Out here in DC where many corn farmers from many different states have met to visit their congressmen and work on corn policy, one topic of conversation that bridges all gaps is this season’s crop. Fairly often, you hear one farmer walk up to another they barely know, and overcome any political or ideological differences with one question: “So, are you going to have a record crop this year?”
Unfortunately, extremely wet weather in IL makes most of the IL corn farmers answer no, but the subject of record yields and yields that trend upwards and offer less variability are a common topic in our congressional visits too. In fact, growing corn yields are addressed in the new Corn Fact Book that we are giving to each of our elected officials this week.
We as farmers understand that when we used to get 150 bushel to the acre, we’re now getting more than 200. Consumers, legislators, and thought leaders both in DC and in our communities in Illinois don’t know that.
This is one place where you can help. Explaining something as simple as Illinois corn’s yield trend to your neighbors and non-farm friends can help people understand that there is more than enough corn to provide for all our markets and that our efficiency and yields are still growing!
I am proud to be a part of the latest Corn Farmers Coalition ad campaign in DC and around our state and I am equally proud to share the below excerpt from the Corn Fact Book where we explain growing yields. If you could use a copy of the Corn Fact Book in your community work to educate friends and neighbors about corn production, please leave a note in the comments and we will be happy to help you obtain a copy.
ICMB Vice Chair
Record After Record
How do America’s family farmers out-produce everyone else? The roots of this success run deep and wide.
There’s know-how – the everyday working knowledge and understanding of how best to plant, raise and harvest a crop. This is not simply tossing a few seeds to the ground and hoping for the best. It involves high-tech equipment that places hybrid seeds at the desired depth in the soil and the optimal number of seeds per acre. It’s the ability to help keep that crop healthy during the growing season. The understanding of where plant nutrients are needed and when – and the technical savvy to do just that. The optimism to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into a crop Mother Nature can wipe out in an instant.
Then comes the continuing advancement of hybrid seed corn – every year means better hybrid seeds for farmers. Plant breeders today have advanced tools to better predict which desirable characteristics will come from its two parents. They can identify those with potential and run tests before a single seed is ever planted in the ground. Add the advances gained through biotechnology and the potential from mapping the corn genome, its DNA, and it’s safe to say today’s yields – unimagined a generation ago – are just the beginning.
On Friday, June 26, the Illinois Corn Growers Association hosted their annual golf outing at Fairlakes Golf Course in Secor to show appreciation to their many partners.
This event is a time to relax and recognize the time that all of us spend on behalf of farmers in Illinois throughout the year. County corn grower organizations, members of agribusiness, and others in the industry are invited to bring a team and join us for a leisurely afternoon.
If you’d like to see some of the fun that participants enjoyed this year, check out our clip below!
Recent research and focus groups tell us that the average Joe on the street in Illinois believes that more than half of his food is grown by corporations. Of course, that prompted Illinois Corn and other state corn associations to come up with messaging like this that focuses on the fact of this matter:
Still, this doesn’t prevent critics from simply not believing what is true.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
This weekend, while at a graduation party in a friend’s garage, I had an interesting conversation about corn. It’s the sort of conversation that I know is happening all over our state, at graduation parties and little league games and the local watering hole. The highly educated, extremely intelligent man that I was chatting with, someone that I look up to and listen to, doesn’t really like corn all that much.
He doesn’t like corn-based ethanol because he believes we’re taking food out of people’s mouths to make it. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. He didn’t believe me when I said that 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.
His own experience has taught him otherwise. He works for a university who has increasing interest in agriculture because more and more of their endowments are coming via crop land. He sees the farms owned by the University and wrongfully assumes that corporate owned farms are the new face of agriculture.
To him and to anyone else that questions the family farm facts Illinois Corn provides, I say this: even the farms owned by the University are farmed, operated, and managed by family farmers.
Let me make this more clear. The University owns the farm, but they rent it to a family farmer who makes a payment for use of the land and then tries to make a living growing a crop on it. The University doesn’t decide to put more or less chemicals on the ground regardless of environmental impact. The University isn’t dictating tillage methodology that would cause increasing soil erosion. The University isn’t asking that only GMO seed be used on this land to increase profits. The University is only interested in receiving the rent and the farmer is making every decision to raise the best crop he can, to conserve the natural resources that will allow him to raise a crop next year and the next on that land, without corporate oversight.
To say that the University was managing that land poorly with only profit in mind would be similar to saying that the landlord that owns your apartment is managing your household and telling you what groceries to buy or what cleaners to use.
My point? Even land that is not owned by a family farmer, like University endowment land, is still FARMED AND MANAGED by a family farmer. And the family farmers that rent this sort of land are still living nearby, drinking the water and raising their families off that land. They are good stewards of land that they farm, even if it doesn’t belong to them.
Family farms are the face of corn production in America. They are trustworthy men and women who do their very best every day to provide food and fuel for our country in a sustainable manner.
Two years ago when the a 42 inch natural gass pipeline was installed running across some of my acreage, I had no idea I had a problem. In fact, I watched and watched that field hoping not to notice even a hint of standing water. And I didn’t for a while.
But you may remember that we’ve had three pretty wet seasons – last spring the crop was very late getting into the ground because of rain and we were even later getting it out of the ground because of rain. This year, the past couple of weeks have been filled with one downpour after another.
All that rain revealed a tiling problem. And since the rain still isn’t showing any signs of stopping, I’ve been two years trying to get it fixed. Finally, this month I was able to secure both the tiling company AND a dry enough day to get it done.
We didn’t figure this out until nearly the end of the process, but here is the problem. When the natural gas pipeline was installed, this section of older clay tile was broken and was not reconnected to the tiling system in this field.
So we started in to fix it, essentially digging a trench that would hold the tile to drain water from the field. Next to fertilizer, tiling a field is one of the most profitable things you can do and will quickly earn you complete return on your investment. In fact, the absence of this particular section of tile yielded me two complete acres of drowned crops, five acres that were two wet to apply fertilizer, and reduced yield on about twenty acres surrounding it all because of excess moisture.
We are installing five inch, black plastic tile because it is quicker and cheaper. The alternative is the clay tile that you saw in the picture above and it must be hand placed in the ground as opposed to the black plastic tile that comes on a large roll and just flows right into the trench that we dug. The tile is about three feet deep, and most tiles are set between 75 and 90 feet apart parallel throughout a field depending on soil type.
In the end, this is what I have. I lost a sixteen foot swath of emerging corn through my field that I won’t be able to replace. Typically, farmers don’t tile in the middle of the growing season and disrupt their crops, but the losses I’ve sustained over the past two years made the timing this year necessary.
Bring on the rain!
former ICGA Board member
current NCGA Board member