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Farmers see brighter days in the future

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@chronicle-tribune.com

Although overall farmer sentiment dropped a few points in September, farmers are optimistic about future economic conditions, according to Purdue University reports.

China has bought more than 2 million tons of U.S. soybeans since resuming purchases in early September, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, in anticipation of a meeting with top officials to try to resolve the trade dispute.

Purdue’s Ag Economy Barometer, which was published Tuesday, rose six points in September for the index regarding future expectations of the U.S. economy. But given the historically late planting season and current prices, sentiment for current conditions dropped 22 points.

These uncertainties related to trade and the upcoming harvest led researchers to say farmers’ outlook toward making large investments in equipment and buildings further declined in September, but agriculture equipment salespeople say slight drops in purchases this year are beginning to rebound since the weather has been favorable recently.

“Even though farmers are concerned about the near-term ... improved crop growing conditions during the last half of the summer appeared to boost optimism regarding the future,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

TTG equipment salesman John Kammeyer said he thinks a lot of people who have been on the fence regarding investing in their farms will feel better once they get in the fields.

“We don’t have necessarily as poor of a crop as we thought at one point,” he said, adding that the late planting season caused most of the hesitation. “The price has come up a little bit. A lot of this just depends on what you feel the future is going to be like. I think the future is going to be a little bit brighter now that we’re getting into this crop, but it’s plenty early yet.”

Kammeyer said there has been interest in buying equipment all year even though sales have decreased. A lot of that comes from farmers not knowing how big their yields will be, which will determine their income for next year, he said.

“It has been depressed,” he said. “It’s hard to keep good attitudes up with falling prices, the uncertainty of yields and whether things will ripen.”

Miami County Purdue Extension Educator Corey Roser said the warm dry days of September helped crops rebound after one of the worst planting seasons on record, and he said many farmers are now waiting for their crops to dry out before the first frost comes.

If the weather behaves before harvest, Kammeyer said sentiment for investing in local farms could change quickly.

“If the early crops are any indication of what we are going to have, these early crops are pretty doggone good, so we felt it (as a company), but we are hoping that most of that is behind us,” Kammeyer said.

Only one in five producers said they expect profitability to decline over the next year, according to the barometer, which is a more than 20 percentage point improvement from May.

“Considered jointly with this month’s decline in the Index of Current Conditions,” said Mintert, “this could be a signal that growers expect better times in 2020 compared to 2019, possibly because they are looking forward to a return to more normal growing conditions and crop production in 2020.”

Kammeyer shared similar feelings, adding that a lot of farmers are getting quotes on larger combines and faster tractors to better deal with inclement weather.

“When they get behind the wheel of a combine, I think they’re going to feel way better,” he said. “We really feel that the worst is behind us, and we are looking forward to going north instead of south with everything.”