Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau selected as AFBF winner

The Marshall-Putnam, Stark and Peoria County Farm Bureaus were selected as winners in the American Farm Bureau Federation County Activities of Excellence (CAE) program for their joint program "Barging Ahead for Stronger Economies" tour of Illinois River infrastructure, which was held this past summer.

Winning counties are invited to participate in the Farm Bureau CAE Showcase at the 2017 AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix. The AFBF received 154 entries, and 24 of those were chosen as winners of the County Activities of Excellence Program. 

The river infrastructure tour was highlighted by visits to three examples of river infrastructure including the lock and dam at Creve Coeur, ADM's grain terminal in Lacon and Marquis Energy in Hennepin. The Illinois Corn Marketing Board supplied the grant which helped with the funding for the tour. Participants saw firsthand how important the river is to our local economy.

At a community forum held last fall, few community members identified proximity to the Illinois River as a strength and opportunity for the three-county region. In order to better showcase how the river and agriculture are integral to the area, a tour was proposed to take community leaders to sites such as a lock and dam, grain terminal and ethanol plant.

Invitations were sent to county board members, city mayors, village presidents, economic development staff, volunteers involved in economic development, state and federal legislators, and farmers. A diverse mix attended.

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-17) and Kristina Joseph with Representative Mike Unes' office joined in the morning for a tour of the lock and dam. During the tour, the group saw how a wicket system is employed at that lock as well as learn about the toll of age beyond the life expectancy for when the system was originally constructed.

Following the lock, the group visited ADM's Lacon grain terminal where Gordon Crank guided the group through the facility and showed them how barges are handled through the facility. Peoria City Councilman and candidate for State Representative, Ryan Spain, joined the tour. Gordon also explained that having river access improves their ability to be competitive and allows for reduced price of shipping. It would be over 870 miles one way to move the commodities by truck instead of barge and one tow of 15 barges can displace several hundred trucks.

Rounding out the day, the tour visited Marquis Energy which served as a capstone for the day's themes. The ethanol plant in Hennepin is the world's largest dry mill ethanol plant. The location near the Illinois River allows them to ship ethanol oversees via barges, domestically via train or even truck. Their facility also employs around 200 and helps improve and stabilize commodity prices for farmers across a multi-county area.

Participants saw firsthand how the river and agriculture keep money and jobs local and efficient.