Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Illinois Corn home office is under construction this week. We’re trying to prepare for our June board meetings by repairing some massive pot holes in our parking lot and driveway. What that means for those of us in the office is parking a little further away and doing a bit of a hopscotch move to get into the front door of the building without stepping in drying cement.

Inside the office, we’re under construction too. In fact, there’s a host of issues and events that we’re working on! Some have short deadlines, some have been in progress for decades, but much like the men outside pouring cement, we’re dedicated and can’t wait to see these projects to completion.

It’s just that we’re going to do so with our shirts ON.

Locks and Dams

If you take a look at our website and visit the locks and dams section, we boast that this just might be the year that Illinois corn farmers finally see funding for lock and dam upgrades. What led us to that conclusion is partly that industry and the Army Corps of Engineers have come to an agreement on how to fund the upgrades AND complete them efficiency. We’ve been taking this message to Congress and have found that they are particularly receptive to groups that have their own funding streams to partner with federal dollars! But we also know that if we don’t get lock and dam funding this year, we might have to wait a few more before we push it again. So … 2010 is the year in our minds because the timing just won’t be right next year. Call your Congressman and ask that they fund lock and dam upgrades!


Opening day is June 1! That means that the rest of the week and Tuesday, we’ll be hard at work preparing messaging, coordinating media, assigning tickets, outfitting our suite, and doing all the other miscellaneous work that accompanies our CornBelters partnership. Please join us for opening day when our ICMB Chairman, Jim Rapp, will throw the first pitch! If this is something that interests you, you might check out our recent podcast.


Now that we finally have the first blender pump operating in Sullivan, IL, we can return to other ethanol issues that are close at hand. The EPA indicates that they will issue a decision on higher ethanol blends this summer and we continue to press our Illinois Delegation to co-sponsor HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This act would extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit among other things and will help ethanol remain a valuable partner in developing rural communities, lessoning our environmental impact, and accomplishing energy security. Kuddos to the Illinois Congressman that have already co-sponsored this important bill – if your Congressman doesn’t appear here, give him or her a call today!

Social Media

We have hired several interns for the summer that will start next week working on social media projects and helping us continue to gear up our social media presence. As you’ve obviously noticed, our blog posts and content are improving daily, but we can’t wait for them to arrive, helping us populate our youtube channel with valuable information and maybe even getting more facts and data our on facebook and twitter. If you aren’t already following us on all of these important outlets, I’d encourage you to check into them!

There are a million other “projects under construction” in our office but this definitely gives you a flavor for what the Illinois Corn staff and boards are up to right now. Please notice that we can’t complete many of these projects without your help! Consider contacting your Congressman on the above issues to thank him and ask for his help on the things that matter to you. Consider partnering with us on the social media front by following us on twitter, Facebook, youtube, or the blog and forward our messaging to your friends and family.

As they say, it takes a village. And I could sure use your help as I traverse the construction area outside our door! That’s one construction project that can’t be done soon enough.

By: Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Perhaps you’ve seen it in previous news outlets, or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, the gist of the message is that the Illinois Corn Marketing Board believes in our own version of “If you build it, they will come.”

In October of last year, ICMB and the Normal CornBelters entered into a partnership – a partnership that is actually quite rare as far as sports teams and not-for-profit associations go.

The thing is, Illinois corn farmers know that what they do is confusing for everyone outside the agricultural industry. They understand that others just don’t get the dynamics of tillage, huge machinery, chemical applications, and export markets. They realize that everyone wants to know more about our nation’s food production systems, but doesn’t personally know a farmer to ask. And Illinois corn farmers want to change that.

There are parents, teachers, ministers, and policemen in Bloomington-Normal that live five minutes from a corn field, and even right in the middle of the largest corn producing county in the nation, that believe myths about corn production and the safety or efficiency of corn products. Farmers want to encourage the one-on-one dialogue that will improve understanding and build trust between farmers and consumers, even in their own communities.

A partnership with the CornBelters will help us do this. A partnership with the CornBelters makes us more visible and provides us the opportunity to stand in front of you and explain who we are, what we do, what’s important to us, and that we love our jobs.

So please consider joining us for a game at the Corn Crib and don’t be surprised to see us rooting for the home team with our families while we enjoy a cold beer and a ballpark hot dog. We are your neighbors and we are proud to be doing a job that we love while serving your needs and the needs of folks all over the world.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Monday, May 24, 2010


Here in the Illinois Corn office, the Gulf oil spill is the thing we’re talking about as we gather around the coffee pot in the mornings. I know we aren’t the only ones.

We’re all concerned about the environmental impacts and we’re disappointed that BP can’t seem to figure out a way to get this leak under control. What will happen to the wildlife, the habitats, the beaches, and the water quality as a result of the millions of gallons of oil that are now in the Gulf? I’m happy to see BP pledge funding to post-oil research on some of the topics, even though I’m not sure it’s enough.

There are some pretty interesting video updates about their recovery efforts here.

Environment aside though, we’re concerned about shipping. What happens when barge and freight traffic can’t exit the Mississippi River? Will New Orleans have to shut down once again? And as if having a record corn crop and not having the infrastructure to get it out of Illinois weren’t enough, what if traffic coming upstream is shut down too? We won’t have fertilizers for our crops, salt for our roads, and a host of other products that Illinois ships upstream on the Mighty Mississippi.

When you add the potential for this billion dollar transportation failure to the environmental fiasco, BP has really screwed up.

BNSF Railway is already gearing up for what might be an infrastructure meltdown and hoping to provide additional rail service to the coasts in order to get products to export. This alternative has a higher cost (financially and environmentally) than our current barge system, but is a viable option.

Kevin Kaufman, BNSF’s Group Vice President, Agricultural Products provides a nice podcast on May 6 where he mentions this fact at about minute 2:45. There are actually a lot of other great podcasts on this site if rail transportation is something you’re interested in.

This is what I know – the need for river transportation on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers has never been greater. Illinois farmers are producing more and more corn and continue to feed a growing export market. Barge transportation for our goods and grain is the most environmentally friendly, economic means of transportation available to Illinoisans. We need MORE river transportation, not less.

Jim Tarmann
Field Services Director and River Transportation Guru

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The Renewable Fuels Association released a report yesterday regarding U.S. ethanol exports. According to the report, our ethanol exports are surging partly because the U.S. is the lowest cost producer right now and also because we have extra ethanol we can’t use within our country.

Both of these concepts might come as a shock to you so let me give a brief explanation. Ethanol produced in Iowa is currently $1 cheaper per gallon than ethanol produced in Brazil. Blending 10% ethanol from Iowa into a gallon of gasoline would be $0.11 cheaper than the same blend containing ethanol from Brazil.

I’m not shocked that U.S. farmers and ethanol producers are the most efficient in the world, but I’m sure some are.

And in regards to the second point, we do have additional gallons of ethanol that we can’t use in the U.S. right now. Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will only allow a 10% of each gallon of gasoline to be ethanol, we simply don’t have any more gallons of gasoline to blend into.

But all the summaries and background information aside (you can read that here), there are a couple of take home messages from this data that I just can’t ignore.

First, I wish the world, the government, and the American consumer would notice that American corn farmers are doing EXACTLY as we said they would – they are producing more than enough corn to feed and fuel the world. Corn farmers have grown enough corn to feed all the livestock in the U.S., to export corn to other countries to feed their livestock, to fulfill the needs of all the food markets in our country, to produce all the ethanol that our entire nation can use, and now to ship our ethanol to other countries.

Why did anyone doubt us and when is someone going to notice? American corn farmers can produce corn. They can produce exponential yields using less fertilizer, fewer chemicals, and contributing to minimal soil erosion. When is someone going to stand up and give the corn farmer credit for this incredible story of production and environmental stewardship?

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, why are we shipping ethanol to other countries at the expense of our own energy security!?

To quote the RFA report, “As long as domestic ethanol usage is restricted by the regulatory limitation on 10% blends, the U.S. ethanol industry will be forced to look to the global marketplace for new demand sources. And, as a result, Americans will miss out on the opportunity for greater fuel savings and a healthier, more secure domestic energy supply.”

I admit that I obviously have a bias because I love corn farmers, I love corn, and I love ethanol. But am I the only one thinking that trading our safety, our health, and our cash for more oil overseas because of government rhetoric is crazy?

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Technology & Business Development Director
(and ethanol expert!)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Corn needs nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil to produce quality grain. For years, farmers have added these nutrients to the soil through manure applications and, more recently, directly injecting them into the soil.

However, the actual use of nitrogen and phosphorus per bushel has decreased in recent years. Corn yields are going up and nutrient applications are decreasing, allowing farmers to use 36 percent less fertilizer for their crops than they did only three decades ago.  In addition, new tillage practices are reducing soil erosion which, in turn, decreases nutrient run off. If you look at their numbers, there is less phosphorus and nitrogen per bushel of corn now than ever before.

Currently there are two projects starting in Illinois that are addressing the movement of nitrogen and phosphorus by studying tillage, application dates and amounts. These studies will be a collaborative effort between the Environmental Defense Fund, American Farmland Trust, and University of Illinois researchers.

