Iowa’s record-setting harvest prompts cautious optimism in Clinton

CLINTON, Iowa -

January is no time to rest for Dustin Johnson, 34.  It's time to care for his livestock and newborn lambs.

Still, 2017 is starting on a high note for the fourth generation Clinton County farmer.  That's after being part of a record-setting corn and soybean harvest in Iowa.

"A year ago, we were thinking things were pretty gloom and doom," said the president of Clinton County Farm Bureau on January 13, 2017.  "Having a nice size harvest is really going to help a young guy like me keep going."

Iowa continues to lead the nation in corn production.  Farmers concerned about a break-even year are doing somewhat better than expected.

"It's a lot better than it could have been," he continued.

Iowa corn came in at 9% above 2015's record tally, and Iowa soybeans registered 3% above 2015 totals.

Despite the record harvest, farmers must contend with low crop prices.  That's cutting farm income more than 40% over the last four years.

It's forcing Deere & Company to continue indefinite layoffs at plants in Iowa and Illinois.

"We don't want to see anybody go through those hardships, but that's the nature of the cyclical farm economy," Johnson said.

As Johnson looks over his John Deere tractor, he won't be spending money on big ticket items in 2017.  Instead, like other farmers, he'll be watching his wallet.

"Machinery will need to be replaced," he said.  "But we're not going to go above and beyond to purchase new equipment."

Even so, tending to the animals on a blustery Friday, Johnson remains optimistic.  Even declining land prices could help him to expand his farming operation near Clinton.

"Do the best work we can and hope for the best," he concluded.

No rest at this farm.  Just gratitude for a record-breaking harvest in 2016.