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The “Final 4” Reasons Iowa is “Farm Strong”

The “Final 4” Reasons Iowa is “Farm Strong”
Your odds of picking a perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket were 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

Your chance to win “Farm Strong Merch Madness” (merchandise autographed by Iowa State Cyclone basketball coaches Steve Prohm and Bill Fennelly) is much, much better.

And if you work, eat, or drive a car in Iowa, there’s really no conceivable way you can lose (unless you’re looking for a reason to quit – right, LeBron?)

Just vote on the number one reason Iowa is “Farm Strong” – the farm fact that best symbolizes how agriculture strengthens you and your family (whether you farm or not).

The field of contenders includes 9 facts that demonstrate Iowa’s farm strength – ranging from farming’s economic contribution to its environmental impact – and a write-in option for “dark horse” facts that didn’t make the cut.

Based on the votes we’ve tallied thus far, here are the Final 4 reasons Iowa is “Farm Strong” (in no particular order):

  • Iowa agriculture and ag-related industries support 1 in 5 Iowa jobs.

  • 97.5% of Iowa farms are family farms.

  • Iowa leads the nation in producing ethanol and biodiesel, renewable fuels grown on Iowa farms that burn cleaner and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

  • Farmers are constantly adopting new methods and technology for growing safe, wholesome food and protecting the environment, including the use of GMOs – which allow farmers to use less pesticide and grow food with better nutrition.
And here’s the case for each fact, heading into the final days of voting:

Iowa agriculture and ag-related industries support 1 in 5 Iowa jobs.

Agriculture and ag-related industries account for 418,777 Iowa jobs (21 percent of the state’s total), according to the 2014 Iowa Ag Economic Contribution Study, which uses data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture. They also contribute $112.2 billion in economic output (accounting for 1/3 of Iowa’s economy). Most Iowans don’t live on a farm (fewer than 5 percent of Iowans farm), but we’re all strengthened by the economic activity that occurs on Iowa’s farms.

97.5% of Iowa farms are family farms.

This one surprises some people. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 97.5 percent of Iowa’s roughly 88,500 farms are family owned. Critics of today’s farmers like to portray farming as dominated by “corporations” with little regard for their animals, the environment and consumers. Yes, some families choose to structure their farms as LLCs (limited liability corporations) to help manage the sizable risk associated with farming today, and the equipment and barns they use don’t look like those used by farmers in past decades. But the motivation to pursue these improvements (including barns that keep animals protected from extreme weather conditions year-round and technology that allows farmers to spray and fertilizer their crops more precisely) stems from farmers’ desire to do things right (for their neighbors, their animals, and the environment) and pass a thriving farm on to future generations.

Iowa leads the nation in producing ethanol and biodiesel, renewable fuels grown on Iowa farms that burn cleaner and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The renewable energy grown right in our own backyards is also misunderstood. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) by up to 86% compared to petroleum diesel, while Yale University found that ethanol reduces GHG by up to 59% compared to gasoline.

Not only that – alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel help make our country more energy secure. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, as ethanol use has grown, dependence on imported petroleum has declined from 60 percent to 28 percent.

Farmers are constantly adopting new methods and technology for growing safe, wholesome food and protecting the environment, including the use of GMOs – which allow farmers to use less pesticide and grow food with better nutrition.

Did you know that farmers use GPS and other precision technology to apply fertilizer more exactly? Or that GMOs allow them to use less pesticide and grow food with better nutrition? The technology on today’s farms is creating change that we can all appreciate.

Check out all of the facts and vote for your favorite (or write in your own) by March 31 for a chance to win “Farm Strong” merchandise autographed by coaches Prohm and Fennelly.

We’ll announce the merchandise winners and the number one reason Iowa is “Farm Strong” next Monday!

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager