Ag Barometer: nearly half of farmers surveyed aren’t planning on farm growth  

Nearly 50 percent of farmers surveyed in the latest Ag Economy Barometer say they plan to exit or retire or have no plans to grow their farm.

Jim Mintert, director of the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture, says each February farmers are asked what annual growth rate they expect for their farm over the next five years.

“The farm growth question is one of the more interesting questions we’ve asked over time. The percentage of people who say they’re going to exit or not grow the farm at all is quite astounding,” he says. “Forty-nine percent of the people in the survey said they had no plans to grow.”

Thirty three percent of farmers surveyed say they have no plans to grow and 16 percent plan to exit or retire.

But, he says some producers expect their farm to grow modestly. 

“There’s a good number of people who say they’re going to grow less than 5 percent annually, that was 19 percent of the people in the survey. Twenty-two percent think they’re going to grow in the 5-10 percent range,” he says.

Mintert says this signals that there are opportunities for the next generation of farmers.

“If you’re a young person and you’re thinking about opportunities in agriculture, the fact that almost half the people in the survey plan to exit or retire or reduce the size of their operation, that suggests there are some opportunities out there. And on the other hand, if you’re in the growth category of up to 10 percent, that also suggests there are some opportunities,” he says.

Brownfield conducted a phone interview with Mintert while he was at Commodity Classic.

“One of the things we talked about here at Commodity Classic is if you want to remain viable in U.S. agriculture, growth isn’t really an option, it’s really a requirement,” he says. “If you think about your ability to take advantage of new technology etc. you probably need to grow overtime. You can debate the rate of growth you need, but you do need to grow overtime to remain competitive in the industry. That’s clear.”  

Mintert says survey respondents are asked about farm growth every February.

“We think it’s a good winter-time question because at that point they have probably worked on taxes and wrapped up income estimates for the prior year and are maybe doing some longer-range planning,” he says.

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer is a monthly national survey of 400 U.S. agricultural producers.

Audio: Jim Mintert

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