Agriculture census shows more conservation acres in Iowa

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Conservation has picked up in Iowa over the last five years according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

When looking at 24.3 million acres of land used for harvested crop acres, 24,000 farms were using no-till practices on 8.2 million acres. In 2012 only 6.9 million acres were no-tilled.

Twenty-six thousand farms used conservation tillage 10.1 million acres, up from 8.7 million acres in 2012. Conventional Tillage in Iowa slid to five million acres, down about 2.8 million acres five years ago.

Two hundred thousand acres were in conservation easement and cover crops tripled to 900,000 acres.

Greg Thessen, director of the Upper Midwest NASS office said it's a big shift.

"Both the reduced tillage, and no-till categories increased substantially from 2012. And if you add those two categories together. They account for over 75 percent of the tillable land in Iowa," he said.

Thessen said that thanks to a change in questioning, there are also many more female producers counted in Iowa.

Of 86,000 operations, female producers work 45,000 of them. Of that, 30,000 are considered full owners as opposed to the men who work 79,000 operations.

However, the census shows the downtrend of the farm economy, as well. Total expenses of farmers shifted to $23.5 billion dollars, while commodity totals in Iowa fell to $29.6 billion.

"That value was down 6 percent, from 2012 when we had high prices. And then we also collect information on the expenses that farmers pay and so the expenses were only down 1 percent," Thessen said.

Thessen said the data goes all the way to the county level so it is clear how a tough farm economy affects local economic activity.

On the national side, the census shows the U.S. produced $388 billion in ag products, down $6 billion from 2012.

Iowa is still the number two biggest agriculture state, behind California.

The number of producers on the nation's two million farms has increased by nearly seven percent to 3.4 million farmers.

The average age of the farmer has gone up a couple of years to 57.5 years old.