Navigating a challenging farm economy

Understand the financial basics of your farm operation and the several tools available to help you weather these lean economic times at this March 2, 2018, meeting in St. Joseph County.

It is not a news flash that cash grain profit margins have been tight for the past few years, and Jim Hilker, Michigan State University professor and MSU Extension marketing economist, says this is not projected to change much in the next few years. According to the University of Illinois’s farmdoc group, U.S. 2017-18 ending stocks are projected to be higher than they have been since the mid-1980s—near 2.5 billion bushels for corn and 470 million bushels for soybean.

Production is also at all-time highs with 2016 and 2017 being the two highest production years on record for corn grain and soybean in the U.S. With corn currently trading near $3.50 per bushel and soybean near $9.50, many grain farmers are near their break-even point and wondering whether their farm operations can be sustained through these times.

With little control over the markets and the increasing amount of uncertainty to work through, farmers are looking for road maps to help them navigate. This means focusing on what they can control or better manage in order to improve their farm’s sustainability. Farm economists recommend that the best road map starts with an understanding of the farm’s current financial health. This leads to the discovery of unknown, often overlooked challenges that may have hindered past, and potentially future, successes on the farm.

Awareness of these challenges assists managers in making well-informed decisions in their operations and in identifying the right tools or answers for their farm in the coming year. Whether those answers include focusing on cost of production, understanding and utilizing options in grain marketing, crop insurance, lender financing, or other basic farm finance tools, there are many avenues that a farm operation can follow when weathering a challenging farm economy.

MSU Extension will be hosting a meeting, “Tools to Navigate a Challenging Farm Economy,” on Friday, March 2, 2018, from 1–4:30 p.m. at the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office (612 E. Main St., Centreville, MI 49032) to provide farmers with some answers and food for thought to address these pressing economic challenges. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required as seating is limited. Call the St. Joseph County MSU Extension office at 269-467-5511 to reserve your seat.

Among the topics addressed are:

  • Upcoming Legislation Impacting Farmers in 2018, presented by Rep. Aaron Miller, District 59, invited
  • Understanding Your Farm’s Financial Health, presented by Jon LaPorte, MSU Extension
  • Leveraging Costs in Grain Marketing, presented by Mike Boring, sales manager, The Andersons
  • Crop Insurance in a Time of Tight Margins, presented by David Colville, owner/agent, Colville Insurance Agency
  • Farm Insurance Options and Benefits, presented by Jeffrey L. Brazo CIC, CAWC, vice president and agent, Ayres Insurance, Sturgis, and Allen Balog, agent, Preferred Insurance Services, Inc.
  • Overview of Farm Service Agency Programs, presented by Sharon Hoch, county executive director, and Grant Drallette, program technician, Farm Service Agency

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