UNDERSTANDING HOW IMPORTERS VALUE U.S. CORN

The global corn market is increasingly competitive.  To adequately compete, U.S. corn has to be available, priced right compared to other corn, and of good quality.  This isn’t so different from how you chose one pair of shoes over another, is it?

To give the U.S. an advantage, we attempt to provide good information about the quality of our corn crop each year.  Because it’s usually very good, this information helps us compete with other countries selling corn to the global market.

The USDA also grades our corn.  You can see the requirements of each grade in the graphic above.  The general idea is that heavier corn with no heat damage is the higher grades.

In 2018, for the corn just now coming out of the field, we might expect higher grades because the weather has naturally dried out the corn and farmers likely will not have to artificially dry the grain in a dryer.  This means, less heat damage.  However, because the year was a pretty dry year, the weight of the corn might not be as heavy due to a lack of moisture.

It’s a balancing act to deliver the most perfect corn you can to your first purchaser.  But even after you’ve delivered perfect number 1 corn, the additional handling needed to get it to an overseas market might reduce the corn quality.

Farmers keep trying to raise perfect quality corn!  Some factors are outside their control, but they understand that perfect corn demands premium prices!

HOW MUCH CORN DO WE GROW AND WHAT’S IT WORTH?

Although corn (or maize, as it’s known throughout much of the world) is grown in nearly all 50 states, production is primarily concentrated in the northern and Midwestern states—collectively known as the U.S. Corn Belt.

Farmers in the Corn Belt grew quite a bit of corn in 2017 – enough to satisfy some pretty large markets with corn to spare!  Corn prices are low right now because farmers keep growing a lot of corn and the market demand isn’t keeping up.  U.S. policies about ethanol and trade are part of that impact.

For the market year September 2016 – July 2017, farmers sold Mexico 21.7 million bushels of corn for just over $6 billion.  They also sold 15.8 million bushels to Japan for $5.5 billion and 8.1 million bushels to South Korea for $2.8 billion.  These three countries are our largest corn importers.

Farmers are proud of the corn they grow and the economic activity they spur for our country.  With these numbers, who wouldn’t be?

DOES YOUR SUMMER BUCKET LIST INCLUDE AG?

At my house, the summer seems like it is going to be over before we even turn around twice.  Sadly, we haven’t even gotten a vacation in!  Between work trips, church camp, the kids’ work schedules, and life, finding a day to just do something fun seems so difficult.

If you’re feeling the same way, I’d encourage you to take a quick minute and schedule a day trip to learn more about agriculture before the summer is over!  A day trip can be the perfect solution to so many problems:

  1. You need a break
  2. Your kids need a break
  3. You want your children to have one happy memory of you over the summer
  4. They haven’t learned anything meaningful since the end of May and it’s about time.

In that vein …

Please enjoy this quick roundup of potential ways to learn more about where your food comes from before the summer is over!

Tour an alpaca farm in Amboy, IL

Alpaca’s are similar to camels, but with more charm and personality says the West Wind Alpaca farm in Amboy.  You can tour their alpaca farm by calling or emailing them.

 

 

Pick blueberries at Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley, IL

The blueberries, red raspberries, and currants are available for picking at Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley.  Your kids will love picking their own fruit, and if you plan ahead, you can schedule a tour of their orchard and learn something about how apples and other fruits are grown.

 

 

Experience the Children’s Farm at The Center in Palos Park, IL

During weekend visits, farm guides invite the public into each animal pen and are ready to supply information about the animals to inquiring visitors. Guests are welcome to touch, pet and groom many of our animals. Our barn animals change seasonally but we often have a variety of chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, cows, sheep, horses, ponies and donkeys.  And if you’re looking for a longer term opportunity, they even take volunteers to care for the animals!

Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL

I learned something today!  Who knew that we had one of the premiere Japanese Gardens in the U.S. right here in Rockford, IL!?  Anderson Gardens is a  twelve-acre landscape of streams, waterfalls, winding pathways, and koi-filled ponds has been rated one of North America’s highest quality Japanese gardens for more than a decade.  Not your traditional agriculture visit, but definitely something to see.

 

Learn about grain marketing at the oldest grain elevator in Illinois

The M.J. Hogan Grain Elevator is the earliest remaining grain elevator built along the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The elevator, constructed in 1861-1862 by John Armour, allowed local farmers to ship their grain in bulk to Chicago markets via the canal, as opposed to transporting each load by horse and wagon.  You can take a tour of this treasure!

 

Experience modern agriculture at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, IN

Yes, this one isn’t in IL, but it still might be a possible day trip for you.  And it’s worth it!  This tour isn’t about history of agriculture or what used to be, but instead features the way farmers currently raise cattle, pigs, and how they use technology to do everything better.  This one is worth more than a day if you have the time to spare!

 

Hope you enjoy these fun places to learn more about agriculture this summer!  Please come back and comment if you visited any or have any others we should add!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

#TBT: CELEBRATE NATIONAL DAIRY MONTH WITH PIZZA

[Originally published: June 23, 2016]

June is National Dairy Month! Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an exciting time for me. You can find me celebrating by eating ice cream, cheese, and all of the other delicious dairy products that our American Dairy Farmers work hard to produce!

6-23-16image6National Dairy Month is a little more personal for me. I grew up on my family’s dairy farm 40 miles south of downtown Chicago. On my family’s farm, I was able to watch as my grandfather, uncle, and father worked hard each morning and evening, no matter the weather conditions, to feed, milk, and clean up the cows. Their dedication to the animals was mesmerizing. Even I had the chance to be active and work with the cows in day-in and day-out as I grew up.

No matter how much hard work dairy farmers put in, they still seem to be scrutinized by the general public. It is always interesting to me that those from off the farm don’t stop to see and realize that American Dairy Farmers spend every day of the year working with their cattle to make sure they are strong and healthy.

I grew up on a dairy farm and I have worked on my family’s dairy farm. I know how we treat our animals. We treat our animals with care, love, and respect. You can ask anyone who knows me that I love my cows and treat them with better respect than most humans I interact with.

6-23-16image5Now, to celebrate my love for National Dairy Month, I decided to cook one of my favorite meals, my homemade pizza. I make the dough and sauce from scratch, but what makes this pizza great is the cheese: Chellino’s Scamorza Cheese to be exact. Chellino’s is based in Joliet, IL and they use milk from our dairy farm to make the cheese. Now, what could be better? Great tasting cheese AND you know who put in the hard work to produce and deliver the milk and cheese.

If you can’t get your hands on Chellino’s Scamorza, it is okay to use other Scamorza, or even smoked mozzarella. However, if you can get your hand on some of Chellino’s, you’ll know it will turn out delicious, and you’ll even know where the milk came from that produced it!

FOR THE PIZZA:

  • 1 1/3 cup hot water (not boiling)
  • 1/4oz envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (and extra for oiling bowls)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • granulated garlic
  • scamorza cheese
  • baby arugula
  • diced pancetta
  • baby arugula

GET COOKIN’:

  1. In a bowl, add warm water and 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and then add in the yeast packet. Set aside.
  1. 6-23-16image2In a stand mixer bowl, add 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, the rest of the sugar, and the flour. Then, take the water, yeast, and sugar and mix until it is dissolved. Once dissolved, add to mixer bowl. With a dough hook, mix at low until everything is combined, and then mix on medium and let the mixer knead the dough. Add more flour if needed until the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl and not sticking, about 6-8 minutes.
  1. Take the dough and divide it into two piece. With each piece, round into two balls and place into an oiled bowl seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let them sit to rise for 90 minutes, preferably in an oven recently turned off and still warm.
  1. Once risen, the dough should be able to be poked and the indent stays. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Roll the dough out into a circle and onto a pizza stone. Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic. Once mixed, brush onto the dough. Once spread onto dough, grate about 1/4 – 1/2 lb of Scamorza cheese onto the pizza. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes.
  1. After 15 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and add the diced pancetta. Pop back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Once finished, add baby arugula to the top of the pizza. Slice up and enjoy!

For more recipes, find me on my website at DiningWithDakota.com

Cowger_Dakota_IL CORN INTERN 2x3 16

Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES & THE FAMILY FARM #WISDOMWEDNESDAY

When I really think about it, I’ve lived off the farm longer than I lived on, but you know how it goes: You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

So, here’s a fun list of quotes from famous people that make my mind slip right back to the farm.

Innovation – wow.  Have you SEEN what’s going on on the farm lately?  These farmers are using GPS to map their fields.  GPS is turning on and off the planter boxes so that the planted rows don’t overlap.  GPS is controlling the fertilizer application so that the soil is getting exactly what it needs – no more and no less.  These innovative farming techniques are distinguishing the really great farmers from those that still need to improve.

This takes me back to spring planting.  The years when the soil was dry and hard, yet those little seedlings pushed through!  And, although I didn’t appreciate it fully at the time, the first day driving to church on Sunday when you could finally “row the corn” which meant that the little green rows of seedlings were finally visible as you drove by … those little guys saw strength and growth through continuous effort and struggle.  And in the end, they put me through college.  I’m so grateful little corn seedlings!

Optimism: some farmers have it more than others, but all farmers have it.  Think about it, when you put a field of seeds into the ground, knowing that at that present moment you are going to lose money on each and every one, hoping that the economy turns around before harvest?  That’s optimism.  Farmers are full of hope and confidence.  They hope for good growing seasons and good marketing opportunities.  They are confident in their own abilities as farmers and, usually, in God that they will take care of their families somehow.

This isn’t something that my parents said to me *exactly* but the sentiment is the same.  Don’t do a job halfway.  Always do it the very best that you can and look for the opportunities to learn to do it better.  I definitely remember conversations like this in regards to my school work, but also when it came to ironing, house cleaning, and picking up the yard.  In the end, it was a great lesson and one that I’m always teaching my kids too.  I definitely think of kid’s ag organizations like 4-H and FFA when I read this one.

Check out the 4-H motto: I pledge my head to clearing thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, and my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.  Hear the push to always be better, bigger, clearer … and more?

Me to my kid: Yes, you did clean up your room about 50%.  Is that your best work?  Did you understand that we don’t allow piles of trash on your floor?  Do you think you can do better?  Then go do it!  And don’t complain about being punished when you know you only did it 50%!

This.  Every planting season.  Every harvest season.  Every week of hauling grain.  Every calving season.  Every season on the farm looms large ahead of you and the work is overwhelming.  And yet, every farmer I know keeps moving forward, eyes only on the next thing – the next calf, the next 80 acres to harvest, the next 8 hour day of hauling grain – until they turn around and the job is done.  THAT feeling of satisfaction can’t be matched.

Are there quotes that make you think about your life and your upbringing?  Do these quotes give you any insight into what it is to grow up and work on a farm?  Let’s chat in the comments!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director