Wednesday, June 30, 2010


On Friday, June 26, the Illinois Corn Growers Association hosted their annual golf outing at Fairlakes Golf Course in Secor to show appreciation to their many partners. 

This event is a time to relax and recognize the time that all of us spend on behalf of farmers in Illinois throughout the year.  County corn grower organizations, members of agribusiness, and others in the industry are invited to bring a team and join us for a leisurely afternoon.

Special guests attending the 2010 event were Rep. Dan Reitz (D-IL 116),  Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-IL 70), and Colleen Callahan, Illinois Director of USDA Rural Development.

If you'd like to see some of the fun that participants enjoyed this year, check out our clip below!

Jim Tarmann
Field Services Director

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The Illinois Corn Growers Association has a Political Action Committee (PAC) and has used it more and more in recent years to financially support the candidates that vote in the best interest of the corn farmer.

Because we’re more active in this arena, the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and unions to spend freely on campaign commercials (through their general treasury, not a PAC) was interesting to us. Republicans applauded the decision as a victory for free speech while Democrats vowed to come up with a legislative “fix” that would restrain the voices of corporate America.

The DISCLOSE Act (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) was passed last week.

Interestingly enough, the act couldn’t pass without carve outs for certain interest groups that didn’t want to be required to tell which candidates they were sponsoring on TV ads. Among the carve outs were the Sierra Club and the Humane Society.

You can read more on The People’s House, a blog maintained by staff of Representative Tim Johnson.

Now I don’t know about you, but both these associations are groups that I’d sort of like to keep tabs on. I mean, if the Humane Society is supporting a candidate from their general treasury, I’d really like to know who the candidate is AND I’d really like to let my friends and neighbors that blindly contribute to the sick pets on the TV that they are really contributing to elected officials that will vote to end animal agriculture in our country.

And then there’s the other side of the coin … what’s good for one should be good for all, right? What are your thoughts?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Monday, June 28, 2010


Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Flickr. Blogger.

What do all of these things mean to you? Everyone uses social media in different ways and for many different reasons. However, everyone can agree on one thing – social media has changed the way that our world communicates, and it is not going to go away. 470,334,100 people are on Facebook today. That is more than the population of the entire United States. Not only that, but these 470,334,100 people all have access to what you say.

I don’t want to bore everyone with facts and statistics, but these are pretty compelling numbers. The fact is that social media is gaining power, and all of that power is available to everyone. People want their news, information, and entertainment when they want it, where they want it, and at the click of a button. Anything you want to know is on the internet and in social media in some form or another. That being said, the agricultural community can’t be left behind. If people want to get on their iPhones for 5 minutes while they are walking from the parking lot to their office to get their news for the day, agriculture needs to be right there with them. No one wants to go looking for facts anymore, they want it to come to them, which is what the community of agriculture needs to do. We need to go to the general public with our message, and do it in a way that people will find easily.

Here’s an example: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is fighting with farmers and producers about what they think “animal cruelty” is. They think that our practiced and proven methods of farming and raising livestock are wrong because the cows don’t frolic in twenty acres of pasture every day. They are getting so much good press for their messages that the uninformed will believe them easily, because it is easy to believe a cause that claims to be helping animals. Any farmer you talk to will know about this fight with the HSUS and will have plenty to say. But that’s just it, not enough people are saying it! We have the power through social media to give our side of the story, and to educate the misinformed. We have a great message to tell, and now it is our job to use social media to our advantage and tell the world about agriculture. If that doesn’t have you convinced, this article might.  In short, this explains how the HSUS is tagging agricultural videos as porn to get less people to hear our message.

That being said, there’s room for lighthearted and fun education on social media too. Not everyone wants to get involved in heated debates about these issues; some don’t think they have any reason to be concerned. But those are still people that we need to reach with our message. As an intern at IL Corn, I understand the issues that farmers face today. I also understand how people my age think, and it is my job to reach them and everyone else with our message. Corn is not something that people get excited about unless we make it exciting. For example, the IL Corn summer interns have been making videos that have overlaying messages about corn and agriculture built into them. People watch videos because they are quick, easy to watch, easily accessible, and they don’t have to put forth any effort to hear the message. So we give them entertaining and educational videos that they can learn from. Occasionally, someone will stumble across a parody movie we have made and watch it because it looks funny. As a result, they learn something they didn’t plan on learning. When that happens, we have accomplished our goal. We just finished our first video that does just that.

Social media will never go away. It is here to stay, and everyone has a future with social media whether we go looking for it or not. I personally did not want to get a Twitter account because it seemed like a crazy fad that would soon die out and it seemed annoying to me. When I started this job I started one up, and I have already learned things I never would have dreamed of because I never would have gone looking for it, but there it was, just being handed to me. That is the power of social media. It is all there for the taking, we just have to be giving the information for people to take.

Kristie Harms
Junior at the University of Missouri
ICGA/ICMB Summer Intern

Friday, June 25, 2010


The storms that continue to pound Illinois fields added yet another chapter on Wednesday night. Here are the skies over one central Illinois farm, and the rain gauge on Thursday morning.

As the country song says, rain is a good thing, but too much rain literally drowns crops. Farmers are struggling to drain water from the land, as the soil has already soaked up more than it can handle and fertilizer or crop protection applications continue to be delayed because fields are too muddy to drive in.

Three weeks without rain would be a welcome change, giving the fields time to dry out, farmers a chance to work, and a very happy change in mood around the IL Corn office!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This article reprinted with the author’s permission and was first published at

by Ryan Andrews, June 23rd, 2010.

By now, most PN readers are familiar with Ryan Andrews. Simply put, he’s a nutrition stud.

I’m serious. The guy has earned nearly every nutrition and exercise accreditation available.

• A nationally ranked bodybuilder from 1996-2001, check.
• Registered and Licensed Dietitian, check.
• Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, check.
• A Masters in Nutrition, check.
• A Masters in Exercise Physiology, check.
• John’s Hopkins trained expert coach, check.
• PN Lean Eating coach, check.

Despite this very impressive resume, I’ve gotta level with you.

Ryan’s CV doesn’t tell the whole story. You see, there’s something more you need to know about Ryan.  And that’s his not-so-secret fascination with plant-based foods. In essence, Ryan eats an exclusive plant-based diet. Animal foods are left off his menu. For a variety of reasons.

So, when Ryan called me one day, excitedly announcing an exclusive invitation to visit one of Colorado’s largest cattle farming operations, I was intrigued. A vegan visiting a cattle farm, huh?

Would it be a smooth, fact-finding mission?

Or would I be getting a call to bail the dude outta some local jail?

Well, read on to find out…

My trip to Magnum

My day at the cattle feedlot got off to a rough start. Maybe it’s because I wore my “Have You Hugged A Vegetarian Today Shirt.” Bad move on my part, I guess.

What I didn't wear to the feedlot.

No, I’m just kidding. I didn’t wear my vegan shirt.

And my day at the Magnum Feedyard in Wiggins, Colorado got off to a great start.

It all began at a restaurant in Hudson, Colorado, called the Pepper Pod. That’s where I met two new friends: an animal science instructor and a student from Colorado State University, who escorted me up to Wiggins to get an exclusive tour of the Magnum Feedyard.

We met at the Pepper Pod, then up to Wiggins.

During the 75-minute drive, a lot was going through my mind.

For starters, this visit had been 6 months, and quite a few emails/phone calls, in the making.

You see, very few people in the nutrition world are ever allowed to visit feedlots. In fact, some of my favorite authors have written entire books about feedlots without ever being granted permission to see one in person. So I had to “work it” pretty hard to get this kind of access. And was really excited.

However, despite my enthusiasm for the opportunity, I was a little worried. I mean, everything I’d read about feedlots suggested that they’re horrible, dismal places where thousands of sick cows are crammed in tiny pens, being force-fed corn while standing in steaming piles of their own feces.

As someone concerned with animal welfare, what would I do if faced with this sight? Would I run for the gates, throw them open, and let those poor cows free? Was I man enough to do that? Would I just go home with my tail between my legs? Or would I see something totally different, totally unexpected?

Arriving at Magnum Feedyard

With all these emotional and philosophical thoughts running through my head, I wasn’t prepared for the first thought that hit me when we arrived at Magnum – one of the 14,000 beef cattle operations in Colorado.

“Oh, god, the smell.”

Yes, the first thing I noticed when I arrived was the smell. And no, it wasn’t fear. I smelled manure. I guess I should have expected it. After all, I was standing among 20,000+ steers and heifers. Duh, welcome to farming, Ryan!

The Magnum Farm

In the U.S. there are 2.2 million farms. 98% of them meet the USDA definition of a “family farm.”

The USDA considers a “family farm” any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and his/her relatives. Steve Gabel, president of the Colorado Livestock Association, owns Magnum, and runs it with his family.

So, Magnum fits this criterion and is thus considered a “family farm”.

This is me and Steve Gabel, owner of Magnum.

So if Steve’s is a “family farm,” what’s a “factory farm”?

Well, the term “factory farm” isn’t actually used in the agricultural community. So, in essence, it’s slang that was coined by skeptics of the cattle industry.

The agricultural community actually calls large animal feeding units “CAFOs.” CAFO means Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. A CAFO has more than 1,000 animal units, and 1 beef cow = 1 animal unit.

For the record, 75% of all beef in the U.S. comes from CAFOs.

And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, CAFOs “congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.”

So, Magnum fits the criterion of a CAFO. When it started in 1993, Magnum had 4,500 cattle. Now they have 22,000. And operations are managed with 8-13 employees (depending on the time of year).

Magnum houses 22,000 cattle

But, wait a minute! Magnum is a family farm. And Magnum is a factory farm. How can it be both?

Well, they were started and are run by a family. But they also congregate more than 22,000 beef cattle. So, they meet the definition for both categories.

Of course, that makes clean and tidy, black and white judgments about cattle operations harder to make. Trust me it’ll get harder in a minute.

What Magnum cattle eat

When animals arrive at Magnum, they are usually 7 – 9 months of age. During their first four days, they receive 100% grass feed to help maintain rumen health.

Wait a second! Don’t all feedlot cattle get 100% corn? With maybe a sprinkling of soy mixed in?

Uh, nope.

There are five different rations used at Magnum, comprised of seven ingredients, including corn, soy, alfalfa, straw, and wet grain distillers (by-products of the ethanol industry). And these feeds range from 0% corn to 50% corn.

Here are a few pics of the different feeds:

A wet distiller, corn-based.

One of the rations is corn-based.

One of the rations is grass-based.

Feed is delivered by a truck three times each day. And, interestingly, as noted above, corn doesn’t comprise more than 50% of any of the feed ration.

Wait, wait. What about all those reports of sick cows being stuffed with corn?

Well, folks, at Magnum anyway, there’s no such thing as an “all grain” cattle diet. In fact, the diet of the cattle at Magnum never exceeds 50% corn. And often, it’s much, much less.

This is the feed truck that makes its rounds three times per day.

This is where all the feed ingredients are mixed in the back of the truck.

As many animal nutrition experts know, too much grain in a cow’s diet can result in rumen acidosis. That is why, at Magnum, the animals’ diets are formulated by nutritionists bi-weekly. This helps them maintain the correct feed for a given pen of animals.

Of course, the goal at Magnum is to feed cattle efficiently. They want the biggest weight gain for the fewest pounds of feed, in the most economical way. And, at Magnum, they do a good job of efficiency. Cattle are normally kept on the feedlot until around 12 to 15 months of age. This means they’re kept for between 150 and 240 days. During this time they gain 500 to 600 pounds.

Per day at Magnum, the cost per head of cattle is $2.10. Grab you pen and paper folks, multiply $2.10 by 22,000 cattle. Lots of money, every day.

Growth-promoting hormones are used in feedlot cattle as it increases efficiency. These are naturally occurring hormones that are regularly metabolized by the body. Most cattle don’t get antibiotics. And if they do, they need it. Further, they won’t be sent to slaughter until 21 days after antibiotic administration, since it takes that long for the antibiotic to clear the system.

Organic feed

According to Magnum, organic feed doesn’t seem to increase meat quality or safety. Research doesn’t really support the idea either. But, organic feed does allow consumers another option (i.e. organic meat vs. non-organic meat). And organic farming practices may have some benefits for the planet.

Of course, in today’s farming climate, less than 1% of American cropland is certified organic. If a lot more was, it would require a lot more composted animal manure. Fortunately, Magnum is on the right track (with composting) if this pattern were to take hold.

Grass-Fed, Free-Range

Sure, some folks think grass-fed, free-range is better. But, as any good PN reader can attest, it’s a heckuva lot more expensive. And, at the end of the day, Magnum is competing for the protein food dollar. Mainstream America is currently buying conventionally fed meat from cattle, so, feedlots keep producing it.

It’s also important to know that if we continue to eat 200+ pounds of meat per person per year in the U.S., grass-fed isn’t really an option. There’s not enough land.

But it would be an option for meat eaters if we reduced overall meat consumption. Is that something our nation is willing to do? Maybe. In time. Right now, however, it doesn’t look like it.

What about E. coli?

E. coli (or Escherichia coli O157:H7) is a natural occurring pathogen in the digestive tract of cattle, but can be minimized through production practices, i.e. clean living conditions.

