nitrogen application, field update, corn farming
Nitrogen application at the Scates Farm in Shawneetown, IL
Planting season is almost upon us!

Tomorrow will be April and after a few days of 70 plus degrees teasing us it has dropped down in the 30s the last three nights. 60s are in the forecast over the weekend so we will at least roll the planters long enough to make sure everything works right.

Nitrogen has been applied over the last week and a half as we have dodged most of the rain.

We are anxious to get going and with the fieldwork we were able to get done last fall the corn could go in at a record pace with near record aces.

The USDA’s Planting Intentions report was released today with some good news on corn acres which ends up being good news for us all.

Jeff Scates
Shawneetown, IL family farmer &
ICGA Vice President


There’s quite a bit of news out today attacking the anti-livestock/anti-meat groups.  Check out this article from an Australian paper, the Herald Sun.

To quote the author, “I would have thought treating women like pieces of meat makes any message they have against animal cruelty both hollow and meaningless.”

We agree.

Then, check out the latest video on the Humane Society of the United States.

If you need still more information to convince you that HSUS and PeTA are radical elitists, follow

This message brought to you by a steak-loving farmer’s daughter who spent a majority of her life raising cattle …

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


from the Washington Post, March 28, 2011:

Lawns are adding to Chesapeake Bay pollution, study says.

Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed.  There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops, says the study by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center.

It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it?  Illinois farmers have been closely watching the activity in the Chesapeake Bay, knowing that whatever regulations the EPA plans to minimize hypoxia zones in the bay are headed straight for the Mississippi River next.

And while Illinois farmers are willing to look at their impact to the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico and are willing to adapt Best Management Practices that mitigate the damage to fish and wildlife, they are not willing to accept 100 percent of the blame.

Interesting then, that a new study finally points a finger at other sources.  According to the Washington Post article, the study criticized Maryland’s regulation of the state’s turf crop as lax.  Tracking fertilizer use on developed land is such a low priority that the state doesn’t keep statistics on it, but Maryland Department of Agriculture records show non-farm-use fertilizers are quickly catching up to farm fertilizer sales.

The article further states that researchers found 56 percent of nutrients in one stream in a watershed in suburban Baltimore came from lawn fertilizer.

Ultimately, Illinois farmers hope to see everyone involved in an environmental solution on the Mississippi River.  Just regulating municipalities, farmers, and corporations won’t solve any problems.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Everyday America’s farmers are becoming more of a lifeline for feeding the nation’s rapidly growing population. Farmers are in great demand, and although technology has made agriculture a safer industry, there are always dangers lurking.

In keeping with this thought, Jeff Link, an Abingdon farmer, donated $2,500 to the Knox County Young Farmers Committee to be used towards the purchase of five grain entrapment rescue tubes. Link was selected as a winner in the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Grow CommunitiesSM program, which gave farmers the opportunity to direct a donation of $2,500 to their favorite local nonprofit. Registration for this round of the program ran from August through the end of December 2010.

On a typical weekday in January, Link received a call that he was the winning farmer for his county. When asked where the donation should go, Link requested additional time to discuss his decision with his family. Link knew he wanted the donation to be ag-related, but wasn’t sure about the best use of the money for his community. It was his daughter, who did an internship at the Knox County Farm Bureau, who reminded Link that the Farm Bureau would be a good place. His daughter’s suggestion, along with Link’s large use of grain bin storage on his farm, helped make the decision much easier.

The rescue tubes were donated to local fire departments and first responders during a training session hosted by the Young Farmers Committee on Saturday, March 19. The training session included 60 firefighters from 14 fire departments throughout Knox County and surrounding communities.

From August thru December 2010, in more than 1,200 eligible counties, farmers signed up for the chance to win $2,500 for their favorite community non-profit organization. The Monsanto Fund expects to invest more than $3 million in local communities. In total, more than $200,000 has been donated to nonprofits in Illinois.

The America’s Farmers Grow Communities program is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, to highlight the important contributions farmers make every day to our society by helping them grow their local communities. To date, more than 60,000 farmers participated in the program, which is designed to benefit nonprofit groups such as ag youth, schools and other civic organizations. Please visit the Grow Communities website to view a complete list of winners.

Farmers can begin signing up for the next round of America’s Farmers Grow Communities program on August 1, 2011.

Paul Suess


On March 24, agricultural education students and teachers across the country will be celebrating the second annual National Teach Ag Day.  National Teach Ag Day was started by the National Council for Agricultural Education as part of the National Teach Ag Campaign.  The campaign began to celebrate agricultural education and to promote the possibilities of a career in the profession.  There is a national shortage of agricultural educators in the United States, and the National Teach Ag Campaign’s aim is to raise awareness of the career.

