Agriculture wasn’t spared from the economic recession, but it fared better than most other industries.

In fact, economists say several successful years raising crops helped financially insulate the state unlike other parts of the country. As Iowa starts to emerge from the economic downturn, officials believe farmers and ag-related industries will help lead the way.

“Agriculture has been a strong sector, which helped soften the blow. We’ve had bumper crops and revenue,” said Dan Otto, an Iowa State University economist.

According to government statistics, the nation’s farmers made a record $87 billion in 2008. Though last year’s earnings slipped about $8 billion below the 10-year average of $64.5 billion due to livestock and dairy losses, America’s farmers have enjoyed their top five earnings years since 2003.

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