E. coli serogroups O26, O111, O145, and others have become a public health problem, accounting for 37,000 illnesses and 30 deaths in the U.S. alone.

Among critics of the “factory farm” model, there’s a large concern about E. coli contamination. Many suggest that feeding cattle a high grain-based diet can increase e-coli in the gut. And cross-contamination with meat makes for, not only sick animals, but sick people.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between feed and harmful E. coli contamination. Indeed, studies reveal no difference in E. coli O157:H7 prevalence or numbers between cattle fed grain vs. grass. And there are no studies that show superiority for one system vs. the other.

So it seems like this concern is more of a cleanliness issue, not a feed issue.

Cattle care

Speaking of cleanliness, Magnum wants the cattle to be clean and comfortable.

I know, I know, I can see my animal welfare comrades shaking their heads – - but think about it. From a profit standpoint, if animals aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to eat. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow. If they don’t grow, they won’t be much use to the dude wanting to buy a big steak.

Lots of feedlot cattle were males born on dairy farms. You can tell them by their black and white color.

Also, technology is improving the way cattle are treated. Many cattle are tagged with identification and tracked.This tracking allows farmers to know a host of things like: the length of time the cattle have been there, their health history, their previous feed, their current feed needs, their current health, and any notable health or welfare concerns.

Magnum even has guys riding on horses around pens called, well, “pen riders,” who check cattle for problems. An animal nutritionist even comes on site every couple weeks to check how the cattle are feeding. If anything looks out of the ordinary, a session with the vet is likely. Sick animals are taken to a “hospital” pen and given care.

Newsflash: Let’s face it, most people in North America haven’t been to a doctor since their mom took them before high school graduation. Further, most humans acquire “feed” from the Cocoa Puff and Pop-Tart aisle.
My health care is better than yours.

Yes, what I’m trying to say is that Magnum Feedyard cattle receive better health care than many North Americans. They get regular vet appointments and a simple diet that is nutrient dense.

Ok, I think we can all agree the living conditions are debatable. But before you rag on feedlot health care, how do your habits compare?

Waste at Magnum

Magnum recently started composting manure and mortalities (i.e. cattle that don’t make it). It’s gotten more expensive to send deceased cattle to processing plants that manufacture pet foods, so this was the next best option.

Plus it’s more sustainable. And the cattle don’t end up standing around in piles of their own feces. Whew!

The Holiday Inn

Have you ever been to a Holiday Inn? That’s kind of like Magnum. They are a hotel for cattle. Profit increases as occupancy increases.

But there’s a slight difference. Upon checkout from the Holiday Inn you get a free newspaper, a mint, and a shuttle to the airport. When you checkout from Magnum, you get a one way shuttle to the slaughterhouse.

Nearly every week, a truck picks up cattle and transports them to a meat packing plant. This is where cattle are harvested and the carcasses fabricated. It’s important for the cattle to be transported quickly and calmly. The more stressed the animal, the lower the quality the meat.

95% of the steers and heifers from Magnum are sold to two packers, both in Colorado, JBS Swift in Greeley and Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan. The meat from these cows makes its way nationwide.


I was tired of talking about, reading about, and hearing about feedlots. Especially when many of the accounts were from people who had never been to a feedlot in their lives.

So, when I was given this sort of rare access, I jumped at the chance to check one out for myself.

The sign you see when leaving Magnum.

And, I have to say it. If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

No, I’m not going to start eating meat again.

However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef. Seriously. I can’t imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed. Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle.

Now, to be clear, we don’t require meat in our diet. And I don’t think we should be using cows for food, doesn’t matter if the cattle are kept on a feedlot or chilling in a waterbed listening to John Tesh. But that’s my own value system and I’m well aware that 97% of people in the U.S. eat meat on a regular basis.

However, considering the amount we procreate in the U.S. (there’s a birth every 8 seconds and a death every 12 seconds); and the amount of meat we eat (222 pounds per person, per year – not including marine life); and the small amount of money we’re willing to spend on food (we spend 9.6% of our disposable income on food, the lowest in the world. India spends 53%, Venezuela 34%, Italy 26%, Japan 19%, France 16%); feedlots have it right.

People want meat. And Magnum’s feedlot system is dialed in. They’re producing safe and cost-effective meat in, arguably, the most cattle-conscious way (short of opening up those pens and letting them run free). Rock on Magnum.


Disposable income spend on food:

EPA (2007). “Animal Feeding Operations-NPDES Frequently Asked Questions.” Retrieved May 2, 2010 from

USDA ERS (2009). “Farm Household Economics and Well-Being: Glossary.” Retrieved May 2, 2010, from

Marler Blog.

Dimitri C & Effland A (2005). Milestones in U.S. Farming and Farm Policy Amber Waves. Washington, D.C., USDA Economic Research Service and USDAERS (2010). Structural Characteristics, for All Farms, by Farm Typology, 2008. Agricultural Resource Management Survey, USDA Economic Research Service.

Mead PS, et al. Food-related illness and death in the United States.

USDA-National Ag Statistic
12,098,990 out of 16,098,910 are fed in operations greater than 1,000 head, or 75 %. The remaining balance are either grazed or raised on smaller feedlots with capacity under 1,000 head.


Thanks to Travis Hoffman, Steve Gabel, Julie Moore, and Morgan Gaither. Many people in the nutrition world are never allowed to view a feedlot. Travis, Steve, Julie, and Morgan were all very accommodating, and I was treated with the utmost respect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


In response to our Top Ten Enemies of Ethanol post where we reported that Ed Wallace, Robert Rapier, and Mark Perry were among the biggest enemies of ethanol, folks commented against ethanol by the dozens. I can only assume the new readers were driven by the link offered us by Inside Automotive, but all the comments did for me was make me question the American spirit that used to pervade our country and now seems markedly absent.

The news this week is peppered with stories about Thailand’s increasing use of ethanol. In fact, Ford, an American company, wants to become “Thailand’s foremost leader in ethanol technology.” This article mentions that 300,000 E20-compatible vehicles have been sold in Thailand since their introduction in 2006.

In similar fashion, Keith Good made mention in his news summary on Tuesday that “as for performance and durability, Brazilian engineers say local cars that run on E20-E25 gasoline are in no way inferior to their North American counterparts.” This is a direct quote from the Reuter’s article on the US EPA’s delay to approve e15 in the US.

The two articles collectively made me think. If a developed country and an underdeveloped country can pull together and find resources to make domestic, renewable fuels work, why can’t we?

The US used to be a world leader and our entrepreneurship, innovation, and vision were celebrated worldwide. Are we now so dependent on foreign oil that our addiction is clouding the view and inhibiting the exact things that made the US great?

Is the oil addiction so heavy that we are unwilling or unable to change?

