Leading agricultural economists are gathering this week to look at the industry in 2017. If attitudes match grain prices, there could be plenty of glum faces.
USDA is hosting its annual ag outlook forum in Washington D.C. Forum attendees take an in depth look at the current economic conditions of the farming and ranch sector.
The ag department has already forecast that U.S. farm income will be down 45 percent from four years ago.
During a house ag committee hearing last week, Robert Johansson, USDA chief economist, said credit remains tight, but farmers remain resilient as they look for ways to cut production costs and remain solvent.
“Approximately 11 percent of crop farms and 10 percent of livestock operations have debt-to-asset ratios of above 40 percent, putting them in the highly or very highly leveraged category,” said Johansson. “Those levels have been trending upward since 2012, but remain below the peak we saw as recently as 2002, which was a low point for farm income.”
“I lived through the 80s,” said Zippy Duvall, president of American Farm Bureau Federation. “I know how bad the 80s were. We’re not there yet. As we move along, if we can’t take regulations off our farmers, if we can’t increase our trade and get our commodities off the shelf and get our commodity prices back, if we can’t make the right moves really quick, really soon we may go through another couple years of depressed prices and that would put us through a tailspin.”
The event will feature former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway.