Farms, equipment getting bigger

“Iowa’s farms are twice the size they were 50 years ago and they produce between four and five times more corn and soybeans. Today’s tractors weigh up to 10 times more than their ancestors of 1960, and the two- to four-row combine of the 1960s have given way to the 12- to 16-row harvester of today.”

That’s how the Des Moines Register started a recent article on the planned $77-million expansion of the Firestone Agricultural Tire plant in Des Moines, Iowa. The project involves raising the roof on a section of the World War II-era plant 10 feet to accommodate new equipment that can make tires almost 8 feet tall.

The announcement of the project is seen as good news for Des Moines, a city that hasn’t suffered from the recession as much as other parts of the country, but nevertheless could use some positive economic news. It came days after Pioneer announced it was building a new research facility in Johnston, a few miles north of the Firestone plant.

What may have struck some readers, particularly farmers, however, is the Register’s statement that farms and farm equipment are getting larger. And that it’s occurring in Iowa where’s the state’s Republican senator has been trying to take farm program payments away from farmers with even moderately sized operations across the nation.

It would be nice to think that Sen. Charles Grassley, who is running for re-election this year, would see that article and put two and two together: That larger-sized farming operations are having an impact on industry in his state — not just at Firestone and Pioneer, but also at the Deere cotton picker plant in nearby Ankeny, the giant Deere complex in Waterloo and other locations.

Maybe Grassley would have a change of heart about larger farming operations and stop offering reduced payment limit legislation each time a new farm bill or ag appropriations bill comes to the Senate Agriculture Committee. But that may be too much to hope for.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the second blog post in what we hope will become a regular feature for the Farm Press Web sites. If you have questions or comments about these posts, please contact the author or Forrest Laws, director of content, Penton Agricultural Media, at 901 201-1204.

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