Economic Tidbits

Agriculture in the Crystal Ball

Crystal balls are often cloudy, but Tidbits asked producers to peer into theirs regarding the future of agriculture over the next ten years. Respondents to the Tidbits informal survey in December were asked to identify trends they believed would most impact their operations’ financial success over the next decade. Nine trends were presented as options and respondents were asked to select three. Respondents were also given the opportunity to write in trends not included on the list as an option. The survey results are shown in Figure 1. The percentages represent the percentage of times a trend was identified from the total number of responses.

The top two trends identified as being most impactful to operations over the next decade were international trade (23 percent) and generational transfers or transitions (20 percent). The identification of these two trends come as no surprise. Nebraska agriculture is dependent on overseas sales. The value of exports typically equals 30 percent of total agricultural receipts. And, if history is any guide, farm income in Nebraska is better when exports are higher. In many respects, purchases by China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and other major trading partners will have an important say in Nebraska agriculture over the next decade.

The transfer of farm operations between generations will also have considerable impact for Nebraska agriculture. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of producers 55 years and over grew 22 percent, while those below age 55 shrank 6 percent. In 2017, producers 55 years and over accounted for 60 percent of Nebraska producers. Countless number of farm and ranch operations will deal with an operational transition over the next decade. The outcomes will dictate the future of operations, rural communities, and Nebraska agriculture.

Following trade and transitions, respondents identified a cluster of three trends including technology adoption, climate change, and concentration within agriculture. Each of these are influencing agriculture today, and producers expect they will continue to do so in the future. Other trends listed under the other category included property taxes, inflation, regulatory burdens, and herbicide/pesticide resistance.

Figure 1. Top Issues Facing Producers Over the Next 10 Years

Source: Tidbits Survey, December, 2021.

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