Checking In On Your Corn Checkoff

Mark Wilson

Dec 01, 2021  |  Today's News |  ICMB

Your Illinois corn checkoff spent the entirety of 2021 positioning Illinois corn farmers to grow, and corn isn’t the only thing growing!


We’ve grown markets, we’ve increased profitability, we’ve grown opportunities for young farmers, and we’ve even grown community and state involvement. I’m proud to share some of the ways we’ve positioned you to grow.


Red Meat Exports

Just before the pandemic, the Illinois corn checkoff invested some additional monies in red meat exports, seeing an opportunity to sell more bushels of corn here than in any of our other short term market opportunities. The pandemic set global trade back a bit, of course, but in 2021 we’ve seen red meat exports bounce back. The September 2021 year over year increase for beef exports was 20 percent in volume! And although we haven’t seen the same substantial growth in pork export volumes yet, the September 2021 year over year increase in value for pork exports was eight percent.


Overall, there’s a six percent increase in corn demand from September 2020 to September 2021 and we expect that number to keep growing.


Lock and Dam Upgrades

Our friends at the IL Corn Growers Association are celebrating that Congress just allocated $2.5 billion for lock and dam upgrades, but that’s a win your corn checkoff can celebrate too. The investment in building awareness about the problem was completely ours – the barge tours, the PR campaigns, the videos and commercials in the beltway are wins for the corn checkoff. So is the research that let Congress know about the inefficiencies of the system and how much corn farmers would gain if they invested to fix it.


Sixty percent of America’s corn and soybeans travel on the river system for export. We’ll keep supporting ICGA to make sure that this time next year, those commodities are looking forward to a much smoother ride.


Ethanol Exports

Illinois relies heavily on the river system to power our largest market – exports. Certainly, it makes sense to also invest corn checkoff dollars to grow exports of ethanol as well. Again, COVID played a role here in slowing the production and sales of ethanol as the world slowed to a halt and stayed home. But the rebound has been huge.


The marketing year ended Aug. 31, recorded the fifth highest overall export total for U.S. ethanol exports, 1.31 billion gallons, despite market challenges due to COVID-19. What a win for Illinois corn farmers and the ethanol plants they fuel.


Consumer Education

Your corn checkoff is proud to partner with other commodity checkoffs in Illinois and the Illinois Farm Bureau to connect with our friends in Chicago that have minimal connection to agriculture. They are interested! We must reach them in their cities and homes and help them feel connected to the farmers growing their food.


Our research this year, funded in part by your checkoff, helped us understand that if a non-farmer has had any connection with our coalition effort called Illinois Farm Families, they are much more likely to not worry about how their food is grown. They are also less concerned if they learn that 95 percent of Illinois farms are family owned and operated.


We’ll build on these exciting lessons in our FY22 activities and help non-farmers move their concerns about how you farm to the back of their minds.


Conservation Conversations

We’re also leveraging your checkoff dollars with a partnership with the Illinois Soybean Association. Working together, we can accomplish more to help farmers in Illinois understand what conservation practices might work in their specific regions on their specific acres.


Together, ISA and IL Corn have doubled the size of the Precision Conservation Management program. We’re not only helping farmers in our specific regions to understand and implement conservation practices, but we’re also learning the farm income proposition that will empower conservation outcomes.


This investment in voluntary conservation practices on Illinois farms is important as we work to achieve the goals of the IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.


Biofuels Infrastructure

In 2021, Illinois received $9.2 million in funding for ethanol infrastructure through the Biofuels Infrastructure Program from the USDA. Many of these dollars were matched by the Illinois corn checkoff.  These funds can be used by fueling retailers for new UL certified pumps for E15 to E85 or upgraded underground tankers or any other infrastructure that would allow higher blends of biofuels to be sold.


Illinois was one of the largest recipients of this grant.


Projects like these will give ethanol a viable seat at the table when considering our nation’s climate goals. We are positioning ethanol to grow!


I’m proud of the work our Illinois corn checkoff has completed, and I know Illinois farmers have benefited from the investments. I’m also proud to steward these funds with a board of 14 other Illinois farmers, each aware of our collective sacrifice and investment in the greater good.


Together, we’re doing something bigger than any one farmer can do for himself. We are making a difference in our industry, and we are positioning Illinois farmers to grow.


Thank you for your partnership in the Illinois corn checkoff.


Mark Wilson, Chairman