Ian Sheldon

OSU Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference this week

Farmers in Ohio and across the Midwest might have reason to be optimistic this year.

Prices for soybeans, corn, and wheat have risen in 2020, and total net cash income from farms in the United States is expected to be up this year by 4.5%. That’s partly because of an increase in government payments to farmers.

Those payments will make up 32% of this year’s net cash income from all U.S. farms—more than double the portion those payments typically account for, said Ben Brown, an assistant professor of agricultural risk management at the The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). 

Traditionally, government assistance to farmers has made up about 14% of the annual net cash income from farms in the United States. Net farm cash income is a measure of profit generated from all U.S. farms by adding all sales of agricultural commodities and farming-related activities, plus direct government payments, and subtracting cash expenses.  

Until recently, government assistance to farmers came almost exclusively through the Farm Bill, which is legislation passed by Congress about every five years. However in recent years, aid given to farmers through the Farm Bill was supplemented with additional government payments. 

“More and more people think that the current safety net for farmers is not sufficient,” Brown said regarding the Farm Bill, which funds programs ranging from crop insurance to land conservation programs. 

Besides receiving aid through Farm Bill programs this year, farmers also were compensated for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and for the drop in international demand for certain commodities. That decline in demand came as a result of tariff increases on those commodities, including on American soybeans sold overseas. 

Government payments to farmers will be among the many policy issues that will be discussed at the Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference Nov. 9–13. The conference will be a series of two-hour online webinars Nov. 9, 10, 12, and 13 hosted by the CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.

Each day will focus on a different topic. Nov. 9 will be on agricultural finance; Nov. 10, agricultural and environmental policy; Nov. 12, agricultural trade and the health of the U.S. economy; and Nov. 13, grain, livestock, and consumer demand projections. 

Agricultural economists from CFAES will speak along with other experts from Washington, D.C., other leading land-grant institutions, and the Federal Reserve System. The webinars begin at noon and include a daily panel discussion that starts at 1 p.m. and invites people in the audience to ask questions. 

Speakers at the conference will offer their recap of 2020 and forecasts for 2021 at the national, regional, and local levels, Brown said.

“Our hope is that people who come, gain knowledge to use to influence their businesses.”

To register and for more information about the conference, visit go.osu.edu/aedeconference.

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