ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: FARM PROFITABILITY

[Originally posted December 16, 2016]

We actually asked for more stable farm profitability last year, but Santa hasn’t brought it yet!  In fact, farming has gotten harder with more farmers losing money and more bankers refusing to loan farmers the cash to put in a crop based on their precarious budget sheets.

WE NEED FARM PROFITABILITY!

If you haven’t already read our Are Farmers Rich post, you’ll want to start there … remembering that this particular article and the economic conditions it presents are two years old.

The bottom line is, farmers are losing money.  Lots of it.  In fact, for many farmers, the more acres you farm the more you’re losing.  Luckily, this was a good year for crops and higher yields started to offset the extremely low prices, but that might not always happen.

Think about it: for every other business that creates something, they name the price for that product that includes how much it costs to produce it.  Competition in the marketplace might force them to lower their product cost to a lower margin, but they can always guarantee they are making at least a bit of profit.

Farmers are price takers, not price makers.  They don’t get to determine how much it cost them to grow a bushel of corn and set their price from there.  They have to just take whatever price the commodity markets dictate.  And right now, that cost is well below the cost of production.

Most of the other things on our list will help us price prices because they are about creating demand or minimizing costs of production.  Trade opportunities and that darn RVP waiver will create more demand in terms of selling more corn overseas or selling more ethanol in the summer months.  Better locks and dams will decrease the cost of getting corn to an international market.  More conservation will prevent regulations that will cost farmers money.

I swear Santa, we aren’t asking for much.  Please … farm profitability for 2017?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: RVP WAIVER

[Originally posted December 15, 2016]

This 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

[Originally posted December 14, 2016]

IL 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

[Originally posted December 13, 2016]

It 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

 

[Originally posted December 12, 2016]

At 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

TECHNOLOGY CHANGES AGRICULTURE: UAVs

In today’s day and age, technology is a large part of the world that we live. Everywhere that you turn, people are soaking up all of the features that have technology has to offer. Many industries have seen many advancements in the area of technology and the agriculture industry is definitely no stranger to this type of development. Through technology, the agriculture industry has seen an introduction of new ways to prosper.

A specific area in agriculture that has been affected by technology is the area of crop production.

Picture this- it is the middle of summer and the sky is clear for miles to see. Suddenly, you notice a small aerial object flying over a nearby crop field and you wonder exactly what this item could possibly be.

You think, well maybe it is just a large bird.

Or maybe the object is just a small airplane.

It turns out that the aerial device that you saw was a new item that has been introduced into the agriculture industry. This device is known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAV.

This type of vehicle is useful to crop farmers all around the country. With a UAV, remote controller and laptop individuals in the crop sector of the industry are able to look at crops from a bird’s eye view. The ability to look at a field from this perspective is much more ideal than having to spend hours upon hours walking through rows of a field to investigate the progress that the crops are making.

Not only does this device allow individuals to see the world from a bird’s eye view, but video capability is also available so that footage of the field can be viewed later and in more depth.

By using an UAV and this viewing capability, an individual in the agronomy side of the industry is able to look for things such as crop damage. An individual is also able to see the different spots of damage that a field may have and just how big of an area is affected.

Along with being able to view the amount of crop damage in a field without physically going through the field, some UAV’s also have the ability to monitor plant health. Through the addition of an infrared camera, one can also investigate different specifics of plant health such as soil fertility and use this information to understand just how much fertilizer needs to be added to a field in order to increase the nutrients in the soil and achieve the highest crop yield possible.

So, the next time that you are outside, and someone points out an object in the sky that easily resembles a large bird or a small airplane, you can inform them of the different benefits that this type of device that is contributing to the success of the agriculture industry. Just like any other aspect of the world, the agriculture industry is continuing to see new technological developments, like the introduction of UAV’s, in order to feed the world’s growing population.

Below is a video that goes into even greater detail about the contribution that UAV’s have towards the agriculture industry: https://www.facebook.com/MarylandFarmHarvest/videos/1499311513489734/

Sierra Day
Lake Land College

TRADE IS IMPORTANT TO U.S. FARMERS

Countries trade with each other when on their own, they do not have enough resources to satisfy their people’s needs and wants. Countries that produce a surplus of product can trade for other resources they need.

More than 25 percent of all U.S. ag production goes to markets outside of our border. Agricultural trade is a generator of income for millions of people in the industry. Trade is critical to the livelihood of the US ag sector because it spurs economic growth for our farmers and ranchers and their communities. The expansion of agricultural trade has helped provide greater quantity, wider variety, and better quality food to our growing population. Agricultural exports support more than 1 million jobs to Americans. Without our expanded trade, the ag economy as a whole would not be as strong as it is today.

When the president signed an order withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we were disappointed because we saw the TPP as a positive event for our industry as it would have added billions of dollars to our economy. Now we need to work immediately to develop new markets for our country’s goods and product interest in the Pacific region.

As Trump withdrew from this agreement, many concerns have arose from the agriculture industry producers. There are many states that really depend on trade to keep them standing. Farmers and ranchers are afraid that with this agreement, they will be losing trade and losing money. A lot of farmers are currently scared about what is happening, and if they are going to be able to keep their farms and support their families.

The livestock industry had in its sights a future of expansion and export growth. After Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that has almost completely disappeared. We need trade agreement in place to provide an opportunity for farmers to sell their products.

There are people all over the United States that depend on exports to keep their jobs. With future export opportunities and the question if other countries are going to pick up more exports, U.S. farmers are wondering if they are going to be in trouble.

Sara Pieper
Western Illinois University

YOUNG PERSON IN AG: HAYDEN KINCADE

Balancing is part of becoming an adult. Learning to properly allocate time to each specific task can be challenging. Hayden has had to learn to do that. Being an Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor is basically the definition of balancing. Going from being a student himself to teaching students every day has been something that Hayden is ecstatic about. Being excited about teaching the youth is something we all can admire, which makes him a great Young Person in Ag.

  1. What is your agriculture background?

I don’t really have a huge agriculture background. I come from a small town of Noble, Illinois and I guess my agriculture was helping my dad in the oil fields. I took the introduction to agriculture class because ag was really the only elective my school offered.

  1. What was some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?

If I had to pinpoint one thing that really got me interested in agriculture and FFA it would have to be the 212 conference my sophomore year of high school. My ag teacher drug me along and really made me step out of my comfort zone. I was a very quiet guy and meeting new people was different. After that experience I began to really enjoy talking and meeting other students with the same passion as me. I was then able to become involved in leadership positions within my chapter and was even a Section President.

  1. What college did you attend and what was your major?

I attend a junior college my freshman and sophomore year of college and that was at Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Illinois and was an Agriculture Transfer major. I didn’t start college with a goal of becoming an agriculture teacher. I was going to go into agriculture business. My sophomore year I decided that Agriculture Education was where I wanted to go. After Wabash Valley I transferred to the University of Illinois and was a Agriculture Science Education major.

  1. What was your involvement at the U of I?

I was part of a couple different clubs on campus including the Agriculture Education club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Collegiate FFA. I also loved being a part of Block-I and Orange Crush, both spirit sections for football and basketball. I also was fortunate to do some observations at the Oblong and Nokomis FFA Chapter and do my student teaching at Mt. Pulaski.

  1. What were your internships experiences like?

For five summers, I interned for Wabash Valley Service Company in Olney, Illinois as well as Growmark. I did different things like helping farmers with seed and chemical application. Talking with farmers and building relationships for the company. It was a great way to learn to be a better ag teacher.

  1. What is your dream job or would you say you’re in it now?

I am currently the Agriculture Teacher and FFA advisor at Red Hill High School in Bridgeport, IL. I would say that being an ag teacher is my dream job. I was to be a teacher for as long as I can be. I guess you could say more goals I would have would be that the chapter and enrollment in agriculture classes goes up. As well as the chapter becomes more and more successful.

  1. What is the hardest part about being a teacher?

Balancing all the different things we do. Teaching for 7 class periods a day, preparing for the next 2-3 contests, with students handling alumni, grading homework, and so on are just some of the things I do every day. Being able to wear many hats and switch those on and off it something that I am finding takes work but I love it. No day is the same.

  1. What is the easiest part about being a teacher?

Waking up every day and coming to work. The students are great to work with. I hope in some way I am making a positive impact on their lives and teaching them something that they can use in the future.

  1. Do you remember anything that has really changed in the agriculture industry?

I say this now that I am in a job that I manage three shops and teach shop classes. But I have seen a huge shift in students don’t know how to work with their hands. They have become very good at working on a computer or phone and being productive, but if you ask them to go change a tire or weld something, the majority don’t know how to do so and find it harder to learn to. While I was only in high school about 5 years ago, it seemed like more of my classmates could do that type of stuff. I’m sure if you look back even further the shift is huge.

  1. How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

The same trend as we are seeing now. Technology will get bigger and bigger and more important in our daily lives. We have to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050. Technology will play a huge role in that. Having it be efficient and use it to the best we can will make a big impact. 

  1. What do you think sets the agriculture industry apart from other industries?

It is an enormous field. There is a wide array of pathways that people can take within. Take my classroom for example. I currently offer and teach 12 different agriculture classes. That’s 12 different pathways and opportunities that students would have, and that’s just at one school. I also think about the sheer importance of the agriculture industry compared to other industries and how we have to work hard at feeding and clothing this world.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College