Farmers More Optimistic about Current and Future Economic Conditions, Says Purdue Survey

U.S. farmers were more optimistic about both their current situation and expectations for the future according to the latest survey from Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

“The improvement in current sentiment was motivated by producers’ stronger perception of current financial conditions on their farms and could be attributed to producers taking time to estimate their farms’ 2022 income following the completion of the fall harvest,” said James Mintert, Director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

Following a two-month decline and a year of weak sentiment, the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer closed out the year on a more positive note, rallying 24 points in December to a reading of 126. The Current Conditions Index jumped 37 points to a reading of 135, while the Future Expectations Index increased 18 points to a reading of 122. The Ag Economy Barometer is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers’ responses to a telephone survey. This month’s survey was conducted Dec. 5-9.

The Farm Financial Performance Index climbed 18 points to a reading of 109 in December. Notably, this was the only time in 2022 that the index was above 100. The turnaround was driven by a sharp increase in the percentage of producers who expect better performance than last year, which jumped from 23% to 35% of respondents, and is consistent with USDA’s forecast for strong net farm income in 2022.

The Farm Capital Investment Index climbed 9 points this month to 40, the highest reading for the index since February; yet, it remains 9 points lower than a year earlier. Among the nearly three-quarters of respondents who said it was a bad time for large investments, the most commonly cited reason was high prices for farm machinery and new construction (41%), followed by rising interest rates (28%).

Despite the improvement in farmers’ perceptions of their financial situations, both the short- and long-term farmland value indices continued to drift lower in December. The short-term index fell 5 points to 124, while the long-term index declined 4 points to 140. When examined over the course of the last year, it’s clear that sentiment among producers about farmland values has shifted. For example, compared to a year ago, the percentage of respondents who expect to see farmland values decline in the upcoming year increased from 6% to 15%, while the percentage expecting to see values rise declined from 59% to 39%. Among producers who expect farmland values to rise over the next 5 years, just over three-fourths of them said that a combination of nonfarm investor demand and inflation are the main reasons they expect to see values rise.

Looking to the year ahead, the December survey asked producers to compare their expectations for their farm’s financial performance in 2023 to 2022. Producers indicated they expect lower financial performance in 2023 and cited rising costs and narrowing margins as key reasons. Concerns about costs continue to be top of mind for producers. Nearly half (47%) of crop producers said they expect farmland cash rental rates in 2023 to rise above the previous year. Other top concerns for 2023 include higher input costs (45% of respondents), rising interest rates (22% of respondents) and lower crop or livestock prices (13% of respondents).

Read the full Ag Economy Barometer report. The site also offers additional resources – such as past reports, charts and survey methodology – and a form to sign up for monthly barometer email updates and webinars.

Each month, the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture provides a short video analysis of the barometer results. For even more information, check out the Purdue Commercial AgCast podcast. It includes a detailed breakdown of each month’s barometer, in addition to a discussion of recent agricultural news that affects farmers.

Writer: Kami Goodwin, Purdue Agricultural Communications.

Source: James Mintert, Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.