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Illinois Farmers Grim About Ag Economy

A field of corn
Randy Wick

Illinois is now in year four of fairly low farm income and no turnaround is in sight, according to Farm Bureau Chief Economist Mike Doherty.

Doherty said this is mainly due to low prices tied to increases in supply from competitors in Argentina and Brazil. Doherty said this year represents a slight decrease from last year in Illinois.

The Illinois Farm Bureau said 92 percent of its members surveyed expect their financial health to deteriorate or remain the same next year. Doherty said most farmers are looking for a way to cut expenses.

"85 percent of them plan to delay equipment purchases. Over a third surveyed said the plan is to try to reduce interest payments or farm debt through restructuring. And sizeable portions of the respondents also said they will cut fertilizer and pesticide expenses or avoid hiring seasonal help," said Doherty.

Farmers and their foreign customers are especially concerned with trade agreements.

"What we do know though is from the people we work with in Mexico is they are nervous about the future and will the U.S. pull out of NAFTA," said Doherty.

Illinois farmers also rate the continuance of NAFTA highly as gauged at this week's annual meeting. The Trump administration has expressed skepticism about NAFTA's effect on the manufacturing sector. But the ag sector has benefited from the pact.

The Illinois agricultural economy is more than $121 billion. That's close to 10 percent of the total economy, and agriculture sector employment is nearly 6 percent of all the jobs in the state and more than 5 percent of household income.

You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Doherty:

GLT's full story about the farm economy.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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