I can tell you; it’s not that we’re unable to change. We are changing. US foreign oil imports have gone from 40% to over 60% in the last two decades. Now, the EPA is considering a move from e10 to e15 – a 5% change – and we somehow think that this 5% change towards domestic, renewable fuels is worse than the 20% change in the other direction? I’m not sure I call this progress.

And I’m not sure what we’re fighting. Brazilian engineers are comfortable with the changes to higher ethanol concentrations and notice no difference in performance. Our leaders who have traveled to Brazil and seen and spoken to small engine manufacturers can’t understand why it works so well there and we can’t make it work here. Where’s the battle? Brazilians have been using ethanol for years and if a large problem existed, we’d have heard about it by now.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only solution to our problem. But what it represents is a solution we have available now. We have corn, we have the technology to make corn-based ethanol, and we need domestic, renewable fuel.

No argument in the world changes those facts.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICMB, ICGA Executive Director

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Recent research and focus groups tell us that the average Joe on the street in Illinois believes that more than half of his food is grown by corporations. Of course, that prompted Illinois Corn and other state corn associations to come up with messaging like this that focuses on the fact of this matter:

Still, this doesn’t prevent critics from simply not believing what is true.

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

This weekend, while at a graduation party in a friend’s garage, I had an interesting conversation about corn. It’s the sort of conversation that I know is happening all over our state, at graduation parties and little league games and the local watering hole. The highly educated, extremely intelligent man that I was chatting with, someone that I look up to and listen to, doesn’t really like corn all that much.

He doesn’t like corn-based ethanol because he believes we’re taking food out of people’s mouths to make it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. He didn’t believe me when I said that 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.

His own experience has taught him otherwise. He works for a university who has increasing interest in agriculture because more and more of their endowments are coming via crop land. He sees the farms owned by the University and wrongfully assumes that corporate owned farms are the new face of agriculture.

To him and to anyone else that questions the family farm facts Illinois Corn provides, I say this: even the farms owned by the University are farmed, operated, and managed by family farmers. 

Let me make this more clear. The University owns the farm, but they rent it to a family farmer who makes a payment for use of the land and then tries to make a living growing a crop on it. The University doesn’t decide to put more or less chemicals on the ground regardless of environmental impact. The University isn’t dictating tillage methodology that would cause increasing soil erosion. The University isn’t asking that only GMO seed be used on this land to increase profits. The University is only interested in receiving the rent and the farmer is making every decision to raise the best crop he can, to conserve the natural resources that will allow him to raise a crop next year and the next on that land, without corporate oversight.

To say that the University was managing that land poorly with only profit in mind would be similar to saying that the landlord that owns your apartment is managing your household and telling you what groceries to buy or what cleaners to use.

My point? Even land that is not owned by a family farmer, like University endowment land, is still FARMED AND MANAGED by a family farmer. And the family farmers that rent this sort of land are still living nearby, drinking the water and raising their families off that land. They are good stewards of land that they farm, even if it doesn’t belong to them.

Family farms are the face of corn production in America. They are trustworthy men and women who do their very best every day to provide food and fuel for our country in a sustainable manner.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Monday, June 21, 2010


Many farmers have a steady chant of “Rain makes grain” to utilize when the rains are a little too heavy and they start to stress about the crop. In the past couple of years, this motto seems a little soggy because of the massive amounts of precipitation farmers have had to deal with.

During a series of short crop updates provided by Illinois Corn leadership, former Illinois Corn Growers Association President Rob Elliott pretty much summed it up when he commented, “The arc has sunk” on Sunday.

Len Corzine, Assumption, IL offered that he was sharing Rob’s pain.

We had 4.5 to 5.5 for the week. Most fields are ok, but a few are suffering. Some fields may be the best ever and are tasseling right now. The excess moisture may bring additional diseases, so we will fungicide most fields.

In East Central Illinois, Roger Sy, a former ICGA leader, has literally been drowned out.

In Edgar County on two farms only four miles apart east to west, I have received over 17 inches on one and 12 inches on the other in the last month. The rest of my farms have around eight inches for the same time frame. Getting rain again this morning.
 I got everything planted the first time, but have had no chance for any replant. The crops did look great, but we are now seeing yellow spots and streaks in the corn where water is standing or has been flowing through the fields.

It will easily be a week or more before farmers can get back into the fields to protect their crops from diseases, weeds, or simply replant corn that has been drowned or destroyed from our crazy spring/summer weather. And that’s if the rain stops, which isn’t looking likely if the weathermen are correct.

Farming is risky, WET business.

Friday, June 18, 2010


This Friday Farm Photo was snapped by Dan Cole from the loading sight at Bunge in East Hannibal, Missouri, between lock and dam 22 and 23 on the Mississippi river. It is gathering up barges at East Hannibal to form one large barge to bring down the river. For more information on how vital the river system is to Illinois economy, click here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Farmers feed the world, but growing food is only one part of the hunger equation. Once food is harvested, it must make its way to consumers, whether they shop at the local roadside stand or at grocery stores on the other side of the planet.

Success requires effective channels of distribution--everything from competitive markets to sound infrastructure to free-trade agreements. Yet sometimes it also depends on the heroic efforts of humanitarians.

This year’s World Food Prize recognizes a pair of grassroots warriors who have made it their mission to fight hunger through charity. David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of Heifer International will share a $250,000 award for advances in food production. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over the announcement on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Beckmann and Luck will formally accept their honors this October at an annual conference in Des Moines.

The World Food Prize usually goes to research scientists or more rarely to public officials. As leading members of non-governmental organizations, Beckmann and Luck are different kinds of laureates--but they’re also critically important partners in the ongoing struggle to feed impoverished people. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger.

Nebraska native Beckmann is a Lutheran pastor who has led the Washington, D.C.-based Bread for the World since 1991. His Christian organization mobilizes activists on behalf of the hungry. Under his leadership, more than 72,000 active members who represent 5,000 local church congregations have leveraged the volunteer efforts of more than a million people. They’ve rallied public support behind increasing U.S. efforts to reduce hunger and fund development efforts in poor countries.

“Bread’s army of citizen advocates has engaged an ever-expanding network of concerned people urging support for legislation to change the policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist,” says a statement released by organizers of the World Food Prize.

Jo Luck of Arkansas became CEO of Heifer International in 1992. From its offices in Little Rock, she took a group with about 20,000 supporters and a budget of $7 million and turned it into a $130 million organization with half a million backers as well as a global presence. Last year, Heifer International supplied food to more than 1.5 million needy people around the world. Earlier this year, she stepped down as Heifer’s CEO but will remain president until 2011.

“A strong impact of Jo Luck’s legacy as the leader of Heifer is the binding together of people emotionally and economically, enabling them to envision and create a better life for themselves and their children,” says a World Food Prize release.

In addition to sharing our food and resources with the less fortunate, we must share our knowledge as well. Clinton made this point explicitly at the State Department: “Using science to feed the world is not only an imperative--it is a thrilling opportunity.”

Norman Borlaug certainly understood this sentiment. The “Father of the Green Revolution,” who died last year at the age of 95, founded the World Food Prize in 1986. His efforts to improve crop varieties as well as access to fertilizer and pesticides have allowed farmers to feed untold numbers of people who otherwise would not have had enough to eat.

As we transition from the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution, (with Borlaug's support), we’ll need to share our science and technology with people in developing countries. If we’re to realize the goals of groups such as Bread for Life and Heifer International and truly eradicate hunger, then we’ll have to make sure that farmers in nations with poor food security have the ability to take advantage of the world’s most promising agricultural methods.

One of them is biotechnology. Millions of farmers already make use of it--but millions more could still benefit.

This is the very best kind of humanitarianism: helping people help themselves grow the food they need.

Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer
                        Council of Advisors Emeritus for the World Food Prize Foundation and
                        Chair of Truth About Trade & Technology

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


No, I’m not hanging out with the 80’s hair bands at the local watering hole, I’m banging my head against the wall. And it’s not a good look for me.

Yesterday it was an email, today it’s a comment on an article in the St Louis Post Dispatch, tomorrow it will be the tweet that is re-tweeted until it twitters out. And then the next day it will be the link on my news feed in facebook. What am I talking about? The never ending variations of the questions/claims that making ethanol from U.S. corn starves children in the poorest nations and converts land that would otherwise grow “food” to corn acreage.

But that’s okay, because one more question, email, tweet or status update is another opportunity to share accurate information regarding ethanol.

In short:

• Is there enough corn? Yes.

• Does making ethanol mean I won’t have corn to eat? No.

• Does growing corn for ethanol mean we won’t grow food? No.

• That’s not what other people say. I know.

There are all kinds of reasons the people will blog, write, say, tweet, youtube or status update that ethanol is bad. The corn industry is often criticized as an information provider about ethanol because we have something to gain. Um, ya, we don’t grow corn for free. But why would we cut off our nose (feeding livestock, exports to other countries, human food uses, industrial applications) to spite our face (ethanol)?

In case that reference didn’t make sense, let me say it more plainly. Does it make sense that corn farmers would forsake one or many market opportunities just to add another? No. Does it make sense that corn farmers are growing more corn using less land, chemicals, fertilizer, water, time and fuel? Yes. So does it make sense that they would continue to look for ways to use corn? Yes.

Well motivation is a two way street, folks. The naysayers have their own personal motivations and opportunities to gain. (Can you say resume padding, book deals, feature films, and speaking engagements?)

And FYI, being against something, in this case ethanol, doesn’t ordain you with some sort of “hall pass” to make claims that are irrelevant, irreverent, and irresponsible.

Here are some facts about ethanol and facts about corn. And before you go criticizing the source or calling me a liar, consider that these numbers come from the United States Department of Agriculture and their National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s USDA NASS for short. Other numbers come from the U.S Energy Information Administration or USEIA.

Tricia Braid Terry
ICGA/ICMBA Communications Director

Discussing New Research At CUTC

David LoosAt the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference our very own David Loos, Technology and Business Development Director, moderated a panel titled, "Life Cycle Analyses Applications to New Technologies."  One of the issues that takes up a lot of his time is ethanol.  And ethanol was a big part of the conversation at the CUTC as you might imagine.  I spoke with David during a break.

Dave says that new technologies that are increasing production while reducing inputs are proving that corn can be very sustainable.  I asked him what he's working on that needs to become better known by the public.  He says that science is "on our side" on issues like yield increases, inputs, green house gas emissions from growing corn or producing ethanol.  He says it's our job to make sure the research gets done, is documented and delivered to audiences like EPA.  He pointed to new research by the University of Illinois-Chicago which found that energy consumption by ethanol plants is down about 30 percent.  I'll have more on that in another interview with one of Dave's panelists.  Dave also talks about his goal of having EPA recognize corn ethanol as an advanced biofuel.  The research and science backs it up.  The challenge is getting regulators to recognize it!

You can listen to my interview with David here: download (mp3).

Here's a link to a bunch of photos from the conference: CUTC Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Two years ago when the a 42 inch natural gass pipeline was installed running across some of my acreage, I had no idea I had a problem. In fact, I watched and watched that field hoping not to notice even a hint of standing water. And I didn't for a while.

But you may remember that we've had three pretty wet seasons - last spring the crop was very late getting into the ground because of rain and we were even later getting it out of the ground because of rain. This year, the past couple of weeks have been filled with one downpour after another.

All that rain revealed a tiling problem. And since the rain still isn't showing any signs of stopping, I've been two years trying to get it fixed. Finally, this month I was able to secure both the tiling company AND a dry enough day to get it done.

We didn't figure this out until nearly the end of the process, but here is the problem. When the natural gas pipeline was installed, this section of older clay tile was broken and was not reconnected to the tiling system in this field.

So we started in to fix it, essentially digging a trench that would hold the tile to drain water from the field. Next to fertilizer, tiling a field is one of the most profitable things you can do and will quickly earn you complete return on your investment. In fact, the absence of this particular section of tile yielded me two complete acres of drowned crops, five acres that were two wet to apply fertilizer, and reduced yield on about twenty acres surrounding it all because of excess moisture.

We are installing five inch, black plastic tile because it is quicker and cheaper. The alternative is the clay tile that you saw in the picture above and it must be hand placed in the ground as opposed to the black plastic tile that comes on a large roll and just flows right into the trench that we dug. The tile is about three feet deep, and most tiles are set between 75 and 90 feet apart parallel throughout a field depending on soil type.

In the end, this is what I have. I lost a sixteen foot swath of emerging corn through my field that I won't be able to replace. Typically, farmers don't tile in the middle of the growing season and disrupt their crops, but the losses I've sustained over the past two years made the timing this year necessary.

Bring on the rain!

Garry Niemeyer
former ICGA Board member
current NCGA Board member

Monday, June 14, 2010


There’s a new movement afoot in the US and it goes something like this: if corn is bad, corn-based ethanol is worse.

We receive a publication here in the office called The Ethanol Monitor and Friday’s edition featured a front page story by Editor and Publisher Tom Waterman that named the top 10 enemies of ethanol. Some of the listed enemies are blogs and authors I wasn’t well acquainted with and I bet you aren’t either.

This further drives home the message that conversations are happening every hour of every day that agriculture isn’t a part of, so I’d encourage you to click through some of these links and educate yourself. It is raining out there after all.

