Agriculture

U.S. farms exported $144.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. California exported the most of any state – $20.1 billion – followed by Iowa ($10.4 billion) and Illinois ($8.0 billion). The biggest U.S. agricultural export in 2013 was soybeans, worth nearly $22 billion. Just three states – Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota – made up over one-third of the soybean export market, with Illinois alone exporting almost $3.1 billion of crop. The American Farm Bureau Federation says one in three U.S. farm acres is planted for export.  

The story behind emerging technologies in agriculture begins with a simple truth. Everybody needs to eat. With an estimated global population of more than 9 billion by 2050 and with no commensurate growth in arable land, that means farmers and ranchers will need to find new ways to produce more food on the same amount of land. New advances in agricultural technology may help the producers, but the ag tech startups that create those advances haven’t been getting a lot of support themselves.

A highly contagious strain of of avian influenza, or “bird flu”, hit the United States this year, leading at least 11 states—including Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—to ban all bird shows this summer where birds might co-mingle, such as county or state fairs, in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease. As of late-May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the highly pathogenic H5 virus has led to the deaths of more than 40 million birds in 15 states.

CSG Midwest
A highly contagious strain of “bird flu” hit the United States this year, and parts of the Midwest have been the epicenter of the outbreak. As of early May, highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N2, had been identified in 17 states, with outbreaks at more than 60 farms in Minnesota alone and the loss of more than 28 million birds. Bird flu has also been reported on farms in Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario.
CSG Midwest
Earlier this year, a headline in The New York Times set off a firestorm in both the livestock industry and the research community. “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit,” the headline read. The laboratory at the heart of the story was a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in southeast Nebraska where research is conducted on farm animals. The goal of the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center is to improve the efficiency of production while also maintaining the quality of meat products.
 
But the article raised questions about whether the welfare of animals at the facility was being compromised — for example, by breeding research that has led to “weakened or deformed” calves and crowded conditions that are causing piglets to be crushed.
 
In response, animal-welfare organizations called for shutting down the facility and even ending all animal agriculture research across the country. And federal legislation was introduced to include farm animals under the Animal Welfare Act, the law that governs research use of laboratory animals.
 
CSG Midwest
Less than a year after a harmful algal bloom temporarily cut off the city of Toledo’s drinking water supply, Ohio lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation to keep pollutants out of Lake Erie. SB 1, signed into law in early April, establishes several new provisions to prevent nutrient runoff.
 
CSG Midwest
A bill approved this year by the North Dakota legislature will provide new exemptions to the state’s decades-old ban on corporate farming, but it might also face a future challenge at the ballot box.
 
 
CSG Midwest
In the not-so-distant past, “non-existent” would have been an apt term to describe the Midwest’s farm winery and craft beer industries. As recently as the year 2000, only 300 acres were in grape production.

But today, ethanol isn’t the only alcohol being produced in this region. There has been big growth in the beer and wine industry, a trend that is allowing for more diversity in farm production and helping expand local and statewide agri-tourism.

The winery and craft beer industries are moving out of the hobby stage and making an estimated $10 billion contribution to the economies of Midwestern states. More than 12,000 acres of grapes and 600 craft brewers now call the Midwest home. This growth has been fueled not only by the development of winter-hardy varieties of grapes, but also by more-supportive government policies.
CSG Midwest
In Iowa’s largest city, Des Moines, the local water utility operates the largest nitrate-removal facility in the world. It runs any time nitrates reach levels above the federally mandated limit of 10 milligrams per liter. The cost of operating the facility, Des Moines Water Works says, can be upwards of $7,000 a day. Now, the utility wants some local drainage districts in surrounding rural counties held accountable for the costs associated with treating what it calls “extremely high concentrations of nitrate” in local rivers. (The costs were approximately $900,000 in 2013 due to severe rain events, but less than half that figure in 2014.)
CSG South

Although the country as a whole has shifted away from agricultural pursuits, the South remains a largely agrarian region. As the only source of uniform and comprehensive agriculture data for every state and county in the nation, the Census provides the most detailed picture of U.S. farms and the people who operate them. For this reason, the Census remains an important resource for SLC states, and is used by a wide range of stakeholders for various reasons. For example, agribusiness companies use the data to make decisions about where to market their products, while lenders and insurance companies use this information in risk management calculations.

This Regional Resource analyzes the economic contributions agriculture makes to our national and regional economies and highlights some of the commodities for which the 15 SLC member states make the largest contributions. Finally, the source of who is providing the labor that makes agriculture possible is examined.

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