Farmland values are falling for the fifth year in the Midwest, and one factor in the decline is “muted expectations for farm income” this year, said the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank on Thursday. “The profitability of many corn and soybean farms will almost surely fall from their 2018 levels — possibly by a lot for some.”
Agricultural lenders expect farm income, which weakened in the spring, to continue to decline this summer, although a recent rally in corn, soybean, and wheat prices will act as a stabilizer, said Federal Reserve banks in Kansas City, Minneapolis, and St. Louis on Thursday.
American farmers, having endured the wettest 12 months in well over a hundred years and facing predictions that this could be the soggy new normal for the nation’s midsection, are looking at a variety of ways to speed up their processes next year, according to Bloomberg.
The farm safety net offers many strands of support to farmers swamped by a historically slow planting season, but the strands pull in different directions, says associate professor Bradley Lubben, of the University of Nebraska. "The complexity for producer decision-making is compounded," he said, when potential Trump tariff payments and disaster aid are woven into traditional crop subsidies and crop insurance.
President Trump announced a $16-billion aid package on Thursday to buffer the impact of the trade war on farmers and ranchers this year. Speaking separately to reporters, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said billions of dollars of additional aid may flow in the future.
Higher grain and soybean prices will increase U.S. net farm income modestly this year, said a University of Missouri think tank on Monday. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute projected a $5.5 billion increase in net farm income, a broad measure of profits, compared to 2018, in line with a USDA estimate of a $6.3 billion increase.
The USDA forecast net farm income of $69.4 billion this year. If accurate, the total would be the third year of net income below $70 billion since 2015. “We’re starting to see ... a new average coming out here,” said USDA economist Carrie Litkowski on Wednesday.
After hitting a pothole in 2018, U.S. net farm income will recover this year under the combined effects of financial belt-tightening and rising crop prices, said the USDA on Thursday. It projected net farm income of $77.6 billion in 2019, which would be the highest total since the commodity boom collapsed in 2014.
Persistently low commodity prices are pushing some farmers to the financial edge, said the chairmen of the Senate and House Agriculture committees on Thursday. "We are in a very tough spot," said Senate Ag chairman Pat Roberts. The House Ag chairman, Collin Peterson, said "we are not in crisis yet" but said that continued sour conditions would sap the finances of a growing number of farmers.