Survey: Farmers still hopeful

MARSHALL — While southwest Minnesota farmers continue to express concern over the financial health of their operations, a recent survey shows they still have hope for the future.

The survey put out by Data Transmission Network and The Progressive Farmer this past summer indicated a waning confidence in the agriculture economy.

“The post-2016 presidential election bump, which was credited with giving farmers and others in rural America high hopes for the future, appears to be flattening,” an article on the Globe Newswire said in regards to survey results.

The farmer/rancher survey is conducted three times a year since 2010, it said, to determine their opinions about their current economic situation and about that situation in the year to come.

Two local farm business management instructors with Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Paul Lanoue and Lori Van Overbeke, spoke toward these findings based on the impressions they received from their students and other farmers across southwest Minnesota.

“I’m seeing more farmers being very concerned about the financial health of their farms in crops and livestock,” Lanoue said. He is an instructor with Minnesota West Community and Technical College. “Many of the smaller dairy farms are suffering right now with the prolonged low prices for milk. Our farmers have been fortunate to get some of the best yields we have ever had historically.”

This is keeping many of the farmers in an “OK” position, he said. An increase in corn and soybean production brings along a decrease in prices. Low prices make it very difficult for any farmer to make money in this economy, he said.

He also said this premise follows the basic rule of marketing regarding supply and demand and has been known to leave farmers shortchanged in their efforts to be more productive.

Lanoue said many of the farmers Minnesota West works with are already looking toward the upcoming crop year and making plans for the 2018 crop.

“In working with our FBM team at Minnesota West College, they are planning on various scenarios along with developing the outlines for a marketing plan to carry through the upcoming year,” Lori Overbeke said. She is also an instructor with Minnesota West.

“Some farm operations that were struggling last year are still struggling this year, but they ultimately are a hopeful bunch,” she said. “They plant in the spring, hope for good weather all summer and bring in the harvest, then do it all over again the next year.”

On the whole, Van Overbeke said, farmers are an optimistic group of people.

“Change is inevitable in any profession,” Lanoue said. “Farmers will need to continue to grow as managers and find ways to be more efficient in their day to day activities.

“There is a large percentage of the farming population that will retire from farming in the next 10 years,” Lanoue said. “And it will be interesting to see how the younger generation coming into farming deals with the current farming economy.”