Ag Economy Barometer Rises

Purdue Ag Economy Barometer Indicates Optimism About Future Despite Current Cost-Price Squeeze

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
The Ag Economy Barometer came in at 114, up 3 points from the previous month and about even with pre-planting sentiment over the past two years. (Chart courtesy of Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture)

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer climbed 3 points in March to 114, largely due to more optimistic expectations for the future.

While slightly higher than February's reading, the results remain far below the peaks seen in 2021.

Each month, Purdue ag economists survey 400 farmers to discern their attitudes and sentiments about the status of the farm economy. A barometer of 100 is equivalent to the base period of October 2015 to March 2016.

This month's survey was taken March 11-15, 2024, before USDA's Prospective Plantings report. It showed farmers only intend to plant 90 million acres of corn, 2 million acres less than anticipated, and sent corn prices sharply higher. You can read more on that here:…

In a podcast reviewing the barometer's results, James Mintert, Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture, said the overall index is in a sideways pattern, but interesting threads emerge in the comparison of future expectations and current conditions.

"Even though it was a small rise in the barometer, all of that came about because people became more optimistic about the future," he said. The Index of Future Expectations was 5 points higher than February. The Index of Current Conditions was 2 points lower than last month, but 25 points below the same time last year.

On the top of the list of farmers' concerns are high input costs, followed by lower crop prices and higher interest rates. Overall, Associate Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture Michael Langemeier's breakeven projections are a bit lower than last year, and many inputs have already been purchased, leaving concerns about fuel and labor costs as ones with some room left to fluctuate.

"I suspect that part of what we're picking up is this concern about just how costly inputs are in general. We're locking in high breakeven prices," Mintert said.

Purdue's survey also asks farmers whether they think it's a good time to make large investments and why or why not. The number of farmers citing poor prospects for farm profitability is on the rise, from about 7% last fall to 22% this month.

"Pointing to uncertainty about farm profitability, that's a shift. I think it's another way of saying people are worried about a cost-price squeeze," Mintert said.

You can find more details about the Ag Economy Barometer, including charts on responses to various questions, here:…

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Katie Dehlinger