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Farm Income Projected Up Slightly, Tamping Down Fears Of Rural Economic Decline

Luke Runyon/File Photo
Harvest Public Media
Low grain prices have cause farm incomes to drop across the country, but new U.S. Department of Agriculture projections show some stabilization in 2017.

After years of declining income on America’s farms and ranches, the agricultural sector might have finally hit the floor.

The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture expect farmers to bring in more money this year than initially projected. Crop and livestock producers could net $63.4 billion in 2017. That would be an increase of nearly $1 billion from 2016, and would be the first time farmers see a rise in net farm income year-to-year since 2013.

Low commodity crop prices have caused the farm income number to slip for years, leaving some analysts to wonder when the income figures would hit bottom. This year’s projection shows at least a stabilization, if not a full rebound.

“On the ground, people still don’t feel like this is good news,” says Todd Kuethe, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois.

Many commodity crop farmers are still staring down low prices and hoping merely to break even during the 2017 growing season. Still, he says these new projections should tamp down some fears of a farm economy collapse.

“Hopefully we won’t be in as deep of a decline as a lot of people worried about,” Kuethe says.

The slight boost in the projection primarily comes from livestock producers, who are enjoying the low prices for the crops they use as feed.

The August 2017 projections are still subject to change, Kuethe says. Final net farm income figures for the year won’t be available until midway through 2018.