Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today highlighted some of Iowa’s top ag issues in 2016.
“Iowa farmers saw record production for both corn and soybeans again in 2016, however low prices are making profitability a real challenge on both the crop and livestock side. Despite the economic challenges, farmers are by nature optimistic and we continue to see investments in the future and new and innovative technologies that will allow them to be even more productive while also reducing environmental impact,” Northey said.
Record Production, Economic Challenges
Much of Iowa had a nearly ideal growing season that saw Iowa farmers produce record corn and soybean crops again this year.
Iowa corn production is forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Production Report. This surpasses last year’s record of 2.51 billion bushels. The statewide average yield is expected to be a record setting 199.0 bushels per acre, 7.0 bushels per acre higher than the previous record that was set last year.
Soybean production is forecast at 561 million bushels for Iowa. If realized, this will be the largest crop on record, 6.80 million bushels above last year’s record high. The statewide yield forecast is 59.0 bushels per acre, 2.5 bushels more than the previous record set last year.
However, the significant drop in crop prices over the past few years has made it a very challenging time on the farm economically as in many cases current prices are below the cost of production for farmers. Average statewide corn prices fell from $3.37 to $3.008 from November 2015 to Nov. 2016. Statewide average soybean prices have recovered somewhat from $8.14 to $9.25 from Nov. 2015 to Nov. 2016, but in many cases are still below the cost of production.
It also has been a challenging year economically for Iowa livestock farmers. Cattle prices have continued to fall and were at $101 per hundred weight in October, down from $128 per hundred weight last year and $161 two years ago. Hog prices also are down from $55.50 in Oct. 2015 to $41.70 in Oct. 2016.
Iowa egg production has recovered from the devastating highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that resulted in the depopulation of more than 30 million Iowa laying hens last year. Iowa egg production in October 2016 was 1.30 billion eggs, up 3 percent from last month, and up 71 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs Report from NASS.
The tighter margins seen on the farm are starting to ripple through the economy. Land prices are down 5.9 percent over the past year. There have been several announcements of layoffs and mergers by manufacturers, machinery providers, seed companies, and other ag businesses.
Despite the challenges, opportunities remain. In general, exports remain strong. Agricultural exports account for 10 percent of the U.S. exports and supports nearly one million jobs across the country.
To help continue to grow exports, Northey participated in trade missions with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and USDA to the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ukraine and Romania.
Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is continuing to expand efforts to work with all Iowans to make water quality improvements.
Earlier this year, Northey announced that 1,900 farmers committed $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in 97 Iowa counties. Eligible practices include cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. The number of participants included 900 first-time participants and more than 1,000 past users that are trying cover crops again and receive a reduced cost share rate.
There are currently 45 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $19.31 million dollars to go with more than $12 million in state funding going to these projects.
Nearly $350 million in state and federal funds were directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.
More initiative information can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.