Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

September 4, 2012

Farmers at progress show say times pretty good

Daily Iowegian

BOONE — The thousands of farmers who attend the Farm Progress Show, which ended a three-day run Thursday in Boone, typically want to look toward the future, and at least for now, that future looks pretty good.

As farmers walked through 85 acres of farm product displays, learning about where the markets are headed and seeing the latest equipment, seed, and chemicals, they had reason to feel good about their occupation — even during one of the worst droughts in U.S. history.

"Things are good for the farmer now," said Robert Kirsch, 84, of Bode, who farms 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans with his sons and wife, Edna. "Who knows if they're going to stay that way."

Chad Hart, an Iowa State University agriculture economist, said the drought certainly hurt some farmers, but most will manage.

"There will be a lot of individual losses but when you look at the sector in the aggregate, it will be fine," Hart said.

In 2011, crop farmers earned a record net farm income of more than $100 billion. With crop insurance and very high prices helping to compensate for a smaller harvest, incomes should remain strong, Hart said.

The USDA has estimated farm income of $122.2 billion in 2012, up about 3.7 percent from last year.

Ben Knutson, a farmer approaching 50 who grows corn, soybeans and raises cattle near Radcliffe, was looking at combines and tractors.

His biggest concern is the drought, but he said his farm received timely rain and his crop will be OK.

Knutson and Kirsch noted the difficulty new farmers would have getting started unless they could inherit land from their parents.

That topic was one reason Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was at the show Thursday, unveiling a grant program providing $18 million to organizations in 24 states to help beginning farmers and ranchers.

Vilsack said investing money to get young farmers started is a good investment.