September 26, 2021

ICGA, ISA partnership displayed at Farm Progress Show

DECATUR, Ill. — The “Power of Two” associations teaming up to work on behalf of Illinois corn and soybean farmers was showcased at the Farm Progress Show.

Illinois Corn Growers Association and Illinois Soybean Association, along with numerous related groups and initiatives, were highlighted under one tent and drew keen interest from show visitors.

This marked the first time in many years ICGA and ISA worked together at the show and even more collaboration is anticipated going forward.

“The renewed partnership with Illinois Soybean and the Illinois Corn has really been great to watch over the last 18 months,” said Rodney Weinzierl, ICGA executive director.

“Obviously with COVID going on, the pandemic, it’s been a little bit harder to get people together and actively work together, but we have some really big programs that we’re working together on.”

When John Lumpe took the helm as ISA CEO in early 2020 he told Illinois AgriNews in an interview of the importance of partnering with other commodity organizations.

“This is a culmination of that, but it’s also not just me. You had to have willing participants on both sides and also the boards have been involved with each other now. The staff, legislative staff, communication staff, everybody holistically is working better together. There are mutual programs going on and it’s been a lot of fun to see and to see this today, it really makes me feel good,” Lumpe said. “It’s not about me. I was charged with doing this, but this is a group effort on both sides.”

Partners In Action

This tag-team of commodity groups goes beyond sharing a tent for three days at a farm show. Weinzierl and Lumpe noted the new ICGA/ISA partnership in the Precision Conservation Management program that was announced last December as another example.

“It’s just a great feeling because this is how it should be, us working together collaboratively.”

—  John Lumpe, CEO, Illinois Soybean Association

ICGA launched PCM in 2015. Initiated through funding from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service-Regional Conservation Partnership Program, PCM combines precision technology and data management with farm business and financials to help farmers manage, adopt and adapt conservation practices long-term and improve on-farm decision-making. There are 827,000 acres of farmland in the PCM program this year.

“That’s something that Illinois Corn started, really trying to work with farmers to look at all of the different practices that they’re using, agronomic practices, their tillage systems, their nitrogen management strategies, and evaluate that on an economic basis, but also an environmental basis, because we know Illinois does not have a lot of money to help move conservation practices like a lot of surrounding states do and we know it’s going to take economics to drive these practices,” Weinzierl said.

“But the first thing is to kind of get an idea of what these practices are doing from an economic standpoint. Just because a practice might not yield as much, if that has significant cost savings that might be a better economic practice and that’s important for the individual farmers to understand.

“What’s nice about the program is a farmer actually gets a feel for what the practices are doing on specific fields. So, it’s almost like enterprise analysis where you really get into the weeds on expenses to see if corn is better on this field or is soybeans better on this field, is this field better than this field.

“That’s what we’re attempting to do with PCM and then bring the conservation piece in. Soybeans thought that was a great idea. They know that this is an important issue for them as an association and they thought, hey, why come up with something new, let’s just tag-team with Corn and it’s been really good.”

Lumpe said he approached Weinzierl about the PCM program and eventually the partnership was formed.

“So, instead of soybeans creating their own program and corn having one, we should merge them. We merge the thoughts, ideas and the funding and so now we’re able to take it statewide and we are 50-50 partners in the program,” Lumpe explained. “To me, it’s the farmers’ dollars. It’s that same dollar, why spend it two times. Spend it once and do it right.”

“Now we’re in an expansion. We’re doubling the size of PCM in Illinois over the next probably 12 to 15 months as we bring on new people,” Weinzierl added.

Biofuels

Another example of partnership is in promoting and expanding biofuels.

“We’ve been working on a plan to present to the governor’s office. They have a heavy interest biodiesel and our interest is in the ethanol space. So, we put together a task force last fall. We invited the Farm Bureau, the biodiesel plants, the ethanol plants to join us in that effort and we came up with what we think is a pretty good plan,” Weinzierl said.

“We have been working to try and incorporate that into some of the ideas around climate and around energy that our governor is working on in Springfield. It’s just been a good tag-team to be able to do that and kind of get on the same page.”

“There are the different fuels, different markets, different crops, same farmer, and they’re going to benefit if they both do well,” Lumpe said.

“We talked about it with the governor and agriculture director today and both are very supportive. We’ll see where that goes. I talked to the governor and he asked what’s one your biggest priorities and I said both biodiesel and ethanol bills because I believe very strongly in partnering and want to make sure this isn’t just about soy, it’s not just about ethanol, it’s both bills doing well.”

“We have a number of other areas that we’re talking about putting together, but those are two really big ones and both of them matter to the farmers throughout Illinois and as everybody knows almost all farmers are growing both corn and soybeans,” Weinzierl said.

Common Partners

The ICGA/ISA tent also featured the valued partners that are important to one or both organizations.

“We work with a lot of the same organization. We have the American Lung Association in here that’s done a lot biodiesel work and ethanol work over the years for both of us and are an important partner. We have Illinois Beef, Illinois Pork, both customers of ours. They don’t just eat corn. They don’t just eat soybean meal. They actually eat a ration that’s built with those two products,” Weinzierl noted.

“The Nature Conservancy and American Farmland Trust are also here. It’s a place where we can invite the partners that we each have. Most of the partners we both have, so there’s a lot of synergy around that, as well.”

“It’s showing again that partnership that we want to extend out to, as we call it, the family. It’s very important that we showcase what we are doing as organizations, but a lot of this we’re doing together,” Lumpe said.

Representatives from the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association were also on hand at the tent to meet with farmers.

“Our ASA president and vice president are both here and we’ve had representatives from our boards collectively both at the state level and our national representatives have all been here,” Lumpe continued.

Behind The Scene

It takes a team to make a team and Lumpe credited the ISA and ICGA communications staffs for making it all happen.

“Rachel Peabody (ISA communications director) and Lindsay Mitchell (ICGA communications and marketing director) started working on this over a year ago. What could we do? What should we do? How can we come together? So, I give a lot of credit to them because they’re the designers behind this. They just had all of our support,” Lumpe said. “It’s just a great feeling because this is how it should be, us working together collaboratively.”

“It’s great to be here in the same location as ISA at the Farm Progress Show in 2021. It also makes it really easy for the elected officials to swing by and see what Illinois agriculture is doing in their state and it gives us a chance to educate them as to what we’re doing trying to make the state better from an environmental standpoint and better from an economic standpoint,” Weinzierl concluded.

Tom Doran

Tom Doran

Field Editor