mid-Mississippi area that barge traffic may be halted due to low water levels.

That won’t be the case if Illinois Corn Growers Association has anything to say about it. IL Corn is working with an industry group called Waterways Council, Inc., to find ways to keep the river moving. You see, more than 50% of Illinois’ corn crop leaves the state, with a good portion finding its ride down the river on barges. Also, fertilizer moves into the state via northbound river traffic, so in this case, a low-water issue can get us coming and going.

Earlier this week IL Corn representatives met with IL Senator Dick Durbin and other stakeholders to discuss the best ways to keep the Mississippi River open to commerce and other traffic. Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon attended the meeting, as well, and was kind enough to go on the record with us about her thoughts on the issue. Watch below for her statement.

Braid Terry_Tricia  mugshotTricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director


Last week while most of the Illinois Corn Growers Association board and staff were in Washington, DC, a couple of our members were in the European Union to learn more about our trading partners there.study tour, Illinois corn, farmers, mission, trade

Themes for the mission varied.  The group discussed a sustainability certification program that some of our farmers leaders and Illinois ethanol plants have participated in so that they can export to the EU.

They also touched on topics ranging from animal welfare regulations to biotechnology to ethanol imports. Like the United States, the EU is also creating a new version of its “farm bill” (CAP 2013), so they discussed the expected effects of each on agricultural trade and production.

While our guys were in the EU with corn farmers from Nebraska and Iowa, one of the Nebraska staff on the study tour maintained this blog to update the rest of us in the states how they were doing over there.  Start here and work your way forward for the synaposis of the mission.




The Panama Canal Authority exists to produce maximum sustained benefit from (their) geographic position. It’s a geographic position that nations, traders, and explorers have hoped to maximize through the ages.

The U.S. transferred their authority of the Panama Canal back to the Panamanian government in 1997. At that time, studies indicated that the Canal would be at its maximum capacity for transit traffic by the year 2011. The Panamanian Government decided at that time that they weren’t interested in the canal infrastructure losing the potential for added use.

Interestingly enough, the need to expand the canal was known decades ago. The U.S. Government actually started working on the third shipping lane back in 1939, stopping work in 1942 because of WWII. So the Panama Canal Authority used those plans from the 1930s to start the work that has become the current Canal Project.

(In fact, the Panama Canal was designed to handle US Navy ships, like the Texas and New Jersey. They were the “Panamax”class ships of the time.)

The expansion will be complete by 2014, the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Canal. The project is funded by both public and private investments. The project cost is expected to cost $5.25 Billion, funded roughly in half by a tax in Panama approved by the voters. The other half is provided through an international investment package.

Unheard of in the U.S., the entire project will be completed in a decade. Ten years, start to finish, from design and planning to full opening. It’s been joked (although there’s much truth in this joke) that this entire project will be finished in the time it takes the U.S. to finish a feasibility study.

What does this mean to the average person? Well, it means absolutely nothing in a direct sense. But it’s this kind of incredible engineering and planning that allows us to have our iPads and other widgets, it allows US commodities to access worldwide markets; it means less fuel consumed promising a lower environmental impact. It means jobs. Period. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s a pretty simple formula of a worldwide system that does reach into the home of the average U.S. system.

It’s a bit disturbing, too, that such a phenomenal piece of work can be completed so quickly and efficiently in a third world nation. We have the capacity in the U.S., too, but we just can’t get it done. How frustrating is that?

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director


The U.S. Grains Council convened its meeting yesterday, and a theme of the discussion could be summed up by, “What we need is balance.”


So many of the challenges we face in agriculture tend to come because of an unbalanced discussion or unbalanced criticisms. These discussions and criticisms commonly come from outside the industry.

Internally, we face balance issues, as well. How do we balance the needs of our many customers? Should one take priority over the others? Do we sacrifice one customer because their needs seem more important than others?

How do we balance the needs of the developing world against the needs of the developed?

And in Illinois, how do we balance opportunities to export corn to other states and the world against the needs of our in-state livestock and ethanol issues?

Is this a micro issue, or a macro one? Balance…

The farmers and industry stakeholders and customers from around the world that are meeting in Panama this week are tackling issues of balance, all within the footprint of the Panama Canal.

I’ll have more about the Canal tomorrow.

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director


Corn is arguably the most versatile crop in the world. Normally, we think of corn as food, and food only, when actually, less than one percent of corn in our country is sweet corn. Most people do not realize that corn has many different uses and we still continue to find more. Demand for corn has been at an all time high in 2011.

The United States is the largest producer and exporter of corn in the world.  This makes the largest net contribution to United States agricultural trade balance of all the agricultural commodities. On average around 20 percent of corn from the United States is exported. The rest we keep for our own uses.

Fuel ethanol has become a huge use of corn materials. By creating fuel ethanol with corn it has created thousands of jobs to our economy and added over 15 billion dollars to tax revenues through the federal state and the local government. This has displaced more than 445 million barrels of imported oil.

By using corn for ethanol we receive multiple products. After using the starch portion of the kernel that is converted to sugar and fermented, the rest of the kernel is used as corn oil and feed for the livestock.

One of the most important uses of corn is to feed livestock daily. Farmers like to use corn to feed their livestock because it has high-protein and high-energy.

Corn can actually help save the environment! One acre of corn can remove eight tons of harmful greenhouse gas.

Did you know corn is also used to made compostable plastics? Corn based plastics are used in utensils, gift cards, bags, plant containers, water bottles and more. Since they are compostable they will break down eventually.

Not only is corn used to make plastic materials but also there is now fabrics made from corn bio-materials. Corn replaces the oil that is usually used for polyester and nylon. These new fabrics have many advantages; such as they are much softer. Corn bio-materials can also be used to create a tough, stain resistant fiber that is used for carpets.

Researchers are now trying to find even more opportunities to use corn for more petroleum-based products. The opportunities are nearly endless. From antibiotics to frosting, to pet food to baby food, corn is a widely used crop that we could not get by without.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween with plenty of candy corn!

Emilie Gill
Illinois State University Student


Mr. P. K. Basu, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for the Government of India, visited the Jeff Jarboe farm yesterday along with three other high level officials from the Government of India.

farm visit, indian officials, india, corn, farmer, tractor, wagon, grainThe Secretary and his colleagues were in search of a “typical” farming operation and were hoping to interact with local producers in the Paxton, Illinois area.

The Indian delegation was interested in understanding the role of new production technologies and seed technologies, as well as how the grain is stored after it is harvested. They were also very interested in learning more about the marketing techniques that producers use to market their crop throughout the year and the grain elevator’s role in the marketing of the grain.

The Secretary and his colleagues were shown tillage equipment, corn and soybean planters, tractors, and a combine.

Like most trade teams they found the combine of most interest and were given the opportunity to observe harvest, as well as how the grain is transported out of the field and to the bin for storage.

Most producers that I have met don’t think they do anything special in their daily lives. However, this delegation felt they observed something very special.

In addition, there was also another group from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. This group also desires a better understanding of agriculture and how to help develop linkages with the private sector.

This was a historical visit by many in the group as many have never been on a farm in the United States.

This particular visit is not unlike the other approximately 20 international visits per year that IL Corn hosts, visits with, or connects to local suppliers. IL Corn has a vested interest in improving market opportunities for IL corn farmers and visits from other countries like Mr. P. K. Basu and his colleagues are just one important way that we add value to your voice.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director

See more photos from the tour here: photo album


Earlier today, the Columbia, Panama, and Korea Free Trade Agreements were passed out of the House Ways and Means committee The Columbia vote was 24-12; Panama vote was 32-3; and Korea vote was 31-5, all in favor. 

Illinois corn farmers appreciate House members’ recognition that every minute these Free Trade Agreements sit without decision is another minute that corn farmers go without vital market opportunities and American’s miss the benefits of increased economic growth.  Specifically, the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) thanks Congressmen Schock and Roskam for their “yes” votes to pass these bills out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“All three FTAs provide significant opportunities for U.S. agriculture by immediately eliminating import duties on the vast majority of U.S. agricultural commodities, such as corn and other coarse grains and co-products,” stated Paul Taylor, ICGA Export Committee Chair. 

Global trade is important to Illinois farmers. According to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Illinois feed grain exports to all countries totaled $1.7 billion in 2009, while all ag product exports reached $5.5 billion.

According to government and industry estimates, the three FTAs will result in an additional $2.5 billion in additional sales and lead to the creation of over 20,000 jobs, which are critical to creating economic growth and employment for U.S. citizens.

“Each of these countries are important markets for U.S. coarse grains and co-products and the FTAs offer significant opportunities for growth,” said Taylor.

