New index sees upturn in farmer outlook

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 4, 2016 - Farmers are feeling better about the farm economy this year after an upturn in grain and wheat prices last month, according to a new monthly survey of producer attitudes. 

The Ag Economy Barometer, produced by Purdue University and the CME Group, indicates that producers' outlook trended negative from October through March before turning up in April. 

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The newly launched index is based on a monthly survey of 400 farmers from around the country. The producers are asked a set of five standard questions, such as “Would you say that your operation today is financially better off, worse off, or about the same compared to a year ago?” Other questions ask about the farmer's personal outlook a year from now as well as how the overall farm economy is likely to fare over the next five years. Respondents also are asked whether it is a good time to buy equipment.

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The farmers' outlook turned positive on both current and future conditions but the biggest improvement was on the questions about current conditions. That index jumped from 77 in March to 107 in April. 

The shift “appears to have been driven in part by changes in corn, soybean and wheat prices,” the authors of the index reported. “During the winter, lower trending commodity prices weighed heavily on producers' expectations regarding future crop prices.”

The producers interviewed for the index have annual sales of at least $500,000 and primarily produce corn, soybeans, wheat , cotton, beef cattle, dairy or hogs. The respondents are stratified so that they correspond with the economic structure in USDA's Census of Agriculture.

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