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Farmers Are More Pessimistic And Have More Concerns In 2020

Soybeans like in this file photo are a crop that has been hurt by the ongoing trade war.
jasonippolito | Flickr
Soybeans like in this file photo are a crop that has been hurt by the ongoing trade war.

The number of Missouri farmers who are pessimistic about the new year is double what it was at the same time in 2019, according to a new survey by the Missouri Farm Bureau. 

The poll of members showed that 14% of farmers have negative feelings about 2020, compared to 6% in 2019 and 3% in 2018.

A similar survey of farmers by Purdue University shows a comparable mood across the Midwest.

2019 was a difficult year for farmers, with extensive flooding in Missouri and Illinois, an ongoing trade war with China hurting exports, overall low crop prices and operational costs going up.

Farmers are continuing to be concerned about those issues, and are adding more to the list, said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist at Purdue.

“Regulation is a lot bigger; politics is a lot bigger,” Langemeier said. “Prices are probably similar to what they were in January, but there are a lot more things on people’s minds than in January of 2019.”

Trade issues continue to be a top concern. Farmers are not expecting a complete resolution to the trade war with China, but they do expect government payments to continue from the Market Facilitation Program, which is designed to combat losses from trade.

“We asked producers whether or not they think it’s likely that they would receive an MFP payment, and so about 60% of the farmers expect to see an MFP payment on the 2020 crop in the absence of a trade agreement,” said Jim Mintert, also an agricultural economist at Purdue.

The federal government has made two MFP payments to farmers in 2019. A third payment is expected early in 2020, but the Trump administration would have to act to renew the subsidies for this summer’s crop.

The pessimism for 2020 is also extending into farmers’ longer-term plans and opinions.

The Missouri Farm Bureau survey showed more than 15% of respondents said they would not recommend their children follow in their footsteps as farmers. That’s tripled from last year. The figure has never been higher than 7% in the survey.

“Hopefully this only reflects current frustrations and will not lead to fewer young people taking over the family farm,” said Eric Bohl, director of public affairs for the Farm Bureau.

Purdue University’s study also suggested a problem with the future. It showed a growing number of farmers plan to retire in the next five years without a plan to pass the farm to their children.

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Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. His duties also include covering central and southern Missouri for Harvest Public Media. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.