Anyone who has been in agriculture classes in high school or participated in FFA understands the important role an ag teacher can play in the life of a high school student.  However, many people do not have those opportunities and therefore, do not know that ag teachers don’t just talk about cows and corn. 

Agriculture teachers prepare students for high-demand careers in cutting edge industries like biotechnology, renewable energies, food production, and more.  Ag teachers also teach students how to be leaders and prepare them to take on the challenges of the next generation.  Many people do not realize that students enrolled in agriculture classes at the high school level are learning things they cannot get elsewhere.  Not only are they learning basic shop, horticulture, and ag science concepts, but they are getting math, science, and language arts skills in a hands-on way that helps them apply their lessons to real life.

So to celebrate National Teach Ag Day, help share the importance of agriculture programs in schools and consider the possibilities of a career in agricultural education.  Get involved in your local ag programs.  Join the FFA alumni, go to your FFA pork chop dinners, talk to the ag teacher, do anything to show the students and teachers that the community supports the program.  Happy National Teach Ag Day and remember to tell the ag teachers in your life thank you for all their hard work!

Sarah Carson
Agricultural Education
University of Illinois
Class of 2012


Four times this year, as many as 16 men working at Lock 52 on the Ohio River near Brookport, Illinois, have climbed onto a floating platform to hook 487 wooden barriers on the river floor to a steam-powered crane.

It takes as long as 30 hours to pull up the wickets, one by one, to form a dam that adjusts water levels to keep the river navigable, a process that’s automated elsewhere. Deterioration of the 82-year-old lock, the busiest by shipping tonnage in the U.S. inland-waterways system, risks a breakdown that could snarl $17 billion a year in shipments of coal, grain and steel. A project to replace Lock 52 and its downstream twin is 18 years
behind schedule.

American Electric Power Co., the largest U.S. electricity generator, is so reliant on coal barges navigating Lock 52 that its failure may lead to power outages for some of its 5.3
million customers, said Mark Knoy, president of AEP River Operations.

“I want to be careful not to cause too much concern but that’s the reality of the situation,” he said. “Lock 52 is critically important, but any lock failure on inland  waterways would have a direct impact on the economy, not just at our power plants but for oil refiners, steel companies and others.”

Although President Barack Obama proposes spending about 88 percent of his inland waterways budget next year on a project to replace Lock 52 and Lock 53 downstream, work won’t be completed until 2018.

Billions Needed

About 12,000 miles of rivers weave through the U.S. heartland, carrying almost $70 billion in goods annually, according to Waterways Council Inc., an industry group. Lock 52 handles $17 billion in annual shipments, according to the council.

About 20,500 barges operate on the Mississippi River and connecting waterways including the Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, according to a 2010 report by Informa Economics Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee-based research

About $7 billion will be needed over 20 years to keep inland waterways navigable, said Rick Calhoun, president of Cargill Marine and Terminal Inc. Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc., which depends on inland waterways to transport grain, is the largest closely held company in the U.S.

Delays caused by lock breakdowns “add to the cost of shipping whether it’s the end product to the consumer or by making products less competitive on the world market,” Calhoun said in a telephone interview.

Advocating Tax Increase

U.S. inland waterways projects are financed by a 20-cent-a gallon fuel tax on barge and tow operators. The tax provides about $85 million a year and is matched by federal funds.

Companies and industry groups are asking Congress for a 35 percent increase in the tax, Calhoun said.  “The only people who pay the fuel tax are the tow boat industry, and we’re asking for an increase,” he said.

Congress will consider the industry’s request if the money is dedicated to inland waterways, said Representative Bob Gibbs, an Ohio Republican, who chairs the House Water Resources and Environment subcommittee.

“This is more like a user fee rather than a tax,” Gibbs said in a telephone interview. “If this is something the industry wants, we’ll be willing to look at it.”

Congress allocated $775 million in 1988 to replace Locks 52 and 53, and construction was expected to be completed in 2000, said Cornel Martin, chief executive officer of the Waterways Council, based in Arlington, Virginia. The estimated cost of replacing Locks 52 and 53 has climbed to $2.1 billion because of the delays, he said.

Funds Diverted

Money has been diverted over the years to emergency repairs on other locks or other projects requested by members of Congress, said Calhoun, who is chairman of the council’s board. 

“It’s devastating to see what’s happening to the inland waterways because of lack of funding,” Mike Morris, chief executive officer of Columbus, Ohio-based AEP, said in an

In 2004, $20.6 million of Lock 52’s funding was redirected to repair the McAlpine Lock in Louisville, Kentucky, after a gate failed, resulting in a 10-day shutdown, according to a
report by the Corps of Engineers. Money to repair the McAlpine Lock was authorized in 1991 but shifted to other projects, the report said.

“We’re seeing that going on across the system,” Martin said. If Locks 52 and 53 were fixed, “it would save shippers hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

1,050 Trucks

Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget dedicated $170 million to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Of that about $150 million of the amount would go to the Olmsted Dam and Lock project, which will replace Locks 52 and 53.