ICGA looks forward to working with other House and Senate members to continue the quick movement of all three Free Trade Agreements through Congress.


"Ron Gray" Illinois Corn Farmer

Ron Gray, Claremont, IL corn farmer and Illinois Corn Marketing Board District XIII Director, was elected Secretary of the U.S. Grains Council today during their 51st Annual Board of Delegates Meeting this week.

Gray’s position as Secretary allows him to eventually become Chairman of the Council.

The U.S. Grains Council is a private, non-profit corporation that seeks to develop export markets for corn, barley, and grain sorghum.   The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability.  It uses 10 international offices and programs in more than 50 countries to accomplish these goals. 

As an officer of the Council, Gray will have input into the development of export markets around the world and will help guide the organization to quickly and efficiently increase export market opportunities for Illinois corn farmers.  Illinois exports more than half of its corn crop annually.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is a major funder of the U.S. Grains Council, donating approximately $850,000 annually.


President Obama issued a national challenge to double US exports into the global economy during his 2010 State of the Union address. On Friday, in a Presidential Proclamation, he said, “World Trade Week is a time to highlight the vital connection between the global economy and the prosperity of our own country. Our 21st-century economy requires American businesses and workers to compete in an international marketplace. To ensure our success, we must advance a robust, forward-looking trade agenda that emphasizes exports and domestic job growth.

I encourage all Americans to observe this week with events, trade shows, and educational programs that celebrate and inform Americans about the benefits of trade to our Nation and the global economy.”

Illinois corn farmers wholeheartedly agree with his comments and his vision for US exports. Given the agricultural prosperity that we enjoy in this country and knowing that Illinois exports 50 percent of its corn crop to foreign countries, we’d like to issue the President a challenge of our own.

Illinois farmers want free trade with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

The benefits of these agreements have already been discussed on this blog and on www.ilcorn.org before. Congress understands that free trade agreements will add money to the US GDP, offer jobs to American workers, and establish a more stable United States economy.

Illinois corn farmers wonder, why are we waiting?

Learn more about how the Panama Free Trade Agreement will affect corn farmers.    Learn more about how the Colombia Free Trade Agreement will affect corn farmers.  Learn more about how the Korea Free Trade Agreement will affect corn farmers.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director


In honor of World Health Day, check out this post on world food trade and the positive benefits of free trade agreements from IL Corn!

The Economic Research Service of USDA has released its latest report on the effects of NAFTA on U.S. agriculture, NAFTA at 17: Full Implementation Leads to Increased Trade and Integratio. It concludes that most of North American agriculture has achieved a high degree of market integration for cross-border flows of trade and investments with the removal of almost all barriers.

For Illinois, this information is important.  Half of the Illinois corn crop is exported due to our unique position along the Mississippi River system (including the Illinois and Ohio Rivers); Illinois corn farmers continue to be interested in expanding opportunities to export their goods.

Through NAFTA, the U.S. and Mexico have eliminated all tariffs on agricultural products, unique among U.S. free trade agreements (FTA). The Canada-U.S. FTA began in 1989, but U.S. restrictions remain on imports of dairy products, peanuts, butter and cotton, and Canadian restrictions remain on dairy products, poultry, eggs, and margarine.

U.S. exports of wheat and rice to Mexico have quadrupled in the NAFTA era, while exports of feed grains, oilseeds, and related products to Mexico have increased by 134 percent from an annual average of 8.3 million metric tons to an average of 19.5 million metric tons. These have allowed livestock and poultry producers to lower their costs of production, expand output and compete more effectively with meat imports.

U.S. livestock and meat trade is highly integrated with Mexico, but Mexican integration with the U.S. market is rated medium to low due to animal health import restrictions on pork and poultry. U.S. and Canada are highly integrated with cattle, beef, hogs and pork, but have low integration in poultry and dairy because they continue to have barriers to trade.

Illinois corn farmers look forward to this sort of growth in opportunity if the recently negotiated Colombia Free Trade Agreement passes in the House and Senate later this year.  Other Free Trade Agreements that will impact agriculture are the Korea Free Trade Agreement which would increase exports of various agricultural commodities by up to 46 percent while the Panama Free Trade Agreement could mean increased U.S. agricultural exports to Panama of more than $195 million per year by full implementation.

Read more analysis of the ERS report on NAFTA here.