As we all get ready to tuck into our Thanksgiving dinners (the best meal of the year, in my opinion), it’s a perfect time to consider all the things to be thankful for.
Actually, a lot of farmers, and Iowa agriculture in general, took some lumps in 2016.
There were serious weather issues in parts of Iowa. It was too dry in much of southern Iowa early in the growing season, and way too wet in the northeast just before harvest.
Activists targeted Iowa agriculture with misguided protests and lawsuits again in 2016, and they show no signs of stopping.
The biggest challenge came from the enduring financial downturn caused by ample production here and around the world. It has driven down prices for crops and livestock below the cost of production, sending margins into negative territory.
Still, there’s been plenty to be thankful for about 2016.
Overall, the weather was good, and Iowa farmers did what they do best, hauling home record harvests of corn and soybeans. Livestock production was also strong, and Iowa’s hog farmers will soon have added demand from a new pork plant in Sioux City, with another in the works in Wright County. There was also a strong rebound in the state’s egg, turkey and other poultry from the avian flu in 2015.
Iowa farmers continue to take on the challenge of improving water quality. Despite the tough farm economy, they have planted cover crops on more acres and installed plenty of conservation structures. A recent survey of Farm Bureau members shows they plan to do more conservation projects in the next five years.
But the biggest reason to give thanks is for the quality of people in Iowa agriculture.
Iowa’s farmers are, hands down, world class at sustainably producing food and fuel. But over the years, I’ve found a lot of other ways they are world class.
It’s in the way they care deeply about saving and improving the land and water. It’s how they go to extraordinary lengths to care for the livestock they raise in all kinds of conditions. And it is in how they give back to their communities and work to find ways to help future generations get a foothold in farming.
Farming faces challenges every year, and 2016 was no different. But those challenges are no match for all of the things we in Iowa agriculture have to be thankful for.