THE FUTURE OF CORN-BASED ETHANOL

Bill Christ, Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and Jeff Scates, President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, along with Illinois Corn staff Rod Weinzierl and Dave Loos participated in an ethanol summit yesterday held in Chicago, IL and sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association.  The goal of the meeting was to look at issues impacting ethanol – short term, medium term, and long term – and develop strategies to address the challenges and opportunities identified.

Present at the meeting were the National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors, the Presidents of state Corn Grower Associations, the Chairs of state checkoff boards, and the Executive Directors of all state Corn Grower groups.  All in all, nearly 80 people were present for the discussion.  The National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee will review the discussion and make a presentation to the delegates of the National Corn Growers Association at their July meeting.

First, a little background:

  • Corn-based ethanol is made from field corn, not the sweet corn that people eat.  Farmers are not taking food directly out of the mouths of humans by supporting the corn-based ethanol industry.
  • Corn yields continue to grow.  Experts predict that by the year 2030 we can expect corn yields to grow to 280 bushel per acre.  In 2012, predictions are 160 bushels per acre.  Other markets for corn aren’t growing this quickly, so using the additional crop for renewable fuel seems a great solution.

The discussion at yesterday’s meeting focused mainly around the Renewable Fuels Standard II.  Currently, corn-based ethanol is limited to the extent that it can participate in the country’s goal of reducing foreign oil imports and reducing the environmental impacts of our fuel usage because of rulings in the RFS II.

Corn farmers continue to produce more corn.  This is a fact that is not disputed among experts in the industry.  Yes, challenges can arise when disease or weather pressures are uncontrollable, but the overall big picture is that we will continue to have more and more corn.  If the market opportunity for corn-based ethanol is limited, corn farmers must begin to look for other growing markets to absorb our increased yields.

Experts also predict no noticeable growth in other markets available for field corn like exports, livestock feed, and human consumption (corn flakes, HFCS, etc).  This isn’t rocket science; increased yields require increased market opportunities.  The challenge is to develop markets that can maintain a vibrant agricultural industry, the very same vibrancy that has kept rural America afloat during our recent economic downturn.

The current RFS II rulings arbitrarily preclude corn-based ethanol from fulfilling more than just 15 billion gallons of the renewable fuel mandate.  (Current corn-based ethanol production capacity is 14.9 billion gallons out of the 15 billion gallons allowed by 2015.)  This decision is based on emotion and not fact.  In reality, corn-based ethanol COULD qualify as an advanced biofuel and COULD help the U.S. achieve its energy independence goals if the rulings were based on corn-ethanol’s true potential.  This would offer a growing market opportunity in the future that corn farmers desperately need.

During the meeting yesterday, all these concerns were discussed and corn farmer leaders sent off to consider recommendations to address the mountains set before them.

Dave Loos
IL Corn Ethanol Guru

CENTRAL ILLINOIS CORN NEEDS A DRINK!

Central Illinois is expected to get some much needed rain tomorrow and Friday and it can’t come too soon.  The fields are dry, the crop is suffering, and the excessive heat here over Memorial Day weekend didn’t exactly help the emerging crop.

Is your lawn turning yellow?  Are your flowers receiving daily waterings from your hose or watering can?  Think of the acres of corn and soybeans burning up under our current scorching conditions!

Here are some of the latest crop reports from corn farmers around Illinois:

The chances for rain don’t appear to be destined to hit our farm this weekend. We are extremely dry and hurting for a rain. The yard is looking like the dog days of August. Thursday of last week we had 90+ degrees and 40+ MPH dry winds……..a bit eery as the sky looked dark in the afternoon filled with dirt. We’ll make knee high by the 4th of June* but if it doesn’t rain as plants determine ear size, those plants are feeling a little sick not wanting to support too many kernels. – Rob Elliott, Cameron, IL

*The old farmer adage is that the corn crop should be “knee high by the fourth of July.”  This year, because weather and soil conditions allowed farmers to plant much earlier than usual, the crop will be knee high by the fourth of June.

After getting 6+ inches of rain the end of April and first week of May, we had gotten very dry. Beans that had been drilled had spotty stands because once the soil was opened up, it dried very quickly.*  Some beans took hold, some swelled before the moisture was sucked away, and some were just in dry dirt. On Memorial Day, we were teased with a shower in the morning that got the sidewalks wet, but were blessed with .7 inches later in the day,  – Tom Mueller, Taylor Ridge, IL

*Drilling beans means that a small trench was dug into the soil and the beans placed into the trench.  This act of “opening up the soil” allowed the moisture that was protected deeper in the earth to evaporate.

The corn planted March 30 looks the best. I replanted 250 acres of April 9th low ground corn on May 10th.  It really needs a drink.  The rest of the corn looks good today after a long hot Memorial weekend.  Mark Degler, Mattoon, IL

MEET JEFF JARBOE: ILLINOIS FARMER

Jeff Jarboe, District VI Director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association, and his family farm in Loda, Illinois. If you’ve always wondered what it means to live on a farm, raise your family there, and really enjoy the country lifestyle, watch this!

Want to meet more Illinois farmers?

Bill Long
Donna Jeschke
Bill Christ
Eric Kunzeman
Lou Lamoreux
Aron Carlson
Kent Kleinschmidt
Paul Taylor

A REFLECTION AND A NEW RESPECT

Being a video editing intern at the Illinois Corn Marketing Board has been a fruitful experience. Being born and raised in Chicago, I didn’t have a clue about agriculture or farming. On the contrary, most of the Corn Board employees were raised on farms, own farms, or have relatives that are farmers. Although I didn’t have any knowledge of farming, I was eager to learn and felt that my urban perspective was valued by the Corn Board.

During the few months I spent visiting Illinois Corn Board farmers, I learned that farmers have quite a bit in common with city folk. The biggest thing we have in common with each other is family values. Just like most people, farmers have an obligation to provide for their families. Harvest after harvest, the farm is not only the home to crops but it’s home for the farmer, his parents, wife, children, grandchildren…and dog. So whether you live in an urban city surrounded by trains and buses, or in a rural town with a population of 500, you have a place to call home and a family to care for.

Also, I learned about the various uses for corn. Before I interned, I was under the impression that all corn was grown to be eaten by humans. However, after visiting and speaking with several farmers, I learned that corn can be used to make ethanol, feed livestock, and be used in other products as corn starch, corn syrup, etc. Most people immediately assume that corn is grown for consumption. Although this is true in some cases, it doesn’t mean that all corn growers are producing the kind of corn that will sit on your table.

The farmers on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board are passionate about their work. They take good care of their crops and treat them like their own children. Just like you, farmers want to protect their children, not harm them. The chemicals and fertilizers used when planting are safe and government approved. Not all chemicals are harmful – it’s no different than when people take medicine or get vaccines to prevent illness – crops need pesticides and fertilizer so they can grow healthy.

I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Lastly, this internship has given me a new respect for farmers. I didn’t know that farming was such a gamble. It takes a lot of guts to take out loans, buy expensive equipment, plant seeds, and pray that rain falls out of the sky. Agriculture is a risky business. You have to be passionate in order to be in this career, otherwise it’s not worth the effort. My advice for consumers and people who thought like me before I interned at the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, is to trust your farmer. They wouldn’t be in this profession if they didn’t have passion and dedication; and since this work is so risky and expensive, farmers can’t afford to harm their crop, which would consequently be harming themselves. 

Kamaya Thompson

SPRINGTIME ON OUR FARM

Even if your closest link to farming is the fields you see when you are driving down the road, you probably know that spring means a lot of farmers are getting their crops in the ground. But what does springtime mean for livestock farmers? This weekend, I took a few photos of our cattle farm. As you can see, springtime means lots of baby animals on our farm!

We choose to have all of our calves born in the springtime. The main reason for this is the well-being of our cows and calves. Springtime usually offers good weather for calving- not too hot, not too cold. Extreme weather conditions are a threat to newborn calves, so we try to avoid exposing them to these kinds of weather conditions.

During calving season, we need to check our cows more often to make sure that we know if one is in labor and whether or not she needs help. Ideally, cows have their calves without assistance and everyone is happy and healthy. Once in a while, though, cows need help giving birth. Problems such as a leg or head positioned wrong can make it almost impossible for a cow to have her calf. If it takes her too long, the life of the newborn calf is at risk. Once the umbilical cord is broken, the calf has no oxygen supply, so it becomes priority to get the head and chest of the calf out quickly.

Cows aren’t the only ones with new babies on the farm! These cute little guys live in our shed where we store our seed for the crops. Mice can cause huge problems and waste a lot of seed by chewing holes in the seed bags, so keeping cats around helps to keep our mice population down and ultimately saves us money on seed.

We used to have pigs on our farm before all of our pasture was used for cattle. Springtime always meant (you guessed it) baby pigs! My dad would bring my brother and I with him to care for the new pigs, so we would always sit on the roof of the hog huts and hold piglets while he worked. Sows are incredibly protective, so the roof of the hog huts was a safe place to us to be while we were out working with dad.

Spring is a critical time of year for both grain and livestock farmers… but it is something we look forward to every year!

