Farmers better poised to weather low returns

by Ron Sterk
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Farmer
Farmers and ranchers must compete on a global stage and need help in getting their products to market.
 

SAN DIEGO Farmers are better poised to weather the storm of current low commodity prices and declining income than in the 1980s farm crises because they are not overleveraged, Terry Barr, senior director of CoBank, said Aug. 8 at the International Sweetener Symposium.  

Terry Barr, CoBank
Terry Barr, senior director of CoBank

“We are in the fourth year of falling farm incomes…but agriculture is in a good position to handle the volatility,” Mr. Barr said. “The biggest challenges now are the range of uncertainties farmers will have to deal with.” He specifically pointed to trade and farm policy uncertainties and increasing interest rates.

“It’s important to keep some key ingredients of the farm safety net during this transition period,” he said of the current debate over the 2018 farm bill. For example, risk management tools like crop insurance and strong commodity policies are essential in giving lenders confidence to extend needed capital to farmers and ranchers.

Weakening these policies would be particularly tough on young and beginning farmers who do not have the liquid assets of their older, more established colleagues, he said. Bankers and their agricultural customers must work together to educate Congress during these times and promote strong farm and trade policies.

Mr. Barr also stressed the importance of infrastructure development in rural America, noting that farmers and ranchers must compete on a global stage and need help in getting their products to market.

“Any time we start to talk about infrastructure investment, it’s going to be critically important that we include a rural component,” he concluded.  “And it must go beyond roads and bridges and locks and dams…it must address broadband, water systems, rural power and all the things that support the rural fabric of our country.” 
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