As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015.  All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best!  Enjoy!!


mexicoMay is World Trade Month and this week in particular has been designated to celebrate agriculture’s contributions to U.S. trade.  If you’ve always wanted to know more about how farmers contribute to our economy via trade, you’ve come to the right place!

(In reality, I’m guessing you’ve never considered that farmers are a major contributor to the products leaving the U.S. and the economic boom that trade provides American citizens.  This is your week!  Learn something!)

Mexico is a hugely important buyer of corn nationally, and also has a great impact as a buyer of Illinois corn. Our river transportation system sends much of our corn directly to the Gulf of Mexico, where it makes the short trip to Mexican markets. This should remind us how important our river transportation system is, and with it, the need for repaired and upgraded locks and dams.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board partners with the U.S. Grains Council to expand export opportunities for corn, ethanol, and DDGS. USGC leverages Illinois farmer checkoff dollars with matching dollars from USDA to expand the work. Learn more about USGC’s work in Mexico at

Here are some specifics about Mexico as a buyer of corn:

  • USDA weekly sales info as of 4/23 says Mexico is the top market for U.S. corn this marketing yr, buying 9.5 MMT (million metric tons) so far
  • Mexico imported 10.4 MMT of yellow corn during the 2014 marketing yr, making it 2nd largest market for U.S. yellow corn
  • Mexico imported more than 1.5 MMT of U.S. DDGS last year, making it the second largest market behind China
  • A critical trade deal made booming U.S. grain sales to Mexico possible – read more at
  • Mexico farmers see dramatic results in DDGS feeding trials, building confidence, sales – more at

What’s this mean for you as a non-farmer, an eater, and an American?

  • Vibrant and growing markets mean increased farmer income.
  • Farmers reinvest additional income into their farms.
  • This money drives the Illinois economy, provides jobs, reinvigorates rural America, and promotes investment in new technologies to make agriculture more efficient.


As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015.  All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best!  Enjoy!!


Dear Every American Who Doesn’t Believe in Science:

I know you are smart.  I know you care about your kids, your family, your pets.  I know you are a basically decent human being who wants to do right and contribute to society.  And because I know these things, I’m going to try very hard to understand why you refuse to believe in scientific fact, rather than berate you and call you names.

But I still really don’t get it.

GMO foodsI wish we could sit down and talk.  I wish I could explain my views without you getting defensive.  I wish you could show me your proof without the hair standing up on the back of my neck.  So I’ll admit – we both have a problem.  We both are talking to answer, not having a conversation to listen.

The funny thing is, I actually think I’m reasonably good at seeing the other side of any issue.   There are a few issues where I struggle, but even then, if I’m honest with myself, I can intellectually understand the other side of the issue and why my friend or colleague has positioned himself on that side.

Regarding immunizations and genetically modified organisms, I can’t.

Yes, I view these two issues – though they are definitely in different industries – as intertwined.  Why?  Because the people who are anti either of them have a blatant disregard for science and I just don’t understand that.

Scientific consensus on both of these issues is that both are safe.  Immunizations are safe for the vast majority of people.  GMOs are safe for everyone.

Do you understand what scientific consensus is, my friend?  That means that most of the scientists (maybe even those who don’t usually agree) believe the safety of GMOs and immunizations to be fact.  It’s beyond dispute.  The data has proven safety beyond a shadow of a doubt so that scientists no longer squabble over this issue.

There is also scientific consensus on gravity.  That the Earth is round.  That germs spread disease.  That atoms exist.

Friend, do you question these truths as well?

The thing is, science is fact.  And while there may be outliers that disagree that the Earth is round, why are you so quick to take up with the outliers that believe GMOs are bad?  If you ran into a scientist who believed the Earth was flat, wouldn’t you think he was a quack?  And when that same doctor believes GMOs are bad, why do you believe him?

I think it must be because buying organic has become a status symbol for you.  You are buying boutique food and making all the other parents feel bad about it.  Which, if true, proves another point for another day – that maybe we never really leave junior high.

Your crusade to eliminate vaccines – is it the same sort of status symbol?  I just can’t cognitively understand anything else.

In fact, here’s a question I’ve been dying to ask and I promise to listen intently: do you deny your children life-saving vaccines and still use birth control?  Do you buy organic produce and hormone free meats and still believe in plastic surgery?  Do you use an iPhone or a computer?  Why are some of these technologies demonized and others celebrated?

Let’s talk, you and I.  I have gotten to a point where I really need to understand why you disregard science.  Because even if your viewpoints are too solidly held to change, I have to be sure I understand how this happened and do everything I can to stop it.

Who knows what unscientific nonsense my grandchildren will face?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015.  All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best!  Enjoy!!


Look – the women that live on the farm are just a special breed, ok?  They do absolutely everything – and everything well! – and we think they deserve their own holiday since the only other reasonably applicable holiday (Mother’s Day) arrives during spring planting.  They are busy!


superman-clark-kentAnd by that, I mean that farm wives can go from wearing 80% manure, to 80% Tory Burch in five seconds flat.  If you are one of the drastically mistaken urban women in the world who thinks that a farm woman’s wardrobe is mostly overalls and flannel shirts, with maybe some cutoff jeans thrown in, you are so wrong.

Every farm wife I know does have a pair of cut off jeans … but when its time to go to church or out on a date with the farmer himself, we love to break out the designer shoes and cute skinny jeans.


Yes, there are farm women who work out every day at the gym, but many farm wives are the boss at bucking bales (around 60 pounds each!) and wrangling cattle or hogs.  And if you are a farm wife on a farm without livestock, then chances are you are lifting bags of seed or moving equipment from one place to another.  Farm wives are strong – and they have the guns to prove it.


Most of the farm wives I know do the books, the marketing, or even the planning and purchasing for the farm.  Each of those is a full-time job unto itself.

If she’s doing the books, she’s basically the farm accountant.  There are bills to pay, paychecks to write every Friday, grain sales to record, and land payments to make.  She’s got to stay on top of all of it – and its only part of her day job.

If she’s marketing the crop, she’s trying to guess how much grain the family will produce that fall, and sell it ahead of time to leverage the best price opportunity.  If she’s planning and purchasing, she’s watching the costs of input prices to figure out when to buy things for the coming year and how to store them.  Each of these is so complicated it makes my head spin.


Probably because she was four years on a 4-wheeler herself.

Nor does she freak out when you hand your 13-year-old the car keys at 10 pm and say “Follow me to the Napery Farm – I’m gonna need a ride home after I drop the tractor off there.”  Or when you let your baby girl shoot at the range.

She understands the need for everyone to work and she knows that your kids can handle it.  She’s not a helicopter parent – she delights in seeing confidence and independence grow in your home.  She wants to see your kids farming next to you almost as badly as you do.

Plus, she’s just really excited that she doesn’t have to run you to the field again.  She desperately needs a shower.


She has to be.  Because every plan she’s ever made with the farmer or for the family is “weather permitting.”

“Honey, can you go with me to my family reunion this weekend?”

“Hmmm … weather permitting.”

“Babe, I won’t be able to pick up the kids after basketball practice tonight.  Could you do that for me?”

“Only if it rains.”

“Oh look!  My God-daughter is engaged and they have set the date for May 28!”

“I hope you aren’t planning on me going.”

And the times when the farmer can attend family events with you are only the times when the weather is as yucky as possible.  The farmer’s wife totally deserves a medal for dealing with this planning nightmare and the independence required to do everything on her own.


She’s family.  She’s raising the kids, cooking the meals, washing the clothes, and holding the family together.  She’s also running for parts, filling in on the tractor, and keeping the books in the black.  She’s making due when the well runs dry and there’s no running water.  She’s laughing instead of crying when she discovers a kitten hidden under your son’s bed.  She’s feeding the neighbors when someone is in the hospital and she’s teaching Sunday School on Sundays.

Marty Marr Family

She totally deserves her own holiday.  Let’s just make it during a down time of year.  Maybe February 29?


Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager


As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015.  All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best!  Enjoy!!


Our most popular blog post is this one from September 30, 2014.

Right now, on June 23, 2015, farmers are looking at a pretty bleak picture so I thought it was worth an update.


-nitrogenBy way of review, farmers must buy things to plant a crop.  Seeds, chemicals, fertilizers, equipment, and labor are called non-land input costs.

According to the University of Illinois, the 2013 non-land input costs were $615 per acre.  The projected number for 2014 is $588.  But, as I reported in September last year, they are still going to average about $600 per acre.

By the way, land is still expensive.

Average land costs in Illinois are still increasing.  The U of I reports an average cost of $290 in 2013 and a projected average of $293 in 2014.  Three dollars probably doesn’t sound like a huge difference until you multiply it times 1,000 acres or 3,000 acres … but for the sake of argument and round numbers, we’ll increase the average to $290 instead of the $250 we used in September.

