Study Measures Significance of Agriculture to Iowa Economy

Iowa agriculture puts healthy, affordable food choices on the table of today’s consumers and it boosts county and state economies, according to a recently-completed economic analysis sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF).  As harvest takes place it is appropriate to note agriculture’s impact not only on the landscape, but on the state’s economy.

Production agriculture and ag-related industries directly and indirectly employ one of every six Iowans (or 17 percent of the state’s workforce), based on 2007 Census of Agriculture data. They also are responsible for adding $72.1 billion to the state’s economy, or 27 percent of the state’s total. This represents a 2 percent increase over a previous analysis using 2002 Census of Agriculture data.

“What impresses me,” said Dan Otto, Iowa State University Extension economist who helped prepare the study, “is that when you consider the growth and diversification of Iowa’s economy over recent years, agriculture is still a very dominant player. For certain counties, it is the primary industry.”

Otto points out that agriculture related jobs account for over 50 percent of employment in 20 Iowa counties. Jobs associated with meat production and meat processing make up over 30 percent of the ag-related workforce in 30 Iowa counties. 

“Agriculture is important in all parts of the state,” Otto said during a recent interview with Doug Cooper, ISU Extension communications specialist. “Value added agriculture processes have supported the increase of statewide agriculture sales and kept jobs in the state. This study shows that the diversification of farming has made agriculture the leading industry in more than a quarter of the counties in our state.”

County summaries of the study data are available from the ISU Extension online store as County Agriculture Statistics for Iowa, PM 2023. The summaries look at county crop and livestock production, as well as related businesses that contribute by producing, processing and marketing farm and food products.
Craig Floss, chief executive officer of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and CSIF board president, says the purpose of the study was to find out how much the state’s current economy is being helped by farming today. The findings are good news for Iowa.

“It’s clear that farming, food and feed processing, and every other area agriculture touches, is critical to Iowa,” Floss said. “The continued support and growth of farming is vital to the long-term economic health of our state.”

The CSIF-sponsored analysis shows that farming and ag-related industries in Iowa account for nearly $23 billion in added value, (19 percent of Iowa’s total), which takes into account the process of producing and converting agricultural commodities into products suitable for use by consumers both in and outside Iowa.

The analysis included a review of data from several sources including the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the U.S. Bureaus of Economic Analysis and Labor Statistics, Iowa Workforce Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the IMPLAN economic modeling software. “While this study was pulled from 2007 data, it should be very consistent with the current crop year, considering yields are up and crop prices are good,” said Otto.

Additional study details are available at the CSIF Web site. County summaries are available from the ISU Extension online store.  Download the document and click on the desired county to see county specific information. 

Daniel Otto, Economics, (515) 294-6147,
Aaron Putze, Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers, (515) 225-5531,
Willy Klein, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0662,