The USDA Farm Income Forecast: Not So Good

USDA, Flickr

The USDA's newest Farm Income Forecast is bleak. Income will be down. Prices of milk will be down. Payments from the government will skyrocket. Everything, basically, will be going down the tubes. And here, bizarrely, is a quote from USDA secretary Tom Vilsack: "Today's farm income forecast is heartening for all Americans." What's going on here?

Thomas Landstreet at Forbes calls the current economic situation in American agriculture “an unprecedented bubble.” He writes: “I believe that bubble is popping and has a long way to go. It will take everything related to agriculture down with it.” He’s not the only one with a dismal attitude about the realities of agriculture in this country.

The latest USDA Economic Research Service Farm Income and Finances Report, issued on August 25th, suggests that net cash income will be down 21 percent from 2014; net farm income will be down 36 percent from 2014; the forecast will be the lowest since 2002, if adjusted for inflation; corn, soy, and wheat will all be significantly down; milk prices will drop; livestock receipts will go down 9.1 percent. One increase? Farm debt, which will rise by 5.8 percent.

Yet somehow, Vilsack finds this to be … good news. Vilsack, like Landstreet, notes that agriculture has been in a bubble for the past five years or so, with prices skyrocketing to unforeseen levels. He describes, in a released statement, the adjusted predictions as encouraging:

Today’s projections provide a snapshot of a rural America that continues to remain stable and resilient in the face of the worst animal disease outbreak in our nation’s history and while the western United States remains gripped by drought.

He does note that locally-grown food, organic food, and “biobased industry” productions have gone up in the past year, and that jobs, against all odds, have increased—but with every measurable metric predicted to sink in 2015, how strong will those trends prove to be?

You can read the highlights from the farm forecast here.

The USDA Farm Income Forecast: Not So Good