On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

ball hitch, farming, tools, photography

“Keep backing up. A little more to the left (THE LEFT). Now straight back!” If you’ve ever helped hitch up a truck and trailer you’ve probably heard those lines a time or two.

Whether you’re hitching up a horse trailer, a lawn mower trailer, or a trailer to a semi, a ball hitch is very important. It may seem like a very minor tool that is used in agriculture but it actually has one of the largest impacts on me and you. How you might ask?

How do the farmers get their crops hauled out of the field? How do they get their crops to the grain elevator? How do the crops get distributed back to the consumer? The ball hitch is such a big asset to everyone whether you realize it or not.

ball hitch, equipment, agriculture

It’s hard to realize that something so small and that weighs only a few pounds can haul such a big load and impact everyone. The next time you see this small tool I hope that you think about how it is affecting your life.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern


While September is often associated with the end of the summer, back-to-school shopping, and football, it’s also National Chicken Month in the U.S. That’s right; for more than 20 years, thanks to the National Chicken Council, there really has been a full month devoted to one of the most versatile and affordable sources of protein!

While the chicken industry may make an extra effort to reach you with chicken coupons and new recipes this month, my organization – the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) – promotes U.S. chicken 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 70 countries through in-store promotions, technical seminars with chefs, trade shows, and many other activities. In other words, between my office just outside Atlanta and our 13 international offices, we never sleep when it comes to exporting more corn through poultry and eggs.

Poultry exports are just another way of adding value to the corn crop in Illinois. In fact, not only does livestock remain the largest user of corn, but the poultry and egg industry is one of the top users, utilizing about 1.8 billion bushels of corn annually. Last year, U.S. poultry and egg exports accounted for 142 million soybean and 290 million corn bushel-equivalents. That’s a lot of corn feeding our chickens!

Thanks to the long and productive partnership that USAPEEC has enjoyed with Illinois corn growers through the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB), our industry has been able to work on some of the major trade issues that keep U.S. poultry and eggs from entering certain countries. In fact, we experience market access issues in about 50 percent of the countries we work in, including the once long-time top markets of Russia and China.

For example, U.S. poultry exports to Russia once accounted for 40 percent of our industry’s total exports. But, with Russia’s domestic poultry industry growing by double digits each year, which has led to shrinking import quotas, USAPEEC realizes that Russia’s importance as an export market is waning. As a result, USAPEEC is aggressively seeking to open new markets throughout the world.

Similarly, in 2009 China initiated anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases on U.S. chicken parts, including feet and paws, which are widely consumed there. The U.S. started selling chicken feet and paws to China and Hong Kong in the 1990s, and since 1997 cumulative U.S. exports of chicken feet and paws have totaled nearly $2.77 billion.

Chicken paws and feet don’t exactly sound as appetizing as chicken wings, but they are delicacies in China. In fact, Chinese enjoy these delicacies for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack time, and even for late supper. The women even believe eating cooked chicken feet will help their skin due to the gelatinous collagen properties. Perhaps, chicken feet are truly the next anti-aging solution for American women!

For more information on how USAPEEC promotes the export of U.S. poultry and eggs, please visit:

As the famous cows from the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A restaurants would say, “Eat More Chicken,” especially this month as we celebrate National Chicken Month.

Jennifer Geck