#TBT: I NEVER PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO CORN

[Originally published: July 13, 2017]

Last night I took the long familiar drive home with added company in my car. I had fellow Corn Intern, Kylie, and her roommate in the car with me and we were making casual conversation about our days at work. The three of us are friends outside of work but come from various backgrounds that all led us to the University of Illinois agriculture program.

As we drove, the conversation began to lull and from the back-seat Kylie offered, “You know, I never really paid much attention to corn until I started my internship.” The sentence took me a bit off guard before she continued, “Of course we had some corn, but it was just there.” I understood what she meant, but to me, corn had never “just been there.”

Continued reflection on the topic had me curious how one could just assume corn was nothing more than passing scenery on the interstate. It was so much more than that to everyone I knew growing up and I have never known anything different. Corn was never “just there”, it was seed selected carefully, planting done late into the night praying the rain held off, then praying for rain a few weeks later. Corn was your classmate or teacher missing an afternoon because the field really needed to be picked and someone had to get it done. No, corn wasn’t “just there”.

I then thought about how the office had reacted the recent rain we had got. It was easy to tell who had been raised with farmers and whose family farm was in what parts of the state. Some were quick to groan at the thought of more water in their already sodden fields while many rejoiced at the chance for their plants to get a drink. All of the meaning was lost on Kylie, she had never paid much attention to corn. She didn’t know what the year of the drought was like. To her, the corn was still “just there”.

After having slept on the subject, I have reached a new mentality. Most people will never pay attention to the corn along the side of the roads. They will not see the food, fuel, and fiber that keeps the country turning, the backbone of the American economy, the pride of Illinois, they will see corn. That’s okay. It would be impossible to ask Kylie to appreciate corn in ways that I do, she wasn’t raised with corn as her nearest neighbor. Rather than be annoyed, upset, or frustrated, I am inspired. The fact that others think corn is “just there” means that I get to be corn’s voice. Those in agriculture have a passion that can’t be squelched. Share that passion. Spread the word. Others don’t have to pay attention to corn as long as you do.

Shelby Carlson
IL Corn Intern

#TBT: LESSONS LEARNED IN A BLUE JACKET

Originally published on KellyMRivard.com by Kelly Rivard, previously published here on February 22, 2011

It’s National FFA Week, which means that I HAVE to write a post about one of my favorite youth organizations!

I only spent one year in FFA. In many ways, I consider that year one of the best I’ve lived so far. I know that isn’t saying much, as I’m only 20. However, the lessons I took away from that FFA chapter are ones that you don’t readily forget.

Our chapter was brand new. I served as the President in its founding year. It was a wonderful, stressful, exhausting, amazing experience. It was a million different things, but it will never be something I regret.

So what lessons did I take away from my short stint in a blue jacket?

Responsibility. I had my job cut out for me, forging the way for a brand new chapter. Our advisor ran under the principle that the students should do most of the work, and learn from it. That meant I spent a lot of time dealing with adults to make things happen. Whether it was planning for trips, organizing banquets, or fundraising, we had to be on the ball. We had to be mature, because it was the only way things would get done.

Teamwork. Our chapter was a combination of three schools, all ran by one teacher. My local 4-H friends were easy to work with, but integrating a new group of kids I’d never met before, across different backgrounds, ages, and maturity levels, meant that we all had to put a little extra work into cooperating. Here’s a picture of our officer team and advisor at our first ever River Valley FFA Awards banquet.

Organization. Record books for projects, homework for class, paperwork for trips, minutes for meetings…we had to be organized.

Confidence. Nothing will boost a kid’s self-confidence like achieving something on their own. Whether it’s by successfully orchestrating an awards banquet or placing at agronomy contests, success helps shape young minds into strong leaders for tomorrow.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ll take with me from my time in a blue jacket. There are many, many more lessons that I could never possibly put into words. I could never possibly phrase them into something that means as much as they deserve. My FFA advisor is one of my heroes, and continues to be a role model for me, even well into my college career. My FFA memories will always be fond ones.

Now, rather than a blue jacket, I proudly wear a blue polo, that says “River Valley FFA Alumni.”

Kelly Rivard
Former IL Corn Intern

#TBT: FOUR GIFTS FROM A FARMER TO HIS SWEETIE ON VALENTINE’S DAY

[Originally published: February 10, 2014]

There are plenty of things a farmer could get his sweetie for Valentine’s Day; chocolate, stuffed animals, jewelry, books. The list of “typical” gifts goes on and on.  What about channeling his resources and going that extra mile?  How about a gift that will keep her warm during the months ahead? What about something that will appeal to his love of the environment and the soil? Or maybe something that would make her smile even when he isn’t there?  Well, I’ve been looking around and found some great ideas that could do just that.  Check out these gifts that would make a farmer’s sweetie feel like one lucky gal this Valentine’s Day!

Carhartt1.       A Carhartt Jacket

We all know that farmers work despite the freezing temperatures we’ve been having. And being outside in anything other than a durable, warm Carhartt jacket would make any kind of work more trying. Just because Carhartt jackets are sensible doesn’t mean they can’t be cute too.  They come in a variety of colors from the classic tan to pink or blue.  I’m sure that a farmer’s sweetie would love that he thought about her staying warm in one of her favorite colors.

Photo credit: Costalfarm.com

Fishing rod2.       A  new fishing rod and reel

Summertime can mean long, lazy days enjoying the relaxing art of fishing so maybe a farmer could help her beat his record for biggest bass with a brand new fishing rod and reel?  Yes, she would have to wait until the weather warms up to use it, but she would be bound to appreciate that he planned ahead and is looking forward to making some great summertime memories with her. I have found a cute one here!

Photo credit: Fishing-tackle-manufacturers.com

tree growing kit3.       A tree growing kit

Although planting a tree means waiting for the ground to thaw, she would love that it could be planted together and it is a symbol of their ever-growing love.  (I found a kit for a dawn redwood here). Enhancing farmland land and being environmentally conscious are just great added benefits for the farmer. The tree could be there for years to come and every time she looked at it she would smile and think of him.  (Even if she’s annoyed that he’s been late to dinner all week because he was plowing the fields).

Photo credit: Gifts.com

Open when...4.       “Open when…” Letters

These letters would be great for her to have when she’s annoyed, frustrated, missing you, sad, or upset and he isn’t there to let her know how he really feels. Some ideas I had for putting on the envelopes are “Open when… you wish I’d come in for dinner at a decent time.” “Open when… yet another one of our date nights was spent in the tractor because it’s harvest season.” “Open when… you’re sick of me tracking my muddy boots through the house.” “Open when… you’re mad that I forgot your birthday because it’s right in the middle of busy season.” “Open when… you’re sick of planning vacations around cattle shows.” Opening these letters would definitely make her happy she’s got a man like him!

Photo credit: GirlCalledJulie, Twitter.com

Finding a Valentine’s Day gift for a farmers’ sweetie may not always be easy, but hopefully, these ideas would help find something meaningful and unique for a farmer’s special girl.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ellie SeitzingerEllie Seitzinger
Illinois State University student

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #1: TO THE FARM KID DURING HARVEST

[Originally published: September 19, 2017]

That time of year is quickly approaching. You know the time of year where the air becomes colder, the food you eat becomes warmer, and the sunset comes sooner. It’s the time of the year that you look forward to every year because you get to finally see the combine going in fields nearby and maybe just maybe you get to ride in the tractor to the elevator to drop off some freshly harvested grain. But what no one really tells you is that sometimes these can be really hard because you might not get to see your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa like you are used to because they have to get the crops out of the field. Take it from me, a farm kid whose dad not only farms but also runs multiple grain elevators. During harvest, I barely see my dad for around six to eight weeks. My dad has missed endless amounts of concerts, sporting events, birthdays, and literally any event during the months of September through November. Having a dad that would go to literally everything you had to him not being there all the time was and is still super hard to deal with. But this is what I have learned through all of the harvests that I have been through:

When you get the chance to ride/drive in combine or tractor with them, do it!

Though this might be a “well duh” moment to you, remember that this might be the only time during the week that you get to see them. Enjoy the ride. Stay off your phone. And actually, talk to them. I have found that some of my conversations ever have happened in either a combine or tractor.

It hurts them not being able to see you as much as it hurts you!

Though they may not come out and say it, they miss you as much as you miss them. Though they might like harvest, the endless hours can sometimes get to be too much for them. Know that they miss not being at every event that you have in life. They really do. But know that they want to be there cheering you on and even though they might not be there physically they are still cheering you on.

Help make a meal to take to them in the field.

Okay, this isn’t harvest, but come on. THIS IS ADORABLE

Nothing. And I mean nothing (okay maybe no equipment breaking down) is better during harvest than a home-cooked meal. If you know or are able to, make something for that someone that you miss that you can take to them in the field or wherever they are. The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach (I think that’s how that saying goes, LOL) and I am sure they will get the hint loud and clear that you love them, miss them, and care for them.

Remember this doesn’t last forever.

Harvest (hopefully) only lasts between six to eight weeks. Though it can, and sometimes does feel like a long time, know that it will end. Life will go back to how it normally was. They will be found on the sidelines of your games, sitting in the auditorium waiting for your performance, and tucking you into bed like they normally do.

You are not alone

It’s going to seem like you are alone. Like no one else is going through this. But that is not true. Even though people around you might not be saying all the time that they miss _____ because of harvest, they really do. Know that there are so many people, people you might not even know that are going through this time of missing someone because of harvest, but like I said earlier harvest does not last forever.

To all of the Farm Kids and Farm Families gearing up for harvest, I wish you nothing but a successful and smooth harvest season. Always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that harvest does not last forever. Enjoy this season!

Abby Jacobs
Illinois State University

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: FARM PROFITABILITY

[Originally posted December 16, 2016]

We actually asked for more stable farm profitability last year, but Santa hasn’t brought it yet!  In fact, farming has gotten harder with more farmers losing money and more bankers refusing to loan farmers the cash to put in a crop based on their precarious budget sheets.

WE NEED FARM PROFITABILITY!

If you haven’t already read our Are Farmers Rich post, you’ll want to start there … remembering that this particular article and the economic conditions it presents are two years old.

The bottom line is, farmers are losing money.  Lots of it.  In fact, for many farmers, the more acres you farm the more you’re losing.  Luckily, this was a good year for crops and higher yields started to offset the extremely low prices, but that might not always happen.

Think about it: for every other business that creates something, they name the price for that product that includes how much it costs to produce it.  Competition in the marketplace might force them to lower their product cost to a lower margin, but they can always guarantee they are making at least a bit of profit.

Farmers are price takers, not price makers.  They don’t get to determine how much it cost them to grow a bushel of corn and set their price from there.  They have to just take whatever price the commodity markets dictate.  And right now, that cost is well below the cost of production.

Most of the other things on our list will help us price prices because they are about creating demand or minimizing costs of production.  Trade opportunities and that darn RVP waiver will create more demand in terms of selling more corn overseas or selling more ethanol in the summer months.  Better locks and dams will decrease the cost of getting corn to an international market.  More conservation will prevent regulations that will cost farmers money.

I swear Santa, we aren’t asking for much.  Please … farm profitability for 2017?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: RVP WAIVER

[Originally posted December 15, 2016]

This Christmas list item gets complicated, so bear with me.

A RVP waiver – Reid Vapor Pressure waiver – is what Americans really need to use more renewable fuels and capitalize on the domestic, clean-burning fuel we have right at our fingertips.

SANTA, BRING THAT WAIVER FOR E15!

The back story on this request is that when it’s really hot, bad stuff (emissions) evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution.  The EPA doesn’t want that to happen.

They measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard.  The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are.

The RVP of pure ethanol is 2.  The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15.

But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard.  The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10.

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to allow E10 a waiver – in other words, Congress gave EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months.  But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.

By the way, the RVP of E15 is actually lower than E10 and straight gasoline.

So, Santa, I’m not sure if you understood all this, but we could really use that waiver in our hands on Christmas Eve.  The world stands to benefit from cleaner air, and consumers will definitely enjoy the extra cents per gallon in their pockets.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE CONSERVATION

[Originally posted December 14, 2016]

IL Corn and the ag industry has introduced some management practices and talked about some concepts that are different for farmers, trying to help them improve the water quality coming from IL farms.

Farmers are anxious to learn, some are trying out a few new practices, others are watching and learning from their neighbors, but …

WE NEED MORE FARMERS TO TRY MORE CONSERVATION PRACTICES.

Farmers are farming because they love it, but also because they need to provide for their own families.  So trying something completely new, and risking tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process, is a scary thing.

Research tells us that trying cover crops will cost *this much* and improve soil health *this much* while also decreasing nutrient loss *this much.*  But the research put into practice on some farms doesn’t always work out exactly the same.  Farmers get nervous to try new things … and that’s understandable!

But Santa, we’ve got to make our water quality better.  We’ve got to lose less of the expensive fertilizer we’re putting on our fields.  We’ve got to invest in our land and preserve it for future generations.  Farmers definitely want to do this!  It is their core value and the foundation of their farming business.

So one thing we’d love for Christmas is for more farmers to TRY a new conservation practice on their fields this year.  Maybe they just try it on one field, maybe they branch out to several.  Maybe they talk with a neighbor and try the same thing she had success with in 2016.  We’re making progress, but MORE progress would sure be nice.

Whisper in their ears – would you Santa?  We’ll keep providing the outreach, education, and programming in the meantime …

Note: In 2016, IL Corn offered several new educational programs for farmers!  These are just a few:

  • cover crop coupons – to try cover crops at a reduced cost for the first year
  • field days – to see how different management techniques were actually working on farms in Illinois
  • interactive maps – to help farmers understand when to apply nitrogen and when not to apply
  • Precision Conservation Management – a pilot program that helps farmers understand conservation practices AND the financial implications that correlate with them
  • water testing – to understand how much of the expensive fertilizer a farmer was losing from his/her field

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: TRADE OPPORTUNITIES

[Originally posted December 13, 2016]

It stands to reason that right after an investment in getting our grain to a global market, we’d like to see increased market opportunities, right?

Check out our first ask of Santa here.

The opportunities are there.  And Illinois believes we can compete with anyone in the world in terms of grain quality, quantity, and price.

WE JUST NEED GLOBAL MARKET ACCESS!

Trade deals are really important when it comes to selling more corn to more countries all over the world.  We’d definitely like to see trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass Congress and become effective.

TPP won’t increase the amount of corn we send overseas, but it will increase the amount of red meat we sell overseas.  More meat sold means more livestock production here in the U.S. which means more animals to eat more corn!  It’s a win for everyone involved.

Overall though Santa, we’d love it if you’d just create a blanket of positive trade talk over Washington, DC.  Will the incoming administration support trade in the end?  We’re just not sure and we’d love your help on this!

Note: Trade is so important to Illinois.  About half of our corn leaves the state – much of it to other countries like Mexico and Japan.  What leaves our state and doesn’t go overseas is feeding livestock in other states like Texas and THEN going overseas.  This is because of our position on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers – we will never stop advocating for more and more trade!

There’s also this.  Trade is important from a humanitarian level.  We have to trade to get the food from where it’s produced (the U.S., Brazil, Argentina) to where the hungry people are.

Don’t ever forget about the hungry people Santa.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: LOCKS & DAMS

 

[Originally posted December 12, 2016]

At this point, I sound like a broken record.  (And if you’re tired of hearing me talk about locks and dams, be glad you don’t know Jim Tarmann – an IL Corn staffer who has been working on this issue for 20ish years!)

Illinois farmers need updated locks and dams if the U.S. wants us to remain globally competitive.  There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

WE NEED LOCKS AND DAMS!

We’re getting closer.  Congress has changed some funding equations and the industry (all the users of the river system) agreed to pay more in order to generate income to improve locks and dams.  This means that we’re closer than we’ve ever been and that’s exciting.

But we’re really REALLY hoping that Santa will whisper in the ears of the powers that be and include lock and dam construction in the potential transportation and infrastructure spending we keep hearing about in the new year.  This could be such a huge gain for IL agriculture!!

Want to learn more?  We’ve published some great articles on the need for upgraded locks and dams (click here).  Don’t forget, the locks and dams we’re using now were built in Mark Twain’s era for steam boats!!  At that time, we weren’t even dreaming about huge tows of grain headed to a global market!!

You might also enjoy this short video clip.

Please Santa!  Let’s start on a new lock in 2017!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHAT WAS FARMING LIKE 10/25/100 YEARS AGO?

 

Change is the only constant in a perpetually evolving world.  Just as life and traditions change, so do farming practices. In today’s day in age, farmers have easy access to tractors and large machinery, which make the profession of farming much easier. Agriculturists also have the technology of fertilizers, that ensure the crops receive necessary nutrients. Advancements in chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are used to rid fields of unwanted weeds and pests. However, farming has not always been this precise of a science. It’s interesting to look back and see how far farmers have come in the past century.

Early in the 20th-century farmers used a system of planting called hill dropping of checked corn. This system required a wire to be strung from one end of a field to the other, and it would be strung through a planter powered by a team of horses. This wire would release a small pile of corn, hence the term ‘hill’, in 42-inch rows. But why 42 inches? Because that’s the average width of a horse! These checked rows allowed for cultivators to be easily pulled through the field. Since there were no herbicides to kill weeds, farmers relied solely upon cultivators to uproot the nuisances. More in-depth information on this practice can be found here!

Fast forward to about 25 years ago, when farming seems to have vastly improved from the seemingly primitive ways of the early 1900’s. Instead of farming in 42-inch rows, corn grew within 30-inch rows. This allowed for more plants to grow in each field, which lead to an increase in yields. By this point in time, farmers were using tractors to pull their planters, which greatly increased the efficiency of their time and efforts.  However, these aren’t the only technological benefits! In the 1990’s farmers started utilizing satellite technology to increase their accuracy, which made the farming profession a very meticulous one. Additionally, the number of farmers trying conservation tillage methods continued to rise. This simply means that producers leave more plant residue in the field, with intentions to prevent erosion. This extra plant material will add organic matter to the soil, which will also improve the land’s productivity. On top of all these advancements, in 1997 the first insect and weed resistant crops become commercially available. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about how farming improved in the 90’s, I suggest you check out this link!

Farming in the early 2000’s… was it really that much different from farming today? To start off with, one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding farming practices was passed. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also referred to as the Farm Bill, created rules and regulations for anything from conservation practices, to organic agriculture, to crop insurance. This bill promoted innovative solutions to resource challenges, established a new disaster assistance program, expanded the opportunities for farmers’ markets, and much more!  Further information about the full impacts of the 2008 Farm Bill can be found here. Without these past accomplishments, the agriculture industry would certainly not be the same as it is today.

Rosie Roberts
Iowa State University