Iowa: A place for agriculture and FFA members to grow

05-09-2012 in News Release

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – May 9, 2012 – A survey of nearly 200 Iowa FFA members finds that an increasing majority of them want to farm and live in Iowa upon completion of their education. The survey finds that 94% want to pursue an ag-related career, which is up from 77% in 2005 (the survey’s inaugural year). They also have an extremely positive outlook about agriculture and the opportunities it can provide to those who are willing to work hard to accomplish their goals.

The findings, garnered from a survey conducted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) at the Iowa FFA Conference held in Ames on April 23-24, highlights the exceptional role agriculture can play in helping Iowa retain some of its best and brightest young people while reinforcing the importance of high school agricultural education programs.

The FFA Organization helps students develop interpersonal skills, build character and learn leadership skills. Contrary to the suggestion that there is a “brain drain” occurring from the state, 82% of Iowa FFA members indicated they plan to obtain at least a 4-year college degree, an all-time high. Additionally, 90% of respondents said they plan to live in Iowa.

Brooke Bodkins, a senior at Davis County, believes the sky is the limit. She plans to not only get a bachelors degree, but also pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. “I want to do something in agriculture because I know it’s something I’ll enjoy,” she said. After completing her education, she hopes to return to her home area and start her own business. “The people in Iowa are just friendlier than some other places,” Bodkins said, explaining why she doesn’t want to leave the state.

The 18-year-old Bloomfield native is currently serving as secretary of her FFA chapter. Additionally, she helps on the family’s corn, soybean and cattle farm. In addition to her future career in agriculture, Bodkins is personally invested in the industry. She and a sibling recently purchased several breeding heifers to start their own cow-calf herd.

“There are so many more people to feed now. Agriculture will have to continue to improve,” she said. “Iowa is a good place for agriculture to be.”

Bodkins isn’t the only one excited about the future of agriculture. In fact, 97% of Iowa FFA members say they have a positive or very positive attitude about the future of agriculture in the state.

Of the 194 respondents, 77% indicated they would like to farm after completing their education and 89% of those would like to raise livestock.

Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn senior Austin Peterson is one of them. “Farming is in my blood,” he said. “You have so many different careers all in one – some days you’re a mechanic, other days you’re a market analyst, or teacher, or vet.”

In addition to serving as president of the local FFA chapter, Peterson works on the family farm, helping at the feedlot and with the corn, soybean and alfalfa operations. Additionally, the young entrepreneur manages a hog barn, works for other area farmers and is in the process of starting his own cow-calf herd.

“We have all the resources here to raise livestock – we grow enough feed that we don’t have to import anything,” the Hartley native said. “Additionally, agriculture provides so many jobs for people in our community.”

In fact, the growth of animal agriculture in Iowa by families like the Petersons has led to an increase of $3.6 billion in economic output, $601 million in household wages, 19,200 jobs and $176 million in additional tax revenue in the last decade (“Animal Agriculture Economic Analysis Report,” United Soybean Board).

Other findings from the survey of FFA members include:

  • Of those wanting to farm, 49 percent say they would grow crops and raise livestock, 23 percent raise livestock and work part-time off the farm, 17 percent raise livestock only, 7 percent raise crops and work part-time off the farm and 3 percent grow crops only.
  • When asked what business arrangement they would prefer if they were to raise livestock, 53 percent want to be part of a family-run corporation, 30 percent farm independently and 16 percent either partner with area farmers or raise livestock on contract.
  • Seventy-six percent of the respondents live and work on a farm, and 24 percent do not. Of those that live on a farm, 68 percent have crops and livestock, 23 percent livestock only and 9 percent crops only.
  • A large majority of FFA members desire to live in Iowa. Seventy percent want to live and work in Iowa immediately after completing their education and another 20 percent are planning to return to Iowa. Only 10 percent plan to leave Iowa and work elsewhere.
  • Although only 76 percent of survey respondents live and work on a farm, 94 percent want to pursue an ag-related career.
  • When asked about the primary obstacle for young people wanting to farm, 45 percent said start-up costs are too high, 18 percent the amount of work involved in farming, 15 percent lack of available land, 9 percent risk and unpredictability, 9 percent inability to earn a stable income and 4 percent absence of benefits.
  • FFA members were asked to gauge the concerns of their peers about the food they consume. Eight percent indicated that affordability and quality were of greatest interest. Another 25 percent said nutrition and 8 percent safety.

Last year, the Coalition assisted 289 families in growing their livestock farms. The organization has now helped nearly 1900 families who raise livestock since its launch in 2004. CSIF is a non-profit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost.

This positive, solutions-based approach to helping livestock farmers grow is a collaborative effort involving the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and the Midwest Dairy Association.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers does not develop policy, lobby or charge for their services. Families wanting confidential assistance in growing their livestock farms responsibly and successfully are encouraged to contact CSIF at 1-800-932-2436 or visit


(Editor’s note: the CSIF survey of FFA members has been conducted seven times: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006 and 2005. A trend-line analysis of the most frequently-asked questions is available HERE.)

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