Iowa farmers brace for another year of belt-tightening, survey finds
By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Those key outcomes were gleaned from the latest Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll, conducted August 17-24, and sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).
Slightly over 84 percent of the 153 poll respondents said they expect their farm income to be lower than 2014, with soybean prices trending below $9 per bushel. About 13 percent expect their incomes to be about the same as last year with only 3 percent expecting an uptick.
For the most part, farmers expect their yields to be better or at least even with the 10-year state average of 50 bushels per acre. Thirty-five percent reported that their yields would be slightly higher than 50 bushels, while 26 percent reported yields would be about the same. Some 19 percent predicted their yields would be “significantly higher.”
That's consistent with the Iowa Crops and Weather report released by USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service Aug. 24.
“With the rains much of the state received last week, most areas have adequate moisture. Crops remain in good condition with 82 percent of corn and 77 percent of soybeans rated as good to excellent,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said.
Of those planning to trim expenses, almost 60 percent said they plan to curtail farm equipment purchases. That's consistent with the outlook from major farm equipment manufacturers. For example, John Deere, revised its 2015 profit forecast downward by two points to 21 percent as sinking corn and soybean prices reduce growers' incomes.
However, farm equipment isn't the only purchase that will be scaled back this year.
--47 percent also said they plan to cut back on farm rent payments,
--Almost 40 percent said they plan to trim fertilizer applications,
--37 percent plan to reduce seed purchases
--30 percent plan to trim crop chemical purchases.
At the same time, Iowa farmers seem to be investing in more ways to conserve the soil and improve nutrient management. Slightly over 52 percent report that they are using split application of fertilizer to deliver nutrients when they can be best utilized by crops. Another 39 percent said they have changed from fall to spring application of nutrients to help crops grow, 37 percent reduced the overall amount of nutrients applied, and 35 percent have switched to no-till planting.
In addition, 43 percent of poll participants have installed edge-of-field buffers to reduce soil and nutrient runoff.
Several federal cost-share programs are available to address soil and water conservation and Iowa farmers are investing through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Asked which programs they use, 42 percent have participated in either the Conservation Stewardship Program or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
About the poll: The ISA and Agri-Pulse launched the Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll to help farmers amplify their voice by collecting opinions and circulating the results. The survey is conducted at least four times annually and captures perspective and opinions on such topics as key legislative and regulatory issues, crop conditions, planting and harvesting progress, yield estimates and other timely issues affecting farmer profitability.