In 2008 there were 75,900 farms in Illinois, 56 percent of which had annual sales of more than $10,000. Farmland occupied 10.8 million hectares (26.7 million acres), of which 89 percent was cropland. The rest was mostly pastureland. The sale of crops accounts for 79 percent of the total income from the sale of farm products. Livestock and livestock products account for the remainder.
The two leading crops raised in the state, in terms of quantity and value, are corn and soybeans. In 1997 Illinois ranked as the second leading state in the production of both corn and soybeans, behind only Iowa. Corn is grown throughout the state and occupies two-fifths of all cropland. Land planted in soybeans accounts for another two-fifths, but soybeans generated 20 percent less income for farmers than corn in 1997. Wheat, greenhouse and nursery products, and a variety of vegetables are also raised.
Illinois ranks fourth in raising hogs, behind Iowa, North Carolina, and Minnesota. A large number of beef and dairy cattle are also raised in Illinois. Most of the hogs are born and raised in the state, but many of the cattle are shipped to Illinois for fattening from ranches in Western states. Illinois also produces significant quantities of milk and cream and of eggs, mostly for the state’s large urban markets.
The most prosperous farms are located in northern and central Illinois. The northern two-thirds of the state lies in the Corn Belt. Typical Corn Belt farming, with its emphasis on fattening cattle and hogs on corn and other crops, is most highly developed in the rolling lands of west central Illinois. Farmers of the flatter lands of the Grand Prairie, in east central Illinois, concentrate more on the large-scale production for sales of field crops, especially corn and soybeans.
Farms on the prairie are usually larger than the average for the state. In northwestern Illinois, where the hilly land is more suited to cattle grazing than to crop growing, dairying is a major source of income, with an emphasis on the production of butter, cheese, and condensed milk. Farm yields are generally lower in the southern part of the state, especially in the hill country of the Ozark and Interior Low plateaus, where poor soils and severe soil erosion hamper agricultural productivity. In contrast with the specialized farming in northern Illinois, general farming is widespread in the southern part of the state. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are the leading crops. In general, soybeans and corn are the major cash crops. Farm incomes throughout southern Illinois are generally lower than those in other areas. Some farmers supplement their meager income from cash crops by producing milk, eggs, and poultry for nearby urban areas. Others work part-time in the coal-mining industry or engage in other off-the-farm activities. Fruit crops, especially peaches, apples, and strawberries, are raised in the southern hill lands. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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