ILLINIOS LEGISLATORS MEET KENNY WALLACE

Karen May, Kenny Wallace, American Ethanol, Family FarmersThis week, Illinois Corn and Illinois Renewable Fuels Association gave Illinois legislators an opportunity to take a ride in a NASCAR pacecar while learning about ethanol and ethanol blends.  What a fun break from the norm!

Pictured are Kenny Wallace, Jessica Fox, legislative assistant for Illinois State Representative Pam Roth 75th District, and Illinois State Representative Karen May, 58th District, taking a photo.

THE CORNBELTERS 2012 SEASON IS COMING TO A CLOSE!

The Normal CornBelters have had an action-packed season, hosting 43 regular season games so far, as well as the 2012 State Farm Frontier League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in July.  With only four games left at the Corn Crib, be sure to not miss out on any of the remaining fun!

Thursday, August 30: Start off your weekend early with Thirst Quenching Thursday and take advantage of $1 select draft beers and $1 Beer Nuts Peanuts and Bar Mix all night long! Stop by the Budweiser Beer Tent for these great deals and maybe even sneak in a couple games of bags before the game kicks off at 6:30pm against the Florence Freedom!

Friday, August 31: The night will start and end with a bang on CEFCU Fantastic Friday! The CornBelters will be starting their final three-game series at 6:30pm against the Rockford RiverHawks! Bid on your favorite player’s yellow jersey for the CEFCU silent auction benefiting Easter Seals and immediately following the game there will be a fireworks display for all to enjoy!

Saturday, September 1:  Reggy the Purple Party Dude will be getting himself in and out of trouble throughout the final State Farm Super Saturday! The game starts at 6:30pm against the Rockford RiverHawks. Saturday is also Cheer and Dance Night at the Corn Crib. During the day, there will be a clinic for all participating squads put on by the St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders. Some of the best squads will perform and the St. Louis Rams Cheerleaders will be signing autographs during the game! You will have a chance to bid on your favorite player’s away jersey during a silent auction, taking place throughout the game.

Sunday, September 2: Make sure to join us for the Greatest Night of Baseball Ever! The game kicks off at 5:00pm against the Rockford RiverHawks and in appreciation of all our amazing fans we will be giving away special prizes throughout the night, including an Infinity Print Group 2012 Team Photo.  Also, there will be a silent auction throughout the game where you will be able to bid on your favorite player’s home jersey! Stop by the Impressive Home Theatres table on the concourse and stick around after the game for Hits 100.7 post-game autographs from all the players. For Sunday’s game, make sure to take advantage of the final Frontier Family 4 Pack — 4 hot dogs, 4 sodas, and 4 Box Seats for just $40! Please call or stop by the Box Office to purchase the Frontier Family 4 Pack.

For more information, simply contact the CornBelters at (309) 454-2255 (BALL), visit their website (http://www.normalbaseball.com) or stop by the Corn Crib administrative office during normal business hours.  Get social with the CornBelters at www.facebook.com/CornBelters and www.twitter.com/Normal_Baseball.

Andi Grindley
Public/Media/Community Relations Coordinator
Normal CornBelters

WHAT’S AN RFS AND WHY DOES IT WAVE?

During the month of August, governors of Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia and New Mexico petitioned the US EPA, asking for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard.  But while we’ve all heard this news on the TV and read it in the papers, what exactly does it mean?

The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is a mandate to use increasing amounts of renewable fuel from year to year.  The RFS includes descriptions of what sorts of renewable fuel are to be used, including up to 15 billion gallons of ethanol (may be corn-based ethanol) and then increasing amounts of cellulosic and “advanced biofuels” which have to meet a certain carbon footprint and greenhouse gas threshhold.  Read more about that here.

The problem is that livestock farmers view the mandate to use ethanol as the creation of an unlevel playing field for them as they compete for feedstocks.  The ethanol industry and the livestock industry need to feed their end product the same thing, corn.  When the government has forced more ethanol to be used, livestock producers fear that they won’t have corn left to feed their animals.

In most years, this isn’t true.  In fact, so far in American history both before and after the RFS was passed, we have never run out of corn.  American farmers continually grow more and more corn because of increasing efficiency of seed, fertilizers, and management systems so we have had more than enough to feed both industries.  In fact, we’ve needed both industries to use up the extra corn and raise corn prices to a point where farmers are no longer reliant on government payments to stay afloat.

However the drought could throw a kink in the system because agriculture expects significantly lower yields in 2012 than in 2011.  Exactly how tight corn stocks get remains to be seen though because more efficient seeds actually create plants that utilize water more efficiently so our yields might not be as far off as some are guessing.

Regardless, during the creation of the RFS, Congress wrote an “off ramp” into the legislation, suggesting that if the RFS ever caused a serious problem and eliminated feedstuffs for other industries, the RFS could be scaled back for a period of time.  This is what the governors of the above mentioned states have suggested … that the drought has minimized corn yields to the extent that livestock will go hungry without a reduction in the RFS mandate.  They are literally asking for a waiver of the mandate for a period of time.

Will the EPA grant the request?  This remains to be seen.  The EPA has 90 days to respond to the request, but the ag industry doesn’t expect anything to happen prior to the election.  Stay tuned!

And for more information, read these articles:

Comment from the Iowa Corn Growers Association
Comment from the ethanol industry
Comment from the poultry industry
Article in BioDiesel Magazine

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Guru

FARM BILL FOR DUMMIES (AND SOME OF THE REST OF US TOO)

Maybe you are one of those non-farmers who have been hearing and reading about the Farm Bill in the news.  Do you understand what the Farm Bill is?  Would you like to know more?  Read on …

The Farm Bill is a piece of legislation edited and passed by Congress and the President every five years.  Sometime the process takes longer – there have been years where we extend the current Farm Bill and pass new legislation after six years – but the intent is always to review the bill every five.

Within the Farm Bill there are different “titles.”  You could think of them as chapters or sections of the bill.  The Conservation Title contains legislation related to conservation programs, the Commodity Title contains legislation related to farm commodities, and the Nutrition Title contains legislation related to food stamps.  Other titles are: Trade, Rural Development, Energy, and Research.

Which brings me to point number one: The Farm Bill is not just about farm programs.

Yes, the Commodity Title (including counter-cyclical payments, direct payments, etc) gets a lot of attention every few years when we debate a new Farm Bill, but the Commodity Title is NOT the bulk of the bill.

The meat of the Farm Bill is nutrition programs.  So when we want to cut the cost of the Farm Bill and we want to cut only farm programs like direct payments and crop insurance, we don’t really make a huge dent or enact large amounts of savings.

Point number two: When our legislators don’t actually pass a bill and instead, extend a bill into a future year, farmers are left with tons of uncertainty as to what they actually have to work with.

This would be similar to playing a game with a child that makes up the rules as he/she goes along.  Except, farmers are playing a game with their livelihood and family heritage without having a clue what rules the government is going to set up!  It is not a smart business decision for a farmer to put a crop into the ground without first knowing what laws the government will enact regarding that crop.  However, farmers have one opportunity to plant, in late March to early May next year, and they will have to plant even if the government has extended the bill and not defined the programs.

Illinois farmers continue to advocate for a Farm Bill Now.  We certainly know what we want that Farm Bill to look like, but we are also willing to place a priority on certain areas and let others go in order to get something passed.  Farmers have nearly voluntarily let go of many of their payments to get a Farm Bill passed now that includes good crop insurance options.  Now we wait for some of the other programs to allow their own cuts to come up with a total Farm Bill budget that works within our current Federal spending allocations.

Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

THERE OUGHT TO BE AN APP FOR THAT!

Someone recently said to me, “Agriculture would be so much easier to understand if there were an app for it.”  Really.  It would be.  There is an app for everything.   Or so it seems.  Searching the App store for ‘Agriculture’ brings up “Ag Web News” and “Farm Futures,” and searching ‘Ag’ brings us to “AgRacer” where you compete in a driving challenge with various farm related implements.    Hmm…..what if we could explain agriculture in an App?

Apps are a relatively new thing—launched in July 2008 with only 500 or so. Today there are over 250,000 apps available for purchase from the Apple App Store.  There are apps for everything from Facebook to Log My Run, there is even an App for a level (I must admit I have it!) and a fake hand warmer.   (If you think your hand is warmer it might work!)

But how would you develop an app for agriculture?

First, a couple things about Apps. They have to be engaging.  They have to involve a challenge, how do you win this or come back for more?    From an Agriculture perspective, they need to be real.  Unlike Angry Birds, I think there would be an issue with flinging pitchforks at crows!   And you wouldn’t want talking cows or pigs, and really the corn or beans shouldn’t talk either.    It is getting tougher, isn’t it?

Let’s reflect on an App from this year in agriculture.   How would you reflect the drought?  How would you show the high winds in early August?  It sounds more like the ‘Hunger Games’ than a game! Seriously, would this make people come back for more?

Luckily, Ag in the Classroom just finished our ‘App’ for teachers this year.    Nearly 600 teachers across the state participated in our Summer Ag Institutes.  In a world where 60 million people pretend to be farmers in Farmville, (http://mashable.com/2010/09/10/farmville-vs-real-farms-infographic/)  these teachers saw first hand what happens on farms around Illinois.

One teacher wrote in her evaluation “All I kept thinking was, ‘there is more than farming in agriculture?’  But after our first day, I realized that this ‘farm thing’ was a bigger deal than I gave credit for.”   We have countless stories and anecdotes about how viewing agriculture from a new perspective gave them much more insight into what a ‘real farm’ is.

Another participant described her experience like this.   “I have learned that a farmer must be dedicated, hard-working and skilled in many areas.  Farmers have a deep passion for their profession and will do whatever it takes to make things work.  Perseverance is a trait that I hope I can instill in each one of my students, and I have learned that farming takes perseverance.”

All of that, and so much more, was learned when someone showed them what agriculture really was and they took the time to learn.   Could those emotions and experiences be channeled with an App on a 2”x3” screen?   I don’t think so.

In a era of catching falling blocks, pretending to raise strawberries and where birds explode in an effort to recapture eggs, Agriculture in the Classroom has an App for agriculture.

Our App is our Summer Agricultural Institute, and getting teachers to visit a farm.   Pretty simple and not real flashy, but it works!

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

SCHOOL LUNCHES MAKING KIDS FAT?

Many schools are back in session this week.  With it comes the dilemma for parents: Do I pack a lunch or let my kids eat what the school serves?  When I was in high school the food was actually pretty good, it was mostly home cooked and I ate it the majority of the time.  On the few days where I didn’t like what was being served, I brought a sack lunch.  I was a very active and healthy kid and needed a full well-balanced meal to get me through the school day as well as sports practice after classes was over.  I grew up to be a not-as-active but still healthy adult.  I don’t think school lunches were detrimental to my development.  Apparently though, the USDA thinks that it’s the schools who should take the blame for overweight children today.

The following came from Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch.  I happen to agree completely with Debbie’s view, but tell me what you think.

SCHOOL LUNCH IS NOT MAKING OUR KIDS FAT!

My tall, athletic, active, slender farm kids….tell me they’re not eating right!

Please hand me my soap box….thanks. As I climb up on this block, I run through my mind the reasons that I have not made this blog a political platform. I don’t like to denounce government programs, endorse political candidates or spout points or counter-points to current events. But, dangit, I’m MAD….

What makes me mad enough to go against my policy so that I will use my Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch blog to talk about the USDA? The new school lunch guidelines as announced by USDA. Frankly, this has been stewing in my brain for a few months. My husband is on the school board and told me that the cooks for our school have had to put in extra hours this summer to clarify the new regulations and plan for the changes they must make. So I immediately looked up the rules and talked to our school cooks.  Here is what I’ve found:
The new guidelines for High School Students lunch:

  • Limit total weekly protein (meat and meat alternatives) to a maximum of 10-12 oz/week
  • Limit total calories to 750-850 per day
  • Limit milk to 5 servings per week
  • Mandate a set portion of various vegetables and fruits
  • Mandate switching to whole grains

On the surface, I don’t think these things appear so wrong. But these are the regulations for High School students. Now, let me tell you about my high school boys. I have two high school boys who are 6 feet tall and weigh 155 and 165 respectively. They both play all the sports that our small school offers, and work on our ranch before school, after sports practice and on weekends. They do not spend much time sitting in front of a television, computer or game station. They are healthy weights, muscular, and very active. In short, 800 calories is a SNACK to my boys!

I am totally against mandating hunger–I thought we were fighting against hunger?! I thought that school lunch is often the best meal of the day for many kids. So why are we cutting back on protein and the nutrients that meat provides? I believe that by the second hour after lunch rolls around, my boys will be hungry again if they do not have more than 2 ounces of meat and only 800 calories. Its proven that protein slows digestion, stabilizes blood sugar and helps to maintain energy.

Our classes are over at 3:30 pm and then the boys head straight to the locker room to change to football gear for a 2 hour physical practice. But if they haven’t eaten since noon–and then only fruits and vegetables with minimal protein–they will not have the energy to practice!

My biggest concern with this mandate on our school lunch program is that it takes NOTHING but age level into account. It doesn’t allow for physical activity level, weight or height. It doesn’t take into consideration that at a small school, most of the students are participating in sports–if they didn’t we wouldn’t have enough for a team! (As an aside, we have 18 boys playing 8-man football this year in our entire high school.) 

Some moms will say, “Debbie, why don’t you just pack a lunch for them?”….but my response to this is WHY should I have to? We have always had excellent homemade lunches served at our school for a very low price. The regular price on our high school meals used to be $2.40/day. My boys would get a second carton of milk (charged an extra 35¢) and they could return for second servings of the main course or side dish after everyone else was served. I should not have to drive 30 miles to purchase lunch items at a grocery store to send with my students when they have been served an excellent meal in the past.

We do have an “open lunch” but there is only 25 minutes for the lunch period. That is not enough time for any student to drive to a restaurant to eat. We only have a local bar (which does serve a lunch) and a gas station for food in our town. The kids often drive to the gas station for a soda (it is not sold during the school day in the school) after they eat their lunch at school.  I believe there will be more of that, and the kids will also pick up a package of chips or a candy bar to fill them up now!

I don’t believe this is the intent of the regulations. I really understand that the American society is overweight. But mandating our kids to eat more leafy greens and less lean meat at school is not going to solve the problem. Mandate physical education….put more PE back into our days! But don’t make our kids go hungry.

I’ll step off my soap box now, but I will be calling my congressmen, you can be sure! In the meantime, here are a few links for more information and insight.

HOW DO CORN PRICES AFFECT CONSUMERS?

Harvest is beginning, and with it we’ll have a first real-world look at what corn yields will be for 2012. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided its own prediction of a national average at 123.4 bushels of corn per acre (as of their Aug 10, 2012 report). There are many consequences to that yield, not the least of which is changing corn prices. But what impact will that have at the grocery store? The immediate impacts will be felt in the livestock sector as herds are liquated. As time rolls on, however, other prices will be impacted. USDA actually anticipates about a 3-4% increase in the coming calendar year.

Here’s a quick look at this issue courtesy of IL Corn. It’s interesting to see that the meat products with the highest corn value are in the poultry section (including eggs.) The biggest take-away that you’ll have after studying this document, no doubt, will be that the largest portions of the cost of food are not directly related to the commodities themselves, but rather processing, energy, and marketing.

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

WATER QUALITY EFFORTS IN ILLINOIS

When it comes to water quality, Illinois Corn puts their money where their mouth is.

In recent years, farmers have come under fire as new, modern fertilizers and water drainage methods have been blamed for increased nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the Gulf of Mexico.  The theory is that farmers are using more nitrogen on their fields instead of crop rotations and that this trend, coupled with a newer trend of tiling fields to improve water drainage, makes more fertilizer run into nearby creeks and waterways.  Eventually this water makes its way to the Mississippi River and then to the Gulf of Mexico where increased nitrogen and phosphorus levels kill fish and plants.

Because Illinois Corn and other Illinois farmer groups want to correct any amount of this problem that they are contributing to, we are investing in research to figure out first what the problems really are and second, how we fix them.  Our main project right now is the Indian Creek Watershed Project.

Indian Creek’s 82-square mile watershed (52,480 acres) drains north to the Vermilion River’s south fork, one of the USDA’s Mississippi River Basin Initiative focus areas.

The major resource concern for Indian Creek watershed is water quality, particularly nitrate levels.  With an average farm size of 500 acres, agriculture dominates the watershed – 95 percent of the land is tillable, most acres in a corn/soybean rotation, with several livestock operations.

The goal of the project is to determine what water quality changes occur when at least 50 percent of producers in a small watershed develop and implement comprehensive agriculture conservation systems.  As of December 2011, 37 percent of the watershed’s farmers were enrolled in programs to enhance their conservation agricultural systems.  Water quality parameters are recorded in-stream at five locations.

Using the in-stream monitoring and a growing number of farmer participants, we can determine a baseline for our nitrogen run-off into streams and whether or not our perceived solutions actually create meaningful reduction of nutrients in the water.

Other states have developed models to help farmers determine baseline data and improvement data on water quality control and conservation initiatives.  Illinois works with those states to figure out our next steps for research and implementation.

Although we don’t have any meaningful data yet to report, Illinois Corn and all Illinois farmers are excited to demonstrate their willingness to fix environmental concerns by implementing conservation practices on their own farms.  Not only is this about wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, but Illinois farmers are desperate to preserve water quality around their farmers, ensuring the livelihood of future generations on the family farm.


Phil Thornton
Value Enhanced Project Manager