R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Corn growers hold the line vs. Mexican import ban

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

The Starved Rock Lock and Dam (pictured, from 2020) will again be closed to navigation for much needed repairs this summer. Upgrades will take place from June through September, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. (Photo by Tim Alexander)

Carbon capture and sequestration is the latest hot-button topic in Illinois agriculture, and we have an update on where it’s going. Also, this week: more on biofuels, Mexico’s biotech corn ban and info on the farmer’s favorite topic: the weather. Please read on …


Corn growers tout carbon capture technology

BLOOMINGTON — There is currently a lot of controversy surrounding a proposed CO2 carbon capture pipeline that would travel through Illinois, along with uncertainty about the actual validity of carbon sequestration. One thing became clear last week, however: Illinois corn farmers are embracing the technology. Illinois Corn Growers Association President Matt Rush, a farmer from Fairfield, issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

“When the rights of landowners and drainage districts are respected, and all federal & state regulatory guidelines met, carbon capture and storage technology has the potential to greatly benefit the corn-based ethanol industry and could become a necessary tool to protect and grow the ethanol market for Illinois corn farmers.

“CCS technology helps position our ethanol to better compete with electric vehicles when it comes to carbon emissions. Combined with other sustainable farming practices, CCS can lower the carbon intensity score of ethanol to near or below zero, which is equal to or better than the EV score. The technology also positions our fuel to better compete in international and domestic low carbon fuel markets, promotes investment in the ethanol industry and could help develop new markets for corn like the sustainable aviation fuel industry.

“The conversation around this technology is evolving. Proposed transportation and storage maps are changing. Many details about this technology and its footprint in Illinois are yet to be determined. But with over 700 million bushels of corn in Illinois used for ethanol production, I would encourage corn farmers to consider the competitive advantage this technology offers to agriculture here in the Midwest.”


Sierra Club lambasts CO2 pipeline

PEORIA — A consortium of Illinois Sierra Club chapters, including the Heart of Illinois chapter based in Peoria, joined a group called the Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines for a Feb. 6 webinar that called for the state of Illinois to reject Wolf Carbon Solutions and ADM’s plan to construct a 280-mile pipeline, the Mount Simon Hub, that will carry pressurized CO2 through Illinois. “This pipeline is a for-profit project, subsidized by federal tax credits, that could have serious implications for public safety, land use, property rights and our environment,” according to the groups.

While many farmers support the proposed CO2 pipeline, Illinois producer Steve Hess said his land would be crossed multiple times by Navigator’s CO2 pipeline. He called for the project to be scuttled. We’ll offer some details from the webinar in next week’s column.


Aviation fuel bill encourages soy production

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Soybean Growers are lauding Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recent signature of Senate Bill 2951, which includes the sustainable aviation fuel purchasers credit. The bill creates a $1.50 per U.S. gallon SAF tax credit airlines can use to satisfy all or part of their state use tax liabilities. The action further supports Illinois’ soybean and corn farmers by promoting the domestic production of renewable fuels, according to Ron Kindred, ISA chairman from Atlanta, Illinois.

“We are pleased that Gov. Pritzker and Illinois legislators recognize the important role renewable fuels play in bolstering our state’s economy,” said Kindred. “This bill represents acknowledgment of the need for Illinois-made renewable fuels that are good for the environment, economy and energy security. It also shows support for the hard work of the 43,000 Illinois soybean farmers and creates incentive to grow even more bushels of soybeans than the record-breaking 677.25 million bushels grown in Illinois in 2022.”

According to a news release, the legislation creates a tax credit for every gallon of SAF sold to or used by an air carrier in Illinois from June 1, 2023, to June 1, 2033. The tax credit effectively lowers the price airlines pay for SAF pumped into aircraft at airports in Illinois.


Corn growers hold the line vs. Mexican import ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week we told you about the Biden administration’s rejection of Mexico’s most recent proposal to limit or ban the importation of biotech corn. According to the administration, the proposal would have undermined science-based regulatory principles, violated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and set a negative global precedent. Panelists, including those from major commodity associations, echoed that sentiment during a hearing last week on Capitol Hill.

“The export market is the largest market for Illinois corn farmers,” said Matt Rush, Illinois Corn Growers Association president. “If this proposed ban is allowed to come to fruition, it will doubtless impact Illinois corn farmers in significant ways. Even if the ban is altered to impact only white corn, our office estimates that over 2.3 million bushels or about 11,000 acres of Illinois-grown white corn was exported to Mexico in 2022. This is an issue we can’t afford to ignore.”

According to forecasts, the ban on biotech corn would cause the U.S. economy to lose $73.8 billion over ten years in economic output along with 32,217 jobs annually. In addition, labor income would fall by some $18 billion. (Illinois Corn)


Warm, wet weather to continue

URBANA — A very mild January will likely be a top 10 warmest on record statewide, according to Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford. “Official numbers will be released next week, but the preliminary January statewide average temperature was about 7 degrees above normal,” Ford said.

Despite ending the month with moderate to heavy snowfall across the state, January ended with 2- to 8-inch snowfall deficits north of I-64, and deficits of 4 to 12 inches in central and northern Illinois, Ford reported. “Farther out, all of the outlooks through the end of the month lean to warmer- and wetter-than-normal conditions statewide. As a more active storm track looks to set up by mid-month, we’ll look for wetter conditions as we move closer to spring,” he said. (University of Illinois farmdoc)


Illinois Farm Fact:

Locks and dams at the Brandon Road, Dresden Island, Marseilles, and Starved Rock locations will be closing for another series of updates from June-September 2023. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)