Illinois farmers uneasy about 2015 economy

From the Illinois Farm Bureau

CHICAGO — Considering current commodity prices and farm input costs, nearly 60 percent of delegates and attendees surveyed at the 2014 Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Annual Meeting feel less optimistic about the farm economy in the coming year. The answer was in response to a survey of 502 delegates, alternates and other Farm Bureau members attending the meeting Dec. 6-9 in Chicago.

This year, on the tails of a record-breaking crop, commodity prices also have dipped, which means farmers are more uneasy going into the year,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “It’s going to be much more important to have a marketing plan in place to sell crops, buy inputs and plan purchases for the coming year.”

In fact, nearly 70 percent of farmers responding to the survey indicated they plan to reduce inputs and/or expenses in 2015. When asked how, the responses were as follow: 70 percent said they plan to delay equipment purchases; 42 percent said they plan to delay or cut back on chemical and fertilizer purchases; 27 percent said they plan to negotiate lower cash rent rates; 22 percent plan to buy less expensive seed; and 14 percent said they would choose a lower level of crop insurance coverage. The response totals are greater than 100 percent, as respondents were able to choose multiple answers.

Yet, when asked if they were in the market to purchase farm ground in 2015, 33 percent said yes.

Unsurprisingly, with a new farm bill on the books, nearly 60 percent of farmers said they have yet to decide which commodity program or crop insurance program to purchase for the coming crop year. Nearly 30 percent of farmers said they plan to purchase Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) based on local county numbers, while 7 percent planned to purchase ARC individual coverage. Only 4 percent plan to purchase Price Loss Coverage.

The 2014 farm bill includes a variety of significant changes, including the removal of direct payments and new crop insurance programs, including Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage,” Guebert said. “We’re working with our county Farm Bureaus to ensure our members have all the information they need to make the most informed decision as deadlines approach.”

IFB members were asked whether they are satisfied that food companies consider the impact on farmers and the farmer’s role in producing food and ingredients when companies make marketing and ingredient decisions. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they weren’t at all satisfied, while 49 percent said they were either satisfied or somewhat satisfied. The question was asked in light of recent moves by a number of major food processors and restaurant chains to omit certain food ingredients or change the way ingredients or foods or sourced.

Finally, members were asked their opinion about the usefulness of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to agriculture and whether they plan to purchase a UAV for use on their farm. Nearly 70 percent said they believe UAVs are somewhat useful, while 24 percent said UAVs are very useful and 7 percent said they are not useful at all. However, only 5 percent of members are already using UAVs, while 18 percent said they plan to purchase a UAV and 77 percent said they do not plan to purchase a UAV for use on their farm.

This is the fourth consecutive year we’ve surveyed members and delegates at our annual meeting to gauge their feelings on key IFB issues and concerns,” Guebert said. “We’ve seen some of these issues pop up during our delegate business during our annual meeting, but this survey helps to further discover and discuss members’ concerns, and will help us as we work toward our priorities in the coming year.”

The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 400,000 and a voting membership of more than 82,000. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.

Posted Dec. 8, 2014

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