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Farmers May See Dip In Income, But Experts Say There Are Reasons To Be Optimistic

Amy Mayer
Harvest Public Media

Farmers might make less money this year due to less assistance from the government and increased production costs. 

Farm income is estimated to be $112 billion in 2021 — $9 billion less than last year. 

In 2020, farmers and ranchers made a total of $121 billion, the highest amount since 2013. Government subsidies account for $46 billion, according to a report from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. 

China also played a big part in increased incomes. Patrick Westhoff, director of the institute, says there has been an increase in demand in crops like soybeans after African swine fever devastated the Chinese pork industry. 

“They've been trying to rebuild. To do so, of course, you need feed for those livestock,” Westhoff says. “They’re trying to change the way they feed livestock without using kitchen scraps and things like that as much as they used to, but instead rely on corn and soybean meal.”

While farmers will receive aid from the past two stimulus bills, overall government aid will be lower in 2021. Westhoff also says farmers are spending more money with fertilizer, feed and fuel prices. 

Still, 2021 farm incomes are projected to be better than 2015-2019. Westhoff says the pandemic and a change in demand or another resurgence in African swine fever could affect salaries this year. 

Copyright 2021 Harvest Public Media

Seth Bodine joined KOSU in June 2020, focusing on agriculture and rural issues.