YOUR HEALTHIER EASTER HAM

ham recipe, pork, easter

Today’s pork is 31 percent lower in fat, 29 percent lower in saturated fat and 14 percent lower in calories than pork produced 15 years ago. This is because pork producers in Illinois, and around the country, responded to consumers’ wishes for leaner cuts of pork. Today, pork producers are proud to provide consumers with six nutritious pork cuts that contain less saturated fat than a skinless chicken thigh. With an average of only 173 calories per 3-ounces serving, consumers can have their pork and eat it too!

For the recipe to make this Honey Glazed Ham this weekend, click here!

For more information about pork and the farmers who grow it, click here!

SNOW … WHEN WE SHOULD BE PLANTING!

Last year, most farmers had started planting by now and many had finished putting their corn in the ground!  This year is already starting out significantly different with cold weather and even massive amounts of snow hitting Illinois.

Here are a few reports from Illinois farmers around the state.

Jeff Scates, Shawneetown, IL

Not much  field work has been done down here on the southern edge of Illinois, even across the river in the hills of Kentucky where they would typically start a couple of weeks ahead of us.  I only heard of two farms who have put any fertilizer on.  It will warm up over the weekend but showers are in the forecast. I talked to a friend who drove up from Texas yesterday and he said he saw no action all the way.  

Bill Christ, Metamora, IL

cattle on hay

Here are my cows finding some straw I spread out for them on sunday.  We received 7 to 8 inches of snow here at Metamora!!

Gary Hudson, Hindsboro, IL

The 13 inches of snow we received is dissolving rapidly. I am still hoping for an optimal April 15 to 20 planting window. But if it rains on Easter we will fight the rains for seven weeks.*

Keep checking in here at CornCorps for information on the spring planting!

*This is one of those “old wives tales” sort of predictions … if it rains on Sunday it will rain for seven Sundays.

CORN PRODUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES

MQuigley_InfographicThe United States is the leading producer of corn in the world, and as could be assumed, corn is number one in America’s crop production. In fact, corn production is approximately two times the amount of any other crop in America. While the U.S. leads in production, some areas of the country, predominantly the Midwest, have more fertile lands that are full of nutrients that support the growth of crops, like corn. The expansive area of fertile land is known as the Corn Belt, and it is responsible for producing more than one third of the nation’s corn. Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana are the top five producing states in the U.S. They, among seven other states (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, and South Dakota), make up the Corn Belt of America.

CornField

Corn is not as simple as corn. There is a clear distinction between field corn and sweet corn. Both are grown in America, but field corn is more widely produced and accounts for approximately 90% of the nation’s corn growth. Therefore, when you see a corn field, it is likely field corn that is being grown. Visually, field corn that has matured has a distinctive dent in each kernel. Perhaps not as well known, field corn plants are quite tall, dark green in color, and are harvested when the plant has matured and the stalks begin to yellow. There are a number of uses for field corn, including exports, ethanol, and food ingredients and products. The United States is the largest exporter of corn in the world, and it is estimated that the U.S. will export 1.1 billion bushels of corn for the 2012-2013 growing season. Aside from exports, one bushel of corn is capable of producing 2.7 gallons of ethanol. About 40% of the field corn produced goes towards ethanol production. Eight bushels of corn has enough calories to feed a single person for a full year. What is a bushel, you may ask? Well, a bushel is a measurement of weight that is equal to approximately 56 pounds of corn.

MQuigley_EarCornImage

While it may seem that field corn fully embodies the word “corn”, there is another type. Sweet corn accounts for less than 5% of the nation’s corn growth. However, sweet corn is what you eat directly… during the summer, at picnics, at fairs. Sweet corn is eaten on or off the cob, grilled or boiled. It has rounded kernels, unlike the dented kernels that field corn has. The plants, themselves, are shorter and more yellow-green than field corn plants and are harvested while the plant is immature and still green. It is bred for an increased sugar content that is evident in its “sweet” taste. Whether it is field corn or sweet corn that is being produced, the average American farmer produces enough corn to feed 155 people. Corn production is a significant component in American society, economics, geography, and culture.

MeganQuigleyMegan Quigley
University of St. Francis Student

I’M IN COLLEGE! NOW WHAT?

Going to college. It is about having fun, meeting new people, trying new things, and …. Graduation? Many seniors get to the end of the college adventure and realize that they need to use the degree they earned but they have no idea where to start.

As a whole, students interested in the agriculture industry are looking at endless job possibilities. The agriculture industry is full of jobs for recent college graduates; you just have to know where to start to get one.

It is hard to buckle down and think about getting a job during your first two years of college, but they are pivotal years. Most students do not realize the value of internships early on in their college career. Internships are the best way to know what you are interested in, find out what you are not interested in, and build up your experience on your resume for your future job search. But how do you find an internship?

Step one: Start by looking with companies who hold your interests. If you are an Agronomy major, looking with a seed research company. If you are an Agriculture Communications major, there are wonderful social media internship opportunities with Illinois Corn (shameless plug). Look on the company’s website or, if possible, connect with a professional that is employed there. If you know an employee do not be afraid to ask questions about internship opportunities and then look into applying to them!

The average agriculture major has 2-3 internships by the end of their college career. These internships help to make you marketable to a future employer. Many employers treat the internship as a test run for the student to see if they would be good as a future employee. So I encourage you to look into companies you may want to work for in the future and apply to an internship with them!

Step two: Networking. There is no better tool than having a good relationship with industry professionals. This can happen through an internship or joining a club. Sometimes clubs have networking opportunities where industry professionals come in and speak on a panel or speak about their career. Attend as many of these as possible and remember to take the time to introduce yourself to the speaker after the session is over. I found my career through networking with the National Agri-Marketing Association chapter at Illinois State University. I was able to meet my future boss at a speaking session my junior year and reconnect with the company again my senior year and apply for a job.

Step three: The main idea of being in college, find a job.  How do you find the job for you? Do not wait till the last minute. Get your resume reviewed by a professional or a professor. Next, start looking at job postings in the beginning of your senior year and sending in resumes. If it is possible, attend a career fair with your best suit on and resume in hand. Look on career websites, ask your professors about job postings, and check with the professionals you have connected with. You never know when you will happen upon your dream job posting.

Take every opportunity you get in college, but remember why you are there. Getting a career is the goal, right?

Cara WorkmanCara Workman
ISU Student
Follow Me on Twitter – @caraworkman

CORN FARMERS RETURN FROM AG WEEK IN WASHINGTON, DC

The Illinois Corn Growers Association returned from Washington, DC late last night with a bucketful of stories, opinions, and tactics to make a difference in federal policy during the 113th session of Congress.

Overall, there was a lot of negativity on the hill.  We heard from agency’s, associations, lobbyists, and others who all believe that to see any meaningful action on the hill would be a miracle.  Conversely, a few Congressmen talked positively that work would get done and bills would be debated and passed because “something has to happen.”

Paul Taylor, ag day, washington, DC
President Paul Taylor and Senator Durbin discuss needed lock and dam upgrades on the Mississippi River.

Of course, we hope so.

We hope to see a five-year farm bill passed in 2013.  Simply extending last year’s bill after it expired in Sept 2012 to cover this year doesn’t give farmers any sort of certainty about the business climate they must operate in for the coming years.  Putting this off isn’t a good decision for anyone.

We hope to see a Water Resources Development Act passed in 2013 too.  This week, we advocated for a WRDA bill that incorporated authorization of funds to upgrade locks and dams on the Mississippi River.  Congress was marking up a WRDA bill also this week so we are encouraged by some action and hope that we can all work together to see a new lock upgrade start in 2014.

Finally, we want to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard.  We believe in the original intention of the RFS – to help our country become energy independent while improving the environment – and we want to see the standard maintained.  Hopefully, with nothing happening on the Hill this year, threats to the RFS won’t have legislative legs to stand on.

All in all, it was a busy four days on Capitol Hill.  Days filled with around 150 visits to Congressmen, agencies, associations, and corporations.  Days filled with learning about trade, biotech, sustainability initiatives, crop insurance, farm bill, ethanol, livestock and more.  Long days with sore backs and aching legs from carrying folders and papers and walking miles over hallowed ground.

All worth it, of course, for the good of the industry.

Celebrate Ag Week this week by sharing our blog on your facebook page or over twitter.  Encourage people to gain information about farmers and their food supply.  Call your Congressman about any of the above issues.  Eat … and know that your food supply is safe and secure.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WOMEN CHANGING THE FACE OF AGRICULTURE

Maria CoxOriginally posted on the Cox Farm Blog by Maria Cox

I had the pleasure of attending the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture event on March 8 at SIU Carbondale. (www.womenchanginthefaceofagriculture.com) I recently joined Illinois Agri-women (who sponsors the event), and I offered to “man” a table for women pursuing careers in farming at the career discovery part of the event. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2006, and the conference is in its 4th year, so I was never able to participate when I was in college. It’s a fantastic event that introduces females in high school and college to careers in agriculture.

What did I take away from the event? Young women are super excited about agriculture! It was fun to chat with those who may be interested or have the option of returning to the family farm. I shared with the young women a certain message; take risks. It’s ok to take chances. It’s ok to do something out of the norm. Change is good, it makes us grow.

I had a few female farmer influences in college…mainly my Sigma Alpha sisters who farmed on the side with their parents. But, I didn’t have that “professional” outlet that this conference provides. My mindset just might have been different if I’d attended a conference like this and met with females in production agriculture.

#wcfa13jpgWhen I was in college, I put farming with Dad on the back burner as I thought it was more of a job for a guy. I didn’t think it was my place or I “had it in me” to be a farmer. It took me some great career and life experiences away from the farm to realize that my future lies on the Cox Farm near that little spot we call Belltown, 3 miles south of White Hall. If I hadn’t taken the risk and quit my big girl job, I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now. Today, I spend time working on balance sheets, working cattle, harvesting corn and beans, cutting hay, marketing crops, and most importantly, continuing the 6th generation of both sides of my family to feed our world.

NATIONAL AGRICULTURE DAY: FARM ON

natlagdayHappy National Agriculture Day!

We want to send a big thank you to all the farmers, ranchers, and everyone involved in this great industry for your passion and hard work to carry agriculture forward!

Celebrate National Agriculture Day by sharing this inspirational video with the young people in your life.  Remember, it’s not just about preaching to the choir, you must enter into a conversation with those who are unfamiliar with farming.

Spread the word.  Be part of the movement.  Farm On.

NATIONAL AG WEEK: PLANTING KNOWLEDGE IN OTHERS

Last month I was asked the question how I can spread the word about agriculture to an audience that may not otherwise be concerned with what happens before their food arrives on the plate. I simply stated that I engage in conversations about agriculture with people I encounter on a daily basis. It a trickle effect and the knowledge you shared with maybe five people has reached hundreds.

During National Agriculture Week this year, which is March 18-22, there are numerous things to be excited about within the agriculture industry! America’s farmers are by far the most productive in the world, growing twenty percent more corn per acre than any other nation (USDA). But we haven’t become the most productive agriculture nation in the world without hard work, innovative technologies, and conservation practices that are paving the way upwards as we are reaching yield counts that were once unimaginable.

Farmers are ensuring that they are leaving their land in better shape for the future because more often than not farming is a multigenerational undertaking.

family farmer
Photo credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

When talking about conservation America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion forty-four percent by using innovative conservation methods and those same farmers are growing eighty-seven percent more corn per ounce of fertilizer according to the USDA. Today’s farmers fully understand the toll their constant cultivation of the soil takes on the environment and are adopting new practices for generations to come. Some of these methods include: biodiversity and no till. Biodiversity is another word for planting a number of diverse crops to promote a healthier ecosystem as a whole, and “no till” refers to the practice of growing crops from year to year with little soil disturbance.

no till farming

On another note, new technologies are constantly being released in the ag industry that improve efficiency because every minute of a farmers time is extremely valuable. New GPS (Global positioning system) technologies enable farmers to have their planters and harvesters steer and now turn themselves automatically without much human intervention. The farmer is in some ways just along for the ride these days when it comes to the technologies that are changing the ag industry.

american farmer

So during this National Ag Week I encourage you to not keep your passion and knowledge locked away, but spread the word! Plant the knowledge about agriculture in others that will fuel the future.

beisswengerSteven Beisswenger
Illinois State University Student