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Agriculture From Above

The ability to get an aerial view of farmland is gaining speed, and data gleaned from the air has all kinds of business applications and potential for rural America.
But actually seeing the full breadth and productivity of Iowa from above reveals a land of abundance.
Agribusiness Report correspondent John Nichols shares his tale from the sky:
Dancing across an Iowa cornfield, kicking tassels along the way, is an unparalleled thrill that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. But as much fun as it is to see the state from a powered paraglider, this aerial view only reinforces what many people instinctively know: Iowa is an agricultural powerhouse.
And gliding slowly over the fertile landscape it is readily apparent that the harvest of 2016 is a bin-buster.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. corn production is estimated at 15.2 billion bushels this year, with an average yield of 175 bushels per acre. If realized, both figures would be the highest in history.
Leading the way is the agricultural juggernaut better known as Iowa, where production of corn –America’s primary row crop - is estimated at a record 2.7 billion bushels on an average yield of 199 bushels per acre.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says, “We produce more corn in Iowa than all but three countries in the world. Only the U.S., China and Brazil produce more corn than the state of Iowa.”
Northey has firsthand knowledge of his state’s rank in grain production, and the fourth-generation farmer from Spirit Lake also notes that Iowa’s agricultural productivity extends well beyond the cornfield.
“Historically there have been four countries that produce more soybeans than Iowa does, that is U.S., Brazil, Argentina, and China. Actually last year and this year Iowa will produce more soybeans than China, so now just three countries." Northey says, "We use nutrients from livestock to be able to feed our crops, and then that crop production helps feed our livestock. And it creates a very strong agricultural industry, that then has a huge impact on the economy of Iowa."
Somewhere, 20 to 25 percent of the state’s economy is directly related to agriculture.
Back in the air on my powered paraglider, I realize how blessed I am to fly over such a productive landscape; I’m reminded of the vital importance of agriculture to this state, and I’m thankful to call Iowa my home.