Then and Now: What Iowa Agriculture Looked like in 1972

It’s been 40 years this year since Jimmy Carter famously capitalized on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus, and 44 years since Iowa’s Democratic Party caucus became the first in the nation. So, what did Iowa’s agriculture look like in the 1970s when this political pandemonium was just getting started?1972

As explained in a documentary by Iowa Public Television, the 1970s were a promising time in agriculture. Previously, the nation had struggled with surpluses of grain due to huge advances in agricultural technology, but in 1972 the Soviet Union found a need for America’s excess wheat and grains, and negotiated a contract between the countries.

This kick-started a multitude of things in the agriculture community—one being the famous call for farmers to plant “fencerow to fencerow” by Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, in 1973. With technology, an eager market, and rising grain prices, the 1970s treated rural America very well.

You can see the differences in many of the agricultural commodities Iowa produces through this graphic. Though different statistics are available for different years, it is still possible to compare some of our main commodities, such as corn and soybeans. Do your own research on agricultural statistics on the USDA website.

Check out these facts, figures, and photos from Iowa from 1972, the first year of our first-in-the-nation status and how they compare to today!

1972 Average corn bushels per acre: 116
2015 Average corn bushels per acre: 192

1972 Average soybean bushels per acre: 36
2015 Average soybean bushels per acre: 56.5

1972 Iowa Secretary of Agriculture: Robert H. Lounsberry
2015 Iowa Secretary of Agriculture: Bill Northey

1972 February corn price: 1.04 $/bu
2015 February corn price: 3.8 $/bu

1972 February soybean price: 2.97 $/bu
2015 February soybean price: 9.84 $/bu

1972 February cattle price: 41.3 $/cwt
2015 February cattle price: 157.16 $/live cwt

1972 February hog price: 26.1 $/cwt
2015 February hog price: 67.06 $/cwt

Photos from the 1970s.

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Photos from 2010s and today.

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Photos courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and USDA


My name is Chrissy Dittmer and I am the new education programs intern for IALF. I am currently a student at Iowa State University.

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