Corn-based ethanol is subjected to criticisms, lies and misinformation.  It has been battered and bruised, to hell and back – so to speak, and penalized in federal policy.  But what if you were to separate everything you’ve already heard and spend a moment to refocus on corn-based ethanol and why it was a good idea for our domestic energy policy?

I dare you to rethink ethanol.

Corn-based ethanol is made from dent corn grown right here in the U.S.  Dent corn is the sort of corn fed to livestock and is very different from the sweet corn that we eat.  The food vs. fuel debate is really non-existent because we have enough corn to feed to livestock in the U.S. and U.S. meat consumption isn’t increasing so corn needed for livestock has reached its limit.  And corn yields are increasing every year thanks to new technologies and new seeds.  Farmers need new markets to use up increasing corn yields.

Corn-based ethanol is renewable.  Instead of using petroleum to fuel the country, we can use crops that grow from the earth every year.  This energy source will never be used up.  And as we progress in the technologies used to make ethanol, we will continue getting more and more energy out of fewer bushels of corn.

Corn-based ethanol is domestic.  Why buy oil from foreign countries that hate us?  Why allow our American progress to hinge on Iraq or Mexico when we can rely on ourselves?  Why send jobs and money overseas?  The concept of buying American used to be so deeply entrenched in our psyche that we wouldn’t conceive of penalizing an American product and rewarding a foreign product.  Yet, that is what we do every day.  Corn-based ethanol means jobs in rural America.   It means economic growth.  And it means energy security.

Corn-based ethanol is environmentally friendly.  Corn has been grown in America for generations; in fact, Midwestern farmers would argue that the prairie soils in much of America are almost created for growing corn, a native grass.  As farmers learn how to produce more corn with less impact on the environment, corn-based ethanol becomes increasingly more environmentally friendly.  Ethanol from corn burns cleaner, producing less air pollution in our largest cities.

Doesn’t this seem like a no-brainer?

There are cons to producing every sort of fuel.  Yes, corn-based ethanol requires water in production.  But water is required in the refining of oil too.  Yes, growing corn requires inputs like trips over the field with a tractor and man hours, but have we forgotten that oil requires drilling, refining, and other inputs too?  Yes, corn-based ethanol makes the price of corn higher, but it also means that farmers don’t need the government to artificially support the price.  Farmers did give up a huge chunk of their payments this year in the Farm Bill negotiations which the ethanol market helped justify!

Rethink ethanol.  It’s good for rural America, good for the environment, and good for energy security.

Dave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Technology & Business Development Director


Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Are you wondering how to take a better picture? Well this week’s topic is a simple one that will help improve your photos tremendously.

Find clean backgrounds!

wind energy sky corn field farm farmer alternative clean Have you ever noticed a picture of a person with a telephone pole or a tree sticking out of the back of their head? Doesn’t look right does it? If you want to use a tree in the background of your picture just make sure that you place it correctly.

This simple step of having a clean background will take the most average picture and make it an awesome shot. You want to be able to see the bigger picture past what your subject is.

You might be wondering what a clean background is exactly? They are solid colors, generally without distracting power lines or anything that will draw the viewers’ eye away from what you’re shooting. You may have to place your camera at higher or lower level to achieve a clean photo background. Sometimes I stand on chairs or even lay on my belly to get a good shot, (you might look silly but at least you get a nice photo!) By getting at a lower level, you’ll make the background the sky which is more often than not clean. By raising the camera up, you’ll get clean backgrounds such as the ground.

When taking a picture, think of it as in terms of layers. You’ll have your foreground which is closest to the bottom, the middle area is the subject, background is behind the subject, and infinity is what is behind the background.

Photography is a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged! A lot of times you have to play with your layers and see what works and what doesn’t. Always keep your eyes open for a better position to give you a cleaner photo. Sometimes you do want a busy photo, but always look for those clean backgrounds and it will make your photos much more appealing.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Give this tip a try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles in search of the clean background.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


from the Washington Post, March 28, 2011:

Lawns are adding to Chesapeake Bay pollution, study says.

Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed.  There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops, says the study by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center.

It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it?  Illinois farmers have been closely watching the activity in the Chesapeake Bay, knowing that whatever regulations the EPA plans to minimize hypoxia zones in the bay are headed straight for the Mississippi River next.

And while Illinois farmers are willing to look at their impact to the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico and are willing to adapt Best Management Practices that mitigate the damage to fish and wildlife, they are not willing to accept 100 percent of the blame.

Interesting then, that a new study finally points a finger at other sources.  According to the Washington Post article, the study criticized Maryland’s regulation of the state’s turf crop as lax.  Tracking fertilizer use on developed land is such a low priority that the state doesn’t keep statistics on it, but Maryland Department of Agriculture records show non-farm-use fertilizers are quickly catching up to farm fertilizer sales.

The article further states that researchers found 56 percent of nutrients in one stream in a watershed in suburban Baltimore came from lawn fertilizer.

Ultimately, Illinois farmers hope to see everyone involved in an environmental solution on the Mississippi River.  Just regulating municipalities, farmers, and corporations won’t solve any problems.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Farmers have to be part agronimist, conservationist, meterologist, economist …

and all optimist!

Find out more about Illinois farmer’s best management practices at www.ilcorn.org.

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