AGRICULTURE - IOWA'S BASIC INDUSTRY
For more information about Iowa agriculture, contact: Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines 50319; 515/281-5321
Agriculture rebounded at a strong rate into the 1990s
as farmland once again became a desirable investment, pushing land prices
to a level that is two and a quarter times the low set during the farm
crisis. Record meat production and record or near record production
of corn and soybeans has resulted in plentiful supplies of food and
fiber. U.S. agricultural products were in strong demand around the world
until 1998, when the Asian market cooled and other countries became
competitive in the world market. Net farm income reached record highs
as commodity prices inched to new levels. Domestic and world demand
kept carry over supplies drawn down to low levels. New production technologies
were introduced for both crops and livestock during the 1990s and American
farmers were quick to adopt them. Precision farming techniques such
as genetic modification of crops for the protection against pests and
adoption of swine production models are replacing conventional practices.
This has enabled the American farmer to surpass domestic and world demands.
As the century draws to a close, farm gate prices dipped to extreme
lows as supplies exceeded demand, forcing agriculture into a period
of difficult times following a decade of strong recovery during the
late 1980s and early 1990s.
Preserving Family Farms
Iowa is the heart of the nation with 33 million acres
of land divided into 97,000 farming units. The number of farms has declined
to a little less than half the number that were in the state a half
century ago. The land used by agriculture has decreased by 1.5 million
acres over the last five decades as this land was converted into recreational
and conservation facilities, interstate highways or commercial and residential
developments. About a quarter of a million of the 2.9 million Iowa residents
are on farms, which is only a third of the number who resided on farms
50 years ago.
Our vision for Iowa and agriculture includes farmers
and their neighbors working together to understand shared needs for
productive and profitable agriculture and a quality environment. Iowa's
soil and water conservation districts are a focal point for sharing
ideas, solving agricultural and environmental problems, and coordinating
federal and state programs to assist farmers and communities.
Marketing Iowa Agriculture
The production of farm commodities is big business in Iowa, generating sales of $12 billion annually. These commodities are exported to countries throughout the world. Iowa is second in the nation in exports of agricultural commodities. Iowa exports reduced the trade deficit by over $57 billion in 1997.
The Agricultural Marketing Bureau in the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship works to promote and add value to Iowa's commodities in addition to commodity price reporting. This is accomplished by covering the sale of livestock at 18 auctions with the Livestock Market News Program. Cash corn and soybean prices are gathered and reported by the Grain Market News Program which provides an overview of the cash grain prices reported by 47 elevators all over Iowa. In addition, the marketing bureau works to advance value-added agricultural enterprises through trade shows and the development of promotional activities and events.
Recognizing the need to rebuild and diversify Iowa's agricultural economy in the wake of the economic crisis of the 1980s, an Agricultural Diversification Bureau was established within the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in 1987. Emphasizing the development of the state's horticultural industry, the bureau has helped expand the farmers market system in Iowa from 64 markets in 1986 to more than 123 markets in l998. The section has also developed public service announcements and product directories to assist producers of fruit, vegetables and Christmas trees to enhance sales.
The Farmers Market Nutrition Program is a federal-state partnership designed to provide a supplemental source of fresh fruits and vegetables for the diets of women, infants and children who are determined to be nutritionally at risk and to promote agricultural diversification by stimulating the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. The program has grown from serving 1,700 eligible clients and 25 producers in 1987 to serving 49,316 needy Iowans at 88 farmers markets in 1998.
The Ag. Diversification Section also serves alternative crop and livestock producers by providing assistance on the marketing of products and management for new enterprises.
The people of the U.S. and world have become more
and more dependent on fewer and fewer farmers for their food. Therefore,
it is essential that quality products be provided in quantities sufficient
to provide every man, women and child with a wholesome diet. Iowa's
agricultural industries, producers and government are cooperating in
efforts to assure the safety of our agricultural goods.