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Indiana farmer sentiment hits 4-year low

By NEIL HEDRICK - (Crawfordsville) Journal Review

WEST LAFAYETTE — Farmer sentiment fell to one of the lowest levels in nearly four years in April, as the bleak agricultural economy hangs over another planting season.

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer slipped 18 points, marking the fourth largest one-month drop since the survey began in October 2015.

Growing pessimism about current and long-range economic conditions drove the results, which are based on a monthly survey of 400 agricultural producers nationwide. The ongoing trade dispute with China, sluggish commodity prices and lower farm values have roiled the ag landscape in recent years.

“As you look at it, that suggests the percentage of producers expecting lower farmland values is getting close to the levels we observed late last summer and early last fall when producers perspective was relatively negative,” Purdue ag economist Jim Mintert said in a video summarizing the results.

There was a modest change in attitude about the impact of the trade dispute on U.S. agriculture.

Of the producers surveyed, 71 percent expect a favorable resolution stateside, down seven points from March. But more farmers say the dispute won’t likely be settled by July 1.

On Tuesday, China agreed to resume negotiations after the White House accused the country of reneging on the agreement by changing the text of the deal being crafted. President Donald Trump had threatened higher tariffs as a result.

Amid the uncertainty, few farmers are willing to make large investments in their operations. Nearly three-quarters of farmers surveyed said it was a “good time” for substantial investments.

Locally, the wet spring is putting a strain on farmers. Just 3 percent of Indiana corn has been planted so far this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, far below average for early May.

Only 1 percent of Indiana soybeans are in the ground.

Long-range forecasts call for drier weather by mid-May, giving local farmers a window to catch up, said Mike Carrell, manager of Ceres Solutions in Wingate.