Increased ethanol production has had no impact on phosphorus and nitrogen run off.
Recent information is now looking at “legacy phosphorus and nitrogen” – a term coined by the EPA to indicate nutrients that were washed into the streams and rivers and deposited 50 years ago and are now being moved downstream by the heavy rainfall events of the last few years. It is estimated that it may take 30-50 years before this huge reservoir of sediment and nutrients will be washed out of the River system. Thus the significant reduction in applied nutrients/bushel currently is actually keeping the levels of nutrients in our water systems from being as high as they could be.

Mike Plumer
Ex Officio Director, ICGA & U of I Extension Specialist

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Do you know your sugars? Which ones are good and which ones are bad for you? Take this quiz and see how you do.

Some people mistakenly think that some sweeteners are healthier than others. When in reality, the facts just don’t add up. Whether it’s sugar from cane, beets or corn, all sweet treats have the same number of calories.  To learn more about how these are all made click here.  Don't let yourself be scammed!

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Monday, May 17, 2010


Our office took a stand Friday. We are boycotting Chipotle. But first, let me give you some background so you can understand why you should DEFINITELY boycott Chipotle too.

I have no idea if you’ve been following the animal welfare issues going on in Ohio, so let me start this post out with a summary.

Ohio was chugging along, producing quality grain, meats, and produce for the citizens of our world, when the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) came along and decided to wreak havoc. As they have done in other states, HSUS decided to pursue a ballot initiative that would make certain farming practices illegal. Here’s hoping that any of you reading this already know that HSUS isn’t as concerned for animal welfare as they are for ending animal agriculture and meat production in our country, but if you don’t, read this before you go any further.

Ohio agriculture raised a lot of money and started to fight back. They set up an agency within their state that would oversee animal welfare issues and enforce animal care standards, thus eliminating the need for the HSUS to come in and demand the end of the various farming practices.

But now the HSUS has decided that they will continue to fight. They are currently behind a new ballot initiative that will “require the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt certain minimum standards to prevent animal cruelty, improve health and food safety, support family farms, and safeguard the environment throughout the state of Ohio.” These are their words.

The point to my post, however, is the fact that Chipotle is a corporate sponsor for their effort. They are allowing ballots to be placed in their stores throughout Ohio to make it easier for unsuspecting patrons to vote in their favor, bringing us one step closer to ending animal agriculture in the United States.

Yes, the same Chipotle that serves the pork burritos that my co-worker Becky loves, is trying to end pork production in the U.S. And they know it.

They have statements about their purchasing choices and support of humane animal care all over the store. They were also the first restaurant to remove rBGH from their milk products, buy from family farms and make a real, financial commitment to sustainable meat. (source here)

(Whether or not they actually understand that this production system isn’t sustainable remains to be seen. I guess there could be different definitions of sustainability.)

Obviously, with this background, they are well-educated on the goals of the HSUS and want to support ending animal agriculture. Don’t be surprised if you head into Chipotle next year and the entire menu is vegetarian.

Because of all this, our office decided to make a statement yesterday. Becky, Mark and I had the wonderful pork at Moe’s Southwestern Grill instead.

We couldn’t find anything on Moe’s website indicating that they support activist groups and we wanted to reward them for it. Not to mention that their food is better and their chips are free!

Then we met some more folks from the office and expressed our displeasure for Chipotle.

Why don’t you go ahead and do the same?
Lindsay Mitchell
Project Coordinator, ICGA/ICMB

Friday, May 14, 2010


About halfway through my term as President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, I can look back and realize that a good portion of our time has been spent on climate change and the idea that corn is somehow responsible for warming our planet. At the same time, I now have to wonder if the second half will be spent discussing whether or not corn is cooling the planet.

Check this out.

All at once, I am consoled that now I am no longer warming the planet and contributing to an apocalypse, but fueling a “cool hole” in the middle of the country.

To summarize, David Changnon, a climate scientist at Northern Illinois University, has used decades of research to prove that more densely planted corn and soybean fields scattered across the Midwest are changing the regional climate – raising the dew point and reducing the extremely hot summer days.

Is it just me, or do all the other Illinois farmers out there want the public, the researchers, and the government to make up their minds about how we affect the climate? It surely isn’t only me that wishes we were seen as a solution to the problem instead of the problem.

This article indicates that there’s hope.

"It's a different type of human-induced climate change that has certainly played a role in the changes to Illinois' weather," said Jim Angel, a climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign. "It's kind of an interesting way to look at all this."

Interesting, but also crucially important, Changnon said, as climate scientists ponder two intriguing questions related to this research: Have Midwest farmers accidentally created a barrier to soften the most severe effects of global warming? And if so, can it be repeated elsewhere?


Half a year spent discussing warming and hopefully half a year discussing cooling. Maybe I will exit my term as President with the needle still fully in the middle.

And I will consider it a victory.

Tim Lenz
President, ICGA

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It’s sad but true. I enjoy my job enough that I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for answers to the question of the day. Today, that question happens to be Will the Chinese government allow US corn to be unloaded in China?