Based on the projected income for 2014 of $823, the average central Illinois farmer with highly productive farm land is losing $67 dollars per acre in 2014.


If he’s farming 1,500 acres, he lost $100,500.
If he’s farming 1,000 acres, he lost $67,000.
If he’s farming 500 acres, he lost $33,500.

So … he’s in the red after a full year of work, toil, sweat, and stress.

2014 is what a bad year looks like.


too much waterI made some predictions in September last year.  Here there are and I think you’ll see that I came pretty close.  I thought input costs and land costs would come down a little and they didn’t really.  But farmers made a little more than I predicted too.

2014 Predictions (September 2014):
Total Input Costs = $575 per acre
Total Land Costs = $250 per acre
Total Expected Income = $800 per acre
Net Expected Income = -$25 per acre

It’s a sad story, but 2015 looks even worse.

The cash price today for corn is $3.30.  Let’s bump that up to $3.50 just to get a really good average picture of where farmers might end up this year.  I’ll also use an average yield of 190 – a little below 2013 and 2014 because of all this rain we’ve been getting.

Everything else staying the same, this farmer makes $665 per acre projected income in 2015.  After he’s paid for his land and input costs, he’s losing $225 per acre.

2015 Predictions:
Total Input Costs = $600 per acre
Total Land Costs = $290 per acre
Total Expected Income = $665 per acre
Net Expected Income = -$225 per acre


These are the years farmers save for.  Sometimes they make good money, and they reinvest that in their farms by building or repairing sheds, buying or repairing equipment, installing tile lines in their fields, and more.

Sometimes they lose big money and those good years and the investments and savings they’ve built up are all that get them through.

Are farmers rich?  Not in 2014 and it’s not looking good for 2015 either.


Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

Source: I used this table (page 6) for my numbers and I think you’ll see that I was rather conservative, though there are many more details included here that you may want to investigate.


Christmas is that one-day of year where most people are entitled to getting the day off. But that is a little different for a dairy farmer. No matter what day it is, the cows still have to be milked.  The cows don’t know if it’s Christmas or not. All they know is that they still want to be milked three times a day. Here is an example of a schedule that a dairy farmer might have to go through on Christmas day:

dairy farm calf6:00 am- Wake up and start to prepare yourself for your day. Get everything ready to start milking your herd.

7:00-9:00 am- You start milking your cows. You will have the challenge of dealing with sick cows and any other problems that may pop up during milking.

9:00-10:00 am- Of course a mess is always going to occur when working with cows. If you have been around cows, you know that they like to poop a lot. So this time would be clean up time. Milking parlors have high standards and must be spotless.

images10:00am – It is time to feed your hungry cows. They aren’t like dogs where you have to go out and put some food in a bowl. You have to mix the feed to a precise ratio.  Cows are actually very picky eaters; so all the feed must be very uniform.  It takes a lot of time especially if you have a high number of cattle.

12:00 pm- It is finally noon, and this is the time when you get to sit down eat your lunch and cram in a two hour nap.

2:00-4:00 pm- It’s that time again! Time to milk your cows for the second time today. Each milking is never the same. You will still have some challenges that you will have to overcome.

4:00- 5:00 pm-And still the cows know how to make a mess. Cleaning is very big part of the work that goes into a dairy farm.  There is always something that needs to be cleaned.

dairy farm feed5:00 pm- Before you are able to enjoy the rest of your Christmas, you need to feed your cows one more time. You never want your cows to run out of feed. If the cows are not fed, they will not produce milk.

6:00 pm- You are now able to sit down with your family and enjoy your Christmas. You get to have that typical Christmas evening just like every one else. But that doesn’t get to last for long. You are only able to stay up for a few hours since you have to get up soon to do your third milking.

11:00-1:00 am- Most people are asleep in their beds, but you are up doing your third milking.

1:00-2:00 am- Time to clean up for the final time of the day. It seems like cleaning is a never-ending chore on a dairy farm.


