Export is the number one market for Illinois corn.  This means that Illinois corn farmers have a significant investment in making sure that our river system – the one that transports our goods to the world marketplace – is in good working order.

However the locks and dams on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers that we utilize are actually the same locks and dams built during Mark Twain’s era for paddle boats.  You might imagine that we have progressed a bit since then, we haul a bit more grain on the river, and we are in desperate need of some upgrades to the river transportation system.

In the 1980’s, we had one victory when we secured appropriations for the Olmstead Locks and Dam near Metropolis, IL on the Ohio River.  The project was supposed to cost $775 million and be finished in seven years.  You might be surprised to know then that the project is STILL not completed – more than twenty years later – and the estimated cost for the project is now more than $3 billion.

Not surprisingly, Illinois corn farmers and Illinois Corn is not in favor of this sort of inept delivery system to build transportation upgrades.

When we travel to Washington, DC next week, this will be one of our key issues.  We hope to convince the Illinois Congressional Delegation and other key Congressmen and Senators that the Army Corp of Engineers (the government agency responsible for oversight and delivery of this project) needs some sort of oversight or revamp.  Because if the Olmsted project is allowed to continue at this rate, we won’t get any new locks and dams up and down the Mississippi or Illinois Rivers for at least the next 10 years.

With export as our number one market, this is a HUGE detriment for Illinois corn farmers.

Are you interested in learning more?  Check out these numbers:

  • Congress originally authorized the Olmsted project in WRDA 88 with an estimated total cost to be $775 million and a seven-year construction duration beginning in fiscal year 1993.
  • In 1989, one year after the project’s authorization, the Corps increased the project’s construction cost estimate to $816 million and extended the construction schedule to nearly 12 years.
  • “New start” construction funding was provided in fiscal year 1991.
  • By 2003, the Olmsted project’s cost had ballooned to $1.06 billion and its optimum completion date, based on inefficient funding, had slipped to 2010.
  • One year ago, with the release of the Adminstration’s proposed budget for FY 2012, the Corps told Congress that the project’s cost had risen to $2.046 billion.  The project’s completion date was again pushed back to 2016.
  • The Corps now has once again increased the Olmsted project’s estimated completion cost to $2.9 billion, a number that is stated in 2011 dollars and fails to account for inflation during the years remaining until construction is complete.
  • Approximately $1.5 billion has been appropriated for the Olmsted project to date, including the $150 million just announced in the Corps FY2012 work plan for Olmsted.
  • At this rate of appropriations, the Olmsted project will not be completed until at least the year 2022 and, perhaps, not until well after that.
  • In the meantime, virtually no other navigation modernization project on the inland waterway system will be able to significantly move forward that have had hundreds of millions of dollars spent on them so far and are currently partially built.
  • And no significant construction project to modernize the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the infrastructure on the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, Arkansas, McClellan-Kerr, Columbia/Snake, or Gulf Intracoastal waterways will be able to move forward for at least 10 years.

Jim Tarmann
IL Corn River Transportation Expert


Many women believe that the agriculture industry is mostly for men. However, what most women do not realize is that the percentage of women in the agriculture industry continues to increase almost every day. Women’s roles on the farm have increased greatly over the last 25 years. Research has shown that since the 1980’s, women now run about 14 percent of nation’s farms. And with the increasing about of females sparking an interest in agriculture, this number will only get larger overtime. What should make women feel better about their roles on the farm is that you do not have to be married to a farmer, with the stereotypical title of a “farmer’s wife”. Since 2002, America has seen a 32 percent increase in female-operated farms, which goes to show just how important a woman’s role in agriculture truly is! Most of these farm operations are small, where women simply grow food and raise livestock.

Along with raising children and tending to duties inside the home such as cooking and laundry, women also tend to chores outside. Some duties include feeding animals such as livestock, swine, goats, etc, scooping manure, raking straw, cleaning stalls, and many other chore.  Females are also having an increasing role during planting and harvest season. From operating a combine, to driving a grain truck, these jobs are no longer seen only fit for a man!

However, a woman’s role in agriculture does not only pertain to the farm. Even small things such as growing a garden or owning horses are hobbies that women, as well as men like to do, that are agriculture related.

Agriculture is not only increasingly in rural areas, but in urban areas as well. Seed corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Syngenta are increasingly stressing the need for females in their company. Positions such as sales, marketing and business planning, advertising and corporate communications are areas that these corporations, as well as smaller companies, are increasingly looking for women to fill. This goes to show that agriculture truly is more than just “cows, plows and sows”! Women in other countries who make our clothing are contributing to the agriculture industry as well.

Women are needed in the agriculture industry now, more than ever. According to the 2011 Hunger Report, “the low social, economic, and political status of women in many parts of the developing world, particularly rural women, contributes to high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition”. Also, the average farm held by women is only 40 acres, while the average stretch farmed by men is more than three times as large, with 149 acres. But with a number of females taking an interest in agriculture, this number is sure to grow over the next few years. The number of females majoring in some area of agriculture in our nation’s universities growers a little every few years, as does the number of females going back to the family farm in hopes of one day managing it.

Every day, women, as well as men are making a difference and improving modern-day agriculture. With roles on the farm and in corporate offices increasingly demanding a woman’s attention, you can be sure to see many more females out on the form or in the office, trying to make a difference in today’s agriculture industry!

Baylee Kirk
Southern Illinois University


According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the state of Illinois is a leading producer of soybeans, corn, and swine. In honor of National Nutritional Month, I thought I would take a look at the nutritional benefits of each of these products that are grown right here in my home state.

SOYBEANS: This crop has so many uses it would be next to impossible to name them all! A few of the products soybeans are used for include cooking oils, crayons, adhesives, inks, and animal feeds. Soybeans, like many other legumes, are a great source of protein. Actually, the United States Department of Agriculture recognizes soy protein as being equal in quality to animal proteins. The quality of a protein refers to the number of essential amino acids included in that particular protein.

grains, meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables, guidelinesCORN: Like soybeans, corn has more uses that I have time to list. One use that is becoming more popular is producing ethanol fuel. Producing ethanol uses only the starch from the kernel, allowing us to use the remainder of the kernel for corn oil and livestock feed (distillers dried grain). That livestock feed is provided to producers at a lower cost and supplies the animals with energy and protein. For humans, corn is often considered a vegetable, but technically it falls under the “grains “category of the food pyramid. Another product is High Fructose Corn Syrup which is comparable to table sugar. Table sugar is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose whereas HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose, meaning they are broken down almost exactly the same in our bodies.

PORK: Swine production brings me to one of my all-time favorite agricultural products: Bacon! It is only natural that I have a passion for bacon because my home county of DeKalb is the number one county for pork production in IL! Pork (like most other meats) is a good source of protein for our bodies. In fact, 3 ounces of pork has the same amount of protein as 1.5 cups of black beans… but with 21 fewer calories. And what is the vitamin that our bodies need but can’t be found in plant sources? Vitamin B12; and that same 3 ounce serving of pork has 8% of B12’s daily value.

Each of these products can be used separately to produce different products that we use every day. What is unique about the agriculture industry, however, is how each of these products works together to put food on our tables. Crops such as corn and soybeans have many different uses, but our digestive systems cannot break down the stems and leaves of a plant, so we only utilize the fruit of a plant for our own consumption. Rather than waste the rest of the plant, we are able to feed it to ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep that can break down forages and use the energy to produce products like wool, meat, and milk for human consumption.  So while it is important to know how each of these products is important to us individually, it is also important to recognize how different parts of the industry work together to keep us happy and healthy!

Rosie Sanderson
Animal Industry Management major
Illinois State University


In life’s hectic day-to-day grind, we all probably take many things, and people, for granted.  It’s easy to do.  This week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week, so take a few minutes today and think about something, or someone, you’d like to show appreciation for and write a letter.  Here’s mine:

Dear Farmer – more specifically – Dad,

Growing up on a family farm, life wasn’t always easy or ‘fair’.  I wasn’t able to run down the street to play with my friends after school or on many weekends like the rest of the kids in my class.  You expected me to be at home helping in the garden, in the field mowing hay, or in the pasture checking cows.  And you didn’t pay me for doing these things.  If I wanted to buy something extra, then I had to earn the money for it.  Summers of my youth were spent detasseling and baling hay.  Once I hit sixteen, I worked part-time outside of the farm.  You were always there for me and supplied me with the necessities, but if I wanted more, I was expected to earn it myself.      

