Iowa farms feed and fuel the world, and Iowa's strong agricultural history has driven the economy for decades. We've seen innovation and technology transform agriculture across Iowa, creating an agriculture industry that contributes $72.1 billion to Iowa's economy each year.
But there's more to do if we're to remain a leader in agriculture. We've all seen farmland prices soar in the past several years - hitting record highs. This high price of land is a sign of our success, however, at times it places the dreams of beginning farmers out of reach. Barriers like affordable farmland and keeping up with a rapidly evolving industry makes it difficult for beginning farmers to break into the industry.
I'm working to make sure that new farmers are able to break through these barriers by supporting the Beginning Farmerand Rancher Opportunity Act. This legislation would create an environment where new agriculture entrepreneurs have the opportunity to thrive by expanding credit options and addressing the conservation, research, and training needs of next generation farmers.
Investing in new farmer training programs and promoting grants to help farmers increase product values is positive for Iowa's economy. It supports the entrepreneurial spirit so many Iowans have and provides the tools the next-generation of farmers need to run a successful agriculture business for years to come.
Helping beginning farmers get off on the right foot is just one way to encourage growth among local and regional farms. Increasingly these small farms are providing local food to folks throughout Iowa thanks to a growing interest in local foods and farmers markets.
For more than 15 years, farmers markets have had a positive impact on Iowa's economy. Whether it's a farm stand on a county road or a small farmers market in a town square, these markets bring more fresh, local foods to communities in Iowa than ever before.
To help meet the growing demand for local food and farmers markets, I'm supporting the Local Farm, Food and Jobs Act to increase access to local food, rebuild farm infrastructure and help famers break down barriers opening new markets to sell their products. Farmers markets aren't just for larger communities either. These markets provide investment in rural communities, create jobs, support family farms and produce healthy food for Iowans.
As the demand for these markets continue to grow, so does their economic impact. It's time we invest in programs that strengthen partnerships between farmers and businesses that encourage consumers to purchase locally produced products.
Iowa became the agriculture force it is today because we understand how important it is to support every aspect of our agricultural economy - whether that means supporting new farmers or creating innovative programs to promote local products and rural communities. I'll keep working hard to make sure Iowa remains the agriculture leader it has been for so long..