Minnesota farmers are considering ways to prevent the closure of small dairies during a sustained slump in milk prices.Roughly 80 farmers recently gathered in Greenwald to voice concerns about the loss of small dairies, which face higher milk production costs than mega-dairies, the Star Tribune reported.Minnesota has seen more than 1,100 dairy farmers leave the industry in the past six years. Many have reached a breaking point, as the median income at a dairy farm in the state dropped from about $43,000 in 2017 to less than $15,000 last year.Levins outlined a proposal to address the "operating cost imbalance" between small and large dairies. The legislation hasn't been written, but it would make emergency federal payments to farmers based on production costs.
We hate to sound like the little boy who cried wolf, but for US farmers there really is a wolf out there and that wolf is called low prices. While the pain is not evenly spread across the nation and across farm types, for those involved it is serious. To get a picture of what is happening to farm income, we will look at 3 sources of information: USDA’s “US farm sector financial indicators, 2012-19F”, a University of Minnesota press release “Minnesota farm income hits historic low: Farmers struggled [with] low prices and low profitability in 2018”, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ “Chapter 12 bankruptcies on the rise in the Ninth District: Low crop and livestock prices also bleeding through to ag bank loans.The USDA’s farm sector financial indicators spread sheet (March 6, 2019) shows the 2018 forecast of net farm income (2018F) at $63.1 billion, down $12.0 billion from the previous year. This is the second lowest level of net farm income since its $123.4 billion peak in 2013, a decline of 48.9 percent.In 2013 Federal Government direct farm payments were $9.8 billion or 10.6 percent of net farm income. The forecast for 2018 has farm payments at $13.8 billion or 21.8 percent of net farm income. Crop insurance payments to farmers for losses are included in net farm income while crop insurance subsidies are not. Farm equity of $2.621 trillion in 2018F is $161.1 billion higher than it was in 2013 while the debt-to-equity ratio has increased from 12.8 percent (2013) to 15.7 percent (2018F). The 2019F debt-to-equity ratio increases to 16.1 percent.
It’s a fascinating, but uncertain, time in the agricultural markets. Global and US supplies of agricultural products are at or near record levels. At the same time, global demand for agricultural products continues to grow, pressured by both population and income growth. Markets work to distribute the products across the globe, and government policies can definitely shape that distribution. Myriad new trade agreements, trade disputes, and tariffs introduced over the last 15 months are reshaping global agricultural trade flows. Some of that reshaping has been beneficial to US producers, while some of it has been harmful. Trade policy does not exist in a vacuum—while a tariff may be targeted at one specific country, the tariff’s impact can (and often does) spread beyond the borders of the two countries involved, which is true of trade agreements as well. The impacts of the trade agreements are not limited to only those countries within the agreement.
The damage of ASF has already significantly influenced China’s pork imports. After the initial tariff increase on US pork in April 2018 (Li 2018), pork exports to China reduced to a trickle. In December 2018, US exports to China started to pick up with 7,823 metric tons of pork exported by the first week of January 2019. After several weeks of zero exports, trade resumed with 17,215 metric tons exported in the second week of February 2019. The net sales of 23,846 metric tons in the first week of March was the third-largest weekly sale since USDA started publishing weekly country-specific export data. As of the writing of this article, the total commitment (total export+outstanding sales) of pork export to China is at 142,845 metric tons, almost five times the total export to China last year (Figure 3). Given the high tariffs, the Chinese government is likely behind these purchases, either by directly ordering state-owned firms to buy or by waiving tariffs. In this regard, we note that COFCO, a state-owned enterprise, did not pay a duty on imported soybeans destined for the state reserve.
After years of declining prices that are below the full cost of production for a large number of farmers and crops, scattered payments for some crops in a few counties are insufficient to ameliorate the growing financial crisis in farm country. So, what will things look like under the 2018 Farm Bill that begins with the 2019 crop marketing year? An article by Zulauf et. al. raises the question of fairness on the timing of the ARC/PLC election on the certainty farmers have in knowing the final marketing year price. The better they know the price, the easier the choice will be, allowing farmers to choose the program that maximizes their benefits. We looked at ten-year crop projections and though they are useful for comparing the potential impact of various farm programs, they are of little help in providing farmers with guidance in selecting the appropriate supplemental farm payment program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently released 2017 Census of Agriculture data show the amount of land in the largest federal conservation programs has decreased nationwide and in many Midwest and Plains states. But that doesn’t mean farmers are ignoring soil health, nutrient runoff or erosion problems. The census asks about federal conservation and wetlands programs, which Michigan State University researcher Adam Reimer said typically refers to land retirements — taking marginal lands out of production in exchange for money. The largest one, the Conservation Reserve Program, doesn’t allow as many acres now as it did before the 2014 farm bill.“The program actually shrunk in size,” Reimer said. “So (the decrease) reflects a change in congressional priorities more than reflecting any sort of farmer desire to engage in programs.”Looking deeper into the census, Reimer said, shows farmers are using more cover crops and tilling less, both of which have environmental benefits..
While members of the General Assembly debate allowing recreational marijuana in Illinois, the state’s Department of Agriculture is preparing for legalization. The department has asked for $8 million for the costs of regulating the cannabis industry, should lawmakers move ahead with to make drug legal for adults.“We don’t know what the final bill would look like,” said John Sullivan, director of the Department of Agriculture.
The six-week course covered topics across the spectrum of managing a farm. We heard from bankers, farm management educators, Extension experts in a variety of topics, accountants, business professionals, agricultural advocates and many more people. We walked away with the ability to talk to bankers, accountants, agronomists and the public, as well as to better communicate with and support the other people on our farms.
The big fight in the Nebraska Legislature this year is over plans to reduce property taxes, which has the state's farm lobbies pushing lawmakers hard for some relief. Numbers taken from the 2017 Ag Census show Nebraska farmers have more reason to complain about property taxes than farmers in nearby states.Farm income nationally fell between 2012 and 2017, and land values fell in some states during that time. Property taxes nationally for farmers went up $2 billion over that five-year stretch, jumping from $7.4 billion to $9.4 billion. The average property-tax increase nationally was $21.3%. Just one state, Rhode Island, collected less in property tax from farmers and ranchers over that five-year stretch, according to the Census figures.Property taxes paid by farmers are listed among farm production expenses on a major initial data set for the 2017 Ag Census, which USDA released last week.
For five straight months, the Rural Mainstreet Index(RMI) has shown above neutral growth for the rural economy. The monthly survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state Midwest region is at 50.0 for April 2019, which is at growth neutral and down slightly from 52.9 in March. “Our surveys over the last several months indicate the Rural Mainstreet economy is expanding outside of agriculture. However, this month, 43.8% of bank CEOs indicated that the recent floods were having a negative impact on their local economy,” says Ernie Goss, who chairs Creighton’s Heider College of Business and leads the RMI. Around 22% of bankers expect an increase in farm loan defaults stemming from recent floods, while 78% expect floods to have little or no impact on farm loan defaults. Overall, crop farmers seem to have been hit the hardest with flooding damage. Of bankers reporting farm flood damage, around 50% indicated grain farmers incurred the greatest economic damage, while 40% reported livestock producers sustained the greatest flood damage. The remaining 10% said the greatest flood damage was received by farm residences.