'Cash Will Be King'

Ohio State ag economist predicts drastic farm income changes, as supply and demand adjust to lower commodity prices. Put money in the bank now, he advises.

Published on: Jan 13, 2014

He also compared the fight over acres to a custody dispute. "What we have seen in the last five years is the crop market fighting over who gets the kids, trying to pull acres into their given crop. This year it's the ugliest divorce ever: no, you take the kids! You take the acres!"

Liquidity crisis
Echoing common sentiments heard around the convention and in other workshops, Roberts painted a picture for the next three to five years.

"If you're large, progressive or young? We're going into three to five years of low prices, low profitability. Low $4 corn, high $3. In the commodity business, the low-cost producers survives, Always. Basic economics. And the prevailing difference in cost of production is land charge," he said.

He's seen a lot of farmers with "very high land charges," and predicts people will be losing money. "Current prices are unprofitable for many producers."

"I don't believe we're in a farmland bubble. I don't believe we'll see the '80s farm crisis. We will see bankruptcies: 90% cash rented, very large operations, will go bankrupt because they will run out of cash."

Roberts recommended building cash on hand, keeping one year's land charges above your normal working capital, in cash or near cash.

"If that means you have a farm to pass on to your kids, then losing a couple percent in the bank is not a bad thing," Roberts concluded.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inadvertently included information about IRS Section 179.