Kansas farmers who are facing some hard decisions due to another down year for farm income and a pessimistic outlook for 2017 are getting help from agricultural experts at Kansas State University.
The school will hold a series of eight workshops across the state starting next week called the "Top 10 Considerations to Navigate a Struggling Farm Economy" as a way to help producers handle the downturn. Farm operating loans for the past growing season typically come due Jan. 1, and agricultural experts say many growers can't make the payments.
"In some respects, the goal of this conference is to help producers avoid bankruptcy, to make adjustments in their operations while they still can," Kansas State Department of Agriculture Economics head Allen Featherstone said.
The university also expanded its farm analyst program to provide one-on-one assistance to farmers dealing with financial challenges.
Roughly 200 Kansas families are now working with analysts in the program, up 30 percent from normal years, program director Duane Hund said.
Most farmers will weather this downturn, but Featherstone anticipates an uptick in foreclosures and bankruptcies next year. Commodity price forecasts for 2017 are not good, and Hund worries that if it is a dry year or if there is an increase in interest rates it could get "pretty ugly and pretty challenging" for a lot of producers who have debt.
A national survey to be released later this month will show 60 percent of surveyed bankers and other farm credit system lenders indicating they are seeing more farmers falling behind on their payments, Featherstone said.
Farm analysts can critically look at operations to see what resources can best help them, and suggest options such as selling some land in order to reduce debt and save the farm itself.
"This can be a decision that can make or break you, the sooner you can make a decision the better," Hund said.
The Kansas Farm Management Association has reported that the average net farm income of families it works with fell to $4,568 in 2015. That's about 95 percent less than 2014's $128,731 average and down from $120,000 for the five-year average.
Farm income figures for 2016 won't be released until next year, but they are also expected to be dismal.
Many farm families have been living on credit cards or using farm lines of credit to pay household bills and buy groceries.
"They rob Peter to pay Paul to get by and that only works a year or two," Hund said. "And then more serious decisions will have to be made."
Kansas State University farm workshops: http://bit.ly/2h0aFM6