Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer: AFBF Economist Dr. John Newton

In the latest episode of Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Water Quality and Research talks with American Farm Bureau Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.

Hoewischer and Newton talk about the “tough shape” the farm economy has been in for a number years for various reasons, from low crop prices to trade and tariff issues, and how much impact the newly signed Farm Bill may or may not have on farm income in the future.

Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer is an ongoing series of conversations with experts and leaders who are helping to shape and secure the future of Ohio’s ag industry for generations to come.

Following are some highlights from this episode. Complete transcript.

Q: I know there are a lot of different sectors, but what’s the general feel of the overall ag economy?

A: Well it’s been in the doldrums now for a few years. You know net farm income was record high when we were right in the last farm bill. Over $120 billion at that point in time and it’s declined by nearly 50 percent. It declined fairly quickly and it’s remained at very low levels. 2018 farm incomes projected at $66 billion. That’s the third lowest level over the last decade in well below the historical average of about $85 billion a year. So the farm economy is in pretty tough shape and it’s really impacting agriculture uniformly.

Q: How will the (newly signed) 2018 Farm Bill effect things?

A: You know it was just a completely different environment in 2014 when we were writing the farm bill. We were looking at $5 corn, and soybeans were well over $11 a bushel. When we really started this process, American Farm Bureau had a farm bill working group for the last two years. When we started this farm income was low commodity prices were low. So I think that one of the things that it did more than anything is really energized the grassroots members across the country to think about this farm bill and think about ways we can make it work better. I think the challenge in this low price environment was that the Congressional Budget Office, the baseline for agricultural spending, we just didn’t have a lot of money to make a lot of major changes. So this farm bill more than anything it’s just an evolution of the 2014 Farm Bill. Some tweaks around the edges. We did get some major improvements for dairy and for cotton but there’s just not enough money to come in and really elevate and enhance the support provided by ARC and PLC some of those title one programs.