Market News & Headlines >> Inside the Ag Census: Illinois

Last week, we went inside the Ag Census to look at changes in farm structure in Iowa. Today, we dig back into the census to look at Iowa’s neighbor to the east and rival in corn and soybean production, Illinois.

We see a lot of the trends we observed in Iowa in Illinois as well. For instance, the proportion of farmland that is rented versus owned in Illinois decreased marginally, from 70% in 2007 to 69% in 2012, as the amount of land owned and farmed rose faster than the amount rented and farmed.

From 2007 to 2012, the average age of principal operators increased from 56.2 to 57.8 years old in Illinois. We also saw a similar consolidation of farms in the two states: Illinois maintained roughly the same number of operators, decreasing less than 2%, from 111,089 in 2007 to 109,123 in 2012. However, those operators managed significantly fewer farms, which dropped 16.5%, 25,577 in 2007 to 21,338 in 2012. These data suggest that the average farmer in these states is working more land per farm.

One major difference between Iowa and Illinois was the change in grain storage capacity. Iowa modestly increased its storage capacity in the five years between censuses, from 1.76 million bushels to 1.78 million. Illinois, on the other hand, actually reduced its storage capacity from 1.35 million bushels in 2007 to 1.33 million in 2012. This came as some surprise, especially with the possibility of a large corn crop this year, but the explanation lies in the earlier discussion regarding farm consolidation. The storage capacity per farm increased significantly, from 52,933 to 62,228, a 17.6% jump but with fewer farms, some storage facilities no doubt were shut down.

Illinois is also aberrant in its distribution of that storage area. Using a metric developed by Brock Associates, we compared each county in Illinois in terms of its total production of corn and soybeans and its acreage of rented land (which theoretically would not have as much storage built on it) against the total amount of grain storage. The results showed that Illinois had a few counties with surprisingly low volume of storage compared against production and rented land. Iroquois county was the furthest outlier, off from the average of our metric by more than four standard deviations. Champaign, McLean, and La Salle counties also scored highly, suggesting that these counties might feel more pressure to move their crop quickly come harvest time. Our conclusion is there are localized factors, such as investor ownership, that cause the aberration to be not statistically significant.