Farm income and land values surged in the closing months of 2020, lifted by higher commodity prices and large federal payments, according to farm lenders across the Midwest and Plains. With the commodity rally expected to persist, the farm economy was in its best shape in years, said the …
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures of farmers who borrowed money from the USDA and are in financial distress.
The farm economy, battered since 2018 by a trade war and a pandemic, is rallying, though it is too early to declare a return to prosperity, said the president of the largest U.S. farm organization on Thursday, reserving judgment on whether more stopgap federal aid will be needed.
With Americans spending more of their food dollars at the supermarket, the specialty crop sector will continue to adapt to the pandemic and the loss of food-service sales in the new year, said agricultural lender CoBank. "Steep financial losses from the loss of food service contracts will ultimately result in the rationalization of some processing assets and production acreage."
A resurgent U.S. economy will grow at its fastest pace in two decades after this year's coronavirus slowdown, helping to boost commodity prices almost across the board, said the USDA in its first projections for 2021. Growers will harvest a record-large crop of soybeans and the crop will sell for an average $10 a bushel for the first time in seven years, thanks to strong demand.
Government payments have improved the outlook for farm finances, but like the general economy, that outlook remains highly uncertain amid the pandemic, said a Federal Reserve report on Thursday.
The margin for error is shrinking in the farm sector as financial stress, measured by rising debt loads and the erosion of working capital, is rising, said Todd Van Hoose, chief executive of the Farm Credit Council on Wednesday.
The windstorm that blasted across Iowa — "basically a 40 mile-wide tornado," in the words of Gov. Kim Reynolds — wiped out 9 percent of the crop in the nation's No. 1 corn state and obliterated the chances for a record-large corn harvest nationwide, said the USDA. Farmers will see notably higher season-average prices for the smaller, but still ample, crop that remains in the field.
Rural America, and farmers in particular, voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016 but have suffered rather than benefitted for it, said speakers on a "farmers and ranchers roundtable" organized by the Biden-Harris campaign. The forum, held 10 days ahead of the traditional fall campaign kickoff of Labor Day, criticized Trump for using agriculture as a pawn in the Sino-U.S. trade war and labeled him weak on ethanol.(No paywall)
The government's coronavirus relief programs are an important shield for farmers and ranchers battling a sharp drop in income in the central Plains, ag lenders said in a Kansas City Fed survey released on Thursday. A similar survey of ag bankers in the Midwest by the Chicago Fed "revealed the broad financial distress from the Covid-19 pandemic in rural areas."