Montana State University Agricultural Economics Department recently surveyed Montana producers about their current status and outlook for the agricultural economy. Professors Anton Bekkerman and Kate Fuller conducted the first such survey a year ago in 2018, so they now have data for comparison.
501 completed surveys were returned from around the state. However, in comparing the two years, both current status and outlook are down in 2019 from 2018.
Fuller and Bekkerman acknowledge that these results may not be a huge surprise. The trade war continues, and prices are down. A cold and wet summer made both planting and harvest pretty challenging for many producers. Reports of cracks in the farm financial fabric have been swirling around this summer and fall.
One aspect that Fuller said was somewhat surprising to her was how the Montana results compare to those of the Ag Economy Barometer. She says, “One reason we started asking these questions stemmed from when I presented the Ag Economy Barometer results in workshops. Farmers and ranchers here told me Montanans would report differently. This year, that’s true–Montana farmers were more likely to predict a worse financial situation a year out. They were also more likely to report being in a worse situation now than the Barometer farmers, although to a lesser extent. What is the difference between the two samples? In many places, midwestern farmers had a more challenging production year than in Montana, but they also received greater MFP payments.”
If you have any thoughts about how the Montana ag economy is looking, reach out to the department. You can find more information at www.ageconmt.com. Kate Fuller and George Haynes with MSU Ag Econ Extension will be traveling around the state in early 2020 as part of the UM Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s Economic Outlook Seminar series, so might be a good time to ask questions.