New Ag Income Reports Mirror Good Times For Farmers

Western Ag Vignettes

Idaho 2012 projections latest western statement of improved gross.

Published on: January 14, 2013

This is good news: western state crop reports are coming in with encouraging news that the 2012 year was record for some, dang good for others.

The latest to cross my e-mail path from Idaho projects a strong year financially there as well. Nice to have some money to pay bills, isn't it, even if the net is thinner with higher costs for everything from alfalfa feed to zucchini seed.

Overall nationally, USDA says farm net will drop by $4 billion.                

Expenses for Idaho farmers, for example, were put at an estimated $6.1 billion – up 8% for the year.

So excited are University of Idaho spokespersons over the 5% gain over 2011 -- setting a $7.7 billion record in farm income for the state – that they're telling farmers to celebrate.

The report – officially the "Financial Condition of Idaho Agriculture: 2012," says the $400 million gain over the previous year places Idaho as a top-five player in farm income for the West.

I'm happy every time I read a report like this, and lots of them have been coming in for our eight-state Western Farmer-Stockman coverage area.

Newly named UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Foltz says the 2012 report shows "the strength of Idaho agriculture and its importance to the state."
Remember that while our farmer numbers are small, as an industry we are mighty in terms of our impact on the national economy, to say nothing of the importance of what we produce.

Milk and livestock, which lead the top crop lists of many states in the West, did so in Idaho, but report authors warn that high milk prices are not expected to last in 2013, although they improved margins last year.

Milk generated $2.4 billion of Idaho's 2012 ag income, and cattle contributed $1.7 billion.

It might be easy to be depressed when you look at that $6.1 billion cost-of-farming for Idaho producers, but in terms of the stimulus ag provides for the economy paying all that money for services, equipment, chemical, seed and other items, our role in the general economy is pivotal.

There should be some kind of credit for that in terms of payback for supporting a teetering economy.

But, then again, we are the economy.

Importantly, our farm equity has leaped a tad, if you can use "tad" to characterize a record level in 2012. Farm assets exceeded our debt last year, and that equals solvency in many senses.

A thing called "DRCU" – Debt  repayment capacity utilization – (don't you love it when USDA economists talk that way?) – a measure of farm exposure to financial risk, is forecast to tick upward while remaining at a near-historic low level, the agency adds.

In other words, your grip on what you own is tightened, and that feeling those five generations before you are watching to see if you're the one to lose the farm can be eased.

Great grandpa can smile again.

And, maybe the kids will think again about leaving the farm if they see a glimmer of hope it will  endure. Ultimate sustainability, in the end, is in terms of  who will inherit.