Who doesn’t love a good home-cooked meal around the holidays? My favorite things to enjoy with my family are ham and mashed potatoes. Many branches of the agriculture industry in Illinois team up for the holidays to make sure everyone in the state can have pork at their family dinners. This movement is called Pork Power and consists of Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, Feeding Illinois working together to gather pork to be donated.

12-5-16-pork-power-lightning-boltThis program was launched in 2008 by the Illinois Pork Producers and has continued to grow every year. The mission statement of the program is “To provide access to pork (vital meat protein) to our neighbors throughout Illinois by partnering with Feeding Illinois.” The 2015 results show that the mission statement is definitely being upheld. A whopping 500,000 pounds of pork was donated just last year. The half-million-pound donation amounted to 2 million meals being served to the people of Illinois.

Other events that support Pork Power are held throughout the year as well. These events include a fundraising meal at the Illinois Department of Agriculture and fun Pork Power t-shirts being sold at the Illinois State Fair. Some of these shirts have the Pork Power logo while others have puns about bacon that never get old!

Interested in donating pork to the cause? A few guidelines and more information on donating to the movement can be found here! Any other questions? Ask in the comments!

amanda-rollinsAmanda Rollins
Illinois State University

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With another harvest over, the Captain is reminded of how quickly time passes. He’s clearly changed over the decades! Yet, just like the circle of the crop cycle, he always comes back to stalk the growth of his little kernels. Good work farmers! From us and the Captain.

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[Originally posted December 1, 2014]

  1. “If you mess with the bull, you get the horns.” I know this is a pretty common saying, but that is also a very solid piece of advice on a cattle farm.
  2. Being sick might get you out of school for a day, but it rarely gets you out of chores.
  3. Hay bales are significantly heavier than straw bales.
  4. The “Circle of Life” is more than just a great song from The Lion King; it’s also a lesson that all farm kids start learning very early in life.
  5. Hard work is not an option. And when that hard work starts paying off, it is so much more rewarding than something you didn’t have to work for at all.
  6. “Curiosity killed the cat.” Again, a common saying but also a very literal lesson on the farm! (See “Circle of Life” in lesson #4.)
  7. You can fix just about anything with duct tape, twine, and a little imagination.
  8. “The difference between getting a job done and getting the job done right is usually about 5 minutes.”
  9. Anything after 7 a.m. is “damn near noon” and it’s in your best interest to get out of bed before that time. Besides, the animals eat before you do, so if you want breakfast you better be out in the barn bright & early!
  10. Respect. The farm life teaches you respect for so many things. Respect for animals, respect for the land, respect for Mother Nature, and respect for others.
  11. You will have to tell your friends over and over again that cow tipping is not a real thing. (See lesson #1. It’s not a good idea, people.)
  12. Resilience. Farming a’int easy, my friends. The success of your farm can greatly differ from one year to the next. But we always keep on truckin’ because we do what we love and we love what we do!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson

Posted in Agriculture, General, Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | Leave a comment


Some people think that the only busy times of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the eleventh post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.


Start at the beginning!


You’ll continue to get stuck behind slow-moving vehicles on rural roads throughout November, but at least visibility at stop signs improves with the corn and beans down. That’s right, harvest is (finally) wrapping up!

This year’s crop:

  • snow-harvestHarvest: A farmer could still be harvesting his grain in November, especially if he’s in Northern Illinois or if the weather is uncooperative. Rain stalls harvest by making soybeans tough and difficult to cut, or by making the fields too squishy to drive heavy machinery through. As for SNOW… it’s not impossible to combine grain with snow on the ground, but it certainly makes picking, transporting, drying and storing it more difficult. Let’s just hope they don’t have to go there!

Farm Maintenance:

  • field-tileManage Break-Downs: As always, managing breakdowns is an ongoing task on the farm. Gotta keep the equipment in good working order to get the job done.
  • Install or fix tile lines: After the crop is out, it’s a good time to install or repair tile lines. Field tile is like a big underground gutter system that aids in field drainage. Sometimes tile can become broken or clogged and needs to be dug up and repaired. Or maybe the field didn’t have any tile to begin with. Post harvest is a good time to install it.

Next year’s crop:

  • Looking ahead: With “this year’s crop” being hauled away, it’s time to implement next year’s game plan. This is where things could vary greatly from farm to farm depending on the farmer’s individual preferences and management techniques. Some options could be:
    • empty-fields-landscapeFall tillage: working up the ground to break up plant matter and prepare the seed bed for next year’s crop
    • Fertilizer and other dry product application: Examples would be phosphorous and potassium (commonly referred to as P&K) and lime
    • Anhydrous ammonia can be applied in the fall.
    • If farmers are using over-wintering cover crops such as cereal rye, it may be applied post-harvest, depending on what is being planted.
    • Research and place 2017 seed orders

This year, USDA, NASS stated that harvest was at least 97% complete at Thanksgiving. What a relief for farmers and their families! With the crops out of the field, the Stewards of the Land were able to enjoy some much-needed family time around the dinner table giving thanks for the bountiful harvest!


Ashley Deal
Membership Administrative Assistant
IL Corn

Posted in Agriculture, Current News, Education, Environment, Field Updates, General, Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | Leave a comment


Although it has not officially been announced, we’re waving the checkered flag on #harvest16 for Illinois corn farmers. The USDA-NASS reported 10 days ago that we were 97% completed. So based on the information we have, how does this year’s harvest timeline shake out compared to others? Let’s look at some quick facts while including some of our favorite photos from harvest:

9-23-16_rod1. Last year finishes first

Last year’s harvest took less time than it did this year. On November 14th, 2016, harvest was 97% completed compared to being 100% completed the previous year. However, the 5-year average at that point cited 96% completed, just above the average.

2. Productivity does not outshine pace

10-3-16_harvest_updateMoreover, we can see that the pace in finishing harvest was slower than last year. On November 14th, 97% harvest was completed compared to 94% on November 7th, showing a 3% increase in productivity. However, he previous year boasted a better pace with 100% in the second week of November and 99% during the first week.  Although anecdotal at this point, we can probably attribute this delay to the unpredictable weather over the last couple of months.

Clearly, we’re using the most recent numbers, but they indicate less efficiency based on previous years. However, there are numerous factors that can produce this result including intermittent rain and the need for replanting during the spring months after rain drowning out some crops.

As the final data comes in, we’ll dive deeper and identify more exact trends using crop data from the USDA-NASS, including the quality of the crops each week. Regardless of the slower completion time on harvest, we are still proud of the work our corn farmers have done this season. It gave Illinois another record-breaking year of yields! It looks like that sometimes quality just takes time.

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As I sit down with my family at Thanksgiving this year, I will look around at all the food laid out in front of me. Mom’s mashed potatoes. Grandma’s pumpkin pie. Aunt’s green bean casserole. All prepared with love for us. But how did it get here? With the hard work by the agricultural industry. U.S. Farmers worked to provide the food in front of me and you. As you sit down to eat, here are five farm facts that will inspire both you and me to be more thankful for the food before us.


1) The agricultural industry employs more than 21 million American workers , which is 15 percent of the total U.S. workforce. A lot of people with a lot of family.

2) Today’s American farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide. This is compared to 25.8 people in 1960. How many people are in your family?

cranberries3) A barrel of cranberries weighs 100 pounds, and there are about 450 cranberries in a pound. So how many cranberries are in a gallon of juice? Approximately 4,400 cranberries. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without cranberries.

4) Illinois is the number 1 pumpkin state where Morton, IL is the Pumpkin capital of the world. This means that Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state. You can thank them for Grandma’s pumpkin pie.

5) Farmers receive only 16 cents out of every dollar spent on food. The remaining part of the dollar goes towards expenses beyond the farm gate that include costs in production, processing, marketing, transportation, and distribution. This number has fallen in the last 35 years from 31 cents in 1980. Farmers do a lot of work for little return.

Farmers helped put the food before us during one of the biggest meals of the year and every other day of year. Thank a farmer for your food.baseball


Bonus: I don’t think anyone doesn’t know who won the World Series this year. The Cubs broke their 108-year losing streak with a World Series Win this year. But did you know that one pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn? There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball… That’s a 117 baseballs. Thank a sheep for the winning out.

maxley_jaylynnJaylynn Maxley
University of Illinois

Posted in Agriculture, Food, General, Who are Illinois Corn Farmers? | Leave a comment


7-14-16-gmo-labeling-lawOn July 29th, President Obama signed a bill into law that requires the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. It was vital for legislatures to reach across the aisle to pass a federal regulation on the labeling of genetically modified foods to prevent each state from following in Vermont’s footsteps and setting state rules for labeling. This would have created a disaster for food companies trying to package their products to be shipped and sold in 50 states with 50 different laws, and would have resulted in increased food prices.

However, bill S. 764 being signed into law was not the end of the decisions that need to be made. The United States Department of Agriculture is now at the decision making helm trying to work out the details. The USDA, particularly the Secretary of Agriculture, has been given a two-year time frame to finalize the regulations.  Secretary Tom Vilsack is tasked with moving quickly to get the process well underway before President-Elect Drumpf brings in a new Secretary of Agriculture that may have a different vision for this legislation than the Obama administration. The USDA’s Marketing Service is in charge of the implementation, but the internal USDA group working out the details includes representatives from the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

gmos-most-testedThe USDA has many important decisions to make that will shape how the law is implemented. For example, they must determine the amount of genetically modified ingredients that must be present in food for labeling to be mandatory.  The USDA is also working to create a symbol for packages that signifies it contains GMO ingredients. The USDA also must decide whether to require labeling if the ingredients themselves have no trace of genetic modification but came from a genetically modified seed. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 93 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of corn are genetically engineered.

Although the law requires “mandatory disclosure” of genetically modified ingredients, companies can choose from a variety of methods to label their products. On-package labels, a link to an app or website, QR codes, or 1-800 numbers are some options companies will have. Because of the variety of options, consumers may not immediately notice dozens of products being marked as containing GMO’s because the labeling will take on various forms, some more discreet than others. An estimated 75 to 80 percent of foods contain genetically engineered ingredients.

gmofoodThe USDA has many decisions to make, but it is unlikely any major announcements will be made until everything is finalized, which could be up to two years.  Congress left many decisions on the labeling program up to the USDA, meaning this will not be a speedy process. The time span must allow for formal comment periods.  The USDA has a website set up for GMO Disclosure and Labeling, which includes a link to the full text of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law.

christy_allenUniversity of Illinois
Christy Allen

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