Linda H. Smith
, Top Producer Executive Editor
Net farm income fell $33.2 billion in 2009 to $9 billion below the previous 10-year average, USDA reports. Next year, margins will still be squeezed, says Purdue University ag economist Bruce Erickson. "For the second year in a row, margins will be less than they were in 2007 and 2008,” he says. (Read Purdue's Crop Cost & Return Guide
A less obvious expense is also likely to slam farm businesses: Health insurance premiums at small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) have increased more than 80% and the cost for families has increased 93% in the past decade, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These expenses are likely to rise further in 2010.
Moves to contain premium costs include higher deductibles, higher co-pays and a larger share of premiums paid by workers—all of which would be of little help to family businesses such as farms, where expense hits home whether it is paid by the business or the worker.