“We’re on track with funding this year to make the progress we need, but it’s hard to predict if the funding stream will continue or not,” said Carol Labashosky, a Corps of
Engineers spokeswoman.

AEP, which in 2012 will move 36 million tons of coal along the Ohio River to 25 power plants, is bracing for a complete breakdown of Lock 52 by 2015 because of its age and lack of maintenance, Knoy said. That may cause power outages as coal supplies dwindle, Knoy said.

If the lock fails, 1,050 tractor trailer trucks per day would be needed to replace the barge loads, he said.

Lock 52 was down for 32 days in September and October 2010, resulting in as much as 206 hours of traffic delays for AEP, Knoy said. That added $1.70 per ton in costs on 972,000 tons of coal, increasing AEP’s shipping costs by $4.6 million, he said.

 1929 Technology

 Nucor Corp., the biggest U.S. steel producer by market value, ships about 4 million tons of raw material, including pig iron, and finished products, like tubing and piping, on the inland waterways, said John Guin, materials manager for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company.

“A lot of our mills are located by the river and that’s not by accident,” Guin said in an interview. “With the congestion on the highways and railroads and the weight of our
materials, the inland waterways are critical to our business.”

The wickets that make up the dam at Lock 52 lay across the floor of the Ohio River attached to hinges.

When the wickets must be hoisted, two of the 16 men lean over the floating platform’s edge to attach what Labashosky called “oversize crochet hooks” to holes at the top of the wicket. The men hook the wickets one by one to the crane, which pulls them into place to form the dam.

The work is done much the same way as it was in 1929, when the lock opened, said Randy Robertson, Lock 52 lock master, in an interview.

“It’s dangerous, backbreaking work, but it was the technology of the time and we’re still dealing with that technology,” Martin said.

By Carol Wolf

–Editors: Bernard Kohn, Joe Winski

To contact the reporter on this story: Carol Wolf in Washington at +1-202-624-1868 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at +1-202-654-7361 or


It is a touchy subject for the original parties in production agriculture and the new guy on the block, ethanol. Grain producers, livestock producers, consumers and yes, newbie ethanol producers are all up in arms about the hottest commodity in America. I’ll give you a hint, it’s golden, comes out of the ground… and the answer is not gold, but corn (albeit the two grow closer in value daily).

It seems like everyone has got to have it and the morals our parents taught us, like sharing and cooperation, are falling to the wayside. 

Common misconceptions make understanding corn usage values difficult. I thought for a time that the government was paying many farmers not to use their farms. While this has been true throughout periods of agricultural history, today farmers are paid to use small amounts of poor agricultural acreage for environmental benefits and wildlife habitats. 

Rising prices of food and corn may seem like causal relationship, with ethanol to blame. However, there are other factors at work that many of us forgot to factor in. Prices for everything are going up. Inflation and dependence on foreign oils are all factors. Ethanol helps limit that dependability.

The fact is there is a growing number of people using cars and needing to be fed. Corn helps alleviate the stress in both these areas, but not in the way some of you might suspect.

True, there is corn in your corn flakes (imagine that!) but a majority of corn that you see in fields along the interstate or in rural areas is used for livestock feed–not your corn flakes! Now, obviously it still effects the human food chain because livestock eat the field corn and we then eat the livestock. Higher corn prices=higher beef, pork, dairy, etc prices. 

However, just because some of that feed is diverted into ethanol production does not mean the industry is stripping livestock of their food. Ethanol production uses starch from the grain leaving protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins – to be concentrated into “distillers grain”-a valuable feed for livestock. A 56 pound bushel of corn will produce at least 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain. Distillers grain can be fed to dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, and poultry. It is an economical partial replacement for corn, soybean meal, and dicalcium phosphate in livestock and poultry feeds. This ethanol byproduct can even be used for aquaculture! It is a win-win situation. 

Another byproduct of ethanol: carbon dioxide. It can be used to carbonate beverages, to manufacture dry ice, and to flash freeze meat. 

And of course, the end product-ethanol-is vital for our fuel sustainability. As gas prices creep closer and closer to $4.00 a gallon (again!) it is important to value alternative fuels that support our economy.  

As a country, we need to learn to share corn amongst ethanol and livestock producers, and even China. As Americans we take for granted how little we pay for food compared to other countries. In the United States, we spend 12.4 percent of our budget on food and 17.6 on fuel.

Let’s trust agriculturalists to feed and transport the world-oh wait, they already are!

Claire Benjamin
U of I Student
Author Rural Route Review Blog


Illinois Corn spent National Agriculture Week at our nation’s capitol, talking with elected officials, agencies, and NGOs about the upcoming Farm Bill 2012 negotiations, ethanol policy, locks and dams, biotech, and trade

We might have snuck in a fun picture of the capitol here and there too!

