Wheat field
Wheat field

Blog | April 10, 2017

How the farm economy impacts family farmers

In February, the USDA released farm sector profitability measures for 2017. Estimates predict that net farm income will decline by 8.7 percent from 2016. This will be the fourth consecutive year of declines since net farm income reached a record high in 2013.

What Farmers Are Experiencing

On our 1-800-FARM-AID hotline, we hear the stories behind these numbers every day. The number of calls we receive are up. Story after story illustrate how tough it is to farm in today’s economy. Recent calls include:

  • A sixth-generation farmer from the Midwest who works a full-time, off-farm job in construction. Even with his off-farm job, high input costs and low commodity prices mean he can’t make the loan payments on his 1000-acre corn farm. His bank is threatening to foreclose on his farm.
  • A small livestock farmer from the Northwest who has struggled to recover from a long drought in 2015. After several years of financial losses, she has been forced to take on more and more debt to operate each year. Her lender is refusing to loan her more money. She won’t be able to start the season without a loan.
  • Third-generation wheat farmers in the Southeast who expanded their farm in 2013 when prices were high. With the recent drops in prices, they can’t make payments on their farm. They have filed for bankruptcy and they’re selling off parcels of their land piece by piece.

The Falling Farm Economy Hurts Farmers and Rural Communities

We know that financial crisis takes a toll on rural economies and rural communities. Stress and anxiety result in increased risk for depression, substance abuse, farm accidents, divorce and suicide.

Our 1-800-FARM-AID hotline plays a critical role in connecting struggling farmers to support services that can help them navigate financial crisis. Farm Aid’s network of farm advocates provides financial counseling services and emotional support, while our state-based and national organizing partners provide community and connections to other farmers dealing with similar issues. If you’re a struggling farmer, please call us at 1-800-FARM-AID or access our online Farmer Resources.

This fact sheet gets to the roots of the looming crisis and includes Farm Aid’s recommendations for farm policy that serves family farmers and all of us who eat.

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