Last year around this time, I wrote about a survey Anton and I ran, asking Montana farmers about their current status and outlook for the agricultural economy. This year, we re-ran that survey asking some similar questions. This year, we received 501 completed surveys from around the state. (If you filled one out, thank you!) For the first time, we have more than one year of data for comparison–that’s good! However, in comparing the two years, both current status and outlook are down in 2019 from 2018. Perhaps these results are not a huge surprise. The trade war continues, and prices are down. A cold and wet summer made both planting and harvest pretty challenging for many producers. Reports of cracks in the farm financial fabric have been swirling around this summer and fall. (The most recent I read, from the Kansas City Fed, is here.)
One aspect that was somewhat surprising to me was how the Montana results compare to those of the Ag Economy Barometer. (See more detail in my previous post.) One reason we started asking these questions stemmed from when I presented the Ag Economy Barometer results in workshops. Farmers and ranchers here told me Montanans would report differently. This year, that’s true–Montana farmers were more likely to predict a worse financial situation a year out. They were also more likely to report being in a worse situation now than the Barometer farmers, although to a lesser extent. What is the difference between the two samples? In many places, midwestern farmers had a more challenging production year than in Montana, but they also received greater MFP payments. Do you have thoughts about how the Montana ag economy is looking? Questions we should ask in our survey next year? You can let me know here–or, George Haynes and I will once again be out with the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research giving the ag portion of the Economic Outlook Seminar series. Come find us!
This post was written with help from MSU DAEE Graduate Student Molly DelCurto.