It rained more days than it was sunny in the first half of 2019 and farmers lost their largest soybean market heading into last year’s season, but despite all of this, farmers say they aren’t looking back as they head into 2020.
Although Hoosier farmers saw one of the top-three worst planting seasons on record while enduring last year’s trade uncertainty, only 6 percent of farmers faced financial stress in 2019, according to Purdue University reports.
Heading into 2020, farmers are optimistic about this year according to the most recent agriculture barometer report by Purdue University, but even if planting season issues and trade negotiations persist, local farmers think they can handle whatever 2020 brings.
“Yes, I think that we can (handle it again),” Purdue Extension educator Corey Roser said. “While it wouldn’t be ideal, I think we can do it.”
Roser said the weather cooperated at the end of the growing season to allow yields to rebound, and he said it was the unpredictable weather that put the most stress on farmers.
Northern Indiana farmer Brian Warpup said he agreed.
“It would be tough to go through that again,” Warpup said in reference to the weather and late planting season before talking about trade and overall uncertainty in 2019. “I don’t want to (go through that again). I know we all don’t want to because of the stress level that came from that… Financially, I don’t think some can take it.”
Warpup said a finalized deal with China could be huge for farmers in 2020, especially since he believes a deal with China could increase exports with China beyond where they were before the trade negotiations began.
The Purdue Ag Barometer’s reading for “current economic conditions” dropped slightly in December after rebounding toward the end of the year, but the reading rose for “future economic conditions.”
“If we can sign an agreement with China, that will help our soybeans tremendously,” he said. “If we do overproduce soybeans – and as long as we can export them – it will help us maintain our price.”
Prices for soybeans have risen since Trump announced a Phase 1 deal with China and since he signed the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), called the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement.
Warpup said the escalating tariffs “really put an umbrella on our commodity exports to Asia,” although he said the inclement weather caused more issues.
Roser said the biggest factor influencing farmers’ success this year will be getting the crop in the ground on time.
“Last year we were plagued with so much rain and it really delayed planting and the growing season,” he said. “So I think farmers are really cautious right now and not too sure what’s gonna happen with the weather.
“Weather is definitely the biggest factor,” Roser continued. “Trade agreements definitely play some part in all of that, but if you can’t get your crop in the ground at all or it doesn’t grow well, you can’t sell anything.”