Milk Maid

Last year was rough for Minnesota’s farmers

The never ending trade wars, low prices and terrible weather all year long has taken its toll on everyone, but especially Minnesota’s farmers.

On Monday, the University of Minnesota Extension released a new report stating median farm income in 2018 was $26,055, down eight percent from 2017, capping off a half-decade run of poor years for Minnesota’s farmers.

The report examined data from 2,209 participants in farm business management programs, as well as 101 members of the Southwest Minnesota Farm Business Management Association, the release stated.

“We’ve been tracking this data since 1996,” said Dale Nordquist, of the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota.

“This was the lowest, median income year we’ve seen over that 23 year span, when we adjust for inflation. It’s really, really a tough situation and, not only that, it’s the sixth straight year of low incomes.”

According to the report, farm income in 2018 varied by the type of farming operation, beef and dairy farmers were worse off and crop farmers were better off, but overall it was the worst year for farmers in Minnesota since the Farm Crisis in the early 1980s.

Prices in the beef and pork industry are also down, according to researchers.

Minnesota beef farmers’ median income was just over $6,000. Crop farmers saw a slight increase but still saw historically low earnings.

Pork prices were down nine percent in 2018, largely because of the trade war.

The average hog finisher, a farmer who prepares pigs to send to the slaughterhouse, lost $11.50 per pig.

This is significant because Minnesota is one of the top hog states in the nation, with the majority of the hogs being raised in Southern Minnesota.

Dairy farmers are wrestling with overproduction, plummeting prices and widespread consolidation. The median income at a dairy farm in Minnesota dropped by nearly two-thirds last year, from $43,000 to less than $15,000.

About 10 percent of dairy farms in Minnesota shut down last year.

The Minnesota Milk Producers Association says more farms are at risk of closing again this year.

On Monday, the large television news outlets in the Twin Cities, channels 4, 5 and 11, all had stories about this newly released report and how it effects Minnesota’s farmers, and all three of the outlets interviewed dairy farmers.

The neat thing about it is that I know all three of those farmers. KARE-11 interviewed: the Libenstein family from near Northfield, WCCO had Charles Krause from Buffalo and KSTP interviewed the Mirons from Hugo.

They all did a great job highlighting how difficult farming has been and I really appreciate the news coverage.

In his interview, Paul Libenstein said, “I think being a farmer is probably the greatest profession you could have, but this has kind of taken the fun out of it.”

The University of Minnesota report also showed a wide disparity in incomes. The top 20 percent of farmers earned an average of $184,000 last year, while about 35 percent of all farmers were not able to turn any profit.

One bright spot for farmers is that the price of farm land remains strong, saving many from losing too much net worth.

Brittany Moorse

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