Seed World

U.S. Farmer Confidence Hits Rock Bottom

Steep decline in April outlook raises alarm.

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer plunged to its lowest point since the early days of the pandemic, recording a sharp 15-point drop to a mere 99. James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator, underscored the gravity of the situation in a Purdue news release.

“Farmers’ sentiment took a significant hit in April, reflecting broader concerns about financial performance and farmland values,” he said.  

This decline spans both present conditions and future expectations, with the Current Condition Index and Future Expectations Index falling by 18 and 14 points respectively.

The data reveals growing pessimism not only about today but also the year ahead. The Farm Financial Performance Index itself has dipped to a worrying 76, a stark 21-point fall from last fall’s peak. This points to a bleak outlook for the next year, with farmers less optimistic about matching or surpassing last year’s performance.

Additionally, changes in expectations about interest rates and farmland values indicate shifting strategies among farmers. Despite a slight improvement in the interest rate outlook, only 24% now expect rates to rise over the next year—a decrease from last month. Similarly, optimism about rising farmland values has diminished, with just 29% of respondents expecting an increase, down from 38% previously. This shift could signal a recalibration of financial strategies in farming communities.

On a more positive note, the survey also hinted at emerging opportunities in renewable energy. There’s an increasing dialogue around solar energy leases, with a notable rise in the percentage of farmers engaging in such discussions. A significant 58% have received offers exceeding $1,000 per acre, which might influence land values positively in regions suitable for solar production.

Mintert added a hopeful note for the future, suggesting that “energy production activities could provide some support for farmland values and expectations in some regions.”

He said this evolving landscape could pave the way for new economic avenues as the farming community adapts to its challenges.