The USDA said Thursday it expects farm income for 2022 to rise 5.2 percent, to $147.7 billion, from a year earlier, with cash receipts for agricultural commodities at a record level. But higher production expenses and lower government Covid-19 payments are presenting some headwinds.
Farmers faced higher expenses and earned less money from their crops and livestock than initially expected in 2020, due to market disruptions caused by the pandemic, said a USDA Covid-19 working paper. By many standards, such as debt-to-asset ratio, the financial strength of the sector softened in 2020, despite $45.7 billion in federal subsidies — the largest ever — said USDA economists.
Last spring, the Biden administration encouraged U.S. farmers to grow more wheat in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said it would make crop insurance more widely available for growers who wanted to team winter wheat with soybeans. Now there’s another inducement: Double-crop wheat and soybeans would be more profitable in 2023 than standalone corn or soybeans, say university economists.
High commodity prices are the fueling a strong farm economy in the Midwest and Plains this summer, but agricultural lenders worry that higher prices for seeds, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs will put the brakes on farm income in the near term. "Lenders reported growing concerns about 2023," said the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, one of four regional Feds to survey bankers every three months about farm finances.
Persistently strong commodity prices in the opening months of the year fueled a sharp growth in farmland values throughout the Midwest and Plains, said a Federal Reserve report on Thursday.
Fueled by strong farm income and low interest rates, farmland values soared more than 20 percent in the central Plains during 2021, according to a quarterly survey of ag bankers by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. A majority of the lenders said they expected values to increase this year, but an equally large number "also indicated that farmland values were currently over-valued, suggesting there may still be future risks of declines," said the regional Fed.
After reaching an eight-year high thanks to massive pandemic payments in 2021, net farm income — USDA's gauge of profitability — is expected to fall precipitously this year. The USDA will make its first forecast of farm income on Friday.
The strong agricultural economy, fueled by high commodity prices, has reduced farmers' reliance on farm lenders, despite concerns about rising input costs, according to a Federal Reserve survey of ag bankers. "Higher costs are likely to put upward pressure on demand for credit, but strong farm income and working capital could also supplement financing for some borrowers," said the Kansas City Fed on Thursday.
Supply-chain disruptions "haunt the nation's agricultural sector," with four of every 10 large-scale farmers and ranchers reporting difficulties in buying inputs ranging from fertilizer to farm equipment parts, according to a Purdue University survey released on Tuesday. Operators also increasingly expect to pay dearly for the goods.
The red-hot U.S. recovery from the pandemic, with the fastest economic growth rate since 1984, will moderate to a still-strong 3.5 percent in 2022, said the USDA in its first look at the agricultural economy in the new year. Farm-gate prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton, the four most widely planted crops, were projected to decline as production, suppressed by the pandemic, catches up with demand.
Higher prices for corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, and broiler chickens — top U.S. ag products — will boost net farm income to $113 billion this year, the highest since 2013, estimated the Agriculture Department on Thursday. Income would be 26 percent higher than the 10-year average, reflecting the economy-wide recovery from the pandemic.
Propelled by the global economic recovery from the pandemic, U.S. farm exports will set back-to-back sales records this fiscal year and in the new year beginning on Oct. 1, the government forecast on Thursday. China would account for $1 of every $5 in exports during the two-year span, with annual purchases running more than $10 billion above its previous record, set in 2014.
Half of the farmers in the biggest corn, soybean, and wheat states employ precision agriculture in their operations — from GPS guidance of tractors and combines to deploying drones to scout fields or monitor livestock — twice the national average, said a USDA report on computer usage on Wednesday. Far more farms have a cellular internet connection than broadband; 18 percent have no internet access at all.
Fueled by strong commodity prices and continued pandemic assistance, farmland values are skyrocketing, up by 14 percent in the central Midwest and by 10 percent in the central Plains, said the Federal Reserve banks in Chicago and Kansas City on Thursday.
America’s large-scale farmers and ranchers expect rampant inflation and sharply higher costs in the year ahead, said a Purdue University poll on Tuesday. The monthly Ag Economy Barometer said farmer confidence was at its lowest level in a year despite high commodity prices and large federal …
When crop insurance indemnities and unemployment benefits are counted, the government sent $57.7 billion to farm operations and farm households in 2020, while the pandemic sent the U.S. economy into recession, said a working paper by USDA economists. It was the highest estimate yet of federal assistance to farmers last year and the most inclusive.
Farmers in the Midwest and Plains are reaping a cash bonanza that has dramatically improved their finances a year after the pandemic pummeled commodity markets and prompted a record $46 billion in federal payments to agriculture, said three regional Federal Reserve banks on Thursday. (No paywall)
With federal pandemic aid in their hands, farmers and ranchers borrowed far less money than usual from ag bankers during the opening months of this year for equipment, livestock, and operating expenses, according to a Federal Reserve survey of commercial lenders.