CHICAGO – Considering the farm economy, nearly 51 percent of Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) members surveyed feel about the same level of optimism for the coming year as compared with 2016. The answer was in response to an email survey of 277 members registered with IFB’s Legislative Action Center.

“We’re now fighting through our third straight year of commodity prices near record lows,†said Richard Guebert, Jr., president, Illinois Farm Bureau. “That a combined 81 percent of our members feel about the same level of optimism — or less optimistic — about the year to come certainly isn’t surprising. Many farmers are going to have to make tough decisions this year; they’re rightly concerned about how they’ll keep their businesses afloat.â€

Thirty percent of respondents feel less optimistic than they did in 2016; only 19 percent are more optimistic.

As a result of their concerns over the farm economy, 81 percent of respondents said they plan to reduce inputs in 2017 by the following means:

  • 93 percent plan to delay equipment purchases
  • 44 percent will buy less expensive seed
  • 40 percent will negotiate lower cash rent
  • Nearly 38 percent will delay or cut back on chemical and fertilizer purchases
  • Nearly 24 percent will implement cost-saving technology including GPS or field mapping
  • 9 percent will choose a lower level of crop insurance or give up a portion of rented ground

Respondents were instructed to choose all options that applied.

Respondents ranked several priority issues in terms of importance in the coming year. The top concern was fighting intrusive and costly federal regulations, followed by keeping federal crop insurance viable; cutting the small business tax rate and eliminating the death tax; modernizing our nation’s transportation infrastructure; and preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“These regulatory and legislative concerns aren’t new,†Guebert said. “We’ve received similar answers when we’ve surveyed our members in the past. The difference this year will be how these concerns are handled by a new administration. Regardless, with a third straight year of slumping commodity prices and a faltering farm economy, farmers will need to take these concerns into account as they make decisions which affect the long-term viability of their farms.â€

Members also were polled regarding nutrient management.

Nearly 95 percent said they regularly test their soil for potassium and phosphorus levels, a slight increase from last year. Nearly 72 percent use variable rate technology for fertilizer applications; 67 percent split nitrogen applications; and 62 percent follow the University of Illinois Agronomy Handbook recommendations for potassium and phosphorus applications. Respondents were instructed to choose all options that applied; and all represented a slight increase from last year.

Nearly 53 percent have used cover crops in the past, with 67 percent having planted cover crops for five years or less. Of those who have not used cover crops, 75 percent said they would be willing to do so in the future.

Nearly 84 percent of members said they have installed buffer strips along streams or ditches, and 22 percent have installed pollinator habitats. Just more than half of farmers said they do not receive cost share of incentives to implement conservation practices.

“This year, we were especially pleased to see increases in the awareness and implementation of nutrient stewardship practices of the farmers surveyed,†Guebert said. “It shows farmers’ efforts to protect land and water are growing and making a difference.â€

This is this sixth consecutive year IFB members have been surveyed in advance of the organization’s annual meeting.

The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization directed by farmers who join through their county Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 400,000 and a voting membership of more than 82,000. IFB represents three out of four Illinois farmers.