Data from the 2023 Iowa Ag Stats, compiled by Iowa's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and released by Iowa Farm Bureau, reveals record-high farm production costs, offset by elevated grain prices. 

Production prices and land values continue to climb

In 2022, Iowa farms faced record-high production costs exceeding $420,000, while soybean and corn prices rose to $13.40 and $6.10 per bushel in the 2021-2022 marketing year, up $2.30 and $1.46, respectively, from 2020-2021. “Strong grain prices softened the blow of high crop production input expenditures,” says Dr. Christopher Pudenz, Iowa Farm Bureau economist. “However, national net farm income is estimated to fall by 23% in 2023, in part because grain prices have weakened, and input prices have been slower to react to market changes.”

Cropland values hit record levels, averaging $10,100 per acre in 2023, up from $9,350 in 2022. “Although high land values improve farm balance sheets,” adds Pudenz. “It’s definitely a concern for farmers wanting to expand their family farms and why we see younger generations tapping into more direct-to-consumer, niche markets that can be successful on smaller parcels of land.”

Livestock industry fluctuates amid disease and drought

NASS data reflects the impact high pathogenic avian influenza had on Iowa’s egg and poultry farms in 2022 with the lowest flock numbers recorded since the 2015 outbreak. Between March and April of 2022, egg production decreased from more than 1.04 billion eggs to 853 million before resurging to 1.03 billion by October. Despite the return to normal levels, Iowa poultry and turkey farmers remain diligent in their biosecurity efforts as migratory birds continue to increase disease risk.

The number of cattle on feed in Iowa was the same on Jan. 1, 2022, as in 2021, but it was the smallest inventory since 2005. Drought depleting feed resources across the country caused many cow-calf producers to reduce their herds, resulting in fewer calves and feeder cattle available for Iowa farmers to purchase. Pudenz says these numbers also reflect the natural cattle cycle. “Cattle inventories follow supply and demand,” he says. “We have been in a cattle cycle trough, so inventories are low. But strong cattle prices are yielding positive returns for Iowa farmers with cattle on feed.”

Hog numbers remained relatively stable in 2022, with Iowa farmers raising 32% of the nation’s pigs. However, high input prices and lackluster domestic pork demand created negative hog returns toward the end of 2022, says Pudenz, with wean-to-finish pig operations in Iowa losing an estimated average of $40 per animal for pigs purchased in November 2022 and sold in May 2023. 

Iowa farmers remain resilient, seek sustainable solutions

“Despite the many challenges farmers faced in 2022, these men and women continue to find ways to keep the family farm moving forward,” says Brent Johnson, Iowa Farm Bureau president. “They’re using data, technology and innovation at rates never seen before to reduce inputs, implement practices that help create resilient soils for crops and find niche markets that add value to their bottom line.” 

Additionally, NASS data indicates growth in specialty markets. From 2022 to 2023, the state saw 5,000 more meat goats, 2,000 more sheep and lambs and 35,800 more pounds of honey. 

The $12 stats book can be ordered from the Marketing and Communications Division, Iowa Farm Bureau, 5400 University Avenue, West Des Moines, Iowa 50266 with checks payable to Iowa Farm Bureau.