I know it’s isn’t a question that would keep most of you up at night, but for me, it’s almost like a suspense novel.

Yesterday, China (actually COFCO, the largest oils and food importer and exporter in China) bought six cargos of U.S. corn from Bunge. The shipments are to be delivered between June and September 2010.

This is great news because the U.S. has been waiting to gain entry into the Chinese market for years. We have worked long and hard to ensure that when China needed more corn, they would buy it from us. In 2001, we heard the great news that they had purchased three cargos of corn, but we were all disappointed later when they cancelled them.
Now can you imagine that when I heard the news about China buying six cargos of corn yesterday I was jumping out of my chair? Ok, maybe I wasn’t that enthusiastic, but I was cautiously optimistic that this market was finally open to Illinois corn farmers.

Illinois corn farmers have a lot to gain from new exports to China. We have three river systems … the Illinois, the Ohio, and the Mississippi. We have a comparative advantage when it comes to exporting corn because it’s cheapest for us to get it to a river and load it on a barge. Cargos of corn going to China is great news for the overabundance of corn Illinois farmers are predicted to produce in 2010.

This announcement came just in time.

Except a second announcement came right on its heels - the Chinese inspection papers, or whatever they call the government document that allows US corn to be unloaded in China, haven’t been issued yet. To me, that means another cancellation could be in our future.

I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m waiting to see what happens. I can’t wait to flip to that final page of the story and find out the answer.

What can I say? I love a good story. Instead of a book worm, I’m a corn wor … no wait.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director

Monday, May 10, 2010

What qualifies as gluttonous profits? How about 8,000%!

If you’re looking for a good read, I think you might have just stumbled across one.

Take a look at this article by Marc J. Rauch, Executive Vice President of The Auto Channel which claims to be the “largest independent automotive information resource.” I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mr. Rauch is in favor of calling a spade, a spade.

The article quickly chronicles the arrival of a news tip in his inbox entitled Automakers Concerns with E15, and his thoughts on the folks that wrote the article, their lack of facts, and their unbiased support of the oil industry.

He offers some great quotes. For one, “The story’s byline claims that its author is with the ‘Ethanol Transparency Project,’ a sponsored program of “The Agribusiness Council.” After perusing information about The Agribusiness Council I would say that its name is as ill-conceived in describing its real purpose as “National Socialism” was to describe Hitler’s Nazi Party."

And he summarizes the article by saying, “Except for those people who make gluttonous profits from the petroleum oil, it is in everyone’s best interests to destroy OPEC and the ruling hierarchy of the gasoline companies. Energy independence from foreign dictators and terrorism supporters can be had, and there are economically viable alternatives to gasoline that are available right now. Alcohol (ethanol) is one, and it may be as close to a viable single source solution to oil as is possible.”

I won’t ruin it for you. Come check it out here.

By: Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Confronting the Ag Tech Myth

The other day, I was being interviewed for a special feature on my school's website. I go to a small fine arts school in the Chicago suburbs, which is situated in a fairly wealthy area. Here, agriculture doesn't get thought about much. When I saw the initial story written, I was more than a little shocked by one sentence.

"Kelly Rivard, sophomore, is bringing new technology to an old-tech industry."

What!? This story about my activity in social media and agriculture was written by an educated lady who was a wonderful writer. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, though. She was born and raised in the suburbs. It wasn't an intentional attack against ag; it was a misinformed but well-meaning profile of me.

I knocked on her office door and she seemed happy to see me. She was willing to talk about the article, so we sat down and made some changes. First off, I didn't want undue credit. Agriculturalists were using social media long before I was on the scene. Secondly, I strongly advocate urban and suburban education in terms of agriculture. The people who see this website should know that farmers are educating themselves in some pretty sophisticated technology!

While I can't restate it word-for-word, the revision went something similar to this:

"Kelly Rivard, sophomore, has immersed herself in new technology to help promote a very old industry."

After all, agriculture was the first industry. As the oldest type of trade, it has a long history of tradition. Part of that tradition is the on-going innovation that takes place every single day. Research is always going on, and it has to continue. With populations rising at alarming rates and farmland disappearing quickly, we need cutting-edge technology to make the best products in large quantities. Farmers are doing more with less these days.

Maybe I encounter this more because of my school. Maybe I'm just especially alert to the fact that suburban and urban folks make well-meaning mistakes and misconceptions in regards to farming. Either way, it's important to teach those who don't know. It is encounters like this that keep me reaching out. If the ag community doesn't teach the public, who will?

Kelly Rivard is a sophomore at North Central College, where she studies Interactive Media Studies and English. She plans to use her experience in Internet Communications to pursue a career in Agriculture Communications after college.