R. F. D. News & Views, July 16, 2014

ICGA: Big Oil Restricting Growth of Renewables

BLOOMINGTON – Illinois serves as the template for how big oil companies control the consumer fuel marketplace, limit choice and ensure renewable fuels such as E15 and E85 stay largely out of reach of consumers. That’s the opinion of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which issued a consumer report card and report last week detailing exactly how Big Oil restricts consumer choice at the pump. The report was immediately echoed by the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), which issued a July 10 news release saying the biggest gas stations in Illinois limit choice, while independent and regional retailers serve their customers well.

“I wasn’t surprised by the (RFA) report. We see Big Oil’s monopolistic strategies here in Illinois every day,” said ICGA president Gary Hudson. The RFA report card revealed that less than one percent (0.6 %) of the approximately 48,000 retail fuel stations carrying the brand of a “Big 5” fuel or refining company offer E15 or E85 at their pumps.

“The stations in Illinois that are offering more consumer choice at the pump via E85 and E15 know a good thing when they see it. Those other Big 5 retailers that are subject to contracts, licensing agreements, and pressure from Big Oil just don’t offer these less expensive fuels,” said Taylor. “Oil companies control the majority of gas stations and selling less ethanol and more gasoline means huge profits for them and higher prices for us.”


Illinois Farmers to Tour SE Ports

BLOOMINGTON – In a year that saw the historic, bipartisan passage of a new Water Resources & Reform Development Act (WRRDA), the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) decided to turn their spotlight on the need for repairs and upgrades to the nation’s locks, dams and ports. That is why the 2014 IFB Study Tour will include visits to major U.S. ports in the southwest, including a tour of the Georgia Port Authority’s $706 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), the IFB announced last week.

“As part of past study tours we have looked at infrastructure in China, we’ve looked at it here (in the U.S.) and in South America. But this is the first year we’ll focus the trip exclusively on infrastructure,” said Tamara Nelsen, senior director of commodities for the IFB, in a phone interview. “With the passage of WRRDA, we thought this would be a good year to turn our focus on infrastructure.”

A group of a dozen Illinois farmer-leaders will embark on the weeklong tour August 30 and return to Illinois on September 6. In addition to the SHEP, the group will visit ports in Louisiana, Texas and Virginia to learn more about the critical function infrastructure plays in their farm operations, bottom lines and long-term success and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.

“Infrastructure is becoming a defining factor for prices, for meeting demand, for satisfying domestic clients and for getting grain to feedlots to feed our livestock,” Nelsen explained. “We’ve seen how much money other countries, even developing countries, are putting into building a better infrastructure for their business community and their consumers.”

The purpose of the tour, which also includes representatives from the Illinois Soybean Association and GROWMARK, is to help bolster community, public and political support for U.S. infrastructure funding. The twelve farmer-leaders will have a chance to talk with port operators, shippers and others about the challenges they face in moving agricultural products to market. Upon their return, the participants will make themselves available for presentations, media interviews and one-on-one conversations regarding their tour experience.


U of I Debuts Farm Bill Toolbox

URBANA – A previous edition of RFD News & Views detailed how the University of Illinois, under a grant from USDA and FSA, was named as the lead university for the National Coalition for Producer Education and charged with developing a set of web-based decision tools to help producers and farm owners with the decisions and programs in the 2014 Farm Bill. Last week the U of I introduced their Farm Bill Toolbox as a one-step resource for farm program decisions, information and analysis.

The Toolbox serves three purposes for those seeking guidance regarding the new farm bill: 1) a tool for the ARC/PLC program decision, including base acre reallocation, payment yield updating and SCO/STAX; 2) a tool for the new dairy Margin Protection Program and Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy insurance policy, and 3) a tool for the new Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provisions regarding buy-up coverage.

According to a U of I news release, the Farm Bill Toolbox is currently under construction as the web tools, analysis and other aspects of the toolbox are under development. It currently houses a limited amount of material relevant to the pending producer decisions based on the farm bill. Once fully programmed, the site is expected to be an important, valuable resource for producers, according to the U of I Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. (farmdocdaily.com)


Illinois Corn Intern Shares “Corny” Recipes

BLOOMINGTON – An Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Ag in the Classroom Summer Ag Institute Intern is circulating fun, corn-based recipes as classroom materials to help students and their families learn about Illinois’ top crop– corn. Abby Marten, a student at the University of Illinois, has attended over a dozen summer ag institutes in her role as an ICMB intern funded by the corn checkoff. She offers the following craft recipes for educational fun not only in the classroom, but at home during the dog days of summer:

CORN STARCH PUTTY: Mix 1 ½ cups cornstarch, 2 cups water, 1 cup salt, ½ cup flour, 2 tsp cream of tartar and 1 tblsp vegetable oil together in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture gathers on stirring spoon and forms dough (6 min.). Turn onto waxed paper until cool enough to handle, knead to form a ball. Store in covered container or plastic bag; food coloring may be added.

CORN STARCH PLAY DOUGH: 1 cup cornstarch, 1 ½ cups water, 2 cups baking soda, color. Add color to water. Combine baking soda and cornstarch in a pot, then add water to the powdered mixture. Cook on medium heat until the dough forms into a ball. Cool and knead. (More recipes available at www.ilcorn.org.)


Illinois Farm Fact:

Winter wheat harvested area in Illinois is forecast 690,000 acres, down 17 percent from 2013. (USDA-NASS)


(Tim Alexander is a freelance reporter who writes agriculture, news and feature articles for the News Bulletin, Farm World and many other publications.)