ETHANOL’S BIG DEBUT

It’s been nearly a week since ethanol made its debut at the Daytona 500 but we’re still as excited as ever!

American Ethanol is an official partner of NASCAR and this year every car and truck in the three series will be running on a fifteen percent blend of fuel made with homegrown, corn-based ethanol. The fuel is Sunoco Green E15.

It’s as American as NASCAR. The fans are supportive, the drivers are supportive, and so are the mechanics.

In fact, 120,000 American Ethanol Green Flags were distributed so that everyone could help start the Daytona 500 waiving their own green flag. This year, every NASCAR race start and restart will be made with the American Ethanol Green Flag.

Each race team has their own specific fuel cans. In fact, NASCAR changed the entire fueling system this year. That change was nothing to do with the switch to E15. Each can is clearly marked with the car and driver, as well as Sunoco Green E15.

And in those pit stops that last only a few seconds, those fuel cans empty into the car. Each can weighs about 92 pounds when full and holds about 12 gallons.

Every car advertises the American Ethanol logo with a green circle around the fuel port, recognizing the positive environmental impact that E15 brings to the sport. 

And along with that positive environmental impact comes increased horsepower! The cars were running at unprecedented speeds. In this photo, you’ll see Kenny Wallace’s No. 09 car drafting with the Brandt Consolidated car. It’s great to see NASCAR and farming teaming up.

We hope you’ll continue to watch and listen to NASCAR broadcasts this year. You’ll definitely hear more about farmers and ethanol. And so will NASCAR’s 75 million dedicated fans. Now that’s an audience you can be proud of!

Tricia Braid
Communications Director

LESSONS LEARNED IN A BLUE JACKET

Originally published on KellyMRivard.com by Kelly Rivard

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
College Student and Former IL Corn Intern

 

RESPONSIBLE ANIMAL CARE – WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month!  While a lot of folks probably don’t think that livestock farmers think of their cows, chickens, and pigs as pets … well, a lot of them do.  Here’s how we participate in Responsible Pet Owner’s Month – agriculture style. 

Thanks to Rosie for helping us understand responsible livestock care from a farmer’s perspective!

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We have all seen and read numerous articles from humane societies and other organizations about American farmers and our “mistreatment” of animals. Whenever I see one of these articles, I often wonder what the answer would be if I asked the authors of those articles exactly how many farms they have visited lately to see first hand how farmers handle their animals. If I had to guess, it is a very small number, if any.

When people read articles like these, they forget to take one very important thing into consideration: the credibility of the author. Even if the authors hold a position of authority for a company or site other sources for their information, I find that the topic of livestock production and treatment of the animals can only be truly understood from a first-hand experience. Sure, you could research the topic and find information about it, but how do you really know what is happening on our farms unless you have experienced it first-hand?

As someone with 20 years of experience on a livestock production farm, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK our farmers for their hard work and responsible animal care- this should be a nice change of pace!

Like any typical farm kid, I spent ten years participating in the County 4-H fairs showing cattle and pigs. In those ten years, I got to see not only how my family handles our animals, but how numerous other families handle their livestock as well. I can honestly say those farm families have a great respect for the animals that they raise, in fact, the only minor mistreatment of animals I can remember were caused by pedestrians at the fairs who were unfamiliar with how to properly handle animals.

Many practices that farmers commonly use are misconstrued by the general public and seen as mistreatment when, in fact, it is helpful to the animal. One example of this is our use of a “show stick” when showing cattle. From a spectator’s point of view, it looks like the people showing the animals are just poking the cattle with a sharp stick. The show sticks are used to communicate to the animal how we would like their feet placed on the ground. As is the case with most large animals, cattle have much deeper nerve endings than humans, so what we would see as a painful poke, they feel like a nudge and they move their feet accordingly. Another main use of these show sticks is to rub the underbellies of the cattle in the show ring to keep them calm and comfort them because they are in a new setting. This is just one of many examples of misinterpreted actions that farmers use when handling animals.

Growing up in a farm community, I also got to see how other farm operations handled their livestock at home on the farm. Once again, I have always seen animals treated with respect and often cared for like members of the family. On our farm, each of our cows is still named and that is how we keep track of them in our record books!

Responsible animal care is an important issue, and thus should not be overlooked. For any skeptics about my claims of good animal care on farms, look into the regulations that producers have to follow that were put into place by government organizations. Just like anyone else, farmers have rules to follow that ensure the well-being of every animal, and from my first-hand experience of 20 years on a farm, farmers are glad to follow those rules and would not raise their animals without the care and respect that they deserve.

Once again, thank you, farmers, for your hard work and responsible animal care! Even though the countless articles that paint a bad picture of our farms continue to come, farmers continue to believe in what they do and the manner in which they do it, and I am proud to call myself one of them.

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student
Animal Industry Management

CELEBRATE ETHANOL DURING SUNDAY’S NASCAR RACE AT DAYTONA

Ethanol, racing, daytonaBe a part of history as American Ethanol and your corn checkoff help start the engines when NASCAR kicks off the 2011 season in Daytona.  You are officially invited to celebrate your part in making Sunoco Green E15 the official fuel of NASCAR.

Please join the broadcast on FOX as millions watch the green ethanol flag start the race and a new era for ethanol made from corn.  The NASCAR move to American Ethanol will showcase the performance you have known about for years.  Now everyone will know thanks to your corn checkoff investment.

ILLINOIS STATE BUDGET ADDRESS

On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn delivered his 2012 proposed state budget to the Illinois General Assembly as required by the state constitution.  The fundamentals of the budget are:

  • A total budget of $52.7 Billion, approximately 4.1% higher than the current fiscal year 2011 expenditure.
  • His contention that $ 1 Billion is being cut, although generally not specific, other than elimination of certain Medicaid payments, elimination of k-12 Transportation funds, further reduction of Soil and Water District funds, and a suggestion of “saving” of approximately $100 million by consolidating school districts by forcing consolidation (although he starts the discussion only by forming a commission to look at doing this). His cuts also included elimination of all Regional School Superintendents funding throughout the state.
  • A proposal to borrow, through bonding, about $ 8.7 Billion to pay offer existing state debt to vendors.  The existing debt to vendors totals $ 7 Billion.
  • The Governor issued a specific challenge to lawmakers to come up with alternatives if they did not like the borrowing, especially since it will mean telling vendors in their legislative districts their payments will continue to be delayed.
  • Within the budget, selected programs  receive additional funding.  Included are proposals to increase the number of Prison guards and state police, although training funds for new hires is eliminated (curiously).
  • The Illinois Department of Agriculture funding is flat, or without growth, from the 2011 budget.

Many analyses following his budget message, especially from Republican lawmakers in both chambers, produced reluctance to support more borrowing without addressing the need to scale back the cost of government.  Even Democratic leadership in each chamber hardly embraced the proposal, suggesting they are still apart in terms of the priorities involved, and especially with the freshness of the vote to raise income taxes still on every one’s collective mind.

Republican lawmakers especially seem united to block the borrowing, and especially now that they have won back enough seats to keep the vote lower than the three-fifths majority needed to pass any bonding proposal. 

Just like the ice cream you can get, it appears the Governor’s proposal has a “rocky road” to travel before it can be swallowed in the legislature.

The legislature, with a tough budget to work out, and the responsibility to redistrict legislative districts this year to re-balance their population, have a long road to travel before the proposed adjournment date of May 31.

Rich Clemmons
GovPlus Consulting

AGRICULTURE AND VALENTINE’S DAY

Growing up around agriculture my entire life, getting recently engaged to a “farm boy,” and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I find it appropriate to talk about what I LOVE most about agriculture and how it actually relates to my Valentine’s Day plans.  My plans for this Valentine’s Day are probably similar to many others, and as I was thinking about my plans I quickly realized how everything is related back to agriculture, and that’s what I love most about it.  food, heart, bread, valentine

For Valentine’s Day, I will be buying my fiancé a box of his favorite chocolates, he will probably “surprise” me with flowers, and then we will go out for a nice romantic dinner where we will both enjoy our favorite restaurants dinner rolls, followed by a salad, and then onto the steak and potatoes, and then if we have room, we might splurge and get some dessert too. 

Did you realize it too?  From the chocolates to the dinner rolls to the steak and potatoes, all of my plans for the day can be traced back to agriculture. 

Valentine’s Day is a special day to some, but not just the things you do on Valentine’s Day can be related back to agriculture.  Everything you do everyday can be traced back to agriculture, and it’s really pretty interesting to think about. 

Everything you use in your life can be traced back to agriculture, and that fact is so often times over looked, but that’s what I love most about agriculture.  So, thank a farmer for not only being able to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day with that special someone, but for being able to go out and live everyday! 

Kristen Wyman

Illinois State University student

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

Today’s photo comes from Becky Smith in Northeastern New Mexico.  Like much of the country, they have been fighting bitterly cold temperatures and snow.  This calf was born in the middle of a snow storm and to protect him they had to bring him in to keep him warm and alive.  Pictured here is Becky’s daughter comforting the little guy.  In her mind, the one sure-fire way to make him feel better was to read to him for hours.

