Skip to Main Content

Farmer sentiment rises as income prospects improve, though concerns about key policy issues remain

Ag Barometer Outlook Farmer sentiment rises as income prospects improve, though concerns about key policy issues remain. (Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer/James Mintert)

There was a modest improvement in producer sentiment according to the December Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. The barometer increased 7 points from November to a reading of 174. Both of the barometer’s sub-indices ­— the Index of Current Conditions and the Index of Future Expectations — also were higher in December than in November. The Index of Current Conditions climbed 15 points to 202, and the Index of Future Expectations increased by 5 points to a reading of 161.

The Ag Economy Barometer is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers’ responses to a telephone survey. This month’s survey was conducted Dec. 7-11.

“The rise in the Ag Economy Barometer was primarily driven by farmers’ perception that the current situation on their farms really improved. The sharp rise in the Index of Current Conditions is correlated with the farm income boost provided by the ongoing rally in crop prices. That appears to be the driving force behind producers’ optimism,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

Producers were noticeably more inclined to think now is a good time to make large investments in their farming operations than in November. The Farm Capital Investment Index increased 13 points in December to a record high of 93. The percentage of farmers expecting to increase their machinery purchases in the upcoming year rose 5 points to 15% in December, while the percentage expecting to reduce their purchases declined by the same amount.

Farmers also were bullish about farmland values and cash rental rates. In December, the percentage of farmers expecting farmland values to rise over the next year increased 9 points from November to a reading of 35. The percentage expecting farmland values to rise over the next five years increased 11 points from November to a life of survey high 65%.

Reflecting the improvement in crop production profitability, more producers said they expect farmland cash rental rates to rise in 2021 when compared with survey results from late summer. In December, 18% of respondents said they expect cash rental rates to rise in 2021, double the percentage who felt that way in August and September. Moreover, it’s clear that any downward pressure on cash rental rates evident earlier in the year has nearly disappeared, as just 5% of farmers said they expect to see cash rental rates decline in 2021, compared with 17% who felt that way in August.

Farmers were less optimistic when asked about the ongoing trade dispute between U.S. and China. In the first quarter of 2020, 76% of respondents thought the trade dispute’s ultimate resolution would favor U.S. agriculture. By spring, that average declined to 62%, and by December it dropped to an all-time survey low of 47%. When asked whether they expect U.S. ag exports to increase over the next five years, only 51% of respondents in December said they expect to see export growth.

To learn more about what factors might be motivating the shift in producers’ sentiment pre- and post-November election, a series of questions focused on producers’ future expectations for environmental regulations, taxes and other key aspects of the agricultural economy, were included on the October, November and December surveys. In December, farmers continued to express concerns following the November election about several key policy issues affecting agriculture. Over 80% of farmers said they expect environmental regulations to become more restrictive in December, compared with 41% who felt that way in October. Over 70% of producers expect to see higher income and estate taxes, compared with 35% and 40%, respectively, in October. One-third of farmers said they expect the farm income safety net to weaken, compared with 18%, and just over one-fourth of producers said they expect government support for the ethanol industry to weaken, compared with 17% who felt that way in October.

Read the full Ag Economy Barometer report at https://purdue.ag/agbarometer. The site also offers additional resources – such as past reports, charts and survey methodology – and a form to sign up for monthly barometer email updates and webinars.

Each month, the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture provides a short video analysis of the barometer results, available at https://purdue.ag/barometervideo, and for even more information, check out the Purdue Commercial AgCast podcast. It includes a detailed breakdown of each month’s barometer, in addition to a discussion of recent agricultural news that impacts farmers.

The Ag Economy Barometer, Index of Current Conditions and Index of Future Expectations are available on the Bloomberg Terminal under the following ticker symbols: AGECBARO, AGECCURC and AGECFTEX.

About the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture

The Center for Commercial Agriculture was founded in 2011 to provide professional development and educational programs for farmers. Housed within Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, the center’s faculty and staff develop and execute research and educational programs that address the different needs of managing in today’s business environment.

About CME Group

As the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, CME Group (www.cmegroup.com) enables clients to trade futures, options, cash and OTC markets, optimize portfolios, and analyze data – empowering market participants worldwide to efficiently manage risk and capture opportunities. CME Group exchanges offer the widest range of global benchmark products across all major asset classes based on interest ratesequity indexesforeign exchangeenergyagricultural products and metals. The company offers futures and options on futures trading through the CME Globex® platform, fixed income trading via BrokerTec and foreign exchange trading on the EBS platform. In addition, it operates one of the world’s leading central counterparty clearing providers, CME Clearing. With a range of pre- and post-trade products and services underpinning the entire lifecycle of a trade, CME Group also offers optimization and reconciliation services through TriOptima, and trade processing services through Traiana.

CME Group, the Globe logo, CME, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Globex, and E-mini are trademarks of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. CBOT and Chicago Board of Trade are trademarks of Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, Inc. NYMEX, New York Mercantile Exchange and ClearPort are trademarks of New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. COMEX is a trademark of Commodity Exchange, Inc. BrokerTec, EBS, TriOptima, and Traiana are trademarks of BrokerTec Europe LTD, EBS Group LTD, TriOptima AB, and Traiana, Inc., respectively. Dow Jones, Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and S&P are service and/or trademarks of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and S&P/Dow Jones Indices LLC, as the case may be, and have been licensed for use by Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 

Featured Stories

The base of the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River
For the love of the land

2016 was the first time that Jalyn Gearries, a Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES)...

Read More
A close-up of hands with blue nail polish planting sage next to the Native American Educational and Cultural Center
Purdue Agriculture’s Sloan Scholars

The Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership (SIGP) is an organization of 11 universities funded by...

Read More
Purdue's bell tower stands tall behind a foreground of purple petunias
Purdue agriculture professors named AAAS Fellows

Purdue College of Agriculture professors Songlin Fei and Tesfaye Mengiste have been named fellows...

Read More
almonds on a table with almond milk
Homemade nut-based dairy analogs raise questions about bacterial risks

Many consumers know the food safety risks of dairy products, eggs and raw meat. But they are less...

Read More
A bottle of Boiler Bee Honey sits on the edge of chrome table in Skidmore lab with two students cooking in labcoats and hairnets in the background.
The sweet (and spicy) taste of victory—National Honey Board funds a food science development competition at Purdue

In the past few years, specialty sauces like hot honey combined the classic warm, sweet feeling...

Read More
Against a black backdrop, three dozen egg carton are neatly arranged to surround many loose brown eggs
Butcher Block adds eggs from chickens fed orange corn

The Boilermaker Butcher Block’s selections will now include farm fresh eggs laid by Purdue...

Read More
To Top