Agricultural Policy Conference to Discuss Economic Outlook for Farmers

Nov. 6, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Any decline in agricultural income can affect the economy in the areas where farms and agribusinesses exist.
So, at a time when the prices farmers are earning for soybeans and corn are low and jobs in agriculture have been on the decline, it’s important to consider how Ohio’s many rural communities can rebound, said Tim Haab, professor and department chair of the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. The department is part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.
Ohio’s rural counties are also facing a trend toward younger people leaving for college, then jobs in cities, Haab said.  
“You’re seeing the best and brightest of future generations leaving rural areas, and that raises important questions for rural areas,” Haab said. “Going forward, what does it mean for these rural areas if they can no longer depend on agriculture as their primary economic driver?”
That question and many others about the future of agriculture in Ohio will be considered at the Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference on Thursday, Nov. 9, an event organized by the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. Free to the public, the conference is from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the university’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, in Columbus.
The disappointing prices farmers have earned for corn and soybeans likely won’t change much in the next three to five years, said Gary Schnitkey, an economics professor and farm management specialist at the University of Illinois. He too will be speaking at the upcoming conference, presenting “Agricultural Outlook 2017.”
“This isn’t a crisis, but it’s a concern,” Schnitkey said.
Last year, corn prices averaged $3.36 a bushel – a steep fall from the $4.70 a bushel average between 2001 and 2013, Schnitkey said.
Soybeans have been more profitable than corn since 2013, but even they have fallen in price in recent years. Last year, the price dipped to $9.47 a bushel. From 2006 to 2013, soybeans averaged $10.91 a bushel.
“These are lower prices than many of us expected them to be,” said Schnitkey.
When incomes from raising soybeans and corn were good – up until about five years ago – farmers had a lot more of a financial cushion, but “we’re seeing that erode away,” Schnitkey said.
Farmers, particularly those who pay rent on the land they tend, are facing tough decisions about what and how much to plant, he pointed out.
A hopeful trend is the surging demand from China for U.S. soybeans, Schnitkey pointed out. The soybeans imported by China primarily are used to feed animals, mostly hogs and chickens, to meet a growing demand for meat there, Schnitkey said.
Now 48 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are exported to China and “one of these years, it’s going to be 50 percent,” he said.
In addition to Haab and Schnitkey, seven others will give presentations at the conference including George Mokrzan, director of economics with Huntington National Bank, and six CFAES faculty and staff members including Cathann A. Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean.
Other CFAES speakers will include:
  • Ben Brown, farm management program manager
  • Ani Katchova, associate professor and chair of the farm income enhancement program
  • Ian Sheldon, professor and the Andersons Chair of Agricultural Marketing, Trade and Policy
  • Brent Sohngen, professor and professor and leader of Ohio State’s Environmental Policy Initiative
  • Carl Zulauf, professor emeritus
(Editors: For photos of both Tim Haab and Gary Schnitkey, contact Alayna DeMartini at or 614-292-9833)
Alayna DeMartini
Tim Haab
Gary Schnitkey