Iowa--"Fields of Opportunity"

Photo Report--August 1999.
Copyright 1999 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.  All rights reserved.
Iowa Corn
Iowa Soybeans
Iowa Pork Producers Association
Iowa ranks first among the fifty states in corn, soybean, and pork production.  More than 85% of the state's land area is farms.  

Driving through Iowa in the winter, one is struck by how barren the landscape is.  It is cold.  The fields are brown and littered with corn trash.  Iowa in the summer presents a different picture.  Corn and soybean fields weave a green tapestry, and from time to time a butterfly floats leisurely across the road.  In town, there will often be someone selling sweet corn off the back of a pick up truck; a bag with a baker's dozen ears--picked that very morning--runs $3 dollars. 

In the summer of 1999, Iowa farmers were hit hard, not by the drought affecting some other parts of the country, but by low prices. "Prices are down," was the recurrent theme. Farmers are pushing to ensure the openness of export markets.  Another approach to the problem has been to develop new uses for Iowa's agricultural products.  The 10% ethanol blend in gasoline is the most obvious example, but a host of other products such as Soy Ink, a soybean-based additive for diesel fuel, and even soy crayons are on the market. 

While the farm economy still sets the tone, the Hawkeye State is home to a numerous industries from the Maytag Corporation in Newton to Diamond Vogel Paints in Orange City.  Even as Iowa's farmers face a very difficult year, the state's overall unemployment rate in July 1999 was just 2.7% (compared to 4.3% nationally).