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Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll: Growers see trade as hope for sour farm economy

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More than a third of farmers polled said passing new trade agreements is the most important national issue for agriculture. (Photo: Joseph Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

With the farm economy stuck in a multiyear funk, Iowa soybean producers see trade as one of the big opportunities for improving their economic situation.

More than a third of 133 soybean farmers (34.5 percent) surveyed by Agri-Pulse said passing new trade agreements is the most important national issue affecting the profitability of their farm. Coming in second was maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (27.8 percent), followed by reducing regulatory burdens (13.5 percent).

Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant, who helped collect and tabulate the results of the quarterly poll conducted in April with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) said farmers are closely following the trade agenda of President Donald Trump.

“Almost three quarters of respondents said they agree with his plan to renegotiate NAFTA,” Wyant said. “It’s clear that the farm economy depends on trade and that our farm exports to Mexico and to Canada are critical for agriculture.”

Poll participants were somewhat divided over the president’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have joined the U.S. in a trading agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim nations. Forty-five percent disagreed with that move, while almost 38 percent backed his decision.

Perhaps the strongest response in the survey was to a question about the EPA. About 85 percent of the farmers surveyed said they “somewhat” or “strongly” agree with the executive orders Trump has issued rolling back agency regulations. Only 13 percent disagreed with those orders.

Meanwhile, for the fourth straight year, responding farmers said they expect weaker financial conditions and are “tightening their belts” to trim expenses. Almost 55 percent said they expect their economic outlook to worsen either slightly or significantly, with 31.5 percent predicting things to stay about the same. Almost half said they would be cutting back on farm expenses, with equipment and fertilizer at the top of their lists.

“During these lean economic times, farmers are focused on strong yields, building market share for U.S. and Iowa-grown soybeans and easing regulatory burdens,” said Grant Kimberley, ISA director of market development. “With expectations of a fourth consecutive year of record global soybean production, it’s critical that we find more uses and markets for soybeans. Thus far, demand is holding strong and we’ll continue to emphasize the importance of trade to elected leaders and buyers.”

With a still sluggish economy, respondents said they fail to see any jump coming in farmland values. In fact, 48 percent said farmland values will continue to fall while 46.6 percent said they would stay about the same. Predictions about cash rents were similar.

Farmers also weighed in on the next farm bill, with 38 percent saying they’d like to see more investment in crop insurance followed by more funding for the conservation title (23 percent).

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For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com.

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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March 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.