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Better Off 4 Years Later? A Mixed Bag Of Answers

Small business, she says, is self-reliant. "The buck stops with me," she says. "We don't have anybody else to look to for help. I wouldn't sit back and wait for somebody to bail me out. I'm not counting on Washington to bring me anything. I do it myself."

___

THE FARMER

In the high-risk, high-reward world of farming, Randy Dreher doesn't measure his finances in four-year election cycles.

His fortunes revolve around crop prices, exports, and of course, the caprices of nature.

Despite a blistering drought this year, the fifth-generation Iowa farmer was left pretty much unscathed, the high crop prices offsetting his reduced crop. These are golden times in America's heartland, and as evidence, Dreher points to a record land sale in Audubon County, where he farms 200 acres.

Farm land recently was sold for a whopping $11,900 an acre. He says the buyer was a 75-year-old farmer.

"When you set a county record, there's got to be a lot of optimism," says Dreher, who grows corn and beans and raises pigs and cows on the same plot of land in west-central Iowa where his great-great grandfather settled more than 100 years ago.

Farm land values have skyrocketed across Iowa. In Dreher's county, for instance, in just a two-year span ending in 2011, an acre jumped from $4,537 to $7,240 â¿¿ and the climb isn't over, according to Michael Duffy, an Iowa State University economist.

Dreher says agriculture is enjoying its best days since he was born in 1980.

"If you can't make it in farming now, you'll never make it in farming," he says. "If you can't make money, find something else to do."

And yet, he sees clouds in the larger economic picture.

"I think about the debt and Social Security and Medicare. Where all those dollars are going to come from is very alarming to me." Dreher says. "It's like going to the bank every day, knowing you're overextended and have to pay it back someday. ... We can't borrow ourselves into oblivion."

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