IF THERE WAS EVER A TIME TO USE E85, IT’S NOW

You might have noticed that E-85 and other higher blends of ethanol are significantly cheaper than regular gasoline at the pump.  It is a good time to own an FFV vehicle and buy E-85.

This week the price of wholesale ethanol ($2.27) was around $1.40 per gallon cheaper than the wholesale price of gasoline ($3.68).    In Illinois this means that E-85 could be anywhere from $3.08 to $3.40 depending on the blend and if the savings are passed on to the consumer. 

In Bloomington, IL, E85 is being sold for $3.19, where unleaded gasoline is sitting at $4.04... that's an .85 cent per gallon savings!

Ethanol has saturated the market at an E-10 level so the supply of ethanol is outpacing demand.  If we add to this  a recent overall drop in demand for gasoline then ethanol gallons are looking for a home.  This huge price advantage for ethanol could easily hold through the summer if E-15 does not find its way into the marketplace or if we do not see a reduction in production by the ethanol plants. 

For those of us driving FFV vehicles let’s take advantage of the value ethanol is providing through higher blends.

 

DO YOU REALLY UNDERSTAND FOOD LABELS!?

You’re having a cookout, and you need some pork chops to throw on the grill.  Upon arriving at the meat counter in the local grocery store, you’re instantly bombarded with several choices and a decision to make.  Natural? Organic? Free range? No hormone, no pesticide, grass-fed… the list goes on.

As consumers, many of us are concerned about making healthy choices.  Many parents are concerned about making the best decision for their children.  Amongst the long list of options, terminology, and claims, it can be difficult to understand and determine what the best choice is.  It is important to be informed and understand what the food you’re eating really is.

Food labels make many claims and most consumers don’t completely understand them.  Consumers seem to have an idea in their head about what they think a certain term means and they make their purchases based on this image.  However, there are many marketing techniques to labeling that can sway a consumer one direction or another.

A lot of different production claims can be made about a product.  These claims are what drive many consumers to purchase a certain product.  However, many people misunderstand terminology on labels.  For example, often people associate the word “natural” with how the animal was raised.  Perhaps, they envision the animal in an outdoor setting with lots of good food and good treatment.  In reality, the word refers only to the processing of the product.  It means simply that no additives or preservatives supplemented the goods, and it was minimally processed.

Many consumers are also confused by the word “organic.”  According to the USDA, organic means, “Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”  Most people believe that organic food is free of all pesticides and fertilizers.  This is not the case.  Organic producers can still use pesticides and fertilizers made with natural ingredients.

Have you ever read a label that claims, “No hormones in this chicken?” Actually, there aren’t hormones in any chicken.  Growth in birds raised for meat is due to genetics and good nutrition.  There are many other myths and claims that confuse consumers and give them a warped view of the food they’re buying.

The media plays a significant role in how food labels are perceived.  Research shows that 73% of consumers say they get their information about food safety practices from some form of the media.  Activist groups, spokespeople from organizations and businesses and even consumers use the media to distribute information about food.

These groups use a technique called framing, meaning they present their issues in a way that influences the way the audience will interpret issues.  For example, organic foods are often shown as more ethical.  Media uses phrases like “environmentally friendly” and “ethical principals” to instill a sort of guilt in consumers that don’t buy organic food.  Health, production practices, and industrialization are other topics used in product framing.

Don’t be confused, and don’t allow yourself to be influenced by marketing schemes and claims that you don’t understand.  I leave you with these words from Benjamin Franklin, “The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

Danielle Robinson
University of Illinois student

ILLINOIS CORN FARMERS IN EUROPEAN UNION

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, tradeThemes for the mission varied.  The group discussed a sustainability certification program that some of our farmer 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.

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: FARMERS IN DC

The Illinois Corn Growers Association’s farmer leaders were in Washington, D.C. this week for our yearly lobbying visit. Priorities for the four days were preserving the integrity of the Renewable Fuels Standard, negotiating an effective farm bill, and encouraging Congress to partner with industry to fund upgrades to our locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

ICGA leaders discussing the farm bill with Congressman Schilling

AGRICULTURE: THE BRIGHT SPOT IN AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

In 2008, the economic downturn which has sent most of the country into financial turmoil began. Jobs continue to be difficult to find, the stock market has only just passed its pre-financial crisis level, many banks and other businesses continue to struggle, and yet, agriculture has been a sector that has thrived and strengthened despite the financial crisis. I am a student of agribusiness economics who comes from a family owned grain farm, and I plan to return to that farm when I finish school. A big part of the reason that I plan to return to the farm is because the agriculture industry has just demonstrated its ability to not just survive, but thrive whenever nearly every other sector of the economy is struggling.

Agriculture is fundamentally different than most other sectors of the economy. One of the biggest differences is how consumers behave when it comes to food. People will cut back on many things during tough economic times, but everyone has to eat! Whether a person is making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or just barely getting by, their bodies still require the same amount of food. In an economy where more people are barely getting by, most other industries are not seeing the sales that they are used to, but because a rich person eats about the same as amount someone who is struggling financially, as many are in this economy, agriculture has been relatively unaffected.

That was an explanation why agriculture has not been harmed by the lousy economy, but how can those who have chosen a career in agriculture be having more success than ever? I would attribute much of the gains in the agriculture community to the innovations being made. Take corn for an example. Corn is a product abundantly available in America, and innovators in agriculture have been able to use corn as a solution to big problems like oil dependence. More uses for agricultural products drive the prices of those products up. There are also innovations that make agriculture products easier to produce. Genetic improvements on crops are increasing the production capabilities of American farmers. When the entire agriculture community has more product and prices are higher than they have been historically the stage is set for agriculture to have a successful future.

I am confident that we have barely begun to see the innovations that are possible with agriculture. I have faith that the innovators in agriculture will continue to develop new ideas that will make the agricultural community even more successful. If you are looking at the economy and looking for a place to put some optimism, I suggest looking to agriculture because I believe that agriculture has proven to be the bright spot in the down economy.

Nick Suess
Southern Illinois University Student

CITY GIRL TO COUNTRY GIRL: HOW AGRICULTURE SHAPED THE FUTURE

Fifty-three years ago this May, a young woman’s life was changed forever.  What happened in May 1959 that altered the life of Jane Thomas?  She married a young man who lived on the farm, leaving the city life behind her.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Thomas, now Morgan, a few days ago.  Listening to what she had to say opened my eyes to the obstacles women faced when they left what they had always known behind and became involved in agriculture.

Moving into a two-story house that was over 100 years old was not easy.  The popping, creaking and lack of insulation in the house was not the only thing Jane had to become accustomed to.  No neighbors, street lights and getting use to a septic tank, well water and a coal stove were quite an adjustment.  She chuckled and mentioned a time when she first used the coal stovepipe, received a phone call and talked a little too long because when she returned to the kitchen, the stovepipe was red hot.  She was scared to death and afraid she was about to burn down the house, when her husband came in and “bailed her out.”

A thing she loved about the farm was the animals.  Going to the barn and brushing calves was one of her favorite pastimes.  She made pets out of the calves, which became problem some when she was pregnant and they butted on her for attention.  But nonetheless, she loved them anyway, unless they were not in their pens.  After one horrible experience, she informed her husband Don that she never wanted to hear the phrase, “the cows are out” again.

Helping with the animals was preferred over field work.  Every year she would climb in the tractor to help out, requesting a refresher course.  I chuckled when she said Don made the comment that “she did it last year” and she responded with, “and I taught you how to run the washing machine last year but can you do it today?”  Even though it tried their patience, she said working together in the field allowed them to be together and better understand each other.

“Moving to the farm was the best thing I ever did, I love it” said Jane.  But she did not deny that there were times that she hated it as well.  The things that were hard in the beginning became enjoyable; lack of neighbors, insects chirping at night and livestock making noises.  She mentioned that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing baby calves in the spring and watching the corn they planted grow from a seed into a tall stalk.  She loved raising her children on the farm and teaching them responsibility and hard work.  It was there that they learned to appreciate the beauty all around them and love the little things in life.  

My grandmother Jane has always been an inspiration to me, however, I never sat down and spoke with her about the challenges she faced until now.  I admire her courage, determination and strength, because I know not everyone could have done it.  One of the last things she said during our talk will always stick with me.  “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl, no matter how old she was when she got there.”

Miranda Morgan
University of Illinois Student

CELEBRATING NATIONAL POULTRY DAY

It seems like our culture dedicates at least one day out of the year to celebrate any type of food or pastime imaginable. Whether you are a fan of chips and dip, peanut butter, or just plain goofing-off, you can have your day. With all the celebrating, it only seems fitting that today marks National Poultry Day.

If you are like me, you eat chicken and turkey at least three or more times a week. After all, poultry contains little fat and cholesterol and remains one of the best sources of protein. It’s also one of the most versatile meats and can be served as a casual sandwich for lunch or as a gourmet entrée for dinner.

Nearly every time I prepare a poultry recipe, I cannot help but think about all the feed that is required to produce just a pound of meat. Did you know that to produce a pound of chicken it takes over 2 lbs. of feed? In fact, over 60% of the feed is corn-related. Nearly the same thing can be said of turkey meat.

It’s really no surprise that livestock remains the largest market for U.S. corn, even larger than the amount used by ethanol and direct corn exports. About 13% of total corn usage goes to the U.S. poultry industry (10% for beef and 11% for pork) annually which translates into over 1.8 billion bushels of corn. That’s just slightly less than the entire corn production of the state of Illinois!

With all of the corn consumed by the U.S. poultry industry, it also amazes me just how much is used for indirect poultry meat exports. Poultry exports are just another way of adding value to the corn crop in Illinois. In 2011, U.S. poultry and egg exports accounted for 150 million soybean and 306 million corn bushel-equivalents. That’s a lot of corn feeding the poultry industry!

Whether you are a fan of white or dark meat, nearly everyone around the world eats poultry especially since few religions forbid it. While our Asian and European friends may enjoy eating the dark meat such as chicken thighs or turkey giblets more so than you or I do, poultry recipes definitely break any cultural barrier.

Chicken paws and feet don’t exactly sound as appetizing as chicken wings, but they are delicacies in China. In fact, Chinese enjoy these delicacies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack time, and even for late supper.

Turkey meat is becoming more widely consumed around the world. While Mexico is the largest market for U.S. turkey, other countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Guatemala, and Japan are also starting to eat U.S. turkey and not just at Christmastime.

With the introduction of several American chain restaurants such as Wolfgang Puck to the Japan market, turkey spicy pizza and turkey ravioli pasta are just two of the recipes appearing on the menu.

How will you celebrate National Poultry Day today?

Jennifer Geck
USAPEEC

NATIONAL TEACH AG DAY CELEBRATED BY UIUC STUDENTS

National Teach Ag Day is a day that is set aside to bring awareness to the career of agricultural education and to recognize agriculture educators for their dedication and hard work. University of Illinois has received the top honors for the past two years and seeks to gain honors again this year. National Teach Ag day is set for March 15, 2012. The University of Illinois continues its efforts to expand the campaign every year because the students involved in the agricultural education program at the university feel that agriculture teachers, and the idea of agricultural education as a whole, creates the base for the largest industry in the world.

This industry is what has helped inspire so many of our current students to pursue a degree in agricultural education. A current student, Molly Maxstadt, who is currently out in the field student teaching had this to say about a teacher she observed teaching: “The teacher pushed the students to their limit but knew in the end they were going to succeed. They wanted the best for their students, even if it meant staying a few minutes later after school.” The students in the agricultural education program are very gracious of those teachers who stayed late and helped them because they are the reason many people are pursuing this degree. The ag teacher was the one who cared more about the student than assuring everyone passed and did the bare minimum.

While Teach Ag Day is one day set aside, the University of Illinois Agricultural Education Club has planned many events throughout the whole week to advocate agriculture.  The planned activities students will take part in to express the importance of the Ag Ed career and agriculture in general include the following:

  • Writing 511 thank you notes to all of the high school and junior college agriculture teachers in Illinois
  • Having interactive exhibits at the ExplorAces event held on campus on March 9th and 10th, 2012
  • Student teachers creating a bulletin board, giving a presentation to their classes and posting “Teach Ag” posters in each of their schools/Ag programs
  • Early Field Experience students (AGED 250) students and student teachers giving presentations on “Why Teach Ag?” or “What is Ag Ed?”
  • A social event providing Ag Ed students with an opportunity to bring friends who are not in Ag Ed as a way of letting other people on campus to see how much fun we have as Ag Ed majors
  • Bulletin Boards in Bevier Hall on ACES Campus promoting National Teach Ag Day
  • WCIA Interview on the morning show
  • Radio interviews on WYXY Classic and RFD-Radio
  • News Editorials in local newspapers
  • News Articles in ACES Communication and Illinois Agri-News on the National Teach Ag Campaign
  • National Teach Ag Day Symbol as Facebook profile pictures of students in the program
  • Current students will visit the Lexington, KY area to learn more about agriculture programs in another state and more about agriculture-based areas significant to Kentucky, such as growing tobacco and the race horse industry.

With a successful and energetic program, we hope to continue to make an impact spreading the word about agriculture and Agricultural Education as a challenging yet rewarding career choice.

Jake Ralph and Shelby Lahey
University of Illinois Ag students

WHAT DO A BUNCH OF CORN FARMERS DO IN WASHINGTON, DC?

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Olmsted Locks and Dam, you might wonder … what else do a bunch of corn farmers do in Washington, DC?

It’s true.  In some respects, thirty corn farmers might not really fit in Washington, DC.  For one, we’re much more polite than a majority of folks in their own worlds walking to and from work, and we tend to take cabs more often than the metro.  But, we don’t hit the streets of DC in our work boots like some of you might think!

Illinois corn farmers visit washington DC, congressional delegation

We spend the first afternoon briefing on all our issues. Washington, DC is a town that changes VERY rapidly and often our issues are moving, changing, and taking on a life of their own so IL Corn staff and other experts have to bring the farmers up to speed on the progress.

The first full day and half of the second are spent working particular issues with government agencies, non-governmental organizations and other associations. As an example, one group of farmers will focus on trade, visiting a handful of key country’s embassies and discussing how we can better supply our customers with the products they want.

The rest of our time is spent visiting Congressional offices. Every Illinois Congressman gets a request from us, whether they are a rural legislator that already mostly “gets” our issues or an urban legislator who’s never seen the farm. During this visit, we will talk with each and every Congressman (along with Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk) about preserving the Renewable Fuels Standard, negotiating a Farm Bill that keeps our top priorities in mind, and addressing the need for upgraded locks and dams.

By the time we head home, all of us are exhausted but exhilarated at the process that *is* our federal government.  Heading to Washington, DC is certainly a challenge, but for our farmer leaders, they understand that the challenge is one they must take in order to keep family farming alive for the generations that follow.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director