Farming sparks Iowa economy


Following a significant agricultural boost that began in 2007, farming continues to be a main factor in Iowa’s economy, and experts expect it continue this way.

Agriculture in Iowa now accounts for about 20 percent of the state’s job revenue, employing one in five Iowans and accounting for approximately 419,000 jobs, according to the 2014 Iowa Ag Economic Contribution Study by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. 

“Agriculture is a really big business here in Iowa,” said Rita Cook, an assistant field specialist with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. “We have a lot of farmers and a lot of jobs that are created because of agriculture.”

Since 2012, agriculture in Iowa has seen very significant increases in the total value of agriculture production and value of crops and livestock sold.

“The growth has allowed Iowa to move into second place nationally in each category since the last [United States Department of Agriculture] Census of Agriculture in 2007,” said Lee Schulz, an assistant professor of economics at Iowa State Universisty.

From the 2007 Census to the 2012 Census, Iowa’s total value of agriculture production increased 51 percent. The value of crops sold also increased by 69 percent, and the value of Iowa livestock production increased by 34 percent.

Additionally, Iowa beat three major states in three farming categories, according to the 2012 Census.

Iowa passed Texas in the total value of production, Illinois in the total value of crops sold, and California in the total value of livestock sold — into second place in all three categories.

However, Iowa was beaten by California in total agricultural production value as well as crop production and by Texas in livestock production value.

“Iowa’s agriculture land base makes an efficient, integrated system of crops and livestock possible,” Schulz said. “A strong agriculture industry, performing well economically, will help keep a constant flow of revenue coming into the state of Iowa.”

Tom Wall, a Johnson County farmer who has been in the business since 1982, said he believes the farming industry has continued to see positive changes because of technology and a newfound interest in farming among younger people.

“A lot of new technology is coming along for the seeds,” Wall said. “There’s new technology for the equipment via computers, [but] the big factor is young people see a chance to make a living [through farming].”

Each year, more innovations for farmers have been developed, which helps them to be more productive.

These days, farmers are able to use GPS technology to make sure the right seeds and nutrients are acquired to make sure crops grow in the right places, Cook said. Additionally, there is now provision feeding to allow the livestock to grow properly and be more comfortable.

“Farmers take their responsibility to be good stewards of the land and livestock very seriously,” Cook said.

According to the study, one in five jobs in Iowa are directly or indirectly related to agriculture, which provides employment for over 400,000 people in Iowa.

“If we didn’t have agriculture, you could automatically write off 20 percent of employment,” Wall said.

Cook said she believes Iowa doesn’t feel the effect of many national economic downturns due to the local farming industry greatly benefiting the local economy.

“As agriculture grows and continues to grow, it continues to really boost Iowa’s economy,” she said. “When we had the nationwide economic downturn [in 2008], Iowa didn’t feel the impact as much because we have such a strong agricultural presence in the state.”

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