Rosie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant
Unpolished Boots

CORNBELTERS COMMUNITY CREW (I.E. “STREET TEAM”)

Minor league baseball is traditionally known for wacky, off-the-wall, outrageous promotions and events. In the case of the Normal CornBelters, this still holds true. This season you can expect to see Reggy the Purple Party Dude (the who?), sumo wrestling, giant ears of corn running, and of course phenomenal baseball. At the same time, the team is going a little “old school” this season in terms of marketing and creatively inviting fans to the ballpark.

The 2012 season is the beginning of the “CornBelters Community Crew” which is often called the “Street Team” as well. This team is led by Denny Mohrman, long-time CornBelters fan and former usher. Denny oversees the team on a daily basis and takes the crew out to various community events to spread awareness of the CornBelters and upcoming games and events.

This past weekend, the Crew attended Heyworth HeyDays and Ride for the Cure at the Avanti’s Dome in Pekin. Be on the lookout for this crew because they will have special giveaways with them at all times! They most recently had vouchers to upcoming CornBelters games, so be sure to follow the team on Facebook (facebook.com/CornBelters) and Twitter (twitter.com/Normal_Baseball) in order to get awesome prizes from the Crew!

Andi Grindley
Public/Media/Community Relations Coordinator

CORNBELTERS TO HOST YOUTH CLINIC

The Normal CornBelters presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, have announced their 2012 baseball clinics which will be held at the Corn Crib this June to help kids sharpen various baseball skills.  The CornBelters will play their first game of the 2012 season at the Corn Crib this Friday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m.

The CornBelters invite boys and girls ages 7-16 to attend the clinic, which will be run by Field Manager Chad Parker and CornBelters players.  Session one is June 11-13, and session two is June 20-22.  Both sessions will teach the fundamentals of hitting, throwing, catching, base running, defense, and pitching (no softball pitching instruction).

The $80 clinic fee per session includes a clinic t-shirt and daily instruction from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Corn Crib.  Plus, each participant will also receive four Box seat ticket vouchers per-day to attend that evening’s CornBelters game (three CornBelters games per session).

The deadlines to sign up are June 4th for the June 11-13 session and June 13th for the June 20-22 session.  The CornBelters strongly encourage signing up early because the clinics are first come, first served, and only hold 80 participants each.  All attendees are asked to bring their own equipment (labeled with name) and drinks for breaks during the clinic.  To download the enrollment brochure, click here.

For additional information regarding the clinic, contact Ashlynne Solvie at 309-451-3453 or email her at asolvie@normalbaseball.com.

MOTHER’S DAY RECOGNITION FOR FARM MOMS

Mothers do so much for their children and their family. I know my mother has had to take my brothers and me to school every day, she made sure that we were always safe, and she did her best to set us up for success in our future. My mother and many other farm mothers are particularly special in my opinion. Since we’re just past Mother’s Day 2012, I would like to give farm mothers some special recognition for mother’s day this year.

I don’t think that anyone appropriately expresses how much they appreciate their mothers. This is particularly true when it comes to mothers whose family farms. Farm mothers often go above and beyond to contribute to the happiness of the family and the success of the farm.

Recently, I interviewed Ruth Hambleton, founder of Annie’s Project for farm women. Annie’s project for farm women is a 32 state program designed to educate and empower farm women to improve as business partners in a farm business. Annie’s Project offers classes across the country to provide general information about finances marketing and estate planning as well as several classes that go in-depth into specific topics. Annie’s Project actually was named for Ruth’s mother, Annette Fleck. When describing her mother Ruth said, “She grew up in a small town and spent the weekends on her grandfather’s farm outside of the edge of the town and that is where she fell in love with the idea of being a farmer… She was the one who held the farm together, the family together. She was the center of the whole operation.”

Ruth recognizes that in different farm families, the mother has a different role, but all of the possible roles of a mother on a family farm deserve great recognition. Whether the mother is actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the farm, keeps the farms records, provides supplemental income to the farm by working at an off farm job, acts as a mediator for conflicts between family members, or serves any other sort of role on the farm, she deserves recognition for her indispensable contribution to the farming operation.

It is important for every mother to know how valuable they are to the farm. Some mothers may mistakenly believe that their contribution to the farm is minor if they spend most of their time working at a job away from the farm. This could not be farther from the truth. Ruth Hambleton put it this way, “Every dollar that they bring in for family living is a dollar that gets to stay within the farm. It is retained capital. Women who contribute to the family living through their off farm jobs have a huge contribution to helping these farms grow.”

I believe that most farms could not function and grow as they do if they did not have that farm mother holding everything together. I thank my farm mother who contributed to the farm through an off farm job as a speech pathologist at the local elementary school. I also thank all of the other farm mothers. No matter how you contribute to the farm, what you do is truly indispensable to your family’s farm business.

Nick Suess
Southern Illinois University student