By Eric Bohl
Missouri Farm Bureau recently took the temperature of the farm economy through its third-annual FARMometer. Over 1,200 attendees at MOFB’s Annual Meeting at Tan-Tar-A in early December were asked to complete a questionnaire on agriculture-related topics. The questions have been identical each year of the survey.
MOFB’s 2018 Annual Meeting theme was “Gratitude.” President Blake Hurst’s annual address noted that farmers remain thankful and optimistic no matter how challenging the year. And indeed 2018 was a very bumpy year in the farm economy. Despite low commodity prices, trade disputes, drought, poorly-timed rains and countless other difficulties, the FARMometer survey results show that President Hurst’s words remain accurate in Missouri.
Missouri farmers are remarkably optimistic about their prospects for success in 2019. Over 74 percent of FARMometer respondents said they feel optimistic about their farming operation for next year. This measure dropped only two percent from last year’s survey, an almost negligible change. About six percent have a negative outlook, and 19 percent were neutral.
For the third year in a row farmers said commodity and livestock prices were the biggest challenge in their farm operations. Input costs were the second-greatest concern out of the FARMometer’s 11 choices, rising from third place last year. Challenges securing adequate and affordable land rose to third position, on a steady rise from sixth in the initial survey. Financial pressures clearly remain foremost on farmers’ minds as we enter our sixth straight year of low commodity prices.
Missouri’s long tradition of civically-engaged farmers held strong in this year’s survey. Farmers were almost unanimous in their belief that it is important to be active in farm and commodity organizations. Ninety-eight percent of respondents agreed that this is important. Almost 96 percent believe it is important to form relationships with elected officials. These numbers have also remained very stable over the survey’s first three years.
Farmers’ spirit of gratitude and optimism was perfectly captured in the survey’s final question. Despite growing challenges and falling income, about 95 percent of respondents said they would recommend that their children follow in their footsteps as a farmer or rancher. Even as times have grown progressively more difficult in recent years, this number has been steadily on the rise. The inaugural survey in 2016 found that 91 percent would recommend their own career to their children, growing to 93 percent last year.
Recent positive developments on the trade front, a revised Clean Water Rule, a newly-enacted farm bill and some promising announcements for rural broadband development give rural Missourians plenty of reason to be hopeful. With the new year upon us, Missouri’s farmers will continue to give thanks and plan for better times ahead.
Eric Bohl is Director of Public Affairs for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization