Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, talks to participants in the Agriculture and Engergy Conference during a stop at the Kevin and Jill Venner farm located west of Maple River. Northey told the group that Iowa’s agricultural industry is incredibly important not only to the state but to the county and world.
Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, talks to participants in the Agriculture and Engergy Conference during a stop at the Kevin and Jill Venner farm located west of Maple River. Northey told the group that Iowa’s agricultural industry is incredibly important not only to the state but to the county and world.
April 12, 2013



Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture told members of the farming community his thoughts on high land prices and the future of farming during the Leadership Iowa Conference Thursday.

Bill Northey said Iowa's land prices can go down and they can go down hard.

He said that in the 1980s Russia ran out of money and the state's corn prices plummeted to $1.30 per bushel.

Northey said interest rates can change and the number of consumers can change, which could dramatically affect land prices.

He told farmers that the state and nation are in better shape now than ever to avoid a huge crash.

Northey dodged around a question about the effects that large farming operations have on dwindling and aging small towns and instead explained why he thinks Iowa is a leader for the future of agriculture.

He said 30 percent of the world does not use hybrids. Some of the world doesn't like using herbicides or chemicals. Iowa's soil is special, Northey said.

He added that he believes there will be a lot more people working on the technology side of farming.

"Why can't we figure out grain bin problems in South America from a farm in Iowa?" Northey asked.

He said it was amazing that Iowa farmers had the technology to do as well as they did during the drought last year.

He said farmers had corn with roots 6-feet-deep that were pulling water through 4 feet of absolutely dry soil.

Northey is a fourth-generation farmer from Spirit Lake who became Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture in 2006.

He said part of his job as secretary is to be able to explain agriculture, understand it and figure out how he can help.

Northey said 23 million of Iowa's 36 million acres of land are covered by corn and soybeans.

"We don't have a Yellowstone National Park, but we do have great farm land," Northey said about the state.

He said Iowa had a tough year last year but the state is still the top corn- and soybean-producing state.

Northey said corn's 137-bushel-per-acre yield was the worst since 1963.

He said a big event for Iowa this year was the World Food Prize held in Des Moines. Northey said 1,400 people from 75 countries attended last year.

Northey said he toured a farm with participants and was telling them that 137 bushels was not good for the state.

"You could tell they were doing the math in their head," Northey said. "To every single one of them our yield in our worst year was twice of what they're used to."

He said if Iowa was its own country, it would have been fourth-largest food provider in the world.

Northey said the state made $30 billion last year just in farm sales, up from $12 billion in 2002.

He told farmers that fall bushels are expected to be about $5.

Northey said that could change, too, and farmers should plan their risk management and understand their crop insurance ahead of time.

He also warned farmers about some Global Positioning System malfunctions that have been happening on planters.

Northey said sometimes the gravel roads aren't exactly straight and some systems don't catch that and farmers end up planting twice what they need to in some areas.