An ongoing concern of the Peoria County Farm Bureau is the rapid conversion of farmland to development. We realize development spurs the economy as jobs are created and materials are manufactured. But are we really utilizing our natural resources to help our economy in the long-term? Are we being efficient with the limited land we have for development and our transportation system?
The Peoria County Farm Bureau is in support of the Route 29 expansion. We are in support of this expansion in lieu of a completely new interstate system that would cut a new path from Peoria to Chicago—in the process, claiming thousands of acres of prime farmland.
The addition of two lanes to an existing road linkage, such as Route 29, would minimize the need for real estate.
A new four-lane interstate system is 250 feet wide from right away to right away. Of this 250-foot width, only 48 feet is utilized to carry traffic. The remaining 200-plus feet is used for shoulders, the median, graded ditches and fence lines. The fact is, every mile of a four-lane interstate swallows another 30 acres of land.
As we continue to grow on the outskirts of our metropolitan areas and pave more asphalt, when are we going to look at the other end of the pendulum, and see the economic loss of land that was in agricultural production?
Land that produces crops spurs the economy. Consider the economic influence of growing corn or soybeans. The farmer needs tractors, tillage equipment, planters, combines, wagons and trucks. This equipment needs engineers and labor for design and construction. It requiresfuel and oil, maintenance, repairs and insurance. The farmer also needs seeds, fertilizer, and crop Protestant. Researchers, sales and support staff, and production facilities are needed to get the necessities to the farm.
Once they are harvested, approximately half of the crop is used by the livestock industry—cattle, hogs, chickens, etc. This creates another avenue for economic activity. A large percentage of the crop is exported to foreign countries, which helps keep the U.S. trade balance in check.
A third area of corn and soybean use, and quite possibly the most promising, are industrial uses. By far, the most prevalent industrial use in the Peoria area is ethanol, a product of corn. Our three major ethanol processors generate many jobs converting corn to ethanol.
Corn and soybeans are also used in a variety of foods you will find at the grocery store. Once again, a number of jobs are generated to get the product from the farm to your dinner table. Processors, packaging, advertising, and food retailers are all included in this farm-to-table economic food chain.
In the heart of Peoria, we have what most of us know of as the Ag Lab. Scientists developed and continue to develop an amazing list of products made from corn and soybeans. What are some of the "unknown" products that use corn and soybeans?
Here is just a short list of items that may surprise you—detergents, cleaners, candles, sandpaper, charcoal briquettes, photographic film, chewing gum, de-icers for roads, antibiotics, cosmetics, wall coverings, rubber tires, paints and varnishes, coloring crayons, degradable diapers and trash bags, electrical insulation, soap, wallboard, glue, plywood, pet foods, herbicides, caulking compounds, and printing inks.
What does the future hold for corn and soybeans? It may be fuel cells to power our vehicles or maybe construction materials.
Although we may not be able to pinpoint future use of corn and soybeans, two things are certain. We have a finite number of tillable acres, and we need land to produce crops. Remember, acreage in production agriculture is renewable; every year another crop is harvested to drive the economy all over again. IBI