High Corn Yields, Market Volatility Spell Lower Profits

Farm Journal examines what the 2017 Census of Agriculture data can tell us about farms, farming and farmers. ( Darrell Smith )

While 2017 brought farmers the highest corn yields on record—176.6 bu. per acre—it didn’t bring the increased revenue for which producers hoped. Instead, total crop revenue for the country was $194 billion, 9% lower than the census five years earlier and lower than livestock revenue.

“We are pleased to deliver Census of Agriculture Results to America, and especially to the farmers and ranchers who participated,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We can all use the Census to tell the tremendous story of U.S. agriculture and how it is changing.”

The 2017 census showed corn second to cattle and calves in commodity earnings, coming in at $51.2 billion. Iowa took top honors for production. Soybeans came in forth in commodity value at $40.3 billion, with Illinois taking top spot in production.

Farmers spent $83.2 billion on cash rent, chemicals, fertilizer and seed alone in 2017. On-farm income dropped 2% from 2012 to $43,053.

Acres harvested: 2012 vs. 2017

  • Corn
    • 2012-87,413,045
    • 2017-84,738,562
    • Down 3.05%

*Use slider bars to toggle back and forth from 2012 to 2017 acres

  • Soybean
    • 2012-76,104,780
    • 2017-90,149,480
    • Up 18.45%

*User slider bars to toggle back and forth from 2012 to 2017 acres


Globally the country as a whole ranked No. 1 in grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas; No. 10 in cotton and cottonseed; and No. 9 in other crops and hay production. Grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas accounted for 27.4% of the country’s total sales—dominating other categories.

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Want to learn more about the data and trends from the 2017 Census of Agriculture? Visit AgWeb.com/AgCensus2017


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