New NASS analysis shows Iowa farmers continue to efficiently raise livestock and grain despite market challenges
A comprehensive analysis of Iowa agriculture is detailed in a new book released by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), compiled by the Iowa office of the National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS). This 119-page book provides statewide and county specific stats that offer a glimpse of what agriculture in Iowa looks like today.
According to the latest statistics, the size of family farms has remained virtually unchanged since 1998, hovering around the 350-acre mark. Despite this unchanging trend, farms have continued to increase in efficiency, and Iowa farmers are the envy of the globe for their innovation. Iowa continues to lead the nation in corn production, and last year conditions were ideal for a record corn crop of 203 bushels per acre, up from 137 bushes in 2012 and above the 2016 United States average of 174.6 bushels per acre.
Iowa’s farmers continue to work closely with their veterinarians to improve animal health, and the statistics reflect these efforts. Today’s cows are producing 23,634 pounds of milk, up 3 percent from just a year ago and nearly 860 more pounds than the U.S. average. Iowa continues to lead in pork production, and with improvements have seen an increase in pig litters from 9.85 pigs ten years ago to 10.9 pigs per litter today. Iowa is also a top egg producer, averaging 276 eggs per layer in 2016, an increase of 10 eggs from 2007.
“We continue to see farmers in Iowa adapt to new technologies and adopt the latest animal welfare and handling practices thanks to research being done at Iowa State University and through the close relationships farmers have with their local veterinarians,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president. “Iowa remains a powerhouse in U.S. agriculture, and it is not only due to our rich soil or geographical conditions but the resilience and innovation of our state’s farming men and women and the abundance of careers in Iowa that lend to our increasing productivity and support of agriculture.”
Cost of production continues to come down but grain prices also continue to stay low, squeezing profits margins for many Iowa farmers. In 2013, to raise corn following soybeans had a price tag of $4.31 per bushel to raise a bushel, and in 2017 that lowered to $3.51. However, the 2015-16 marketing year had the average corn price as $3.35 per bushel. Soybeans following corn had a production price of $9.66 per bushel while the average price received by farmers in 2015-16 was $9.40 per bushel. Cash rent continues to be a top expenditure in farm operations, second to feed for animals on livestock farms. New livestock processing plants popping up in the state have greatly increased the amount of red meat, including beef, veal, pork and mutton, in Iowa. Slaughter plants in Iowa produced 7.06 billion pounds of red meat (beef, veal, pork, and mutton) during 2016, increasing 86.2 million pounds from 2015.
But, despite the efficiency, all is not good news on the Iowa farm front. “The data shows that the Iowa farm economy continues to suffer from a multi-year decline with gross farm receipts down 8% in 2016 compared to a year earlier and 22% below the peak seen in 2012. Net farm income in Iowa fell sharply, down 24% in 2016 from the prior year and down a staggering 56% since 2012. Financial stress on farm families is accelerating and reverberating throughout the Iowa economy,” says IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services Dave Miller. “This is why Iowa Farm Bureau continues to offer members access to free marketing, tax and economic webinars and support to help Iowa farmers find efficiencies and keep sustainable during this continued economic downturn.”
The stats book can be ordered, for a cost of $12, from the Marketing and Communications Division, Iowa Farm Bureau, 5400 University Avenue, West Des Moines, Iowa 50266. Checks should be made payable to the Iowa Farm Bureau.