ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: RVP WAIVER

christmas-listThis Christmas list item gets complicated, so bear with me.

A RVP waiver – Reid Vapor Pressure waiver – is what Americans really need to use more renewable fuels and capitalize on the domestic, clean burning fuel we have right at our fingertips.

SANTA, BRING THAT WAIVER FOR E15!

The back story on this request is that when it’s really hot, bad stuff (emissions) evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution.  The EPA doesn’t want that to happen.

They measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard.  The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are.

The RVP of pure ethanol is 2.  The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15.

But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard.  The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10.

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to allow E10 a waiver – in other words, Congress gave EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months.  But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.

By the way, the RVP of E15 is actually lower than E10 and straight gasoline.

So, Santa, I’m not sure if you understood all this, but we could really use that waiver in our hands on Christmas Eve.  The world stands to benefit from cleaner air, and consumers will definitely enjoy the extra cents per gallon in their pockets.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE CONSERVATION

christmas-listIL Corn and the ag industry has introduced some management practices and talked about some concepts that are different for farmers, trying to help them improve the water quality coming from IL farms.

Farmers are anxious to learn, some are trying out a few new practices, others are watching and learning from their neighbors, but …

WE NEED MORE FARMERS TO TRY MORE CONSERVATION PRACTICES.

Farmers are farming because they love it, but also because they need to provide for their own families.  So trying something completely new, and risking tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process, is a scary thing.

Research tells us that trying cover crops will cost *this much* and improve soil health *this much* while also decreasing nutrient loss *this much.*  But the research put into practice on some farms doesn’t always work out exactly the same.  Farmers get nervous to try new things … and that’s understandable!

But Santa, we’ve got to make our water quality better.  We’ve got to lose less of the expensive fertilizer we’re putting on our fields.  We’ve got to invest in our land and preserve it for future generations.  Farmers definitely want to do this!  It is their core value and the foundation of their farming business.

So one thing we’d love for Christmas is for more farmers to TRY a new conservation practice on their fields this year.  Maybe they just try it on one field, maybe they branch out to several.  Maybe they talk with a neighbor and try the same thing she had success with in 2016.  We’re making progress, but MORE progress would sure be nice.

Whisper in their ears – would you Santa?  We’ll keep providing the outreach, education, and programming in the meantime …

Note: In 2016, IL Corn offered several new educational programs for farmers!  These are just a few:

  • cover crop coupons – to try cover crops at a reduced cost for the first year
  • field days – to see how different management techniques were actually working on farms in Illinois
  • interactive maps – to help farmers understand when to apply nitrogen and when not to apply
  • Precision Conservation Management – a pilot program that helps farmers understand conservation practices AND the financial implications that correlate with them
  • water testing – to understand how much of the expensive fertilizer a farmer was losing from his/her field

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: TRADE OPPORTUNITIES

christmas-listIt stands to reason that right after an investment in getting our grain to a global market, we’d like to see increased market opportunities, right?

Check out our first ask of Santa here.

The opportunities are there.  And Illinois believes we can compete with anyone in the world in terms of grain quality, quantity, and price.

WE JUST NEED GLOBAL MARKET ACCESS!

 

Trade deals are really important when it comes to selling more corn to more countries all over the world.  We’d definitely like to see trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass Congress and become effective.

TPP won’t increase the amount of corn we send overseas, but it will increase the amount of red meat we sell overseas.  More meat sold means more livestock production here in the U.S. which means more animals to eat more corn!  It’s a win for everyone involved.

Overall though Santa, we’d love it if you’d just create a blanket of positive trade talk over Washington, DC.  Will the incoming administration support trade in the end?  We’re just not sure and we’d love your help on this!

Note: Trade is so important to Illinois.  About half of our corn leaves the state – much of it to other countries like Mexico and Japan.  What leaves our state and doesn’t go overseas is feeding livestock in other states like Texas and THEN going overseas.  This is because of our position on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers – we will never stop advocating for more and more trade!

There’s also this.  Trade is important from a humanitarian level.  We have to trade to get the food from where it’s produced (the U.S., Brazil, Argentina) to where the hungry people are.

Don’t ever forget about the hungry people Santa.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: LOCKS & DAMS

christmas-listAt this point, I sound like a broken record.  (And if you’re tired of hearing me talk about locks and dams, be glad you don’t know Jim Tarmann – an IL Corn staffer who has been working on this issue for 20ish years!)

Illinois farmers need updated locks and dams if the U.S. wants us to remain globally competitive.  There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

WE NEED LOCKS AND DAMS!

We’re getting closer.  Congress has changed some funding equations and the industry (all the users of the river system) agreed to pay more in order to generate income to improve locks and dams.  This means that we’re closer than we’ve ever been and that’s exciting.

But we’re really REALLY hoping that Santa will whisper in the ears of the powers that be and include lock and dam construction in the potential transportation and infrastructure spending we keep hearing about in the new year.  This could be such a huge gain for IL agriculture!!

Want to learn more?  We’ve published some great articles on the need for upgraded locks and dams (click here).  Don’t forget, the locks and dams we’re using now were built in Mark Twain’s era for steam boats!!  At that time, we weren’t even dreaming about huge tows of grain headed to a global market!!

You might also enjoy this short video clip.

Please Santa!  Let’s start on a new lock in 2017!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

AG CAREER PROFILES: WHAT DOES A GOVERNMENT AGENCY EXEC DO?

12-8-16alston_0824Michael Alston grew up in Michigan and played football at Michigan State University, but never considered that his career would lead him to agriculture.  Alston is currently the Associate Administrator of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Deputy Manager of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  In this role, he is the senior career employee within the RMA.

The RMA is the agency that administers and oversees the federal crop insurance program.  This program helps farmers insure their crops against weather losses like tornadoes, droughts, or hail, as well as against total losses from other pests and pressures. The program covers more than $100 billion in liabilities nationwide every year.

Alston oversees the daily operations of the agency, advises the Office of the Secretary on RMA issues and positions, and also ensures the safety and workplace environment of the Washington, DC and field office employees.

Lindsay: What path led you to this position at this time?

Michael: Working here, in this position, has been a 30-year journey.  After I graduated from Michigan State University, I took a job with the Justice Department, which led me to live and work overseas.  From the Justice Department, I worked for the State Department for a few years, and at that point in my life, some personal factors led me to switch careers and work for the USDA.

At that time, USDA was looking for leaders, and by that time I had developed some good leadership skills so it was a good fit for me.  I worked in Springfield, IL as the Deputy Director of that RMA office and then became the Director there.  After about 10 years in Springfield, I took a position in Washington, DC working as the Associate Deputy Administrator for Compliance and l later moved to the Deputy Administrator for Insurance Services.  At this point in my career, I was overseeing the ten regional offices of the RMA, and working with the 16 private insurance companies and the binding document between the government and those insurance companies.  I oversaw that process.

All of those positions in the USDA were essentially leadership positions – making decisions, providing the right information to the right people, ensuring the appropriate work was getting done, and often being strategic about what positions and what work was most important to accomplish a goal.

Lindsay: What do you love most about your job?

Michael: I know at the end of every day that I have helped and worked with someone in rural America.

ag-careers_executiveI have always understood that rural America is the backbone of our country and that a lot of folks don’t understand where food comes from.  When you have the opportunity to travel overseas to countries where food isn’t available as I have, you understand how important food security and food to sustain a country really is.  Go to places where they don’t have food and then you are ready to invest in fresh, safe, cheap, available food.

So I love knowing that I’ve helped a farmer or rancher stay in business.  I love knowing that I’ve expanded opportunities for them.  I enjoy promoting rural America.

Lindsay: What skills/education do you believe have helped you to be successful?

Michael: For me in my career, the most important skill set is flexibility and adaptability.  I think often times people hold onto some theory of the past, and it has long ago become obsolete.  You constantly must look at yourselves and what you are doing and try to improve.

Also, the foundation of any leader is accountability and integrity.  If you aren’t accountable or you don’t have personal integrity, no matter what you do, it doesn’t matter.  You have nothing.

Lindsay: Describe a “day in the life” at your office.

Michael: I start at 8 am and I have meetings from 8 am to 4 pm.

I meet with folks from IT, I meet with folks from civil rights, I meet with the budget office, the chief financial officer, and folks from the FCIC Board.  I spend my day talking to others, making decisions, and channeling information up or down.

Lindsay: Based on your experiences, do you think young people today should consider a career in agriculture?

Michael: Yes, definitely.

Agriculture makes up about 17 percent of all the jobs in the U.S.  If you look strictly at rural America, that number goes up to about 35-40 percent.  Most of those jobs are not about having your hands in the dirt – although that’s important – but there are so many other skill sets involved in the industry

In the USDA, I can go to any college campus in any discipline and hire someone.  We need folks good at math, geography, finance, computers … there’s so much more to this industry than farming and ranching.

So yes, not only is it a vibrant industry, but it’s just very important and it sustains our country.  I would definitely encourage young folks to think about agriculture.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
Marketing Manager
IL Corn

INTRODUCTION TO AG: WHY IT SHOULD BE A GEN ED COURSE

My junior year of college at Illinois State University, I shared an apartment with four other girls. One of the girls, Cailyn, was an agriculture major from a small town just like myself. The other three girls were non-agriculture majors and were from the Chicago suburbs. Kayla was a history education major, Sarah was a communications major, and Genny was a broadcast journalism major. After living with three girls that didn’t understand how their food is grown, couldn’t unscrew a door hinge or change a car tire, and thought that GMOs would kill them, I wholeheartedly believe that an Introduction to Agriculture class should be a required general education class in college.

We live in an uninformed society today. Because of this, there are all kinds of misconceptions about agriculture that get made. Some of these misconceptions include ideas that farmers inject steroids into their animals, that there are antibiotics in their food, and that all farms are big corporate farms. By having college students take an Introduction to Agriculture class we could help eliminate these misconceptions about agriculture.

12-6-16farmerDo you know what the average age of the US farmer is today? No? That’s okay, you’re not alone! Today in the United States the average farmer is 58 years old. Yes, that’s right, 58 years old! The average retirement age of US citizens is 63. Think about that! Why is this average so high? Because more and more people aren’t returning home to take over the family farm. It’s easier to get a job within the agriculture industry where the stress is much lower and the pay is much higher.

According to the USDA, there are expected to be 60,000 jobs opening annually in the agriculture industry with only 35,000 graduates to fill these jobs. By requiring college level students to take an Introduction to Agriculture class, students would understand all that the agriculture industry has to offer. Jobs such as agriculture accountants, agriculture loan officers, agriculture education teachers, insurance agents, and the list goes on and on. By exposing students to this industry and the job options it offers, this could encourage students to possibly change their major from business to agricultural business or finance to agricultural finance.

12-6-16gmos1One of the biggest problems we face in America is the skepticism that our food is unsafe and that GMOS (genetically modified organisms) are harmful to us. By taking agriculture classes in college, students will see that in America we actually have the safest food supply in the world. They would also learn that it has been proven time and time again that GMOs are safe for human use and consumption. In fact, GMOs have been used for thousands and thousands of years. For example, corn is not a naturally occurring plant and instead was bred from a wild grain called teosinte. This is exactly what we do when we genetically modify plants today. We breed plants for whatever traits we want in plants. These traits include higher yielding plants, drought resistant plants, etc.

12-6-16agriculture-diploma-studentsThe most important reason that I believe college students should take agriculture classes is because they will learn life skills that they may not have been taught at home. Things like being able to change the oil in their car, use a drill to put in a screw, or wire an electric outlet in their home.

Agriculture classes would benefit college students and would help make these students more rounded individuals who would then be able to contribute to making our world a better place.

ellen-young
Ellen Young
Illinois State University

PORK POWER!

Who doesn’t love a good home-cooked meal around the holidays? My favorite things to enjoy with my family are ham and mashed potatoes. Many branches of the agriculture industry in Illinois team up for the holidays to make sure everyone in the state can have pork at their family dinners. This movement is called Pork Power and consists of Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, Feeding Illinois working together to gather pork to be donated.

12-5-16-pork-power-lightning-boltThis program was launched in 2008 by the Illinois Pork Producers and has continued to grow every year. The mission statement of the program is “To provide access to pork (vital meat protein) to our neighbors throughout Illinois by partnering with Feeding Illinois.” The 2015 results show that the mission statement is definitely being upheld. A whopping 500,000 pounds of pork was donated just last year. The half-million-pound donation amounted to 2 million meals being served to the people of Illinois.

Other events that support Pork Power are held throughout the year as well. These events include a fundraising meal at the Illinois Department of Agriculture and fun Pork Power t-shirts being sold at the Illinois State Fair. Some of these shirts have the Pork Power logo while others have puns about bacon that never get old!

Interested in donating pork to the cause? A few guidelines and more information on donating to the movement can be found here! Any other questions? Ask in the comments!

amanda-rollinsAmanda Rollins
Illinois State University

#TBT: 12 THINGS I LEARNED GROWING UP ON A FARM

[Originally posted December 1, 2014]

  1. “If you mess with the bull, you get the horns.” I know this is a pretty common saying, but that is also a very solid piece of advice on a cattle farm.
  2. Being sick might get you out of school for a day, but it rarely gets you out of chores.
  3. Hay bales are significantly heavier than straw bales.
  4. The “Circle of Life” is more than just a great song from The Lion King; it’s also a lesson that all farm kids start learning very early in life.
  5. Hard work is not an option. And when that hard work starts paying off, it is so much more rewarding than something you didn’t have to work for at all.
  6. “Curiosity killed the cat.” Again, a common saying but also a very literal lesson on the farm! (See “Circle of Life” in lesson #4.)
  7. You can fix just about anything with duct tape, twine, and a little imagination.
  8. “The difference between getting a job done and getting the job done right is usually about 5 minutes.”
  9. Anything after 7 a.m. is “damn near noon” and it’s in your best interest to get out of bed before that time. Besides, the animals eat before you do, so if you want breakfast you better be out in the barn bright & early!
  10. Respect. The farm life teaches you respect for so many things. Respect for animals, respect for the land, respect for Mother Nature, and respect for others.
  11. You will have to tell your friends over and over again that cow tipping is not a real thing. (See lesson #1. It’s not a good idea, people.)
  12. Resilience. Farming a’int easy, my friends. The success of your farm can greatly differ from one year to the next. But we always keep on truckin’ because we do what we love and we love what we do!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson