Net Farm Projection

Net Farm Projection

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Good news for the nation's farmers, Department of Agriculture economists are showing a slight rise in net farm income this coming year.

The US Department of Agriculture just released a report projecting net farm income will rise 10 percent this year, topping the $69 billion mark, that's encouraging because last year net farm income was down a stunning 16-percent in 2018.

But American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist John Newton says these are just early projections offering a best-case scenario.

"It's important for folks to remember that this is a very, very early estimate of what farm income could look like in 2019. USDA assumes in this forecast record production of livestock products, they assume trend yields for many of the major field crops, and they also assume slightly higher prices for many of the commodities, except for pork and soybeans," said Newton.

And there are many uncertainties that could change this outlook.

"The expectation is for slightly higher farm income in 2019, but this is still a really early estimate. A number of uncertainties remain when you think about weather conditions, you think about acreage allocations, and ultimately, we need to see these tariffs removed for us to continue to serve those key export markets," explained Newton.

Economists say the forecast also shows a low return on assets for farmers and ranchers.

"The USDA's most recent projections have U.S. farmers, on average, return to assets of about 1.3 percent. That's about half what you would get from the U.S. Treasury equities, and well below the average rate of return for many other financial instruments," said Newton.

Median farm household income is forecast to reach $78,987 this year. That represents an increase of 3.6 percent from 2018; in inflation-adjusted terms, there's a 1.9-percent increase. The total median income of U.S. farm households increased steadily over 2010-14, reaching an estimated $81,637 in 2014 in nominal terms. Median farm household income then fell 6 percent in 2015, remained flat through 2018, and is forecast to rise in 2019.

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