FARM PROGRESS SHOW A SUCCESS

This week has been a hot one for the IL Corn staff.  We’ve been outside all week, talking with Illinois farmers about their futures and what working together can accomplish at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur.

No matter what, the Farm Progress Show is always excruciatingly hot or cold and rainy.  But we love being there because we love farmers.

The thing is, farmers tend to be solitary creatures.  I mean, you aren’t raised out in the middle of the country with your nearest neighbor a couple of miles away without developing a love of doing things on your own and being set apart.  But when it comes to legislative and regulatory concerns – things that could put farmers out of business – one farmer acting on his own just can’t get it done.

That’s why farmers have the IL Corn Growers Association and the IL Corn Marketing Board.  It’s a way to pool money, to accomplish things that are for the common good of all corn farmers.  We work to minimize regulations and paperwork farmers have to complete.  Farmers became farmers because they love being outside, not because they like sitting at a desk and doing paperwork.

We work to represent them in Congress on issues like crop insurance.  After all, it’s hard to keep a farm in the family when Mother Nature is working against you and destroys a year of hard work.

We help them create markets for their crops so that they can focus on providing yields and managing the resources in their care.  And we teach them how to talk about their story and their farm – how to share their story.  It is pretty important in this technological age after all.

So this week, we sat at the Farm Progress Show.  We talked to farmers about things coming up that they might want to think about.  We encouraged them to talk to their elected officials.  And we reminded them that their association always has their back.

It was a good week.

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

COVER CROPS AN IMPORTANT PART OF NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT

Farmers are being encouraged to consider growing cover crops on their fields through the winter.  Studies show that a living, growing plant in the ground year-round improves the soil, productivity, and nutrient runoff.

The science behind this makes sense.  On a big picture level, Illinois is prairie and having grasses growing on our soil year round is a return to what built the rich organic soils in the first place.  But looking closer, planting ryegrass or cereal rye after you harvest your corn crop makes sense.

corn, corn stalks, tillage, farm, agricultureIn central Illinois, many farmers plant corn on corn (this is the way we describe a crop rotation of corn every single year without planting another crop in between).  Because corn uses nitrogen from the soil to grow, farmers apply nitrogen every year to replenish what the corn used the previous year.  If that nitrogen isn’t applied at exactly the right time, the plant doesn’t get to use all of it, meaning that valuable nitrogen is lost to the soil and water, causing problems in the environment and costing farmers money.

Additionally, corn doesn’t grow well in the leftover stalks and leaves from the previous year.  This causes farmers using a corn on corn rotation to have to till the soil which isn’t good for soil erosion.  The current industry standard is to no-till the soil, meaning, literally, no-tillage.

Growing crop like cereal rye or ryegrass from the time you harvest the corn until you replant in April helps with both concerns.

As the cover crop grows in the fall, it uses the nitrogen left in the soil to grow and stores it within the plant.  In the spring when the farmer kills the cover crop, the nitrogen is released back into the soil for the corn crop to use.  This management technique significantly minimizes the nitrogen remaining to run off into the water supply.

A cover crop also reduces compaction, increases organic matter in the soil, and otherwise helps the health of the soil and increases productivity for the farmer.  In fact, some farmers doing trials in Illinois this past year have noticed up to 20 bushels per acre increase in yield!

The Council on Best Management Practices is now working one-on-one with farmers in the Springfield, IL area.  Several will be growing cover crops this winter as a trial and demonstration for other local farmers.  And we hope to show farmers the environmental and economic benefit of growing cover crops on their fields as a part of the normal corn on corn rotation.

Using science as our base, farmers will definitely be on board for improving the resources in their care.

phil thorntonPhil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Added Director

FARMERS LITTLE HELPERS AT THE IL STATE FAIR

The Illinois State Fair wrapped up over the weekend in Springfield. The Fair, with its roots firmly established in agriculture, might be the most heavily trafficked one-stop-shop chance to expose the general public to agriculture here in Illinois. With that in mind, Illinois corn checkoff dollars supported one of the most popular exhibits at the fair…Farmers Little Helpers.

It’s been reported that general admissions to the Fair increased by about 3% year over year. And although fair food and concerts may be the top of mind for most visitors, Farmers Little Helpers is a “gem” that definitely adds a unique element to the visitor’s day!

Located just inside Gate 2, Farmers Little Helpers targets young children and their families for a fun visit to learn more about farmers and farming. Gate 2 is the most heavily used gate at the fairgrounds from a foot-traffic standpoint. The visibility of the location is highly valued, and coordinates with one of the boarding areas of the Sky-Glider.

Farmers Little Helpers corn signWithin Farmers Little Helpers is a child-sized corn field featuring fun messages about corn and its uses. Also, in a 12’ by 16’ building dubbed, “The Tool Shed,” kids and their parents can play in a sandbox filled with corn and soybeans, as well as look at fun exhibit displays.

The “Piglets on Parade” exhibit was relocated last year to the Farmers Little Helpers area. In this exhibit, Illinois Pork Producers Association, supported by the corn checkoff, lets visitors experience in-real-life the birth of piglets.

If you didn’t see the exhibit this year, make sure to add it to your must-see list for next year. Remember! Farmers aren’t the audience…its children and their parents!

Braid Terry_Tricia  mugshotTricia Braid
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director

NUTRIENT LOSS IS A COMPLICATED PROBLEM!

As reported in our water quality post last week, the issue of nutrient runoff and water quality is much bigger and more confusing than some people think.  In fact, there are researchers, policymakers, and vocal citizens throughout our nation and our world that believe that the issue can be cleared up with a few well-intentioned, though misguided policies.

We don’t believe that is the case.  And neither does the Illinois Director of Agriculture Bob Flider.

After the U.S. EPA wrote to offer their assistance to Illinois in dealing what they feel is a large agricultural problem, Director Flider returned their offer with an explanation of all the good work we are doing in Illinois to actually figure out the cause of the problem and correct agriculture’s portion.

He cited programs at the University of Illinois to assess the current extent of the problem.  He cited continued work on a strategy to help farmers correct any problem that might be uncovered in our research.  And he cited an extensive amount of programs with the agricultural industry to educate farmers about best management practices to reduce nutrient losses from farm fields.

Agriculture certainly cannot be called lazy as relates to this issue.  Our Keep it for the Crop 2025 program is helping.  The development of the Nutrient Research and Education Council is helping.  And farmers themselves are helping by changing their methods.

How can you be sure that farmers have pure motives to correct the quality of the water around them?  For one, farmers are drinking from wells located right in the middle of their fields.  They aren’t drinking city water that has undergone treatment.  They are just as motived to provide clean water for their families as you are.

And farmers are paying a premium for the nutrients they apply on their fields to help the crops grow.  If the plants aren’t using the nutrients and instead, the nutrients are lost in the water supply, that’s wasted money out of an already extremely tight budget.  Losing nutrients doesn’t make economic sense.

Next week we’ll dive into one such program that is really making a difference on the farms in terms of determining a nutrient loss problem and correcting it!

phil thorntonPhil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Added Director

CROP DUSTING

With National Aviation Day quickly approaching I figured I would touch base on a subject that does not get brought up all too often, aerial application. You might know of it as “crop dusting,” which involves spraying crops with fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides from an agricultural aircraft. The specific spreading of fertilizer is also known as aerial topdressing. These agricultural aircrafts are often purpose-built, though many have been converted from existing airframes. Helicopters are sometimes used, and some aircraft serve double duty as water bombers in areas prone to wildfires.

(Want to know more about these fertilizers and pesticides? CLICK HERE)

crop dustingThe first known aerial application of agricultural materials was by John Chaytor, who in 1906 spread seed over a swamped valley floor in Wairoa, New Zealand, using a hot air balloon with mobile tethers. Aerial sowing of seed has continued on a small scale. The first known use of a heavier-than-air machine occurred on 3 August 1921. Crop dusting was developed under the joint efforts of the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the U.S. Army Signal Corps’s research station at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. Aerial topdressing, the spread of fertilizers, was developed in New Zealand in the 1940s by members of the Ministry of Public Works and RNZAF, of which unofficial experiments by individuals within the government led to funded research. This exploration eventually led to several privateers and other companies to offer the service we know today as crop dusting.

If you have ever seen a crop dusting pilot performing their acrobats, you know it can be quite mesmerizing. However, these maneuvers are very dangerous and this career is said to be one of the most precarious of them all. One of the dangers for the pilot includes encountering obstacles. The plane flies low, so the pilot must be very careful not to run into electrical wires and fences. He/She is flying an aircraft close to the ground at high speeds while paying close attention to his instruments, keeping track of the chemicals that he is spraying and trying not to run into anything in the process. Many crop dusting pilots have crashed in an emergency or forced landing in a country field.

Nick Rumbold
ICMB Social Media Intern

Check out this amazing footage one crop duster captured!

JAPANESE IN ILLINOIS

Japanese trade team

A group of Japanese government officials visited the Illinois Corn office today, wanting to learn more about the 2013 crop, prices, quality, and more. The most exciting conversation though occurred over issues that we share with them, namely that they have a vocal group within their country that are concerned about GMO crops and that they also are dealing with the graying of farmers and the lack of young men and women who want to enter the industry.

2013 NORMAL CORNBELTERS SEASON COMING TO AN END

normal cornbelters logoIt is hard to believe the 2013 Normal CornBelters season will be wrapping up soon.  Following their longest road trip of the season, the team begins a three-game home stand at The Corn Crib tonight against the Schaumburg Boomers at 7 p.m.  Including tonight’s game, there are only 18 regular season home games remaining this season.

The team currently has a 35-34 record.  They are six and a half games behind the division leading Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League West Division, but only four games back of a wild card playoff berth.  While they have improved from last season’s 29 wins, there is still work to be done in their remaining 27 games.  They are looking to finish the season strong and earn our first-ever playoff berth.

Case IH CombineWith the team on the road for nine of the past ten days, our front office staff continued with business as usual at the ballpark.  On my way into the administrative office earlier this week, I viewed a family taking photographs next to the Case IH combine outside the Barker, Buick, GMC, Cadillac Main Gate (a common occurrence).  It reminded me of the unique and beneficial theme we have had since our inaugural season in 2010.

Of all the 50 states, only Iowa planted more acres of corn than Illinois in 2012.  With Normal being located in the heart of Central Illinois (inside the “Corn Belt”), corn production is essential to our way of life.  It only makes sense we call ourselves the CornBelters, and we play our games at The Corn Crib.  It makes even more sense we partner with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB) to help educate our fans on corn production in our home state.

Among other things, visitors to the ballpark cannot miss the corn planted outside and inside The Corn Crib, the Case IH combines at both gates, the corn signage throughout the ballpark and the corn facts shared during CornBelters games.  Plus, our fans can even purchase $1 ears of roasted corn throughout our games!  Without question, we have one of the most unique themes in all of professional sports.  More importantly, it is a win, win for everyone involved (Illinois corn farmers, ICMB, our fans and us)!

If you have yet to catch a CornBelters game this season, there is no better time to do so!  As usual, we have some fantastic promotions scheduled for this home stand…

Wednesday, August 7 – “Dog Night / Meijer Wednesday / Web Wednesday

Thursday, August 8 – “Miller Thirst Quenching Thursday

Friday, August 9 – “CEFCU Fireworks Friday / Facebook Friday / Salute to Armed Forces

To purchase tickets, simply visit the Mid-Illini Credit Union Box Office at The Corn Crib, or call (309) 454-2255 (BALL), during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. / Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).  You can also purchase tickets on-line anytime at:  https://www.ticketreturn.com/prod2/team.asp?SponsorID=4098#.UbjDC_lQFid.

kylekregerKyle Kruger
Normal CornBelters

GULF HYPOXIA ZONE IS SMALLER THAN PREDICTED

Every summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measures and releases information about the size of the hypoxia zone* in the Gulf of Mexico.  Because of the drought in 2012, because all the nutrients that were applied went unused as the crops failed to grow, and because of the massive rainfall some of the Midwest experienced this spring, NOAA predicted the zone to be at least 20 percent larger in 2013.

2013 hypoxizWe were all surprised to hear that the zone is not nearly that large.  In fact, the zone is very nearly the average size.

This means that although some would like to believe that we have nutrient runoff and the causes of hypoxia zones down to an exact science, the fact that we can’t accurately predict a significant increase or decrease means that there’s a lot we still don’t know.

That is exactly why the Council on Best Management Practices, of which IL Corn and several other agri-business and associations are members, is working to build more science and more data regarding hypoxia and nutrient runoff.  Very little scientific data about agriculture’s contribution to the problem exists.

Plan to tune in every Tuesday this month on Corn Corps as we explore more about the water quality issues facing Illinois farmers and how farmers really are trying their best to manage and solve the problems facing those of us that drink water.

phil thorntonPhil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Added Director

*Hypoxia zones are “dead zones” which are devoid of life.  This occurs because nutrients make their way into the water system, encourage the increasing growth of small microorganisms, and then deoxygenate the water as all these small organisms die and decompose.  As large sections of water become oxygen-free, fish and other wildlife can’t live causing fish die-offs and serious impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries. 

Many environmentalists would like to believe that agriculture is a substantial contributor to nutrient runoff and hypoxia zones.  However, to date, no solid research has been done on what agriculture’s contribution to this problem really is.  If agriculture has a significant impact, farmers are already poised to change their practices and do their best to minimize runoff.  If other industries are more at fault than currently assumed, everyone must step up to the plate to minimize nutrient runoff problems.