Farm Fresh Answers

Cultivating conversations about food & farming

Tag: corn (page 1 of 2)

Where does McLean County Corn Go?


Piled high: In recent years, McLean County farmers typically grow around 60 million bushels of field corn.

Piled high: In recent years, McLean County farmers typically grow somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million bushels of field corn.

In 2015, McLean County farmers grew more than 63 million bushels of field corn, an amount which would stretch more than 1,000 miles if all of it were loaded in semis parked bumper to bumper.

So where does all of that corn go?

“It’s all about supply, demand and logistics,” says Steve Dennis, Grain Manager at Evergreen FS.

McLean County’s location with proximity to two large corn processing facilities in Decatur, access to several major rail lines and reasonable distance to barge transportation on the Illinois River provide multiple means to move grain to end users.

After the farm, the next step is usually a commercial storage and distribution facility called an elevator.

Grain elevators aggregate and ship corn, soybeans and other grains.

Grain elevators aggregate and ship corn, soybeans and other grains.

“Most of my fields are within five miles of an elevator,”  says McLean County grain farmer David Meiss. The short commute is particularly beneficial during the busy harvest season. “In the off season [winter], I sometimes truck corn to the Illinois River or a rail loading facility in Toluca.”

Corn delivered to a river terminal is likely headed down the Mississippi River and exported to international destinations while rail facilities are more likely to ship corn to livestock farms in the southwestern U.S. or to a processing facility.

“Corn has a diversified market because you can feed it raw to livestock or process it into a variety of products,” says Rod Weinzierl, Executive Director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

McLean County agriculture is predominately grain farming with a relatively small amount of livestock, which means most corn travels outside the county in kernel form.

“Probably less than five percent gets used as livestock feed within the county,” Weinzierl says. “There’s some variability year to year, but a large portion of McLean County’s corn goes to Decatur where it gets turned into fuel or food ingredients.”

Ethanol plants can turn one bushel of corn (56 pounds) into 2.8 gallons of fuel plus 17 pounds dried distillers grain (DDGs), a high protein livestock feed leftover from the fuel-making process.

“Not a lot of McLean County grain goes overseas as whole kernel corn, but quite a bit of the DDGs are exported,” Weinzierl says, going to feed cattle, hogs and chickens as far away as Thailand and Vietnam.

On the food ingredient side, McLean County corn can be used to produce sweeteners, corn oil, corn starch and more.

Why do McLean County farmers grow so much corn? Because there is demand for it.

“From a world supply standpoint we have a little bit of carry over every year, but it’s not that much. The world uses pretty much all of the corn farmers grow,” Dennis says.

Click here for the full article in McLean County’s Partners magazine insert.

Farm Fresh Answers: Young Farmer’s Perspective

Growing up on a family farm and getting involved at a young age inspired a passion for agriculture for McLean County farmer Justin Maitland.

Check out the challenges and opportunities he sees on the horizon as he looks to continue the tradition of farming for his family.

Click below to listen to the segment and be sure to check out the Farm to Table segment every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. on WJBC radio.

Farm Fresh Podcast: Weed & Pest Control


Weed free fields are more than just for looks. Unwanted plants compete with the crop for sunlight, soil and water.

Check out some of the tools and strategies farmers use to control weeds in this week’s Farm Fresh Podcast with farmer Gerald Thompson.

Tune in every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. for Farm to Table on WJBC Radio.


Farm Fresh Podcast: Double Time

Harvest went by quickly on the Lay farm this year. In fact, the crops were out in about half the time compared to a typical year thanks to suitable crop conditions, good weather and cooperative machinery.

Hear how the corn and soybean yields turned out with Jason Lay plus check out one way farmers are working to farm smarter by exploring the use of cover crops in this week’s Farm Fresh podcast, episode 11.18.15.

Tune in every Wednesday at 12:45 to hear the Farm to Table segment on WJBC radio.

A Harvest of A Different Color

Some of central Illinois farmer Dan Crider’s corn fields are not like the others, but you probably would not be able to detect the difference unless you peeked under the husks.

For more than 25 years, the Crider family has grown food grade white corn used to make tortillas and tortilla chips on about one-fourth to one-third of their farm.

“The first year we grew white corn, I said ‘It looks like we’re harvesting snow’,” says Anne Crider, Dan’s wife.

IMG_5766Throughout the growing season, white corn plants look pretty much the same as the more typical yellow varieties, but at harvest time a truckload of white kernels stands out in contrast to the more typical golden colored grain.

Dan’s sons Jason, 31, and Chris, 26, both hold full-time jobs off the farm currently, but make time to help their dad, especially during harvest.

The white corn is stored in a grain bin on the Crider farm until it is time to deliver it to The Anderson’s in Mansfield, a grain elevator that specializes in food grade corn.

“Food grade corn must meet standards for moisture, higher test weight and a low percentage of cracked or broken kernels. We also inspect for insect or rodent damage and test for mycotoxins,” says Leo Andruczyk, Regional Food Manager with The Anderson’s.  Mycotoxins are types of harmful mold caused by fungi that can sometimes be found in grain.

“Being food grade is fairly rigid,” Andruczyk says. “Anything that doesn’t meet the standards is rejected.” IMG_5741

Conditions throughout the growing season like rainfall and temperature determine yield, so farmers do not know how exactly how many bushels they have until harvest time.

To fill his contract for a specific number of bushels of white corn, Dan decides how many acres to plant based on estimates, experience from previous years and the type of seed selected.

“The elevator provides us a list of approved seed varieties [for food grade white corn] to choose from,” Chis says. “We purchase the seed and plant one of those varieties.”

The production costs for white corn are similar to yellow corn and growing it uses the same machinery.

“White corn used to have lower yields, but not really anymore.” Dan says. “Some years the white corn out yields the yellow and some years it’s the other way around.”

To see a corn comparison and see more of the story, click here to check out the complete article from McLean County Farm Bureau.

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