Iowa's 88,637 family farms continue to be a key driver of Iowa's economy, contributing 6% more to the state's economy than in 2007, according to a new study commissioned by the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers (CSIF).
The study shows that more than 33% of Iowa's total economic output came from Iowa agriculture in 2012. (Click here for infographics.) The study analyzed data from the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture and the IMPLAN system of regional economic statistics to determine the contributions of Iowa agriculture.
The agriculture industry goes beyond just impacting the total economic output of the state. One in every five Iowans are employed in agriculture and ag-related industries, accounting for nearly 419,000 jobs. This compares to one in six jobs in 2007.
Agriculture is a key driver of job creation in Iowa
"This study underscores how innovative farmers have been since 2007," says Spencer Parkinson, of Decision Innovation Solutions, an Iowa economic research firm that conducted the study. "Despite major weather events such as drought and flooding over the past seven years, farmers have managed to increase their productivity, benefitting not just agriculture, but all Iowans."
Even with this growth, Iowa's farmers maintain their roots. More than 90% of farms in Iowa are family owned and operated with farm size averaging 345 acres.
"The agriculture industry remains a vital part of Iowa communities," says Brian Waddingham, executive director of the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. "We see this every time we host an open house with livestock farmers. It's common to see hundreds of community members attend to celebrate what a new barn means to their community: jobs, kids in school and a boon to local businesses."
Even with dynamic growth, farmers remain rooted in local communities
Waddingham notes that livestock farming and processing alone count for $31.6 billion in economic contribution for the state, up more than $3.5 billion from 2007. Livestock farming and processing also accounts for nearly 123,000 jobs across the state of Iowa.
"Livestock continues to be vital to keeping farm families living and working on the land. In the 10 years since the Coalition was formed, we've assisted more than 2,800 farm families wanting to responsibly grow their farms and bring young people back to rural Iowa. Diversification seems to be a key component to Iowa's thriving livestock industry, from established livestock farmers to crop farmers adding livestock for the first time."
He adds, "Calls to the Coalition for assistance are at an all-time high today – up 60% from 2009. Whether it's a new and beginning farmer or an existing and well-established farmer calling us, there is a great deal of optimism about adding livestock to the farm."
Waddingham notes that the calls for assistance include concerns over DNR and EPA inspections, neighbor relations, siting new livestock and poultry barns as well as raising fish. There are many opportunities in Iowa's livestock industry today which will continue to evolve to provide farmers additional opportunities in the future. "As agriculture evolves so will the Coalition and the services we provide to ensure the success of livestock agriculture in our state," he says.
Crop farming and processing add $47.2 billion to Iowa economy
This new study also points out that crop farming and processing account for 183,000 jobs and $47.2 billion in economic contributions to Iowa, almost doubling the amount from 2007. However, diversity is crucial, adds Waddingham. Even with the rapid increase in crop receipts from 2007 to 2012, livestock continues to be vital to keeping farm families living and working on the land. That's especially true now that crop prices have slid back to breakeven levels.
The Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers is a joint partnership involving the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association. For more information on the study and a county-by-county break out, visit the CSIF website.
[Editor's note: A new, interactive state map containing the county data will be available by February 1, 2015 at the CSIF website. To be notified when the updated map is available, sign up to receive CSIF email updates here.]
About the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers: CSIF has helped more than 2,800 livestock and poultry farm families over the past 10 years successfully and responsibly grow their farms. CSIF helps families interpret rules and regulations, site new livestock and poultry barns, enhance relationships with neighbors, and implement best management practices for livestock and poultry farmers across the state of Iowa at no charge. For more information visit www.supportfarmers.com.