Tag Archives: Iowa agriculture

Mr. Walter Edwin ‘Ed’ KEE on Iowa & California-: Agricultural Giants — Farms, Food, Energy, Water, & the Environment

On September 25, 2019 Mr. Ed KEE returned and spoke to us once again- this time, on the two number one U.S. states in agricultural production and value- Iowa and California.  Mr. KEE also brought props from a nearby grocery store and books that he had written.  The groceries would be used to illustrate the breath and scope of the products coming out of each state and the books would be awarded to the students who volunteered answers or thought-provoking questions.  Mr. KEE brought a lot of his discussion topics back around to the Delaware overview he gave the class last time, to give context to the numbers related to both states outputs. Prof. ISSAACS also corroborated these facts with his own knowledge of agriculture throughout the talk.

The talk began with am overview of the state of Iowa.  The state is flanked by the Missouri and Mississippi rivers with transportation and mills throughout, facilitating the high rate of production, but without the huge population centers nearby like Delaware has.  Iowa also has 85% of it’s land in farms, compared to Delaware’s 41%, with 87, 500 farmers spread across 30.5 billion acres, 5 million of which are dedicated to fruit and vegetable production.  Farm production generates 92% of the state’s farm income, mostly generated through corn, soy beans, pork, and beef.  Iowa usually vies for 1st in soy production with Illinois, but in hog production Iowa reigns supreme, with 11 pork processors across the state, each plant going through 90, 000 hogs a day.  Iowa is also the largest producer of table eggs- Delaware’s Puglisi Egg Farm, by comparison, only outputs 90, 000 dozen eggs per day, according to Prof. ISAACS.

Iowa owes its high production output in no small part to its climate and soil.  Iowa has a mild growing season, with few 90°F days.  The states soil is mainly loess- fine silt & clay particles- deposited via glacier over thousands of years,10-30 thousand yrs. ago.  Those soils have a high cation exchange ranging from 10-15- much higher than Delaware’s soils that stay around 1 or 2.  Mr. KEE said he’d never encountered a Delaware soil with an exchange rate of 3.  Those same soils will only hold around 3-4 inches of water before draining.  By contrast, the impressively healthy soils of Iowa run very deep.  Mr. KEE cited 1880 records from a farmer who reported prairie grass as high as his head while standing up in his wagon- meaning the roots would run at least so deep.  Mr. KEE was then able to confirm by his own first hand account, that Iowa soils do still indeed run quite deep- at least 9ft without hitting a hardpan.  Because of this great soil and climate, Iowa land has a steep price- prime land can be $10, 000 or more, with most acreage ranging from $6, 000-$$7, 500.  By comparison, Delaware prime acreage tends to be around $6, 000 per acre.

A large part of Iowa’s acreage is used to grow corn an soy beans.  But while a large portion of those crops will become animal feed- 40% of the corn produced will go to hogs and cows- an equally large portion will become biofuel.  Along with meat production in Iowa, tractors, animal genetics, and seed are major components, but ethanol is definitely a larger part of the agriculture industry.

After September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center attack, Iowa corn began being used for 15% of the gas blends used today, in order to decrease the nations dependence on oil.  These events lead to the passing of the 2006 Ethanol Law supporting its production and use.  Mr. KEE and Prof. ISAACS elaborated that while ethanol is not quite as efficient as gasoline alone, it combusts well and stretches oil.  It also has the tendency to gum up engines and eat fuel lines, which lead to the creation of additives to make the biofuel work more efficiently and reduce harmful emissions.  Another biofuel, soy diesel, smells like popcorn and enhances lubrication, but while it canlower carbon footprints and has less btus per gallon than gasoline, it is only really available for alternative markets.  Soy diesel is common in the MidWest, but must be shipped for use here in the East at a higher cost per gallon.  Iowa alone is responsible for 25% of the nations exports in ethanol.

Iowa is also home to some pioneers in agriculture. An Iowa company Stine seed, created 40-50years ago, generates 63% of soybean genetics in North & South America.  A man named Harry STINE, who became the richest man in Iowa at one time, created the company.  Another successful man, Norman E. BORLAUG, father of the Green Revolution in the 1960s and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and World Feed Prize in the 1970s, became a plant pathologist and breeder who came up with high-yield crop variations.  These innovators were able to help countries like India and Bangladesh become more self-sufficient as well.  The nations government of the time as well as foreign governments over seas acknowledged these accomplishments.  Mr. KEE showed us a PowerPoint slide of the Premier of Russia visiting an Illinois field in the ’50s of ’60s to learn more about agricultural production at a time when the Soviet Union needed to increase their food production for their citizens.  This government support for its farmers is contrasted by a modern example brought up by classmate, where the current President- whose administration is responsible for aiding farmers as well as securing and reassuring international trade partners- has lessoned the amount of ethanol required in gasoline, which by extension, lessons the demand for corn used to produce it.

Mr. KEE then switched the discussion to the highest-ranking agricultural producer California, whose controversial agricultural legislations revolve mainly around water usage and water rights.

California agriculture is mainly conducted on a prehistoric lakebed and in fertile desert regions that are supplied water via aqueduct and irrigation.  A key location among these zones in the Sierra Madras Valley, facing out towards the Pacific ocean it is surrounded by mountains on three sides.  The snowfall in theses mountains is gathered each winter to re-fill the states reservoirs and supply the extensive irrigation system that consists mainly of two large aqueducts, one state funded and the other federally funded, that are 30ft. deep, 60ft. wide and run for 300 miles.

The usage of this water goes primarily to the farmers for their fields, after which it flows to Hollywood and Los Angeles for drinking water.  In addition to this water, some farmers have water rights for the water under their property- some do not.  Because of the Homestead Act and other laws, some farmers pay the rates they would have paid over 100 years ago, while their neighbors rates may be much more exorbitant- the difference between $10/gal and $200/gal.  The drama surrounding farmers and their properties has been well-documented in books and movies like, ‘East of Eden’ and, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.  With only 4-10in. of rain per year, the snow harvest is integral to the success of each years crop.  Because of the arid climate, diseases and fungi find little success in California.

California grows many varied crops, including lettuce, tomatoes, and enough almonds to cover the state of Delaware!  With so many crops to harvest, California has adopted a reliable way to ensure their product makes it to market.  In the 1960s a Mexican man names Cesar CHAVEZ, a WW2 U.S. Navy veteran began the United Farm Workers Union– if a worker works over 10 hours, they must be paid time and a half.  To avoid the extra expense, farmers will often simply hire more workers.  The rules for paying workers vary from state to state, however.  Another classmate asked if Delaware farmers were exempt from paying minimum wage.  Mr. KEE explained that most workers will not bother to show up if the pay is less than minimum wage, so the market supersedes the written law- farmers can’t afford to be stingy!  Farmers will also work with the government H2A program, which works with people from Haiti & Jamaica to guarantee seasonal labor for farmers.  This labor guarantee helps generate a larger gross domestic product.

Another California product, tomatoes, have been broadly cultivated and marketed across the U.S..- 95% of tomato products in the U.S. come from the state.  Mr. KEE displayed some of the spoils from the aforementioned shopping trip- along with a small package of Iowa bacon were several cans of tomato products, including stewed tomatoes.  A machine harvesting process was created to harvest tomatoes regardless of the weather; with equipment that can travel over the relatively dry California soil to handle special varieties of tomatoes with thicker skin and more uniform shapes to handle the rigor of the mechanized process- this machine would be unreliable driving on the often muddy soils in Delaware.  This invention coincided with the termination of the Bracero Program in 1964- the program allowed Mexican workers to come in to harvest crops during wartime.

Another mechanical harvesting process Mr. KEE encouraged us to look into was almond harvesting, which involves a machine violently shaking almonds from a tree and then raking and vacuuming them up from the ground.

Mr. KEE concluded his talk by mentioning the Port of Wilmington (Delaware)- purported the second largest port following Antwerp, where Chilean fruit and bananas are received.  Mr. KEE lamented about having always wanted to take students to see to port, even though he is now retired, offering up the experience as something for Prof. ISAACS to consider.

Mr. KEE gave the two books to the most vocal students in the class and packed up what I assume was a weeks-worth of breakfast before saying goodbye.






Iowa and California Agricultural Giants Ed Kee Guest Lecture

Hearing Ed Kee come and Lecture again was a great opportunity for learning. He knows so much and I found it kinda funny that he brought bacon and gave it someone. But, it did drive a major point across Iowas pork industry travels all around. I always just assumed that down in the southern areas of the country is where the pigs would be. Ed Kee set it straight pork comes from Iowa. I also never assumed that Iowa was as impactful as it was in the agricultural industry. But, It is in almost the perfect area and they sure are taking full advantage of it as they grow 13% of the United States corn all by themselves. I also would have never thought that 9/11 would have really made a difference in the agricultural field at all. But, I think that this change was a good one as it helped kinda buffer fossil fuels to not be 100% in all fuels.

Building a Sustainable Agriculture

On Tuesday November 13th 2018 I attended the “Building a Sustainable Agriculture” speaker series. This speaker series was held on south campus in the Star Health Sciences complex. the guest speakers that spoke at this session included Bill Northey and Bill Couser. Bill Northey has a long history with agriculture, Bill was the secretary of Agriculture for the state of Iowa. He was also the president of the National Corn Growers Association. Today he is the Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for farm production and conservation. Bill Couser an Iowa farmer who tills thousands and thousands acres of land, raises beef cattle, and is a leader in adopting conservation practices that mitigate nutrient loading in streams and other waterways in Iowa. I thoroughly enjoyed this speaker session. I learned many interesting things about current agriculture methods used by farmers today. I also learned how far the agriculture industry has come in the United States. I also enjoyed the free Ice cream that was given out after the session.

Iowa and California: Agricultural Giants with Guest Speaker Ed kee

On September 26th 2018 Ed Kee joined the AGRI130 class to discuss agriculture in Iowa and California. According to Ed “Iowa is an agricultural force in the United States and the World.” He then proceeded to tell us some very interesting facts about Iowa to support his statement. For example, 85% of Iowa’s land mass is for Agriculture. Compare this to the state of Delaware which only has 41% of land mass used for farming. Iowa is only ranked behind California in cash farm receipts and agricultural exports. Almost all (92%) of Iowa’s cash farm income comes from beef, corn, and soybeans. Although Iowa is behind California in cash farm receipts and agricultural exports, Iowa is number one in corn and soybean production. Iowa harvests an average of 13.1 million acres of corn a year and 553.7 bushels of soybeans a year. California is also first in milk and cheese, grapes, tomatoes, and hay, to name a few. Ed went on to describe how the natural environment and climate/weather plays a big role in the success of each of these agricultural giants. Ed gave a fascinating discussion on agricultural industries that may not be as well known to the students at the University of Delaware.

Iowa and California – Agriculture Giants


85% of Iowa’s land mass is used for agriculture! There are 87,500 farmers in Iowa that till 30.5 million acres a year. Compared to Delaware farmers where they till only 490,000 acres. 92% of Iowa’s cash farm income comes from corn, soybean, pork and beef production. Iowa is ranked first in corn, soybean, pork and egg production. For example, Iowa farmers harvest 13.1 million acres of corn, with a state average of 203 bushels per acre.

What makes Iowa so optimal for agriculture?

Iowa has very fertile soil with a high cation exchange capacity of 10-15. Iowa gets 24 to 36 inches of rain a year which is good because Iowa’s soil moisture capacity is also key to its fertility. The soil’s ability to retain the rain eliminates the need for an irrigation system, thus making production costs lower.


California is number one in agriculture sales, with an annual $47 billion dollars. California ranks first in nine different commodities that include- milk/cream, almonds, grapes, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, flowers/foliage, walnuts, and hay. California has 77,500 farms with over 25 million acres. An average farm size is 329 acres but some range to 50,000 acres. California is ranked the 10th largest general economy in the world. This means California generates a larger gross domestic product than countries such as Mexico and Canada.

How does California succeed?

Water and labor. Water is what California agriculture is all about. Water in California is very limited, their water source is from the snow caps of the mountains that flow through aqueducts and run through a filter which then is distributed throughout California. Water and the ideal low humidity in California makes it perfect to grow more fruit and vegetables that everyone eats on a daily basis. Also, 95% of our tomato products come from California. This volume of production is ideal because 26% of its production is exported.

Insight from Mr. ED KEE

Ed Kee Second Lecture

In his second guest lecture Mr. Ed Kee spoke about Iowa and California, the two states that are the leaders of agriculture production and value.  Each of these states have different challenges that they must meet in order to be able to produce their products. California has great difficulty getting the water that they need in order to be able to sustain their crops.  Iowa has an easier time as the soil and climate is perfect for the crops that they produce. Iowa is the leader in the production of pork, eggs, corn, and soybeans. California is the leading producer of many products, such as milk, tomatoes, and grapes.  It was very surprising to me that California is a leading agricultural producer, especially with their water problems. I did not know that they were such a big portion of crop production, especially with the tomato industry, where they produce 95 percent of our tomatoes.  People usually do not think about a leader in agricultural production when they think of California.

California and Iowa Agriculture by Ed Kee

I found Ed Kee’s second lecture to be very informative. I had no idea the magnitude of exports that Iowa and California produce annually. I thought this lecture provided a great overview of each state’s individual Ag industry and helped put into perspective the local industry here in Delaware. It reminded me how interconnected we are in the world, not just across the country. Something surprising I learned was how the tragic event of 9/11 influenced corn production for ethanol. I was just a toddler then, and seeing how quickly the agriculture industry responded to a sudden problem is very interesting. Also, I found it interesting to learn about Stine seeds and the work with soybeans. Soy is one of the main sources of protein that I consume as a vegetarian, so knowing more about the history of the seeds was something I enjoyed. I think the biggest takeaway message from both of Ed Kee’s lectures is just how important the Ag sector is to our country, and the world. It’s somehow connected to everything.

Iowa and California with Ed Kee

For our second lecture, Ed Kee discussed the agriculture industry in Iowa and California. Before this class I didn’t know much about agriculture. All I knew was that California and parts of the Midwest grew a lot of crops. I found it interesting to learn about the soil in Iowa. Ed Kee said that Iowa gets around 24-36 inches of a year. Also it has a nice climate throughout the year. Ed Kee also discussed the importance of the Port of Wilmington in Delaware. In the U.S., It is the number one seaport for imported bananas. One reason is because Delaware is within eight hours of one third of the U.S. population. With railroads and highways, such as I-95, it is easier to get products to many different parts of the country. The port creates 5,900 jobs and creates an annual business revenue of  $436 million. I enjoyed learning about the importance of Iowa’s and California’s agriculture industry.

Big Ag in Big States, Ed Kee talks about ag in California and Iowa

Ed Kee came back to talk to us about agriculture in Iowa and California. Did you know California and Iowa are the most valuable states in agriculture? Just the state of California its self has one of the top economies in the world. California and Iowa are different in many ways. Iowa, we learned, has some of the best growing conditions in the world. Iowa has very rich soils and almost perfect climate. The soil called “loess” has been blown into Iowa and is light and fluffy. It’s made from wind erosion of silt and clay making very small particles. The great soil and climate means farmers don’t need to irrigate which means crop production is cheaper.

California grows vegetables and lots of them. 95% of U.S.A. tomatoes were grown in California. When you think of California you probably think of the beaches or the desert, you aren’t thinking of rain. Water management is a big part of California agriculture. Because California is so dry they’ve had to build aqua duct bring water from the north part of the state south. Even with water problems California ranks first in milk & cream, almonds, grapes, lettuce, and strawberries just to name a few.

Ed Kee on Iowa and California Agriculture

In order to provide a more comprehensive view on American agriculture, Ed Kee returned to our class to speak on the agriculture industries of Iowa and California. These two states are giants of the industry, as they rank in the top 2 in agricultural exports of the United States.

Iowan agriculture is primarily based on corn, soybeans, pork, and beef production. The fertile loess soils, moderate temperatures, and sufficient rainfall makes Iowa the ideal location for many types of crop production. Iowa continues to be at the forefront of global agriculture. They engage in a variety of innovative industries, such as ethanol production.

California is also a leader in global agriculture, however they operate in different enterprises. Fruit, vegetable, nuts, dairy, and hay production is very active in California. However unlike Iowa, California has to combat the challenges caused by the climate. To overcome drought, they have developed an impressive network of aqueducts to provide all agricultural lands with irrigation water.

By gaining expertise on agriculture across the nation, we can become a much more informed agvocate for agriculture as a whole.

ED KEE~ Second Guest Lecture

Ed Kee gave a guest lecture on how Iowa and California are Agricultural Giants. Mr, Kee explained how Iowa is an ” Agricultural force” in the U.S. and 85% of Iowas land mass is used for agriculture. There are 87,500 farmers in Iowa till 30.5 million acres, Delaware farmers till 490,000 acres. Iowa also is ranked first in corn, soybean, pork and egg production. Iowa has very fertile soil, they also get 24 to 36 inches of rain a year.

Mr. Kee also had talked about how California ranks first in nine different commodities these in which include; milk, almonds, grapes, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, flowers, walnuts and hay. There are 77,500 farms in California with over 25.5 million acres. California is also ranked the 10th largest general economy in the world. California also grows more fruit and vegetables because of low humidity. Also 95% of our tomato products come from California. Water in California is very limited, there water source is from the snow caps of the mountains that flow through aqueducts and run through a filter which then is distributed through out California.

I would like to thank Mr. Kee for yet another great lecture.

Ed Kee’s Second Guest Lecture

Listening to former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee last Wednesday Sept. 26, I realized that the United States has by far one of the most diverse agriculture industries in the world. This diversity is due to our various climates and soils from coast to coast that allows farmers to grow the crop that will best grow on their farm. As for California and Iowa they have excelled in finding what best grows in their state allowing these two states to hold the top two positions in the U.S. agriculture industry. Iowa is a state that really catches my attention because they grow many commodities that we grow here on the delmarva but they achieve unthinkable yields. Kee taught us that because of their high yields Iowa leads the country in both corn and soybean production, which is an astonishing accomplishment if you ask me. But then I realize that they have a huge advantage compared to little Delaware because they have 30.5 million acres in farmland compared to 450,000 acres here. Then when I look at California the top agriculture state I’m just amazed how they cope with only 10 inches of rain a year by using aqueducts that bring water to their crops. California also amazes me by ranking number 1 in 9 different commodities in the U.S. and being the 10th largest general economy in the world! That means out of all the countries in the world just one state has enough economic activity to rank 10th, it just takes me by surprise. Overall I could talk about these two states for days because the information that Ed Keeps taught me was very interesting.

Ed Kee – Iowa & California Agriculture

Ed Kee guest lectured in class on agriculture in Iowa and California. It was really cool to learn about how different states can be so productive in agriculture, but have many different variables to deal with then what we have here. It was particularly surprising to see how much of a problem water is in California. You can tell that their agriculture system is centered around these aqueducts, because if they aren’t then producing in California is very hard. I had no idea that California is responsible for growing nearly all the tomatoes used for processing. California has a very diverse agriculture environment. It was also was interesting to learn how fertile Iowa’s soil is, and how it gives them a natural advantage in producing. I learned the Iowa only gets 24-36 inches of rain a year, but due to the  water holding capacity of the soil this amount of rain is not really an issue for farmers. With these, and many other natural advantages, I learned how productive Iowa is in agriculture. Ed mentioned that Iowa is responsible for 13% of the US corn acreage as well as 12% of the US soybean acreage. Overall, I learned a lot about California and Iowa’s agriculture industry. It was really interesting to see how much it differs from what we deal with on the West Coast.

Iowa and California: Agriculture Giants

Ed Kees gave an interactive and entertaining lecture on Wednesday 9/26 as he discussed Iowa and California agriculture.  It was a super informative lecture for me, as I was previously very unaware of the agriculture in both of these states, and just how largely they impact the economy.  The idea that 85% of Iowa’s land mass is dedicated to agriculture is mind-blowing, and I was also surprised to learn that they are the number one producer in corn, pork and eggs.  The fact that Iowa alone produced 12.5 billion eggs last year is hard to wrap my head around. Iowa is a sweet spot for agriculture due to its rich soils and plentiful rainfall. California, on the other hand, has less than ideal rainfall, but makes up for it in its lack of humidity, which makes growing vegetables an easy task and it greatly reduces the risk for disease.  In fact, California ranks number one for the production of multiple vegetables, fruits and nuts. For being a state that only receives about 10 inches of rain per year, it’s amazing to see how productive they really are. California is somewhere around the tenth largest general economy in the world; that in itself is extremely respectable. The adaptations farmers have come up with in order to produce so much are amazing, especially the enormous aqueducts that run through the fields in order to get water to their crops.  Our country depends heavily on the agricultural industries of Iowa and California, and it was interesting to hear all of the incredible facts about both.

Ed Kee’s Guest Lecture on Iowa and California Agriculture

Mr. Kee gave a very insightful guest lecture on Iowa and California agriculture, which are the two biggest agricultural states in the U.S. Iowa is number one for corn, soybean, pork, and egg production. 85% of Iowa’s landmass is used for agriculture, about 30.5 million acres, with 87,500 farmers! 92% of Iowa’s cash farm income comes from corn, soybeans, pork, and beef. Iowa grows about 13 million acres of corn, about 2.5 billion bushels.Iowa grows about 9.8 million acres of soybeans, about 553,7 million bushels.  They produce 968 million dozen of eggs, and raise 20.9 million hogs, 32% of the nations pork production.  The owner of Stine Seeds is located in Iowa, which is the largest family owned seed company. Harry Stine developed the soybean genetics that accounts for 63% of seed in North and South America. Iowa is also recognized for its hand in ethanol production and the 15%  that is now incorporated into gasoline. California is the biggest agricultural producer ranking first in Milk & cream, almonds, grapes, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, flowers, walnuts, and hay. California’s biggest problem is water, which they get from snowmelt. Farmers have to grow crops that will at least return the cost of water.  They export 26% of their ag products, valued at about 21 billion. California is the 10th largest general economy in the world. They can produce strawberries 9-10 months out of the year, where most states have a very short growing period. 95% of processed tomato products come from California, where they have mixed breeds to create a crop that can be mechanically harvested. It is unbelievable how much knowledge Mr. Kee possess about agriculture and how much he has impacted Delaware agriculture during his time as the vegetable extension agent and as Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture.