No More Lemonade as Mood Sours

DTN/PF Ag Confidence Index

Gregg Hillyer
By  Gregg Hillyer , Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief
Image from Progressive Former

Farmers by trade are an optimistic lot. Many embrace the ol’ saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But, the most recent DTN/The Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index (ACI) shows farmers’ moods have fallen from spring 2018. That should surprise no one.

“This sour mood among farmers is punctuated by record crops and superhigh stocks, leaving them with little hope of a turnaround in their financial fortunes anytime soon,” explains Robert Hill, economist and researcher who helped create the index. “The winter weather was severe, with excess moisture and flooding in many areas delaying fieldwork.”

The overall index, which measures farmer attitudes about their current plight and their expectations for the year ahead, came in at 110.2. While that’s up one point from the score released just after the first of the year, it’s 24.6 points lower than a year ago. In fact, all numbers, regardless of geography, income or enterprises, are down from spring 2018, explains DTN Editor-In-Chief Greg Horstmeier, who reported the results.

The ACI is conducted three times a year: early spring before planting, August just prior to harvest and just before the end of the year. At least 500 farmers who identify as being actively engaged in the farm operation participated in the telephone survey. Farmers were surveyed March 11 through 15.

Horstmeier notes at the time of the survey, this season’s spring flooding was just beginning to happen. But, the signs for a wet, drawn-out planting season--which have proven out so far--were already being discussed by DTN meteorologists and others, he adds.

Index levels above 100 are considered optimistic compared to baseline scores when the index began; scores less than 100 are viewed as pessimistic versus the baseline.

While the overall spring 2019 score falls into “slightly optimistic” territory, it’s far below the optimism seen a year ago and a continuation of a dropping trend during the past several surveys, Horstmeier stresses. Farmers rated their current situation 41.3 points below a year ago, the lowest for a spring survey by nearly 10 points. Meanwhile, growers’ assessment of future expectations was down 15.6 points for the same period.

“Their views on the current pricing for inputs has eroded from 12 months ago,” Hill points out, “and their view of input prices 12 months from now is they will be even worse. Their views on net farm income have similarly turned sour, both on the current situation and on the future.”


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Others also take note of our reporting efforts and service to farmers. Crops Technology Editor Pamela Smith recently received the Excellence in Journalism Award from the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA). This is the first time the organization has handed out an award to a reporter. While the recognition salutes her body of work during the years, there’s no doubt Pam and her team’s multiyear reporting on dicamba--best practices, regulatory issues, misuse and more--convinced WSSA members she was the perfect choice for the inaugural award.

DTN/PF was also honored for its work in the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism contest. The Neals are considered the Pulitzer Prize of B2B (business-to-business) publications that cover agriculture, medicine, law, technology, education and other industries. This year, we were the lone ag-media company to have entries (seven in five categories) selected as finalists, a significant achievement in itself. Senior Editor Dan Miller won a Neal for Best Instructional Content. His story/video “Rack It” is a step-by-step tool-storage welding project that appeared in our August 2018 issue.

Write Editor In Chief Gregg Hillyer, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email


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