Recent USDA-ERS Reports: Farm Structure (2017), and Evolving Distribution of Government Farm Payments (1991-2015)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has recently released two separate reports that provide interesting perspective on the structure of U.S. agriculture.  The first provides a detailed overview of current statistics relating to U.S. farms, while the second highlights the evolving distribution of Federal farm payments (1991-2015).  This update underscores key findings from the two recent ERS reports.
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Iowa Farmland Values, and the Corn Belt Economy- “At a Crossroads”

The 2017 Iowa State University Land Value Survey was released on Tuesday, and showed that farmland values climbed 2% this year.  The survey was conducted in November by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  Highlights of the survey are discussed in today's update, along with recent news articles that explored the state of the Corn Belt agricultural economy in greater detail.
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2017 U.S. Farm Income Forecast- November Update

On Wednesday, the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released its November 2017 Farm Income Forecast.   This follows the August revision of the initial net farm income forecast released by ERS in February.  The USDA will release one more revision of the 2017 net farm income forecast in February 2018, and the 2017 official estimates will be released in August 2018.  Today’s update provides a recap of highlights from the farm income forecast.
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Rural America: Perspective from USDA Report, and Federal Reserve Ag Credit Survey

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Rural America at a Glance report, which summarizes the status of conditions and trends in rural areas. In addition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis recently provided details of its third quarter Agricultural Credit Conditions Survey, which follows on the heels of recent third quarter agricultural reports from four other federal reserve districts. Together, the USDA report and Minneapolis Fed update, provide some interesting perspective on the state of non-metro America.
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Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis: Impacts of Summer Drought in the Plains

An update last week from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ("The worst they've ever seen," by Ashwini Sankar) explored some of the lingering impacts of this summer's severe drought in Montana and the Dakotas. The article noted that, "Recent heavy rains have brought relief to drought-stricken parts of the Ninth District, but months of dryness have exacted a heavy toll on crops, cattle herds and natural resources that is likely to weigh upon regional and local economies for months to come."
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Crop Choices, Farm Size: Changes in a Time of Low Corn and Soybean Prices

Recent news articles have documented that lower crop prices for commodities such as corn and soybeans have caused some producers to make changes to their traditional crop rotation, or to consider organic crop production methods.  More broadly, a recent Wall Street Journal article noted that larger operations may still be able to reap profits in times of lower prices, fueling "a cycle in which size begets size" and where, "smaller-scale farmers struggle to expand their operations to become profitable."
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