Even for farmers who are keeping their heads above water, economists at last week’s Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook forum are not predicting a huge improvement in income for the coming year.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that 2018’s farm income was about 50 percent less than what it was in 2013—only five years ago.
Nationally, median farm income is estimated at a negative $1,548—which means that a majority of farms in all size categories lost money last year.
Paul Mitchell, an ag economist at the UW-Madison and director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute, which sponsors the annual outlook forum, commented that in 2017, farm income had bumped up, but by 2018, overall it had dropped 8 to 10 percent. Income for beef producers was down 1.4 percent while for dairy producers it dropped 7.1 percent.
Government payments to farmers were up 18 percent, partly due to the $4.7 billion in market facilitation payments and the $1.6 billion in disaster payments for farmers who were caught in the path of hurricanes, floods, and other disasters.
Mitchell noted that expenses are up 4.2 percent for things like interest, fuel, feed, and labor.
In Wisconsin, farmers grew great crops of corn and soybeans and their land values remained high. Wisconsin farmland values led the Midwest, rising 2.3 percent in 2018, continuing a trend for higher land values. The average per-acre land rent in the state is $140.
Read more in the Wisconsin State Farmer.