Farmers Feel Better About Ag Economy

Farmer sentiment rebounded in September, and that optimism spilled into producers’ willingness to make capital investments.

The Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer climbed to 156, the highest reading for the index since the pandemic began, and 12 points higher than August.

The index is up 38 points since July and is 60 points higher than its 2020 low in April.

In September, producers were more optimistic about both current conditions and the future for agriculture than they were in August. The Current Conditions Index, with a reading of 142, was 18 points higher compared to a month earlier. The Future Expectations Index rose 9 points to 163.

The improvement in the barometer and its two primary sub-indices occurred against the backdrop of USDA’s September announcement of the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) payments for U.S. producers. The program will provide up to $14 billion in additional assistance to farmers determined to have suffered from market disruptions and costs caused by COVID-19.

The improvement in current conditions helped make producers more confident that now is a good time to invest in their operations. The Farm Capital Investment Index rose again in September to 73, the highest reading of 2020.

Increasingly, educational events and programs are transitioning to online delivery as a result of the pandemic. Twenty-two percent of respondents to the September survey said they attended an online educational program or field day this year. When asked what aspects of these programs they liked, the two most popular responses were flexible timing of attending (27 percent) and the ability to choose topics of interest (21 percent).

When asked what aspects of these programs they disliked, respondents overwhelmingly pointed to the lack of interaction with other attendees (40 percent).