To protect and care for all His creation, God made ranchers (and ranch kids).

You can follow Becky on Twitter @PurelyMom and check out her blog Pursuit on the High Prairie!

IL CORN INVESTS IN ETHANOL AND FAMILY FARMER PROMOTION

Yesterday, American Ethanol announced that it had entered into a sponsor partnership with Richard Childress Racing and its No. 33 Chevrolet driver, Clint Bowyer, for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.  What Illinois corn farmers might not realize is that their checkoff monies has made such a sponsorship possible.

Yes, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board is one of many state corn grower groups that provided funding enabling the National Corn Growers Association to participate in this legendary partnership.  Now, your dollars will be promoting ethanol on a national level in a very big spotlight, showcasing your corn turned into a fuel as an important part of the sport.

The National Corn Growers Association President, Bart Schott, said, “Corn farmers have played a big role funding research to make ethanol production more efficient and promoting its many benefits.  Now, it is time to showcase all ethanol has to offer on a national stage.  Working with professional pacesetters like Clint Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR and Growth Energy is a remarkable opportunity for America’s family farmers.”

The farmers that represent Illinois on the ICMB couldn’t agree more.  We are excited for the partnership to begin.  Not only will Americans soon see that ethanol can efficiently fuel the highest performing cars in the country, but they will also be introduced to you and I, American corn farmers, and learn what we’re all about.

American corn farmers are about technology.  American corn farmers are about efficiency.  American corn farmers are about environmental stewardship, serving consumers, and energy independence.  And we believe we’ve partnered with a racer who truly understands us and can tell the world more about who we really are.

“Born and raised in the Midwest, it’s truly an honor to support American farmers as they strive to develop energy independence for our country,” said Clint Bowyer. “I look forward to representing American Ethanol both on and off the track beginning this weekend in Daytona.”

Make sure you are watching Fox on February 20 at 12 pm CST to see your checkoff dollars at work.

Scott Stirling
ICMB President
Martinton, IL family farmer

PRODUCTION AGRICULTURE: A WHITE-COLLAR CAREER?

Since there is less than two percent of the United States population living on farms, I am sure there are many people whose image of a farmer is something along the same line I had. Growing up, I always had this image of a farmer as a man in bib overalls, wearing a plaid shirt, holding a handkerchief in his back pocket and chewing a piece straw in his mouth. Maybe that was from all of the pictures in the children’s books, or maybe from my Fisher-Price farm that I played with as a child. Many people still have this image of farmers today.

Sometimes an image can be distorted. Today’s farmer is so much more that what I had previously described. Up until the last couple of years, I never really had an understanding of production agriculture careers. There is a lot more than driving a tractor through a field to plow the soil, plant a few seeds, and then use a combine to harvest in the fall. Unlike the Little People farm, there are a lot more livestock on a farm than one horse, one cow, two sheep, a goat, and a chicken. With those livestock, there is a lot more involved than giving some grain, hay, and water. In reality, today’s farmer wears both blue and white collars. The blue-collar work is the physical labor involved in production agriculture. That work involves all of the maintenance, adjustment and repair of farming equipment, the operation of the farming machinery, and the physical care and handling of livestock. The side of production agriculture that is often overlooked is the white-collar side. The white-collar work is all of the marketing of agricultural products, understanding all of the financing needed for a farming operation, business planning, developing enterprise budgets, understanding the economics of agriculture, understanding the legal aspects of farming , and applying the science involved in production agriculture.

I recently returned to school to study agriculture business at Joliet Junior College. I was encouraged to see a thriving population of Aggies there furthering their education in the agriculture discipline at a collegiate level. Moving forward in our current agricultural society, there is a need to pursue an education beyond a high school diploma. With new technologies emerging, more complex machinery, increased regulations on farming practices and emphases on productivity as well as conservation all contribute to the need for a post-secondary education.

A two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in agriculture prepares a person to successfully work in the agriculture industry. Coursework in agricultural economics, crop production, animal science, soil science, animal nutrition, farm management, agricultural mechanization and more, provide our future farmers plenty of tools to make a great contribution to food, fuel and fiber production in this nation. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an agriculture discipline further equips a person to help lead our industry. With specializations in animal science, crop science, agronomy, agricultural economics, agribusiness and more, the white-collar part of our job can be done easier and more successfully.

Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of this group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies. Quoting a contributor to the Agriculture Everyday Facebook page, “Farmers today need knowledge (or how to access it) of marketing, accounting, technology, weather, sales, animal care, soils. It isn’t just enough to say ‘I’m a farmer’….”

David Taylor
Joliet Jr. College Student and Part-Time Farmer