A new report finds farming’s still an important pillar of Iowa’s economy. The research into the effect of agriculture on the economy is being distributed by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. Spokesman Aaron Putze says agriculture, food production, and the agri-food industries related to food production employ one in ten Iowans. Putze says, “More than 180-thousand Iowans are directly employed because of what takes place in our farm fields and in our feedlots.” But an author of the study says that’s a decline from the force farming was in Iowa’s past.
Iowa State University economist Mark Immerman did a similar study years ago.
Back in 1990 Immerman says about 130-thousand Iowans actually worked on a farm, compared with perhaps 105-thousand today. But he says it means people are farming more efficiently, food’s cheaper, and that’s cheaper for “everybody that buys food in a grocery store.”
Putze says the survey may direct public policy concerning agriculture. Farming and agri-food businesses are a big part of the economy. Putze says the state’s total industrial output, including commercial, manufacturing, financial and government services, comes to 186-Million dollars. Of that farming and agri-food industries account for 46-point-7-Million dollars, or a quarter of the total.
Putze says the power of Iowa agriculture also extends beyond the farm gates.
According to the study, in 2002 eight-point-2-percent of Iowa’s gross state product came from the farm and food-processing sectors, the highest percentage of any state in the nation.
Economist Mark Immerman says while fewer people work on farms, that’s not to diminish the importance of their production. To note there are fewer farmers or a shrinking portion of personal income going for farming doesn’t make it less important, he says. Immerman says “We should in a lot of ways look at some of these statistics as successes.”
And while rural towns continue to shrink, Immerman says that’s not a problem Iowans feel a need to reverse. “Once upon a time when we didn’t all have cars and we were bound to local areas, small towns thrived — because small towns were what there was.” Immerman says people make choices to shop, work and live in larger towns even though we mourn the loss of country living.
Immerman quips: “People like progress — it’s change they hate.”
Though he notes there are some issues to consider in the concentration of the ownership of farmland, the fact that we have more efficient farms all the time “is not a bad thing.” The report says farming accounts for 535-point-8-Million dollars, or sixteen-point-two-percent of the state’s yearly 3-point-3-billion in property-tax payments.