JOHNSTON, Iowa – There is a popular myth out there that today’s modern food production system is being run by corporations or industrialized agriculture. But, the truth is that much of our food is grown and raised on farms by families. Iowa has roughly 88,000 farms and 129,000 farm operators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than 97 percent of Iowa farms are owned by families.
“The stigma of the “factory farm” or “Big Ag” is something we hear all the time,” said Iowa Corn Promotion Board President Larry Klever, a farmer from Audubon. “I believe it’s important for consumers to understand that the vast majority of farms in the United States like mine are family owned and operated.”
Larry, his wife Mary and his son are involved in the farming operation where they raise corn and soybeans. He has been farming for 40 years. “It’s true, Iowa’s farmers make a living growing crops and raising livestock on our family farms which is why it’s important for us to provide the best possible care. For us, it’s not just a business, but a way of life.”
And Iowa is not alone. Of the 2.1 million farms in the United States recorded in 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 97 percent were family-owned operations with the average farm size of 434 acres. One might believe that the size of the farm dictates if a farm is family owned, but 88 percent of all U.S. farms are small family farms, with less than $350,000 in gross cash farm income, and nearly 9 percent are midsize or large family farms.
“Many of our farms are set up as Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), similar to small businesses across the United States. LLCs are established more for tax reasons, and are owned by a few family members involved in the operation,” stated Klever.
Not only does the average American farm feed about 168 people worldwide, but one in five Iowans go to work because of agriculture. Iowa agriculture and ag-related industries supported 418,777 jobs in 2012, accounting for 21 percent of total jobs in Iowa and 17 percent of household income.