This page will feature groups finding ways to donate time, money and resources to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.


Ag groups unite to get ethanol-based sanitizer to ag retailers

In an effort to keep essential agriculture employees and customers safe, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program and GROWMARK/FS are teaming to help distribute free hand sanitizer to ag retailers.

Lindsay Mitchell, director of communication and marketing for Illinois Corn, says the organization knew ethanol plants were struggling due to the steep drop in fuel usage recently and wanted to help out.

“They’re out of storage and looking for other ways to use the ethanol. When they transitioned to making hand sanitizer, we proposed making a large purchase to supply ag retailers,” Mitchell says in a news release. “It was a pretty big effort within a couple weeks to get it all going.”

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Soybean Association sponsored the hand sanitizer which is made from ethanol by Marquis Energy located in Hennepin, Illinois. Illinois Corn wanted all of its sponsored hand sanitizer to go to ag retailers across Illinois.

“We knew that if farmers don’t have access to their inputs, parts and expertise during spring planting due to sickness, we would all be in a world of hurt,” adds Mitchell.

Evergreen FS warehoused the hand sanitizer, while GROWMARK Energy logistics team members along with environmental safety and insurance services members distributed the product.

“I think the collaboration in support of Illinois corn growers is terrific to see and so critical in this period of uncertainty,” adds Carol Kitchen, GROWMARK’s vice president of energy and logistics.

So far, the Illinois associations have purchased 1,100 cases at 4 gallons per case for a total of 4,400 gallons of hand sanitizer. Mitchell said they’ve worked with about 900 ag retail locations in Illinois, and as the program goes public are hearing about other good opportunities to help including in dairy processing and beef processing locations to get sanitizer to them.

“The ag industry is ultimately really small and connected,” said Mitchell. “It’s easy to make some phone calls during rough times like these, and when it’s for a good cause, the ag industry is always more than happy to step up and help out.”

University labs make hand sanitizer

URBANA, Ill. — Brian Jacobson quickly got his hands around the problem when he saw the need for more hand sanitizer production. He and the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois have taken action.

“It’s unbelievably rewarding to be able to do something in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus,” Jacobson, assistant director of pilot plant operations at the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, part of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and Grainger College of Engineering, said in a university news release. “Our work here will help University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago and other facilities in need.”

Donning protective gear, including full-face respirators, Jacobson and a handful of IBRL employees — Eric Wolfe, Phil Manning, and Jedi Brown — plan to produce more than 300 gallons of hand sanitizer a day as long as the need continues and supplies remain available. Health care facilities will use IBRL’s 5-gallon drums to fill smaller containers so more people can access the hand sanitizer they need to keep themselves and others healthy.

Under normal conditions, IBRL features 30 to 35 people working to help food and bioprocessing companies and researchers.

“ACES and IBRL thrive on shifting innovative thinking into action,” ACES Dean Kim Kidwell said. “The IBRL team jumping in to help hospitals, clinics, patients, and communities serves as a prime example of the difference this kind of culture makes in finding solutions to our world’s biggest challenges.

Agritourism, direct marketers share to recover from COVID-19 impact

Farmers working with agritourism and direct marketing are pooling resources to recover quickly from the impact of COVID-19 on their industries by creating the Farm and Agritourism Project Recovery.

The project is building a space for farmers and agri-buisnesses to share links to local, state, Federal and vendor programs focused on the recovery after this crisis. Find it at bit.ly/2JAiZOM.

Illinois Extension offers resources for families, farmers

University of Illinois Extension has as put together a large array of resources to serve the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include online classes, websites, YouTube channels, blogs and quick links to resources with topics of interest to serve families, farmers, small businesses and community leaders.

The resources are compiled at the Extension COVID-19 website. Resources cover a broad range of topics such as: Coping With Finances During Difficult Times, Outlook and Farm Policy Moving Forward, Ten Tips for Staying Active at Home, How to Make Your Own Bleach Sanitizer, Helping Children Cope in Times of Stress and many others.

In addition, Extension program teams are coming up with challenges the public can do while staying home including an upcoming fitness and wellness challenge, a cooking challenge, Stocking Up on Food: 30 Days of Food Rescue, and a Virtual 4-H challenge and others.

