After reaching its highest level since 2013, U.S. net farm income would tumble by one-fifth next year, despite continued high crop and livestock revenue, said the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute on Tuesday. "Under current policies, farm income could drop again in 2022, as government payments decline and production expenses continue to rise," the think tank said.
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.
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.
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.
Ag exports, a key part of U.S. farm revenue, are expected to generate 36 cents of every $1 in cash income this year, thanks to high commodity prices as the world recovers its appetite and the pandemic recedes. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the country ought to diversify its sales to a broader range of markets.
A decade ago, farmers received 17.6 cents of each $1 spent on food by Americans. Their share now is barely above 14 cents while processors, retailers and others in the food chain take a larger share, according to USDA economists, who have tracked the farmer/marketer relationship for a quarter century.
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)
Despite its fearsome reputation, only a comparative handful of farm households are obliged to file a federal estate-tax return and most of them will not pay the government any money, said USDA economists. Large tax exemptions — $11.58 million per person in 2020 — shield most estates from tax liability.
Although China has yet to fulfill its "phase one" promises of mammoth purchases of U.S. farm exports, "the fact is, they need us," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilscak during a digital news conference. He added that, with China back in the U.S. market, commodity prices are high enough that, "I'm not sure there's necessarily a need for any trade-related assistance [to farmers] at this point."