By Lester R. Brown
The U.S. state of Iowa is an agricultural superpower, simultaneously eclipsing Canada in grain production and challenging China in soybean production. No, these are not mathematical errors.
Last year Iowa’s farmers harvested 55 million tons of grain while Canada’s farmers harvested only 45 million tons. Over the last five years, Iowa has averaged 57 million tons a year to Canada’s 49 million tons.
While Canada has more than 30 million acres in grain, mostly wheat, Iowa has only 13 million acres in grain, almost entirely corn. The difference in yield per acre is huge, just 1.4 tons in Canada against more than 4 tons in Iowa.
With soybeans, Iowa produced 13 million tons in 2010 while China produced 15 million tons, mirroring their average production figures over the past five years. While Iowa has less than 10 million acres in soybeans, China has 22 million acres. Yield per acre in Iowa is 1.4 tons, exactly double the 0.7 tons of China.
The bottom line: Iowa is at the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt, a phenomenally productive piece of agricultural real estate. It enables the United States, with only 4 percent of the world’s people, to produce 40 percent of the world’s corn, the leading grain, and 35 percent of its soybeans.