Farming in America is a complex undertaking. There exists great diversity in the size, structure and organization of farms. All farming operations are integral to the U.S. economy and the supply of reliable food sources. To understand the agricultural sector better and maintain good agricultural policies, data collection methods and measurement tools need to keep up with the current realities of farming.
The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), on August 30, forecasted U.S. net farm income for 2018 to decline 13% from last year, from $75.5 billion in 2017 to $65.7 billion in 2018 (USDA 2018). If realized, U.S. net farm income would decrease to levels witnessed in 2016 (Figure 1). This decline is even larger when we consider inflation-adjusted values, showing a 14.8% decrease in real U.S. net farm income. The USDA also made a similar downward forecast for U.S. net cash income. Net cash income is projected to drop 12% in 2018, from $104 billion in 2017 to $91.5 billion in 2018. These declines in farm income reverse the small rebound in income in 2017 to what would be the second lowest values in inflation-adjusted terms since 2002.
Even amid lagging profits from corn and soybeans, Ohio farmers have a reason to be somewhat optimistic, according to Ani Katchova, an associate professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at The Ohio State University. Katchova spoke at the Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference on November 9, 2017, an annual event organized by AEDE at Ohio State, presenting research with post docs Lawson Connor, Robert Dinterman, and Ana Claudia Sant’Anna in the Farm Income Enhancement Program.
The agricultural economy is currently experiencing a downturn, with lower farm incomes, flattening land values and cash rents, and increased levels of financial stress, according to Ohio State University agricultural economists speaking at the Farm Science Review Ask the Expert sessions. The outlook for the agricultural economy though is not as negative as we are not experiencing the conditions in the 80s when grain prices dropped, debt soared, and numerous farms went bankrupt.
While cropland values in Ohio increased in each of the past three years, several factors, including continued low interest rates, low debt-to-asset ratios and lower profit margins, are likely going to make for a relatively flat land market in 2015, recently said Barry Ward an AEDE economist.
To help provide guidance and understanding of the financial and legal issues surrounding farmland leasing, Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural and Resource Law program and Production Business Management program, which is overseen by AEDE's Barry Ward, will discuss the topic during a workshop to be held in four sites around the state.
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat, and in some cases declined depending on the land class, in 2014, Barry Ward, an AEDE economist and production business management leader for Ohio State University Extension recently said.
Thanks to increased global grain production and lower domestic demand for grain for ethanol, crop producers will find 2014 to be tougher than the past few years and should prepare now for lower prices, AEDE agricultural economist Matt Roberts recently noted at a policy briefing.
With U.S. corn production forecast at a record 14 billion bushels, growers can expect to see futures prices stay above $4 per bushel for the time being, says AEDE's Matt Roberts. This record production is an increase of 1 percent from the projected 13.843 billion bushels per acre the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast in its September report.