According to the June Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, farmers were less pessimistic about their farms’ financial performance in June than they were in April and May of this year, but they were noticeably more negative than in early spring 2019. In June, 42% of farmers said they expected their farm’s financial performance to be worse than last year. This was down from 55% and 54% that felt that way in April and May, respectively, but still noticeably worse than in April 2019 when just 27% of respondents expected a worse financial performance for their farm than a year earlier. Importantly, there was virtually no change in the percentage of farmers who expect their farm’s financial performance to improve compared to 2019. Just 12% of respondents to the June survey said they expect better financial performance in 2020 compared to 2019.
Although farmers were still concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their farms in June, they were slightly less concerned than a month earlier. When asked about the virus’ impact on their farms’ profitability, 64% of respondents said they were either “very” or “fairly worried”, down from 71% of respondents that felt that way in May. In light of ethanol plant shutdowns and slowdowns in response to poor operating margins, a large majority of farmers (73%) still expressed concern about the ethanol industry’s future viability, but this was also down somewhat compared to the 81% of respondents who expressed concern in May.
The June survey provided the first opportunity to survey farmers after details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) were widely available. Sixty percent of farmers in the June survey said CFAP “somewhat” (53%) or “completely” (7%) relieved their concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their 2020 farm income with just over one-fourth of respondents (26%) responding “not at all” to this question. However, nearly two-thirds (64%) of June survey respondents still said they think it will be necessary to pass another bill to provide more economic assistance to farmers in 2020, similar to May when 67% of respondents felt that way.