Corn Farmers Coalition

As Growing Corn Gets Sophisticated, So Do Farmers

Bob Bowman (DeWitt, Iowa)

You don’t need an MBA to be a farmer, but it helps.

Bob Bowman works a farm in DeWitt, Iowa (a couple of hours’ drive west of Chicago) with his son, who has an MBA from Iowa State University.

Bob, 58, has a B.S. in economics and agricultural business from Iowa State and has worked on a second degree there in animal science.

Five generations of Bowmans have farmed in Iowa but, obviously, things have changed a great deal in the 36 years Bob has farmed his 2,000 acres. (He grows yellow corn for export to feed animals and seed corn for a seed company, plus soybeans and alfalfa.)

The explosion of technology on the farm is especially important now because, while it’s become more precise and efficient, farming has also morphed into a far more volatile business.

That’s why Bob uses the full panoply of new technology - tilling very little of his fields to hold down erosion and using global positioning systems to keep his combine from veering more than a few inches off the row, saving gas and using fertilizer and pesticide far more accurately and efficiently. It’s accurate to less than inch. All this means more efficient and profitable farming that is also better for the environment.

“Production agriculture is a very challenging, narrow-profit-margin business due to price variability of both the products that we produce and our inputs,” Bob says. “Competition among producers for land results in high land costs domestically. We have competition from other produces around the globe. And expanded regulation of our business, and political influences, increasingly impact us.”

Still, he’s optimistic, thanks in part to all that new technology that at once makes farming more complicated and more profitable.

“Despite all the challenges,” Bob says, “I think farming still holds opportunity for astute businessmen.”

Subscribe | Contact

© Copyright 2011 Corn Farmers Coalition