It’s almost the end of January, but we have one more soup recipe to share with you for National Soup Month.  Enjoy this one and if you have a great recipe for soup that you’d like to share, please comment below!

Today’s Fact:  Americans sip over 10 BILLION bowls of soup every single year!

Today’s Tip:  The best soups are made with a base of homemade stock and fresh ingredients. Obviously we all don’t have the time for this every day.  To save yourself some time but to maintain great flavor use canned or frozen broths or bouillon bases.

Today’s Recipe: Tortellini Soup 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 15 ounces, canned diced tomatoes (I like the italian seasoned variety)
  • 1 pound hot sausage
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package tortellini (11 ounce)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

What You Do:

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and saute about 5 minutes.

Add the oregano, broth, tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Bring soup to a boil and simmer.  While soup is simmering brown sausage and drain.

Add sausage to soup pot.  Bring back to a boil.

Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

One minute before tortellini is done, add the spinach and cream.

Remove pot from heat, season with additional salt and pepper.

Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Watching President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, I found that I agreed with many of the President’s statements and was happy that he acknowledged some areas where the Federal Government fell short during the last two years.  I also agreed with Senator John McCain when, after the speech, he said that all the standing ovations made the State of the Union address into a televised political statement instead of a progress report on our country.  I might have enjoyed hearing the speech without so many interruptions and listening to how the comments were strung together.

That aside, it was a good speech.  The President recognized that not enough had been done about the economy and he recognized that the deficit is out of control, both of which were points that he needed to make.  I disagreed with him when he said that the burden of program cuts shouldn’t be on the backs of some in our society.  I believe that if there are cuts, everyone should share the burden.  If we go into this session of Congress with this attitude, then we’ll spend valuable time arguing about which segments of our nation don’t deserve cuts.

The problem with our Federal budget is that we’re providing more services than we are capable of funding.  People who receive services are going to have to expect less if we are going to solve this problem.

The survey work from Illinois Corn Growers Association membership, which has pretty broad participation, would indicate that farmers want to see the Federal deficit brought under control.  They understand the long term implications relative to interest rate costs and that we can’t just keep borrowing into the future.  If the pain is shared equally across all sectors of our population, farmers are willing to accept their share of the cuts.

Also of interest to Illinois farmers, the President talked about energy and the need to keep investing in new technologies.  The US has led the world in technology development and it’s an area that we need to keep investing into the longer term future.

Stepping back and thinking about where our country may have made some mistakes, we haven’t made long term investments into new technologies, new infrastructure, or other programs that will affect the ability of future Americans to remain competitive in a world market.  We have tended to invest in short term projects that offer immediate gratification.  That needs to change.

One of the best statements the President made was about how there will be no laws passed in the next two years that do not have both Republican and Democratic support.  The question I would ask about those laws is, will they be laws passed because Congress feels backed into a corner with no other choice?  That set of laws will likely not be well thought out.  Alternatively, will the laws passed be proactive and have true bipartisan philosophical support?  If the latter happens, I think Illinois farmers will feel progress is being made in the next two years, especially compared with the last two years.

Rodney M. Weinzierl
ICGA Executive Director


You’ve heard it a million times…farmers should tell their story.

Maybe you’ve tried to tell your story. Maybe you figure someone else has done it for you. Either way, I’m here to tell you that telling your story isn’t good enough anymore.

Now’s the time to have a conversation about you, your family, and your farm. Even more, it’s time to ask questions, listen to the answers, find common ground, and establish a community based on an enhanced understanding of each other’s needs, wants, concerns, hopes, and aspirations.

And yes, I’m asking you to do this in person and (gasp) online using social media applications like Facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.

There’s nothing magical about social media or conversations of any kind. It just takes two people who are genuinely interested in learning, sharing, and establishing a broader understanding.

The risk of not participating in these types of conversations is that you and your farm and your way of life may become irrelevant. There’s no need to re-hash this argument…you know what I’m talking about. It’s the movies, books, and news stories that are “filled with misinformation” as those of us in agriculture are so apt to describe it. Well, we describe it that way to each other, more than anyone else.

Yes, that was a nice way of saying let’s quit preaching to the choir.

Are you ready to get involved? Good, because we’re ready to help you.

Through an effort funded in part by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (your corn checkoff), free training is available to share with interested farmers, agribusiness professionals, and/ or their family members to become part of a network of go-to people representing agriculture.

Join the movement of Farmers Opening Our Doors (FOOD). FOOD was developed by a coalition of the five largest Illinois farm groups. We’ve made a commitment to openly share with consumers what really happens on Illinois farms and answer consumers’ questions about how their food is grown and raised. While they may not like every answer, at least from us, consumers will get the honest truth about their food.

Training seminars are scheduled for Bloomington, DeKalb, Marion and Quincy with all locations scheduled in February.

For more information about getting involved, or to register for the training, please email me at

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director


“The Environmental Protection Agency announced that E15 — consisting of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — is safe for engines in cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles from model years 2001 through 2006.”

This is an exciting day for corn growers and ethanol manufacturers alike!  Today, our photo is a nighttime shot of Adkins Energy, LLC in Lena, IL which we can see here is beautiful as well as good for the environment and great for national security.  Corn-based ethanol is truly a win-win product.


Brrrr … 70 percent of our nation has seen snow this month!  I can’t think of a better time to celebrate National Soup Month with some warm and toasty, hearty soups.  Join us on Thursdays in January for more recipes!

Today’s fact: Did you know that soup originated as the first “fast food”?  In ancient Greece, it was sold on the street using lentils, beans, and peas as the chief ingredients.

Today’s tip: For an easy treat when making stews, take a stack of tortillas and cut into long thin pieces.  Add to the stew during the last 15 minutes of cooking.  Corn tortillas are lower in fat than flour tortillas.

Today’s recipe: White Chicken Chili

soup chili chicken

This is a soup that works well both on the stovetop or in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.  A very hearty meal that will warm you up AND fill you up!


2 TBLS Vegetable Oil
6 6oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite-size chunks
Salt and Pepper
1 medium yellow or white onion
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 TBLS ground coriander
2 TBLS ground cumin
1 cup of mild or hot tomatillo, green salsa
4 cups of chicken stock or broth
2 cans (15 oz) cannellini or Great Northern white beans
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of one lime
Shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
White Rice (optional)
Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (optional)


1. Heat medium soup pot over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil.
2. Add the chicken to the hot oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Cook 2 or 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
5. Continue to stir.
6. Add the tomatillo salsa, Tabasco sauce, and the chicken stock.
7. Bring the chili up to a simmer and add half of the beans.
8. With a fork, thoroughly mash the other half and then add to the chili.  This will help thicken the chili.
9. Add rice for added thickness if desired.
10. Simmer the chili for 10 minutes, remove from heat and add the cilantro, parsley and lime juice.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant



Do you need to see it to believe it?

The Wall Street Journal published an article in the opinion pages from President Obama that said he intends to focus on rules that “stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.”  According to the Journal, he also suggests that future regulations must do their job while promoting economic growth.

Surely he’s talking about reigning in the EPA that is trying to cost farmers a collective bundle of money and time with their proposed NPDES permits, review of atrazine, stifling of the ethanol industry with the bifurcation of the higher blends rules, and the general pursuit of an environmental agenda without regard to the U.S. economy and what’s good for the consumer.

Addressing the unnecessary and overburdensome rulemaking by the U.S. EPA remains a priority for the Illinois Corn Growers Association during this 112th Congress and we are elated to see that Mr. Obama is on the same page.  Making rules that both protect the environment AND allow farmers the freedom to farm will certainly stimulate the economy, as agriculture is a top driver of the economy in the U.S.

Other highlights of the Wall Street Journal article:

  • Companies are currently sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash and liquid assets, the most since WWII, due to a reluctance to invest because of additional regulations.
  • Within the article, Obama also acknowledged the cost of regulation and said that sometimes “rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”

Rodney M Weinzierl
ICGA/ICMB Executive Director


For the month of January (National Soup Month), Thursdays are our days to feature yummy, hearty soup recipes!  Today you can plan to warm up with a bowl of Zuppa Toscana, almost exactly like the Olive Garden makes!

Today’s fact:  The most popular theory of where the word “soup” originated is that it stems from the word “sop”. People would pour broth over a slice of bread which would “sop” up the broth.

Today’s tip:  To make soups or stews thicker, try adding a tablespoon or more of instant potatoes or one-half cup rolled oats or wheat flakes.

Today’s recipeZuppa Toscana Soup

zuppa toscana, soup, potatoes, kale(This is a rip-off recipe from the Olive Garden’s delicious soup.)


1 lb Hot Italian Sausage, crumbled
4 strips bacon, crumbled
3 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
4 large potatoes, cubed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese


1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage.  Drain and set aside.
2. In same skillet brown bacon.  Drain and set aside.
3. Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot.  Simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
4. Add sausage and bacon to pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add kale and cream to pot, season with salt and pepper, heat through.
6. Add parmesan to individual servings.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant



I’ll start this post off with a quick recap:

  • The US corn-based ethanol industry is currently arbitrarily capped at 15 billon gallons.  This is interesting since I think most of us think domestic renewable fuel is a good idea.
  • The US corn-based ethanol industry sought an increase in the amount of ethanol allowed per gallon of gasoline.  We typically call this “higher blends” and the EPA approved a higher blend of E15 for SOME cars back in October.
  • The EPA is now considering what sort of label to stick on the E15 pump so that consumers understand that they are getting E15 instead of E10, E85, or diesel.

When the option for public comment on the proposed E15 label opened up, Illinois Corn Growers Association was right in line to offer our thoughts on the proposal.  If you’d like to read the comments in their entirety, you can download them here.

But to summarize, ICGA first and foremost believes the label to be unnecessarily alarming and misleading.  There is no “CAUTION!” label or skull and crossbones on diesel pumps, yet misfueling your car with diesel instead of E10 or E15 would have extremely more harmful effects than a misfueling with E15 when you intended E10.  We are proposing an informational label instead of a fear tactic.

We are also suggesting that the size, color, shape, and exact location of the label be flexible.  Illinois Corn recognizes that for higher blends of ethanol to work, the regulations need to be flexible so that petroleum marketers are not disadvantaged.  We also suggest that the US EPA and the Federal Trade Commission coordinate a label so that two versions aren’t floating around to make things more confusing than they already are.

Interestingly enough, many of the industries affected by the limited approval of E15 agree with us.  I recently attended a meeting of the Illinois Petroleum Council where we discussed the US EPA’s limited approval, the burdens it places on petroleum marketers and engine manufacturers, and the unnecessarily scary label.

Funny how the pursuit of an agenda over science can bring industries together.

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Guru