Registration and information about other free online learning opportunities is available at web.extension.illinois.edu/hmrs.

Illinois Pork donates to foodbanks

While grocery store shelves and meat cases across the state are cleared, farmers know there is a plentiful supply of pork and are making sure it gets in the right hands, according to an Illinois Pork Producers Association news release.

The nine regional food banks in Illinois are receiving more than 20,000 pounds of ground pork this spring. Since a few of the food banks reach outside of state lines, the neighboring state pork associations have also chipped in to further the reach. The Indiana and Iowa Pork Producers Associations have equally matched the Illinois Pork Producers Association donation to their respective bordering food banks.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board has also contributed to the program.

In the lifetime of the “Pork Power” program, Illinois pig farmers and additional sponsors have provided Illinois communities with more than 821,000 pounds of pork — which equates to more than 2.7 million servings.

Health insurance options for farm families

Many farm families rely on off-farm jobs for health insurance, and the sudden COVID-19 pandemic layoffs and furloughs might mean families are losing their coverage unexpectedly. Other families, who have not had insurance, might be looking to purchase a plan in these uncertain times.

“Loss of job-based health insurance coverage is a qualifying event to purchase coverage outside of the open enrollment period and this can be a cheaper alternative to paying for continuation of employer-based health coverage through COBRA,” said Florence Becot, a rural sociologist and associate scientist with the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Health insurance marketplaces and eligibility criteria for public coverage vary from one state to another, but a search for coverage could start by contacting an insurance agent or checking your state’s health insurance exchange https://www.healthcare.gov/.

Becot also suggests checking out the Health Insurance, Rural Economic Development and Agriculture website at https://www.hirednag.net/ for more information on tools and resources about health insurance for the agricultural sector.

Young Farmers food bank fundraiser active through April 5

The Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders launched a Facebook campaign to raise funds for Feeding Illinois food banks. The effort, which started March 27, will run through April 5 and will work to address the growing concern of Illinois families in need of food as the COVID-19 situation progresses.

IFB Young Leaders are hosting the online campaign on their Facebook page as part of their annual Harvest for All campaign, which fights against food insecurity in Illinois. They are collecting donations for the eight Feeding America food banks that serve Illinois.

“During this extraordinarily challenging time, the eight Feeding America food banks and their local networks of community agencies that serve Illinois are working relentlessly to ensure that nobody — in any county — of our great state goes hungry,” Steve Ericson, executive director for Feeding Illinois, said in a news release.

The Young Leaders group set a fundraising goal of $2,500 per food bank. In addition to donations collected online, Illinois Farm Bureau has pledged to match donations dollar for dollar up to $1,000 for each location.

“So many people are at home right now and while they aren't sure where to start, they feel a desire to help their communities during this time of need,” said Aaron Mitchell, Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader committee member and Winnebago County dairy farmer. “By providing an avenue to donate online and spread the word through social media, we hope to provide an opportunity for everyone to make a difference,” said the northern Illinois farmer.

Donate at https://www.facebook.com/ilfbyl/.

Grain donations help food banks during crisis

With food banks charting unknown territory in the midst of a global crisis, farmers and grain companies in the Midwest are stepping up to help feed those in need. FS GRAIN and Gold Star FS, both members of the GROWMARK System, are now accepting grain donations which will raise money for food banks across the region.

Mike Schaver, grain department manager with Gold Star FS, said he is reaching out to each customer and says donations of any number of bushels will be a blessing during these trying times.

“Food banks across the country are trying to navigate unprecedented need while experiencing reductions in donations from the public sector, as well as traditional donations from grocery stores and restaurants,” Schaver said in a news release.

Customers who make a donation have the option of which local food bank their donations will be sent to, and a growing number of food banks are now participating.

Illinois farmer Nik Jakobs, who helped spearhead the idea within the agricultural and grain communities in northern Illinois, said, “While the idea of grain donations is nothing new, it’s the fastest way farmers and the agriculture community can make an immediate impact on the food shortages caused by this pandemic. We are the largest, most productive agricultural country on the planet. We can make a difference, and quickly.”

In the first few days since the call for donations was made, more than $20,000 in donations have been committed, which equates to $160,000 in groceries for neighbors in need.

More information is available at www.growmark.com.