Agriculture is obviously a huge part of life in Nebraska and Iowa, but a new study of all 435 U.S. House districts shows just how large farming and ranching truly are here.
Nebraska’s 3rd District, for example, is No. 1 among all House districts in three ag-related categories: annual market value of sales; number of farms and ranches; and corn production. The district is No. 2 in cattle (a western Kansas district holds the top spot); No. 3 in dry beans; No. 5 in sugar beets and soybeans; and No. 7 in hogs.
That translates into some $16.5 billion in total annual agricultural sales; nearly 56,000 producers; more than 33,000 farm and ranching operations; 7.1 million acres of corn cultivated by more than 14,000 farmers; and $8.4 billion in cattle sales by 15,000 producers.
The 3rd District’s number of farms and ranches exceeds the statewide totals for either of the Dakotas or Montana.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service assembled the data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture.
Iowa’s 4th District, consisting of the state’s northwest quadrant, not surprisingly ranked quite high, too. It’s No. 1 in hogs and dry beans; No. 2 in annual market value of sales; number of farms; and corn; No. 4 in soybeans; and No. 6 in cattle. The district’s 54,000 producers generate $15.9 billion in annual ag sales.
Agriculture is significant for some other Midlands congressional districts, of course. The highest ranking for Nebraska’s 1st District — consisting of 16 eastern counties, from Thurston southward to Otoe — was No. 9 in cattle. The district has more than 12,000 farms and ranches, with total annual sales of $5.2 billion.
The highest score for Iowa’s 3rd District, in the state’s southwest quadrant, was No. 16 in corn production. Total sales by the district’s nearly 12,000 ag operations annually exceed $2.5 billion.
The bottom of the rankings were in New York City; no surprise there. New York’s 6th and 7th House Districts, based in Queens and Brooklyn, each had exactly three farms and three producers.
The report includes numbers of women farmers and ranchers, and Nebraska and Iowa had high rankings. Nebraska’s 3rd District’s number of women producers — some 18,074 — is No. 3 among all House districts. Iowa’s 4th District is No. 4, with 17,505 producers.
The study lists the number of Hispanic farmers and ranchers in each district: 406 in Nebraska’s 3rd District (No. 60); 251 in Iowa’s 4th District; 122 in Nebraska’s 1st District; and 121 in Iowa’s 3rd District.
The rankings for Nebraska and Iowa in the report are strong, but it’s important to understand that rural districts are a small minority in the U.S. House. Urban interests have long exerted far greater influence on Capitol Hill. This makes approval of a farm bill every few years complicated and difficult, and shows the challenge in getting the House to pay attention to needs that are specific to rural communities.
The strong agricultural presence in Nebraska and Iowa, as underscored in this new report, makes it imperative that the districts’ lawmakers be active and effective in explaining and standing up for rural interests.