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Year in Review: Weather challenges and surprising yields

In general, Iowa farmers had pretty good yields despite some weather challenges. Parts of the state were in abnormally dry or drought conditions for significant parts of the growing season, with south central and southeast Iowa being the hardest hit areas.

Despite the weather challenges, Iowa corn production is forecast at 2.54 billion bushels according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Production report. This would be second largest Iowa crop on record, only beaten by last year’s record of 2.74 billion bushels. The statewide average yield is expected to be 197 bushels per acre.

Soybean production is forecast at 557 million bushels for Iowa, which would be the second largest crop on record. The statewide yield forecast is 56 bushels per acre.

Low crop prices over the past few years has made it a challenging time on the farm economically as in many cases current prices are below the cost of production for farmers.  Average statewide corn prices continued to fall and the statewide average for November was $2.9985, which is down from $3.008 last November.  Statewide average soybean prices for November were $9.0412, which is down from $9.25 last year.

While still a challenging year economically for Iowa livestock farmers, they have seen some better prices and lower feed costs.  Cattle prices were at $109 per hundred weight in October, up from $101 per hundred weight last year.   Hog prices were at $47.30 in October, up from $41.70 last year.

Iowa egg production in October 2017 was 1.33 billion eggs, up 4 percent from last month, and up 3 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The average number of all layers on hand during October 2017 was 55.5 million, up 3 percent from last year.  Egg prices have recovered some from last year and were at $.68 per dozen in October, up from just $.21 per dozen last year.

There were also 12.1 million turkeys raised in Iowa in 2017.  Iowa currently ranks 7th in US turkey production. Tyson Foods in Storm Lake and West Liberty Foods in West Liberty process 15.5 million turkeys annually. Subway and Jimmy John’s both serve Iowa turkey, but you can also find it in your grocery store via Jimmy Dean and private label sliced turkey.

Milk production in Iowa during October 2017 totaled 437 million pounds, up 4 percent from the previous October. Iowa was home to 219,000 milk cows in October, which is 4,000 more than last year. Monthly production per cow averaged 1,995 pounds, up 40 pounds from last October. The October all milk price of $17.90 per cwt is 10 cents higher than September and $1.20 higher than October 2016.

Iowa also continues to see growth in new areas as well, including 242 goat dairies and approximately 60 aquaculture producers.

The farm economy remains challenged by the low prices, but land prices have stabilized and increased by 2 percent over the past year according to Iowa State University’s annual land value survey.

In addition, exports remain strong and critically important to the state’s agriculture industry.  Iowa leads the nation in exports of pork ($1.98 billion), corn ($1.39 billion) and feed grain ($1.50 billion) and second in soybean exports ($2.51 billion) and is second in the nation for overall value of agricultural exports. To help continue to grow exports, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey participated in trade mission to China and Kosovo and Deputy Secretary Naig participated in a trade mission to Mexico.

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