The Downturn in Agriculture: Implications for the Midwest and the Future of Farming
On November 29, 2016, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago held a conference to examine the agricultural downturn in the Midwest and discuss future directions for farming.
With prices for key agricultural products falling from their peaks in recent years, many farm operations are having to deal with lower revenues. Moreover, farms face thinner profit margins — and even losses — since their input costs have not fallen as much as product prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that net income for the farm sector will decline for a third consecutive year in 2016. This downturn has hit the Midwest hard, as seen in lower farmland values and cash rental rates for cropland.
At the conference, experts from academia, industry and policy institutions explored the agricultural downturn’s implications for both the farm sector and the broader regional economy. The goals of the conference included understanding key trends in farm income, product prices, and input costs; assessing the primary factors behind the sector’s downturn; examining policies that provide support to farm operations and promote risk management; and discussing the role of agricultural lending under these challenging circumstances, as well as in the next phase for agriculture.
Bill Northey is a fourth generation farmer from Spirit Lake, Iowa who grows corn and soybeans. Northey returned to Spirit Lake to farm with his grandfather after graduating from Iowa State University in 1981. He was reelected to his third term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in November of 2014, winning with 62 percent of the vote and receiving more votes than any other candidate in the state.
As Secretary, Northey has committed to traveling to each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year to hear from farmers and rural residents with a stake in the future of agriculture. These meetings allow him to listen to their needs and better lead the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship as it seeks to serve the people of the state. His priorities as Secretary of Agriculture are advancing science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water and reaching out to all Iowans to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.