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Farm News & Views for the week of January 1, 2024

Farm economists note that strong farm profits due to pandemic supply crunches began to weaken in 2023. But with production expenses still elevated, small farmers and major producers alike have started to prepare for a downturn in their business operations in 2024. Major agricultural companies like Bayer, Tyson, Smithfield Foods and other agricultural giants all announced cost cuts or restructuring plans aimed at weathering an economic downturn. With production expenses still elevated, small farmers and major producers are also looking at cutting operating expenses.

Some of these concerns are also shared by farm state lenders, since for a fourth straight month, the overall Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index sank below growth neutral even though banks have reported that farm loan delinquencies fell to one-tenth of one percentage point over the past six months. On the other hand, more than half of bank CEOs, who provide information to the index, expect a 2024 recession. Also, according to the International Trade Administration, exports of agricultural products from the Midwest Region declined from $14.1 billion for the first ten months of 2022 to $12.0 billion for the same period in 2023, that’s almost a 15% decline in prices.

Even though the U.S. farm economy appears to be retracting a bit as we go into 2024, farmland prices are still quite bullish, possibly as a result of non farmer buyers continuing to consider farmland a good investment for the long haul. Farmland in most of the U.S., continues to garner prices well beyond the ability of the land to generate profits that would provide positive returns on these investments. But apparently, many of the buyers expect land prices to increase in the near future, which would give them returns on investment that are much higher than other investment vehicles. Progressive Farmer article concerning recent farm auctions:

Avian Influenza continued to cause losses of both domestic poultry and in wild bird populations in 2023. According to the USDA, since the outbreak began in 2022, the disease has been detected in 435 commercial flocks of chickens, ducks and turkeys, and 597 domestic or backyard poultry flocks in 47 states, as well as thousands of wild birds.

As we hang up the 2024 calendar those of us who had a live Christmas tree in the house need to figure out what to do with the darn thing now the holiday season is over. I ran across a couple of recommendations for recycling it rather than sending it to the landfill or letting it lay behind the barn until all the needles fall off and then putting it into a burn pile. Conservationists suggest that we put them outside standing them up vertically, next to bird feeders to provide cover for small birds from weather or predators, or if you don’t have a bird feeder drill holes in the trunk of the tree and fill them with peanut butter or hang a couple of suet feeder on them, then dispose of them when spring comes around.

Comedian and newspaper columnist Joey Adams wrote: “May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.