Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published September 02, 2010, 12:00 AM

NDSU report says farmers’ expenses a major concern

North Dakota farms generally will fare OK financially during the next decade, a new report from North Dakota State University in Fargo says.

By: By Jonathan Knutson, Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

North Dakota farms generally will fare OK financially during the next decade, a new report from North Dakota State University in Fargo says.

But farm expenses are likely to remain a major concern, and producers “will need to be very diligent toward new purchases,” said Richard Taylor, one of the report’s authors.

He, Won Koo and Andrew Swenson wrote the report for the Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies at NDSU.

Treat the report with a dash of skepticism.

Long-term predictions are notoriously tricky, especially when major political or weather events can occur during the period in question, Taylor said.

For instance, the recent, unexpected surge in wheat prices already has affected some of the report’s short-term forecasts, he said.

The report predicts that for most farms in the state, net income in 2019 will be similar to net income in 2009.

But low-profit farms “may not have financial resiliency to survive without off-farm income,” the report states.

Taylor says low-profit farms inevitably will be found in any representative sampling and that the outlook for such farms in this report isn’t particularly gloomy.

Operators of low-profit farms may not be doing anything wrong, but simply are suffering from events, such as drought or excess moisture, beyond their control, he said.

Whatever a farm’s level of profitability, paying close attention to expenses will be vital, Taylor said.

Expenses generally shot higher in 2007 to 2008 when crop prices surged, but most expenses have remained high even as crop prices subsequently declined, he said.

Farmers shouldn’t expect expenses to drop anytime soon, if ever, Taylor said.

“Most expenses don’t come back down once they’ve gone up,” he said.

Other conclusions of the report include:

  • Expenses will increase about 2 percent annually in 2011 to 2019.

  • The debt-to-asset ratio for most farms will decline, but will increase for low-profit farms.

  • Cropland values and cash rents, which have soared in recent years, will grow at a far slower rate. For instance, the average cash rent in North Dakota is projected to grow from $52.94 in 2010 to $54.64 in 2019.

The report assumes that commodity prices will increase slowly in the coming decade, while commodity yields will rise at their historic trend-line rates.


Kuutson writes for Agweek, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Tags: