Iowa’s 86,104 family farms continue to be a key driver of Iowa’s economy, contributing 10 percent more to the state economy than in 2012, according to a new study commissioned by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF). The study shows that more than 31 percent of Iowa’s total economic output came from Iowa agriculture in 2017.
The study analyzed data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2017 Census of Agriculture and the IMPLAN system to determine the contributions of Iowa agriculture. It showed 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 400,000 jobs.
“This study underscores how productive and innovative farmers have been since 2012,” said Spencer Parkinson, of Decision Innovation Solutions who conducted the study. “Despite major weather events such as drought and flooding over the past several years, farmers have increased total output to $121.1 billion, benefitting not just agriculture, but all Iowans.”
Even with this growth, Iowa’s farmers maintain their roots. More than 90 percent of farms in Iowa are family owned and operated with farm size averaging 355 acres.
“The agriculture industry remains a vital part of Iowa communities,” said Brian Waddingham, CSIF Executive Director. “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.”
Waddingham noted that livestock farming and related industries account for $15.8 billion in value-added contributions for the state. It also accounts for nearly 186,000 jobs across Iowa, up from 123,000 jobs in 2012.
“It’s a testament to the tenacity of livestock farmers, in particular, who have persevered through ongoing low commodity prices, tariffs and Mother Nature to actually see an increase in jobs related to livestock in the state. There’s no question that the livestock industry is a critical piece to Iowa’s overall economy, said Waddingham. “It’s also key to keeping farm families living and working on the land. In the 15 years since the Coalition was formed, we’ve assisted more than 4,500 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. Calls to CSIF for assistance remain high as farmers want to discuss which options are best for their farms. 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 noted 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 CSIF and the services we provide to ensure the success of livestock agriculture in our state,” he said.
The study also noted that crop farming and processing account for 112,000 jobs, and $11.1 billion in value-added contributions to Iowa.