If you have a picture you’d like to submit to be the next Friday Farm Photo, send it to!


If you have loved ones working in the agriculture industry, and you are like me, you probably worry everyday about their safety. While working in agriculture is one of the most productive, fulfilling and prosperous occupations, it comes with great dangers too.

Recognizing the growing need for agriculture safety nationally and the need to promote it locally, our Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader committee decided to take action with the hope of making a difference.

We needed look no further than in our own backyard for guidance.  Our members volunteer to help run Farm Safety Camp 4 Just Kids, a successful outreach event to children in all our communities.  Last year a grain entrapment demonstration was performed by a guest speaker.  Since that time, there has been an infusion of information regarding grain bin safety and the dangers associated with grain bins. With a bit of research, the committee learned that Illinois leads the nation in grain bin fatalities. With 58-grain bin related deaths in the U.S. in 2010, 10 were in Illinois.

To address these growing concerns and bring farm safety to the forefront in Knox County, the Young Leader committee decided to take charge. We decided to try and raise money to purchase grain entrapment rescue tubes, which we would then donate to local fire departments and first responders throughout Knox County and also host a training day.  The rescue tubes would allow first responders to isolate and entrapped victim from additional shifting grain and safely dig them out.  The tubes are lightweight and designed to fit through small man-holes in pieces before being pieced together inside a grain bin.  They are simple and require little maintenance, meaning we could make a dramatic difference with this donation and yet not overburden smaller fire departments with additional maintenance costs of specialized equipment.    

At first our goal to raise funds for the five rescue tubes seemed daunting. But five tubes would be the number necessary to make an impact—Knox County has 14 fire department districts and covers approximately 720 square miles.  An entrapment can happen in a matter of seconds—so the tubes needed to be evenly distributed across the county so that precious time would not be lost.  Moreover, we knew 14 rescue tubes was not prudent or realistic—so it was imperative to pay for a training session, which was valued at the price of another rescue tube.  We knew we needed to raise at least $16,800 to purchase the rescue tubes and provide the training. This seemed a very large number.

Our group of dedicated young leaders went to work contacting local organizations, agri-businesses and individuals to help support our cause. We knew our mission was critical and that promoting agriculture safety is important to so many throughout the county.  Young Leaders identified vendors, businesses, and groups that had similar constituency bases and mission statements and solicited their support.  The results were tremendous.

To date, our committee has raised over $20,000 through the support of our local agri-businesses, individuals and an initial gift from the Galesburg Community Foundation. As we now have more funds than needed for this activity, we are seeding Knox County’s first Farm Safety Fund, which will be used to provide means to promote further farm safety initiatives.

With the funds raised, we are providing five rescue units to local fire departments, including, Galesburg, Oneida-Wataga, Abingdon, Knoxville and Williamsfield- all located here in Knox County.

We are hosting a training day for 60 local Knox County fire fighters, some volunteer and some full-time, this Saturday, March 19, at the Hawthorne Gymnasium and Galesburg Fire Training Center in Galesburg. We begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. 

Andrew Bowman, a member of our committee and local farmer and insurance agent said, “Agriculture is the main industry in our area and no industry can survive unless it’s safe. In the blink of an eye, someone working in a grain bin can be engulfed. While responders can’t always be there right away, with the right equipment they can recover precious time.”

At the training, the 60 fire fighters will learn how to use the tubes to aid in rescue during a grain engulfment.  The tube stops the flow of grain toward the victim and blocks additional pressure that may block rescuers from getting to the entrapped victim.

Without the support of the Galesburg Community Foundation, generous individuals and the several local agri-businesses, purchasing the five rescue units and sponsoring the training would not be possible.

Bowman said, “The community support for this measure was amazing and as a result we had excess funds. Following the spirit of those donations, we are starting an Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County. We hope to use this fund to pursue like focused projects promoting safety in our local agriculture communities.”

Grant Strom, another member of our organization said, “As an owner of a grain storage facility, I find a lot of comfort in knowing that our county fire departments will now have the equipment and training needed to help save a life during a grain entrapment situation.”

If you would like more information about our effort or would like donate to the Agriculture Safety Fund for Knox County contact Andrew Bowman ( or myself (

Contributing organizations include:
Bowman Insurance
Dyna-Gro Seed
Knox County Corn Growers
Winship Farm Management
Woodhull Co-op
Birkey’s Farm Equipment
Jeff Link, Via Monsanto Charitable Grant
Strom Farms
VandeVoorde Sales Inc. (GSI Dealer)
Knox County Farm Bureau Foundation
Galesburg Community Foundation
Pioneer Hi-Bred
Kelly Compton

Karlie Elliott Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Leader

Andrew Bowman
Knox County Farm Bureau Young Farmer