WASHINGTON, DC OR BUST

Tomorrow, I set off for Washington, DC along with twenty of so of my favorite Illinois corn farmers.  While we’re there, we’re going to talk corn policy for a bit (determining as a nation of corn farmers what it is that we stand for and what will allow us to continuing growing corn for generations and generations) and we’re going to chat with our Illinois elected officials.

That’s what I wanted to focus on today … how important it is to make time to tell your elected officials what you think.

I know there are quite a few folks that are discouraged and even a little jaded when it comes to politics these days.  I’m one of them at times.  And I know there are swarms of people who are frustrated that politicians seem to seek only their own reelection instead of seeking to do their job and serve the people in their district.

What I say is look at the cards you were dealt and play them.

The system is what it is.  And until it changes, our goal (and yours too!) should simply be to play the largest part within the system that you can.  That means getting involved, knowing your Congressman, Representatives, and Senators, and calling them or visiting them.  Because they actually do want to hear from you!

Millions of issues come across the House and Senate floor every day and your Congressman can’t possibly know the details of every single one.  Often, he’s looking to his peers and his party to determine what his/her vote will be.  But one simple conversation with you might put that issue into perspective and make him think a little harder about his vote.

Perhaps you can relay to your elected official that your farm has been in the family for a hundred years and now you are worried that you might lose it due to estate taxes.  Perhaps you can talk about your desire to grow your livestock operation, but fear the EPA or the animal rights extremists will ruin your investment.  Perhaps your family has occupied the same small town for generations and is now seeing an economic improvement from a local ethanol plant that you’d hate to see go under.

Whatever your specific instance, you have experiences that mean something to your Congressman … experiences that he or she cannot understand until they have spoken with you.  Experiences that might ultimately flavor his final vote in a way that you can’t even imagine yet.

All this bang for your minimal investment to go see him or call him in the first place.  Can you imagine if you kept this contact up?  What context you could offer her decisions if you had a relationship with your elected official or her staff?

This is what the Illinois corn farmers will be doing this week – offering context to the myriad of decisions being made in the House and Senate.  They will discuss how higher blends of ethanol would create markets for Illinois corn.  They will thank Congressmen Johnson and Halvorson for their vote to move a free trade agreement with Cuba out of House Ag Committee which will open up markets for Illinois corn if passed.  They will explain to the Illinois Delegation what better infrastructure on the Illinois and Mississippi River could mean for Illinois’ competitiveness worldwide.

You could do this too.

Open up the lines of communication.  Call or email your elected officials today.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

CAUTION: MEN AT WORK

The Illinois Corn home office is under construction this week. We’re trying to prepare for our June board meetings by repairing some massive pot holes in our parking lot and driveway. What that means for those of us in the office is parking a little further away and doing a bit of a hopscotch move to get into the front door of the building without stepping in drying cement.


Inside the office, we’re under construction too. In fact, there’s a host of issues and events that we’re working on! Some have short deadlines, some have been in progress for decades, but much like the men outside pouring cement, we’re dedicated and can’t wait to see these projects to completion.

It’s just that we’re going to do so with our shirts ON.

Locks and Dams

If you take a look at our website and visit the locks and dams section, we boast that this just might be the year that Illinois corn farmers finally see funding for lock and dam upgrades. What led us to that conclusion is partly that industry and the Army Corps of Engineers have come to an agreement on how to fund the upgrades AND complete them efficiency. We’ve been taking this message to Congress and have found that they are particularly receptive to groups that have their own funding streams to partner with federal dollars! But we also know that if we don’t get lock and dam funding this year, we might have to wait a few more before we push it again. So … 2010 is the year in our minds because the timing just won’t be right next year. Call your Congressman and ask that they fund lock and dam upgrades!

CornBelters

Opening day is June 1! That means that the rest of the week and Tuesday, we’ll be hard at work preparing messaging, coordinating media, assigning tickets, outfitting our suite, and doing all the other miscellaneous work that accompanies our CornBelters partnership. Please join us for opening day when our ICMB Chairman, Jim Rapp, will throw the first pitch! If this is something that interests you, you might check out our recent podcast.

Ethanol

Now that we finally have the first blender pump operating in Sullivan, IL, we can return to other ethanol issues that are close at hand. The EPA indicates that they will issue a decision on higher ethanol blends this summer and we continue to press our Illinois Delegation to co-sponsor HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This act would extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit among other things and will help ethanol remain a valuable partner in developing rural communities, lessoning our environmental impact, and accomplishing energy security. Kuddos to the Illinois Congressman that have already co-sponsored this important bill – if your Congressman doesn’t appear here, give him or her a call today!

Social Media

We have hired several interns for the summer that will start next week working on social media projects and helping us continue to gear up our social media presence. As you’ve obviously noticed, our blog posts and content are improving daily, but we can’t wait for them to arrive, helping us populate our youtube channel with valuable information and maybe even getting more facts and data our on facebook and twitter. If you aren’t already following us on all of these important outlets, I’d encourage you to check into them!

There are a million other “projects under construction” in our office but this definitely gives you a flavor for what the Illinois Corn staff and boards are up to right now. Please notice that we can’t complete many of these projects without your help! Consider contacting your Congressman on the above issues to thank him and ask for his help on the things that matter to you. Consider partnering with us on the social media front by following us on twitter, Facebook, youtube, or the blog and forward our messaging to your friends and family.

As they say, it takes a village. And I could sure use your help as I traverse the construction area outside our door! That’s one construction project that can’t be done soon enough.

By: Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

BP’S GULF OIL SPILL HAS MANY IMPACTS

Here in the Illinois Corn office, the Gulf oil spill is the thing we’re talking about as we gather around the coffee pot in the mornings. I know we aren’t the only ones.

We’re all concerned about the environmental impacts and we’re disappointed that BP can’t seem to figure out a way to get this leak under control. What will happen to the wildlife, the habitats, the beaches, and the water quality as a result of the millions of gallons of oil that are now in the Gulf? I’m happy to see BP pledge funding to post-oil research on some of the topics, even though I’m not sure it’s enough.

There are some pretty interesting video updates about their recovery efforts here.

Environment aside though, we’re concerned about shipping. What happens when barge and freight traffic can’t exit the Mississippi River? Will New Orleans have to shut down once again? And as if having a record corn crop and not having the infrastructure to get it out of Illinois weren’t enough, what if traffic coming upstream is shut down too? We won’t have fertilizers for our crops, salt for our roads, and a host of other products that Illinois ships upstream on the Mighty Mississippi.

When you add the potential for this billion dollar transportation failure to the environmental fiasco, BP has really screwed up.

BNSF Railway is already gearing up for what might be an infrastructure meltdown and hoping to provide additional rail service to the coasts in order to get products to export. This alternative has a higher cost (financially and environmentally) than our current barge system, but is a viable option.

Kevin Kaufman, BNSF’s Group Vice President, Agricultural Products provides a nice podcast on May 6 where he mentions this fact at about minute 2:45. There are actually a lot of other great podcasts on this site if rail transportation is something you’re interested in.

This is what I know – the need for river transportation on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio Rivers has never been greater. Illinois farmers are producing more and more corn and continue to feed a growing export market. Barge transportation for our goods and grain is the most environmentally friendly, economic means of transportation available to Illinoisans. We need MORE river transportation, not less.

Jim Tarmann
Field Services Director and River Transportation Guru