2 Simple Maps That Reveal How American Agriculture Actually Works


Driving through the farmlands of Iowa looking for fresh food to eat is a lot like sailing through the ocean looking for fresh water to drink. In the ocean, you’re surrounded by water that you can’t drink; in Iowa, you’re surrounded by food you can’t eat. Even though Iowa generates the second-highest amount of revenue of any state off its crops — $17 billion in 2012 — the overwhelming majority of that comes from field corn, which is destined mostly for animal feed and ethanol, not dinner plates.

I came upon this startling fact while trying to answer a seemingly simple question: What crop generates the most money in each state? The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service produces reams of data on such matters, so I figured the question would be easy to answer. But it turned out to be trickier than I thought, because when I pulled the data, I realized that in most states, the biggest crop was one that was used mostly for animal feed. For well over half the states, field corn, soybeans or hay was the crop that generated the most cash in 2012, the latest year for which data —> Read More Here


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