farming

Abigail Wilson, File Photo / KMUW

Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is painting a bleak picture of the nation's farm economy.

Suzanne Hogan / Harvest Public Media

Up before dawn, working the fields, feeding the cows…that’s a farmer’s life.

Farming is still thought of as a male-dominated field. But there are thousands of women farmers across the country, often left in the shadows. For Harvest Public Media, Suzanne Hogan met up with women farmers looking for the support they need to give their business an edge.

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

“I do remember my mom asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’” Fletcher recalls.

Emily Bell / flickr Creative Commons

A new report shows a decline in the number of farms and ranches in Kansas last year.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported yesterday that Kansas had 60,400 farms in 2015, down 600 from the previous year.

The number of farms with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales decreased by 800 farms, while the number of those with more than $100,000 in sales grew by 200 farms.

Kansas has 46 million acres of land in farms and ranches, unchanged from a year earlier.

Matthias Ripp, flickr Creative Commons

Midwest farmers are borrowing more money to stay afloat. That’s because the farm economy is in a rough patch.

Grain prices are low and farm income has fallen for two straight years.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve gathers survey data from banks across the country. It found farmers borrowed around $100 billion in the last quarter of 2015 to keep their operations running.

Farm Acres Drop In 2015

Jan 19, 2016
Matthias Ripp, flickr Creative Commons

The number of acres farmers used to grow crops plummeted in 2015. It was the biggest year to year drop in almost three decades.

Farmers throughout the country’s Midwestern corn and wheat belt had to contend with an extremely wet planting season in 2015. And U.S. Department of Agriculture statistician Lance Honig says with depressed crop prices, it was a tough year for some growers.

“More production is always better than less production from an economic health perspective if you’re a producer," Honig says.

Blackburnphoto/Flickr--Creative Commons

2015 was a down year for most farmers in the Corn Belt, according to Agriculture Department numbers. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, even with their lowest income since 2002, most farmers will stick to what they know.

Demand for grain was high this fall, but corn and soybean supplies were abundant. Still, even low prices may not push farmers away from these staple crops. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart says always the priority is profitability. A few farmers may put more land aside for conservation or switch to organic.

Blackburnphoto/Flickr--Creative Commons

In the next five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects about 10 percent of farmland to change owners. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, it’s still going to be tough for new farmers to buy land.

A land ownership survey conducted by the Agriculture Department found that landowners plan to put about half of those acres into trusts. That means it might still be farmed, but won’t be sold on the open market. Gifts, bequests and sales to family members further reduce the amount of farmland available for public purchase.

Matthias Ripp, flickr Creative Commons

One of the nation’s largest farm groups is warning of a downturn in the rural economy. Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld has more.

Prices for the Midwest’s top commodities like corn and soybeans have been sliding, and forecasts for farm profits are weak.

“What that means is that farmers are going to be facing a lot of financial stress," says National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. "Loans are going to be in jeopardy. Farmers may not get operating loans, they may not be able to repay operating loans from this year."

Blackburnphoto/Flickr--Creative Commons

The rural economy may take a hit this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, farm incomes are forecast to drop.

USDA expects net farm income to be down 36 percent this year compared to last.

USDA economist Mitchell Morehart says lower commodity prices and current land values and production expenses make the most recent forecast bleaker than government estimates from last spring.

Large Drop In Farm Income Predicted This Year

Jul 21, 2015
Matthias Ripp, flickr Creative Commons

Corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest are likely to earn far less money this year than they did last year, with some economists predicting that incomes could be less than one tenth of what they were in 2014.

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