As you can see, no matter what day it is the cows still need to be milked. But dairy farmers love what they do. They would have to love it to be able to do it all the time. But you must think that if we didn’t have those people who love milking their cows, we wouldn’t have the dairy products that we all so love.  So there has to be somebody out there to do it.  So make sure you remember those dairy farmers this Christmas, and be thankful that they love to work with their cows no matter the day.

samanthaSamantha Wagner
Illinois State University


With the holiday season is upon us, many things take place: cookie decorating, overeating, and spending time with family and friends.  If you’re anything like me, your loved ones come from a variety of backgrounds, and those from non-Ag backgrounds often have many questions for me about current food trends.  In order to make this conversation easier, I drafted a few talking points to help to ease the conversation this holiday.

why do farmers use GMOs

Sources to check out: the environment and its resourcesprevalent in underdeveloped countries

you don't use antibiotics

Also read this: withdrawal period

grass-fed free range

Some of these questions seem like common sense and can be pretty frustrating when people don’t see things from our perspective—a topic I touched on in a recent post on my own blog.

It’s easy to poke fun at others’ agricultural illiteracy, especially when we are so familiar with this topic.  However, it does nothing to communicate our story in agriculture.

It is crucial in our communication that we “educate and not humiliate.”  This bit of advice comes from Jolene Brown, is a certified speaking professional whose focus is on agriculture and family.

At the end of the day, we’re all consumers with questions.  As producers, we have access to the answers to these questions and it’s our responsibility to share those answers.

This holiday season, can you promise to “educate and not humiliate?”

Molly NovotneyMolly Novotney
Joliet Junior College


dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



1. More Social Media Interaction

Yes, it’s definitely the least important on our Christmas list, and yet, if more people were plugged in to who we are and what we are doing, we think getting the other items on our list would be so much easier!

Everyday, IL Corn staff and farmer leaders are publishing information that is relevant to Illinois farmers and Illinois ag.  If you really want to understand what it is to be a farmer and what farmers are facing today, we wish you’d plug in!

Are you curious about the science and the economics behind farming?  You might get something out of our daily news updates.  We call them “Corn Scoops,” and they are geared towards our farmer members, but you can subscribe to the updates too!  Get them daily or weekly … your choice.  Click right here to sign up.

adopting biotechnologyMaybe you’d like a little less intense look at Illinois agriculture.  Find some motivating quotes, beautiful farm scenes, and important ag facts on our Instagram page.  It’s our fastest growing social media outlet!  (Click here to see what we’re up to, but to subscribe, you need to download Instagram on your smart phone and search for ilcorn.)

Perhaps the easiest place of all to keep up with us is on Facebook.  We’re sharing interesting articles from all over the web here as well as our own stories.  This is the very best place to learn more about what IL Corn is doing, but also to learn more about farmers in general, how they farm, and why they are invested in doing what they do well.  This will take you directly to our page!

And, if you haven’t already, make sure you’re following this blog.  You can follow us by checking out the bar on the right side of this page!

If more people read about, paid attention to, and understood farmers and farming, we know that all our other issues would melt away!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:


5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

3. A functioning state and federal government

2. More stable farm profitability



dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



2. More Stable Farm Profitability

Hopefully by now, you’ve read one of our most popular posts: Are Farmers Rich? and it’s follow up post Are Farmers Rich? Updated!  If you haven’t already checked those out, you need to start there.

bag of moneyBecause after you have a basic understanding of the extremely high costs and extreme risks involved in running a farm, there won’t be much more to say about this item on the wish list.

Farming is hard.  And it’s even harder when market prices are drastically up and down over the course of a year and even year to year, leaving a farmer grasping at straws trying to predict what the market will do, what the weather will do and how he will make money.

A few years ago, farmers were making around $7 a bushel for their corn.  In those years, yields weren’t as high because of drought pressure or other concerns, but farmers still made a profit.  Three short years later, corn prices are around $3.50 a bushel in Central Illinois.  Yields are high, but that price doesn’t even cover the cost farmers paid to plant those acres!

It becomes very difficult to manage.  Farmers have to be smart, futuristic, and forward thinking if they want to continue to make enough money to raise their families on the farm.  They have to predict whether or not the farm will grow enough, whether market prices will be high enough to make enough money to pay their bills and feed their families.

(Also included in this formula is available markets.  Farmers have to think through what Congress or the Administration might arbitrarily do to ruin market opportunity for farmers.  Can’t pass a Free Trade Agreement?  Huge impact.  Decide we hate ethanol and we’ll lower the volume obligation?  Market prices are out the window.)

This year, Santa, it would be so nice to not have that pressure.  Anything you can do?


Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

3. A functioning state and federal government