If it was COVID-19 that pressed the gas pedal on small tractor sales for more than 12 months straight, it might also be that as public concern for the virus diminishes, and stay-at-home workers return to the office, the foot is coming off the gas pedal.
For much of 2020 and into spring 2021, sales of tractors of less than 100 horsepower (hp) -- especially tractors less than 40 hp -- were extra ordinally strong. The thinking in the industry was that these sales represented demand from small acreage owners who, newly working at home, discovered all sorts of work that could be done on their land. So, the need for new, smaller tractors. Landscapers were likely another source of demand for small tractors.
But starting in May 2021, as COVID-19 infection rates fell, sales of small tractors began to show some weakness for the first time in more than a year. Under-40-hp tractor sales fell nearly 9% in May.
The weakness carried over into the June report, released Monday by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). June sales of tractors under 40 hp fell 18.4%, or more than 4,600 units, from June 2020. Similarly, unit sales of 40-100 hp declined 3.1% or 239 units.
Still, tractor sales for the first half of 2021 exceed sales recorded from January through June 2020. Sales of tractors, 40 hp and under, are up 15.2% for the year through June, compared to the same period in 2020. Tractor sales in the 40-100 hp range are up 19.4% for 2021 compared to the same six-month period in 2020.
The positive note in the June 2021 report is in tractors more typically found on commercial farms. Two-wheel drive, 100-hp-and-over tractor June sales rose 24.8% over June 2020 (up 362 units). Sales of four-wheel-drive tractors rose sharply -- up 141.8%, or 156 units, over June 2020 sales.
For this year through June, 100 hp tractor sales are up 23.3% over the same period in 2020. Four-wheel-drive tractor sales are up 32.2% this year, compared to the same period in 2020.
Combine sales also are hanging out in positive territory, the June 2021 AEM report revealed.
Combine sales in June 2021 are up 20 units or 4.1% over June 2020. For the year -- January through June -- combine sales are up 11% over the same time frame in 2020. That represents an increase of 225 combines.
"The strength in the bigger row-crop units shows conditions in farm country remain positive, indicating a good-looking crop in the field and the promise of good commodity markets," said AEM's Curt Blades, senior vice president of Ag Services.
Dan Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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