I wasn’t able to have all the coolest, up-to-date clothes that other girls in my class sported.  Mom took us shopping at Farm & Fleet and we got the Wranglers that were on sale.  Boots were handed down from older siblings, it didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, we wore what fit. 

While my town friends were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were working cattle before the heat set in for the day.  Sometimes even being woke up in the middle of the night to round up cattle that got out.

You know what though… I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Life on the farm taught me many lessons that I have carried with me into adulthood.

–          Determination and Commitment – When I got bucked off a horse, the world didn’t stop turning for me, I had to get right back on and ride.  You taught me that when something isn’t going right, you don’t give up, you dig your heels in and finish the job. 

–          Roll with the Punches –  Things don’t always go as expected on a farm… you’ve got a 30 acre field of hay cut and an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in, or a heifer is having problems calving at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to deal with the obstacles as they come at you, not everything can be done by the book…. Not so different than the hurdles I face in life now.

–          Caring – Farmers care about the welfare of their sources of livelihood – the livestock and the land – like no other profession I’ve ever come across.  You taught me this.  How many corporate folk do you know that would go out in the driving rain and sleet to help a downed cow?  I can’t name any.  That’s part of a farmer’s job though.  You care about the quality of life of your animals and that extends to caring about others as well.  When a neighboring farmer is going through a hard time and needs help getting the crops in, we helped.  You don’t stand by and watch others struggle, you do what you can to lift them up.

–          Respect – You taught me to respect my elders, the land and the animals we raised.  Without them, we wouldn’t have anything. 

–          Be Independent and Work Hard– You can’t rely on others for everything.  You taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and do it myself.  There wasn’t going to be any magical Fairy Godmother to wave her wand and pay for my first car or my college tuition.  You taught me how to change a tire so I wouldn’t have to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help. 

This is just a short list of the things you taught me, but what I’m really trying to say is, thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate all the lessons learned and quality time spent together.   Without you and Mom showing me the ropes of farm life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.  And to all the other farm parents who have created such an amazing environment in which to raise their families, you are appreciated.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Last week, most of the Illinois Corn staff and nearly all of their farmer leaders were in Nashville, TN for the Commodity Classic.  This entire event is a collection of corn, soybean, wheat, and sorghum farmers from all over the nation.  This year, we broke a record with over 6,000 farmers in attendance!

nashville, TN commodity classicSo what do we do while we’re there?  The most important event for IL Corn is “Corn Congress.”  This is when National Corn Growers Association delegates (farmers leaders from each state) come together to present and review policy directives that give the National Corn Growers Association staff and the corresponding state staff direction on what to pursue the following year.

This was confusing to me at first.  Basically, the farmers get together and complete new statements or revise old statements that reflect what they as a body of corn farmers believe.  Things like, “We support public funding of land grant institutions to disseminate information, science, etc. about biotech.”  And “Grain marketing value should be determined on a dry matter and intrinsic value basis.” are the sorts of things we discuss.  At the end of the Congress, we have a book of values statements that staff are able to follow when making a decision about how we should react in any given situation.

Jeff Jarboe, corn, farmer, trade, show, Commodity Classic, Nashville, TNBut there are also lots of other perks to being at Commodity Classic.  Their trade show is one of the largest farm trade shows all year with over 900 booths this year.  The farmer leaders and all the other farmers that come to the event get to enjoy representatives from every ag industry you can imagine, hearing about new technologies and making contacts that will utimately better their farms.  Pictured is Jeff Jarboe, a Loda, IL farmer, discussing farm business with a trade show representative.

And we find plenty of time to unwind too.  In fact, we build fun time into fundraising time.  This photo of IL Corn staffer Dave Loos and Illinois Corn Growers Association Vice President Paul Taylor was taken during the NCGA PAC auction.  Farmers bid on auction items to raise money for NCGA’s political activities throughout the year.  This year, we raised $144,000!

paul taylor, corn farmer, illinois, auctionCommodity Classic next year will be held Feb 28 – March 2 in Kissimmee, FL.  If you are a farmer, you might consider attending!

If you are not a farmer, please know how hard farmers work to develop a national organization that really represents who they are and is a leader on the national political stage.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director