Barbara Barcal - All Star Trading
Among the many speakers for the morning-long event was Barbara
Barcal of All Star Trading. Barcal’s firm works with organic
producers to market their products and spoke about imports and
exports of organic and non-GMO grains, and pricing for
organically grown products.
Barcal said that the import of organic products was of concern
for her. She noted that demand is growing for organic products,
and the majority of those products are being imported from
foreign countries because there are not enough U. S. producers
to meet the demand.
Barcal said the demand for organic chicken and eggs is on a very
steady rise. To produce these products, these birds need to be
fed organic products. She said corn, to her understanding was a
major component of poultry feeds.
She noted that in 2012, she paid $16.25 per bushel for organic
corn. (as a point of reference; cash corn on October 9th, 2012
was selling at $7.29-$7.39
IGPCE101012_GP.shtml ) Barcal said she noted to many
producers that year, that the extremely high price for corn
could not continue because livestock producers could not afford
to pay that kind of price.
She was right about this prediction. Currently, organic corn is
at $8.00 per bushel, according to Barcal, which is still a
premium compared to the cash price for conventionally grown corn
at $3.00 - $3.09/bushel (
Barcal said even though this is less than 50 percent of the 2012
price, producers are pleased with this price, and they are
So, what are the concerns? Imports.
Barcal said in 2012 there were no imports of organic corn.
In 2013, the U.S. imported 918 bushels Romanian corn at
In 2014, 29,000 metric tons at $10.21/bu.
In 2015, Romanian imports totaled 14,800 metric tons at
From January to June of 2016, Romanian corn imports total more
than 55,928 metric tons, an increase of more than 200 percent
over the past year.
She added that other foreign countries such as Argentina and
Turkey are also getting on the organic bandwagon, along with the
Netherlands that is just getting into the market.
Barcal said there is not enough corn being grown organically,
though it has great market potential.
Additionally, there is a U.S. demand for grain products that are
not genetically modified, and everything coming in from Europe
is non-GMO, which is to our disadvantage. She noted she had a
buyer contact her looking for Illinois-grown, non-GMO corn, and
she assured him, there was none to be found. She ended saying
this is a concern and one that needs to be addressed locally in
conversations farmer-to-farmer, to encourage greater production
of non-GMO products.
John Steven Bianucci - Iroquois Valley Farms
Next on the agenda was John Steven Bianucci of Iroquois Valley
Farms. Bianucci explained the farm started as a single family
farm, but has grown through its mission to more than 30 farms in
Bianucci said the goal is to assist farmers during the
transition years from conventional to organic production. The
firm also works with young farmers and prospective farmers in
assisting them to gain access to farm ground. They also work
with at risk farms to help them regain their financial
stability, to become self-sufficient and profitable through a
buy and sell back program.
In this program, Bianucci said Iroquois Valley would purchase a
farm, and lease it back to the farmer for seven years. At the
end of that time, the producer has the option to buy back the
farm land, or they can continue with the lease program. The farm
in question will be transitioned to an organic and
environmentally aware farm, and will work within the vision of
Iroquois Valley, to use farming practices that protect the
environment and offer safe, healthy alternatives to conventional
Bianucci said that the firm works with grain crops, alternative
crops, dairy and other livestock, as well as vegetable farms.
When Bianucci finished, Bishop suggested everyone fill their
plates with food provided by Bean Sprouts, a soon to be opened
café/restaurant in Lincoln where the goal will be to offer as
many “farm-to-table” dishes as possible.
When everyone had their meal, the day continued with Bill
Davison speaking during the ‘working lunch.'
Bill Davison – University of Illinois – The Grand Prairie
Davison founded the Grand Prairie Grain Guild, which is now in
its second year. He said the mission of the Guild was to build
regional grain markets with value-added grains. He said that the
goal is to use the crops that are already being produced in
scale, and being transported to markets in Chicago and other
market locations, as the infrastructure for transporting other
As that system is established, the Grain Guild will add fruits
and vegetables to that transportation system, making it easier
and more affordable to ship Illinois-grown products to the
locations where the demand exists.
He also spoke about a workshop that would be held at the
University of Illinois, where the topic will be on building the
regional system. He said the issues would be working with
regional crop production, toward a harvest with lower input. He
said organic or not, if a farmer is going to produce in a low
input system, different crops need to exist than what we have
today, including corn, soybeans, other legumes, and other grains
such as buckwheat.
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Some of the research being done includes working with crops not
typically found in Illinois. Such products include a variety of
wheat including buckwheat, and also grains such as
open-pollinated corn. He said that he had been told that working
with crops such as this cannot work in Illinois, but he said
he’s working with farmers who are already doing it, so
apparently they didn’t know it couldn’t be done.
Davison mentioned, in particular, a farm in Iroquois County that
is growing a six crop rotation, including winter wheat. He said
this farm of 2,500 acres produced 55,000 bushels of organic
Davison said with wheat this farm is growing, edible wheat flour
is being produced and sold to markets in Chicago.
He also talked about the stone mills that are being established.
He said the goal was to move consumers toward a whole wheat
milled flour, but right now, the consumer is accustomed to, and
desires white flour, so mills are being established with sifters
that will refine the flour to the specifications that the
commercial bakers want.
He said that the flour formulation would adjust annually, and
bakers will be educated on the newer, better whole grain
product, and will adjust their recipes accordingly until
eventually, they are working with a pure whole grain product.
He concluded that what is needed now, is a demand for the
organic flour and other products at institutional levels such as
schools and hospitals. He said when those markets are
established, there will be supply available.
Before introducing the final speaker, Bishop noted that
transporting small farm products can be a very costly challenge
for producers. He said Amtrak is now working with a pilot
program generating from the Champaign area, transporting small
quantities to Chicago. He explained that cheeses are being
shipped via Amtrak in special coolers. The producers take the
coolers to the Amtrak; they are delivered to buyers in Chicago,
emptied, and returned to the shipper to use again.
Joe Bybee – Illinois Department of Agriculture – The Illinois
Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
Joe Bybee with the Illinois Department of Agriculture made some
quick opening observations. He said what is needed in Illinois
is a “Best Practices” in preserving Illinois soils and
protecting Illinois waterways. He said organic farmers have a
head start on this best practice because they are already
mindful of the soil and waters in their style of farming.
He also noted that there are 23 million acres of tillable soils
in Illinois that are producing two plants. The Nutrient Loss
Reduction Strategy includes expanding those crop varieties to
include growing plants that are good for the soil and will
preserve the soil.
He said that the work of the INLRS is recorded on the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency website. He said the meetings
minutes of the INLRS are regularly posted and permit the reader
to understand the direction in which the “big ship” is going.
The long-term goal of the INLRS is to reduce nitrate and
phosphate loss by 45 percent. Bybee explained that the top
two-thirds of the state are utilizing tile drainage on the
majority of their acres. He said that the INLRS knows that is
the location that is producing the most loss of nitrates from
the soils and into the waterways.
Additional challenges come in keeping the soil in place. This is
going to mean better erosion control on sloping lands as well as
lands where there is no tile drainage, and soil is moving with
water on the surface.
He said that one of the bigger answers to the nutrient loss
issues is going to be found in cover crops. He said that
everyone is talking about cover crops and how useful they are,
but driving from northern Illinois to Central Illinois, one sees
very few cover crops.
The bottom line he said is that conservationists are “all in”
but producers are not yet there. The work of the INLRS will
include bringing the producers online with these conservation
practices, including cover crops.
He walked through the various state projects that are ongoing
through the Soil and Water Conservation programs that will bring
greater knowledge to producers of the methods and means to make
a significant impact on reducing nutrient losses into our
As Bybee finished up, Bishop asked what in his opinion the best
ways to reduce nutrient loss. Bybee said to utilize living
plants in cover crops, no-till farming, crop rotation, and
enroll in the CRP set-aside program through the USDA. He also
noted that side-dressing nitrogen in the spring when crops are
up instead of pre-plant and winter applications would be a “best
As the day came to a close, Bishop also added a few comments on
the drainage issues. Bishop explained that the acreage where the
field day was being held was tiled for drainage. He has
installed shut off valves so he can better control the water
that is released. He said looking at a tile system that costs
$40,000 to $50,000, the valves can be installed for about
$1,000, a small cost compared to the whole system and a very
small cost to protect the environment.
Bybee added one final comment. In opposition to the federal
level Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) plans that looking to establish
regulations that force producers to comply; the Illinois program
is being developed as a voluntary program.
With the day running long, Bishop called the meeting to an end,
but invited guests to stay and interact as long as they wanted.