GRIST is an environmental blog that hits number nine on the countdown and according to Waterman, if you enter “ethanol” in the search button, you will find more than 1,100 entries, not including comments, that are 100% negative. He also mentions that this blog carries a lot of weight with the environmental community and that they could easily be ranked higher than number nine.

Robert Rapier and his blog, R Squared Energy Blog, is ranked as the number five worst enemy of ethanol for time spent discrediting every positive development in the ethanol industry. He is a big fan of the indirect land use theory and according to Waterman is very influential. Also, he’s a former Conoco Phillips employee and is definitely a Big Oil fan.

An Honorable Mention went to Mark Perry whose blog, Carpe Diem, highlights other articles against ethanol like that of fellow Honorable Mention, Robert Bryce. Scroll down to June 10 and June 11 dates to get a flavor of the position he’s pushing.

And because I can’t link to the article or republish without author consent, I wanted to offer to you the entire Top Ten enemies of ethanol according to Tom Waterman.

#10: Business Week/Ed Wallace (Bloomberg)
#8: “Big Oil”
#7: Grocery Manufacturers Association
#6: David Pimentel
#5: Robert Rapier
#4: Tim Searchinger
#3: Wall Street Journal (editorial board)
#2: California Air Resources Board
#1: Time Magazine (Michael Grunwald)

Waterman also notes that the number one slot could have easily gone to “mainstream media” who publish uninformed articles and are too lazy to complete adequate research, but he was trying to be more specific.

To obtain a copy of this article, Ethanol’s Top 10 Enemies, email or call 732-222-5578.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Sunday, June 13, 2010


CornBeltersIt may not be opening night at the Corn Crib but I still had a couple of short interviews to share with you from that night.  It was a great game and this bat boy is just one of the thousands of people who enjoyed it.  Fans will get to see the team in action at the Corn Crib again this week.

The Normal CornBelters, presented by the Illinois Corn Farmers, will host the second home stand of their inaugural season at the Corn Crib from Monday, June 14 through Saturday, June 19. They will play the Florence Freedom on June 14, Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16. Following, they will host the Evansville Otters on Thursday, June 17, Friday, June 18 and June 19. All games begin at 7 p.m. and gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available for each of the six games!

One of the people I met was Normal CornBelters Field Manager Hal Lanier.  Hal says the Corn Crib is a little different from what you normally see in professional baseball.  He says the fans will see some very exciting baseball and we sure did on opening night.  You can listen to my interview with Hal here (mp3).

I also spoke with Normal CornBelters Reliever Steve Raburn.  Steve says that "at first it was a little different" in referring to the team's support from Illinois corn growers.  You can listen to my interview with Steve here (mp3).

Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Farm Photo

Last week we showed you a picture of a corn field in Shawneetown, this weeks photo comes from a Wapella farm.  To bring some perspective to how tall the corn is, we've enlisted a model to help out, a one year old model.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Editor's Note: This is the second of two posts from guest blogger Trista Milliman. Trista is a native Illinoisan who now lives in Oklahoma where her and her husband run a cow-calf operation. For the first part, click here.

I addressed my friend’s accusations calmly and factually. Hard to do when you’re angry. First, I explained the “steroid” myth. I don’t know who labeled them that, maybe the media or PETA, but we DON’T give our animals steroids. What they get is a growth hormone implant in their right ear. Now, anyone who has taken an Anatomy and Physiology class, what are the two growth hormones that NATURALLY OCCUR in the body, human or animal? Estrogen and testosterone. The hormone we implant is estrogen. (Every woman knows what role estrogen plays in unwanted weight gain.) The estrogen improves our calves feed to gain ratio, which cuts down on the amount of money we have to spend on feed and the amount of time they have to be on pasture. Translation: you get better beef at an affordable price with a smaller amount of time between our pasture and your plate. No steroids here. Oh, and if you’re that concerned about the amount of hormones in your food, consider this: there are 500 times more estrogen in ONE leaf of organically grown spinach than in a three ounce piece of estrogen implanted beef. My town friend was listening.

I moved on to the antibiotics. My town friend loves her two dogs. So, I asked her what she does when her dogs get sick. Of course, she takes them to the vet and if it’s an infection, the vet prescribes an antibiotic. It’s the same with our cows. If we spot a sick one, we take her up to the alley and give her an antibiotic. We treat her as long as she needs it. Simple. If she’s not sick, what’s the point in wasting the money on giving her (and the rest of our herd for that matter) an antibiotic? Not very cost effective if you’re trying to run a business. If the animal is sick we treat her, if she’s not, we don’t. I can’t come up with a better description of animal welfare than that. Point made.

Then, we moved on to my favorite topic, feed. My specialization in my major was livestock nutrition. My husband and I both figure our rations as do many beef producers. And if they don’t do it themselves, they hire a nutritionist. Now, how many PETA or HSUS supporters use a nutritionist when feeding their own families? My town friend just couldn’t get over the idea that we were feeding our cattle genetically modified grain that had been sprayed with pesticides. She was just so sure our cattle were ingesting all types of toxins that would end up in the meat. I explained that one of the reasons we “genetically modify” grain is to make it insect and disease resistant so that we don’t have to spray chemicals on it. I also gave her a short economics lesson while I was at it. In laymen’s terms, a GMO produces more with less input, therefore making the product cost less. Keeping costs down on our end is what keeps costs down on the consumer’s end. People forget about that part. Point taken.

My town friend was so taken with the notions that are portrayed in “Food, Inc.” and Omnivore’s Dilemma. She thinks everyone should have chickens and “organic” vegetable gardens in their back yards. That’s great, if that’s what you like to do for fun. That’s awesome if you feed your family and have a little extra to give to all your neighbors and your friends. But is that really relevant to everyone’s living situation? No, it’s not. Let’s just be honest. Is that going to feed the world? No, it’s not.

The reason we try to feed out our calves to market weight within 18 months is because we’re doing just that, we’re feeding the world. We wouldn’t be getting anywhere if we waited on them to reach market weight on just grass. We’d be at least 2 if not 3 years out before we could feed anyone. If you want to go back to agriculture the way it was in the 1940s, be my guest, but if you think the world is starving now, consider what it would be like if we took a step backwards? And, not to mention the amount of money we would have to spend on importing food from other countries because we couldn’t meet our own demands. Don’t even think for a minute that food production around the world is regulated better than it is here. I’d much rather have pork raised on concrete from the U.S. than I would if it was raised on the dirt in some third world country living off of the trash and waste in the sewer ditches. Our food is as healthy and safe as it’s ever been. The whole idea of research and technology is progress. Who in the world thinks it’s a good idea to regress to old medical procedures, or maybe go back to using type- writers instead of computers?

I crunched some numbers to illustrate my point. Back in 1940, the world population was around 2.3 billion people. There were around 6 million farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and each one could feed 19 people a year. Fast forward to 2010. The world population is roughly 6,825,100,000 and there are around 5.7 million U.S. farmers and ranchers (that’s about 2% of the U.S. population). Thanks to our research and technology, a U.S. farmer can feed 155 people a year. Not to be arrogant, but the U.S. farmers and ranchers feed the world. And there are less of us to do it. In fact, there are 300,000 less farmers in 2010 to feed over three times what the population was back in 1940. Every year we are expected to provide more food at less cost to the consumer, with less land to use, with less input, and less waste. We meet the demand. We give the consumers what they ask for. She heard me loud and clear.

Setting aside all the statistics, producers love their animals and the lifestyle they provide despite some hardships. How many times have we had to cancel dinner on friends while we tend to a sick calf? How many times have we had to miss church to find a lost calf or cow? How many hours have we spent feeding orphan calves? And what about all those hours spent on the floor board of the truck or the kitchen floor trying to warm up and dry off a newborn calf in the middle of a Northeast Oklahoma blizzard? How many times have our neighbors missed their own children’s ball games, dance recitals, or piano lessons because they had to stay with a bloated cow? I’ve even ruined a nice J.Crew sweater (gasp!) to pull a calf when one of our first-calf heifers was having trouble. All of this to put quality food on your table. Where are the animal rights activists then? How many of them make sacrifices like that?

I don’t know that I completely won my town friend over, but I know I proved that what we do is ethical, humane, and practical. And it’s not just to turn a profit, either. If that was the case, we would have found an easier way to do it by now. My point is that we, as producers, need to make sure that we are the ones providing the general public with the CORRECT information they need to know about the food we supply to them. The average consumer is so detached from the origin of his/her food that it makes it very easy for anti-agriculture organizations to come in and offer these people their version of what animal agriculture is. I encourage producers to get involved in putting your story out there via social media. Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs to share the information you want your consumers to know about your operation. Something as simple as a video of harvest or chore time at your farm/ranch is a great way for consumers to see your passion for what you do and where it all starts from pasture to plate.

Trista Milliman
Cow/Calf Operator and Farrier

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Editor's Note: Today's blog is the first part in a two-part series from guest blogger Trista MillimanTrista is a native Illinoisan who now lives in Oklahoma where her and her husband run a cow-calf operation.

As a beef producer, (or any other type of producer for that matter), there are those whom you consider your “neighbors” or more precisely, the people that live within a 5-10 mile radius of your place and are fellow producers. Then, you have the people you consider your “town friends”, the friends who live in town (obviously) and really have no direct ties to agriculture, except for maybe, of course, their acquaintance with you. Well, that and the fact that they probably like to eat food and wear clothes, but that’s for another time.

Nonetheless, I am thankful for the roles my neighbors and my town friends play in my busy, overscheduled life. It’s always nice to take time out and enjoy their company whether we’re processing calves, helping each other move cows to another pasture, shopping at the mall, or going to a movie. All of our differences keep the conversation interesting. Recently, however, I had a visit with a town friend that really left me quite unsettled with the way the public perceives conventional animal agriculture. Though, I feel that I answered her questions and corrected her misconceptions accurately, it really made me realize how completely unattached and misinformed the general public is about the production of their food.

Let me bring you up to speed. My husband and I live in Northeast Oklahoma, or more affectionately termed by Okies as “Green Country”. Both of us have our B.S. in Animal Science Production and run our own cow-calf operation in the heart of ranching country. We are extremely proud of our commercial Charolais herd and the quality beef we can provide for people’s dinner tables. Not only is it an income, it’s a lifestyle. Our lives are scheduled around feeding time, breeding season, calving season, and weaning. Mix that in with our “town jobs”, (my husband is an OSU Extension Educator and I am a professional farrier), and our cattle (and horses) eat better and get more rest than we do. Let’s just say it’s not too strange in our small town to see us come in to do our banking covered in manure with our spurs still jingling. Everybody else around here does it, too.

Anyway, back to the conversation with my town friend. I’ve known her for years and consider her a very intelligent person. She’s been around the world and back, literally, and I love her taste in music and clothes. I respect her opinions, even if they don’t always match up with my own. She is very well read and up to date on current issues. So, it surprised me (and quite honestly, disappointed me) when she shared her views on what conventional animal agriculture is. I guess I take for granted that maybe even my closest friends don’t really know exactly how our operation runs or how well taken care of our animals are. And that’s my fault for not providing that information. Then, it got me thinking; if my close friends don’t understand it, then what kind of skewed information is the rest of the world getting and who are they getting it from? Scary.

She gave me her overall impression of production agriculture with one word: “poisoned”. It knocked the wind out of me. I asked her to explain what she meant by it and she said, “You pump them full of steroids, you are constantly treating them with antibiotics, and you feed them genetically modified grain. What makes you think anyone wants to put that into their bodies?” And then, she disclosed where she got her information from. She watched Robert Kenner’s documentary, “Food, Inc.” and read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I should have seen that one coming.

Both are filled to the brim with misinformation and propaganda that would easily suck the average, uneducated consumer in. And both were supplied information by PETA and HSUS, organizations that want to do away with animal agriculture altogether. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat healthier, save the environment, and stop animal cruelty? I know I do. And so does every other livestock or grain producer that feeds the rest of the world and wants to make a living doing it. The information in the movie and the book is maddening, sickening, inaccurate and outright wrong.

They use terms like “factory farm” and “sustainability”. Last time I checked, agriculture has always been sustainable. That’s why it’s called “agriculture”. And livestock production practices have become so efficient that we’ve actually eliminated some diseases, which in turn has eliminated the need for certain vaccines and opened the doors to medical research in saving human lives. Good stuff, considering that it makes the quality of life for these animals outstanding. I could go on, but maybe later.

Trista Milliman
Cow/Calf Operator and Farrier

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Assuming most of you are corn farmers or have an interest in producing corn, it’s no secret that corn prices are significantly lower than the high we saw in 2008. In fact, right now, corn is barely $3 when 2008 prices were $7.

Other prices were high in 2008 – wheat was around $6.50 when it’s now $4.30. Freight was extremely high compared to what we see today.

Yet, according to this article, food costs are so extremely high that poorer countries have hungry citizens in droves.

“With food costing up to 70 percent of family income in the poorest countries, rising prices are squeezing household budgets and threatening to worsen malnutrition, while inflation stays moderate in the United States and Europe,” Joe McDonald, author, says.

We need to fix world trade. Market distortions obviously exist that prevent food from flowing into regions of the world when it makes economic sense. We have corn in the US. In fact, carryout of world grains are steadily increasing, so I see little reason for the bag of flour to cost three times what it did two years ago, as a Pakistani mother of five mentions in the article.

In addition, media and humanitarian efforts are consistently calling on corn farmers for increased productivity even as the elitists in the US pursue policies that will stagnate productivity or even cause it to decline. Obviously these people need food and a food policy that focuses around lower productivity doesn’t make sense.

The food is there and it’s less expensive than it has been in recent times, but due to artificial trade barriers, and to some extent the overall economy, the people who need the food can’t get the food.

Prices, policies, and productivity – they are things we seriously need to consider if we are to tackle the growing world hunger problem.

Rodney M. Weinzierl, Executive Director,

Monday, June 7, 2010


Although it comes as no surprise to anyone that knows me personally, I tend to be fairly opinionated.

I enjoy a good debate, especially when I’m armed with the knowledge that will enable me to win. I love the feeling of always having the retort that completely derails my competitor’s argument, of having the last word. And, of course, I feel so completely over-educated about the organic and locally grown movements, that I will argue which is better (organic vs. conventional) all day, every day and never tire.

In fact, I have. Maybe “argue” is too strong a word here, but the folks at my church probably steer a conversation away from these topics at all costs. My Facebook friends are likely sick to death of me providing links and other information about organic vs. conventional produce. Now, I must air my thoughts here.

While I always start a conversation with the fact that consumers have a choice and should be able to purchase whatever sort of food they want, I quickly turn it to the fact that I want them to really UNDERSTAND their choices. Because I believe they are being jaded by the media and popular journalists (ie, Michael Pollan) into an emotional response to their food choices instead of a scientific one.

This article by Tamar Haspel really drives the point home and I couldn’t have been happier to read it.

Haspel and her husband raise chickens and really wanted to believe that their fresh, locally grown, free range eggs taste better. They went the scientific route – engaged their friends to come over for a taste test – and came up with some interesting results. Read for yourself because I really don’t want to ruin her lovely experiment and wonderful writing by telling you what happens.

While this likely won’t change their purchasing decisions (Why would Haspel buy eggs when she has free eggs in her backyard!?) the information she’s discovered will likely put her decision in context. Does she eat home grown eggs? Yes. Does she think they are the ONLY eggs? Nope.

This is what I wish for the elite in America (the ones that can afford these high priced options) that believe organic and locally grown foods are the ONLY choices for better health and taste. Context to your choices is so important. Is a locally grown tomato from your neighbor’s garden better in your salad? Probably. Is it the ONLY choice? Nope.

Should it be the only choice? Not by a long shot.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator

Friday, June 4, 2010


Bill LeeThe Commissioner of the Frontier League, Independent Professional Baseball, is Bill Lee. Here's Bill making some opening remarks prior to the first home game of the Normal CornBelters in the Corn Crib. I spoke to him about this new franchise and what he thinks about the support of Illinois Corn Growers.

Bill says it's a wonderful thing because it's a "field of dreams." He hopes the CornBelters are very successful. You can listen to my interview with Jim here (mp3).

I thought I'd also include a new video about the opening home game in the Corn Crib that was produced by the Illinois Corn Growers summer interns. I think they did a great job. How about you?

Normal CornBelters Corn Crib Opener Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman Posted by Chuck Zimmerman


We at Illinois Corn love the Midwestern Gold blog. We love it so much we feel like honoring them by ripping off their Friday Farm Photo idea! After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

This photo comes from Shawneetown farmer Jeff Scates. He finished up replanting corn about a week ago, but this picture is from the first field that was planted back on April 2.

So much for the saying "knee high by the 4th of July!"

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Thursday, June 3, 2010


The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is part of the Corn Farmers Coalition along with several other state corn grower groups and the National Corn Growers Association. Earlier this week, they launched a new phase of their educational campaign that started last year, whose goal is to let policy makers – and those who influence them from think tanks to environmental groups in Washington, DC - know that corn farmers really are environmental stewards, conscious about food safety, and enjoying every minute of life on the farm with their family at their side.

We covered the launch on our website if you’d like to read more.

The thing is the Environmental Working Group is calling our campaign “Greenwashing,” meaning that we’re trying to paint our industry as an environmentally friendly industry even though it’s not. Well, call me old fashioned, but when someone I love is attacked, it ruffles my feathers a bit and this blatant disregard for facts about corn farmers just doesn’t sit well with me.

The FACT is farmers are green.

CFC ads report data like “Thanks to new, innovative fertilization methods, today’s American corn farmers are producing 70% more corn per pound of fertilizer.” That data comes straight from the USDA and that data reflects an industry that is conscious of what they are using and placing on the land in their care. Show me another industry that is so environmentally conscious or has such a great story to tell.

The FACT is farmers are operating family (not corporate) farms.

I’ll speak from experience here; I know a lot of farmers. Every single one of them is just a regular, down home guy – the sort that would wave at a stranger from the cab of their pick-up truck, the sort that would stop and help you if you had car trouble, the sort that jumps from the tractor to the shower and speeds into town to watch their son’s t-ball game or their daughter’s dance recital.

EWG says that “There are thousands of large, plantation-scale corn factories dotting the American landscape, family-owned or not. And family ownership does not necessarily equal small. Agricultural supply giant Cargill is family-owned. So are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Twins.”

To compare the family farm I grew up on to the Minnesota Twins is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. My dad farms a lot of acres – some his own, some his brother’s, and some his neighbor’s that retired from farming. To the local farmer’s market consumer, I know he looks like a plantation owner. But he’s the one driving the tractor. He’s the one stressing over marketing decisions. He’s the one dealing with environmental regulations that EPA bureaucrats decide are relevant. He’s the one trying to make his small business work with only the help of a wife at home to support him and his dad at the end of the row to bring him a drink. I doubt Cargill and the Minnesota Twins are operated in the same manner.

And he’s not unique.

The FACT is farmers are using less land, not more.

EWG says that “According to a National Wildlife Federation report this year, the corn ethanol gold rush has been responsible for plowing up thousands of acres of pristine wildlife habitat (and prime carbon sequestration vegetation) and converting it to corn production.”

Well, I suppose that depends on who you feel is the authority.

Our federal government (the USDA), who runs the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) indicated that from 1982 to 2007, cropland acreage declined from about 420 million acres to 357 million acres. CRP, or acres returned their natural state, reflects more than half of that diverted acreage.

There are multiple other facts that EWG has gotten wrong, but you can read those for yourself.

At the end of the day, I’d say the only “greenwashing” we’re trying to accomplish is to make every other industry in the country green with envy at the wholesome, slow-paced, family environment in which we get to work and the fabulous story we have to tell about corn farmers that are conscious stewards of the land.

Eat your heart out, EWG.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator