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While Optimistic About Current Conditions, Farmers Are Concerned Over Future Policies

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Farmers are feeling less optimistic about the future following the November elections. The latest Ag Economy Barometer showed a sharp shift in expectations that U.S. agriculture will face unfavorable policies over the next five years.

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Nearly twice as many respondents in November believe there will be decreased support for the ethanol industry, more restrictive environmental regulations, a weaker farm safety net and higher income taxes. 

Barometer co-author Jim Mintert said while the incoming administration hasn’t made clear its agricultural agenda, farmers are already concerned.

“I think it's more of a policy perception,” said Mintert. “I guess at this point, we don't know if that's reality, but that certainly was the perception, with respect to the response in our research, our survey. And it's almost the opposite of what we found in '16 and early '17.”

The survey also showed a continued decrease in the number of respondents who believe the trade dispute with China will resolve in favor of U.S. agriculture following the election. 

While U.S. farmers future expectations are less optimistic than they were in October, confidence in the short term remains high. In fact, Purdue University researchers saw the Index of Current Conditions set a record in November.

Producers surveyed continue to have an overall positive attitude about making capital investments to their farm – only a slight decrease from last month's responses.

Mintert said ag equipment suppliers could benefit if investment behavior changes as the survey indicates.

“So, you know, if you look at it that way, farmers are still relatively optimistic about making investments in their farming operation,” he said. “That probably bodes well for local businesses, especially, for example, farm machinery dealers, here in the fourth quarter, as farmers looked to make some additional investments.”

The monthly survey gathers 400 responses from producers across the country to provide a glimpse into how the industry is feeling about current and future conditions.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.

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