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The biggest thing I got from my classes at U of I wasn’t the subject material—it was learning how to learn. I continue to learn something new every day, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t figured out how to do things on my own while in college.
Hebron, Illinois
Supporting lead consultants in developing materials for client meetings, facilitation, and managing project responsibilities and being the main contact for clients throughout a project are a few jobs faced daily by agricultural and consumer economics alumna Madelyn Walters as a business analyst for Adayana.
“I like my work because it’s always changing,” says Walters. “There are never two days in a row where I’m doing the same thing. I also like the challenges my communication skills face while I am trying to understand what the client wants. We do a lot of communication via email, so it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible.”
Walters thinks people who are self-motivated and willing to take full responsibility for their work really excel in this kind of workplace. She emphasizes the importance of communicating clearly, being professional when working with clients, and being able to prioritize and manage time wisely. 
“The biggest thing I got from my classes at U of I wasn’t the subject material—it was learning how to learn. I continue to learn something new every day, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t figured out how to do things on my own while in college.”
During her years at Illinois Walters was involved in the Hoof and Horn Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Sigma Alpha, and the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP). She says her experience traveling to Brazil with IBIP was unforgettable, but there is also something about campus life in general she will always miss. For Walters, the College of ACES made a very large university seem much more manageable, especially for someone who came from a very rural background.
 “The opportunities that U of I, and particularly the College of ACES, provides for students are unmatched,” says Walters, “in terms of study abroad, internships, jobs, professional development, scholarships, and extracurricular activities.”  

Save the date for 2015 International Agronomy Day

Published June 2, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – Agriculturalists around the world are invited to engage in a global food production discussion during International Agronomy Day at the University of Illinois on Aug. 31.

The U of I Department of Crop Sciences encourages producers from around the globe to participate in this unique forum that brings its nationally renowned faculty together to share the latest in agronomy, weed science, crop production, pest management, agricultural economics, and more.

International Agronomy Day was developed as an opportunity for international visitors to attend a field tour at the U of I and interact with faculty and staff.  The event will take place the day before the Farm Progress Show opens in Decatur to provide an opportunity for international visitors traveling to the United States to attend the Farm Progress Show to learn more about the research being conducted by our faculty and staff.

Germán Bollero, head of the Department of Crop Sciences, said he looks forward to the opportunity for more global engagement.

“Whether you produce soybeans in Champaign or Brazil, we all face similar challenges in producing food and feedstuffs,” Bollero said. “We want to provide information based on sound scientific research to help improve global food production.”

International Agronomy Day will take place on Monday, Aug. 31, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the U of I South Farms, allowing participants enough time to continue on to Decatur, Ill., for the 2015 Farm Progress Show held Sept. 1-3.

“Every year we receive many requests to host international visitors, and this is our way of meeting that demand by creating an annual event with targeted messages to answer their most pressing questions while helping them achieve their goals,” said Aaron Hager, International Agronomy Day chairman. “We hope to continue a new tradition for people who attend the Farm Progress Show and add value to their experience.”

Registration for International Agronomy Day is required and can be done at For Spanish, go to

Academically, I enjoyed the professors, who were always there to challenge us but also to provide opportunities for growth, whether it was research or help with the job search. Personally, I met my husband during my time at U of I, so my alma mater provided me one of the most important things in my life.
Decatur, IL
“The student body at the University of Illinois sets itself apart from other academic institutions,” says food science and human nutrition graduate Amanda Pizarek. “There is a place for anyone with any interests to fit in. Even in the courses fulfilling my general education requirements, I felt a real curiosity among the students that made most learning experiences richer.”
For food science specifically, the small and individualized program really gave Amanda an opportunity to explore facets within the field. As a result, Amanda found an internship with PepsiCo, the company she now works for.
“I get to work on every single brand PepsiCo owns, from Quaker Oats to Mountain Dew to Gatorade,” Amanda says. “I also get to use my food science knowledge to guide product developers in the development process while providing feedback straight from consumers.”
Amanda bridges between marketing and product development. Her role is focused on front-end product research, guiding developers and project teams to design products based on consumer expectations. 
U of I left her with many rewarding experiences and an abundance of knowledge to take forward to her career. Not to mention, she met her husband here, too. 
“Academically, I enjoyed the professors, who were always there to challenge us but also to provide opportunities for growth, whether it was research or help with the job search,” Amanda says. “Personally, I met my husband during my time at U of I, so my alma mater provided me one of the most important things in my life.”

FARM Illinois plan aligns with ongoing research in the College of ACES

Published June 2, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The Food and Agriculture RoadMap for Illinois (FARM Illinois), which was recently released, outlines strategic recommendations that will position Illinois as a global leader for innovation in food and agricultural systems. The state will set national and international standards for how food and agriculture systems can improve health, contribute to the economy, create jobs, employ new technologies, preserve the environment, adapt to a changing climate, and help underserved communities. The plan is the first coordinated, system-wide effort to bring together Illinois’s food and agriculture networks with the broader business and civic community in Chicago.

The plan drew expertise from more than 150 stakeholders and experts representing different aspects of food and agriculture systems – from policy to advocacy, research to industry, and production to consumption. Based on the work of the Vision for Illinois Agriculture, bridges were built with influential interests of Illinois’s broader economy to tackle the challenges faced across the entire food and agriculture value chain. The plan, which is available at, includes a rigorous analysis of the region’s strengths and weaknesses.

Robert Easter, president emeritus of the University of Illinois, served as chairman of the FARM Illinois Leadership Council.  He said that the plan lays out a comprehensive set of recommendations that will position Illinois and Chicago as the epicenter of the global, national, regional, and local food and agriculture systems for generations to come.

The new food and agriculture road map presents 23 strategic recommendations in six areas—many of which the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the U of I is uniquely qualified to address, according to Robert Hauser, dean of the College of ACES.

The six areas are: leadership for innovation; business development and entrepreneurship; workforce and education; resource management; infrastructure; and branding and market development.

“The College of ACES must be a principal driver for progress in every one of the strategic areas identified. We prepare not only the next generation of growers, plant pathologists, and weed scientists, but also the leaders of innovation in many food and agriculture-related careers,” Hauser said. “We contribute knowledge to advance globally competitive food systems, based here in Illinois.  ACES graduates and faculty are informing policy changes on the national and international stage, while researching the best use of the state’s natural resources—to protect and manage Illinois’s water, wildlife population, and rich soil. Food insecurity is a major concern in Illinois’s rural communities, urban food deserts, and around the globe. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of a global population projected to reach nine billion or more by 2050 is a high priority for the College of ACES’ research and extension efforts. We are poised to not only address these pressing issues, but to find solutions.”

Hauser also commented on the appropriate agricultural emphasis in both the state and in the College of ACES. “With this state consisting of over 75 percent farmland and the vast resources of Chicago, it makes sense that Illinois is a key player in issues of food and agriculture, and it is paramount that our partners in Chicago and the broader Illinois economy come together to help overcome constraints that will be facing future leaders at the local, national, and international levels. In addition to the research and education capacity at our Urbana-Champaign campus, the College of ACES has research and extension capabilities from northern Illinois to far southern Illinois, finding answers to critical food and agricultural questions and educating the public through University of Illinois Extension.”

Pork industry continues to adjust from PED

Published June 1, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The pork industry continues to adjust from the supply shock created by the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus last year. Live prices peaked in the summer of 2014 as PED losses mounted and then fell into the late winter of 2015. Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt says looking back, it seems that prices overshot on the high side due to PED, then undershot early this year as market supplies were restored. The third phase of this cycle now seems to be the recent recovery in prices from their undershooting.

Hurt reported that live hog price peaks were near $100 per hundredweight in July 2014, then prices fell to as low as about $45 by late March 2015. Now they have recovered to the low $60s.

“The low prices in March were clearly related to the 14 percent higher production for that month compared to levels and market concerns the previous year that pork supplies were going to remain higher by 10 percent or more into the spring,” Hurt said. “The recent recovery in hog prices apparently is related to the fact that supplies have not been that high. April pork production was up 8 percent and May was about 6 percent higher and in alignment with the last inventory count from USDA.

“If those inventory counts continue to hold, then second-quarter pork production will be up by 6 percent, the third quarter up by 7 percent, and the final quarter of the year up only 4 percent,” Hurt said.

According to Hurt, lighter marketing weights contributed to the lower-than-expected supplies. Hog producers began marketing at sharply higher weights in the fall of 2013 as feed prices finally started downward. The PED-related losses of baby pigs that fall and into the spring of 2014 served to increase hog prices sharply but also gave affected producers more finishing space. They used that space to keep hogs on feed for longer periods with the reduced feed prices. In 2013, live weights averaged 276 pounds, but that level increased to 285 pounds in 2014, a 3 percent increase. In mid-April this year, weights dropped below year-previous levels and may average near 1 percent lower for the remainder of the year.

Live hog prices in the first quarter of the year were $48.47, according to USDA. Prices are expected to average near $58 in the second and third quarters, drop to about $51 in the last quarter of the year, and decline to the higher $40s for the first quarter of 2016.

Total costs of production estimates are near $51 per live hundredweight, and live hog prices are expected to average $53.50 for the year. “If this happens, it would mean an average profit of about $7 per head for the year with the strongest of those profits around $18 per head in the second and third quarters,” Hurt said.

The final quarter of the year is expected to be near breakeven with $9 per head losses returning for the first quarter of 2016.

Hurt said continued reductions in feed costs are critical for hog prices to stay above costs for the rest of the year. “Current feed costs are the lowest in five years dating back to the spring of 2010. Production prospects for the 2015 corn and soybean crops are favorable at this time, but everyone knows that weather during the next 90 days will largely determine final yields and be a major factor in feed price determination,” he said.

Pork prices have also moderated for consumers. Retail pork prices, as measured by USDA’s estimate of retail composite prices, peaked in 2014 at $4.01 per pound, a 10 percent increase for the year. The highest monthly prices were reached in September 2014 at $4.22 per pound. “Between September and April, they have fallen each month to $3.77 per pound, an 11 percent drop from the peak,” Hurt said. “In contrast, retail beef prices continue to rise. Beef prices rose 13 percent in 2014 and have risen an additional 2 percent since last September. Retail beef prices in April 2015 were $6.40 per pound, which is in sharp contrast to pork at $3.77 a pound.”

The next important report for the pork industry is the USDA’s June Hogs and Pigs report to be released on June 26.

“Producers reported in the March update that they intended to reduce this summer’s farrowings by 2 percent,” Hurt said. “This was a surprise given the generally profitable industry since mid-2013. If farrowings should actually expand, this would increase pork production early next year and keep a bearish cast over the industry to start 2016.”