In a new report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service, farm sector profits are expected to increase in 2017.
Ironically, some of the biggest gains will accrue to dairy and cotton producers whose lobbyists have been the loudest at demanding Congress pass a new farm bill to increase taxpayer subsidies for their businesses.
Net cash farm income for 2017 is forecast at $100.4 billion, up $11.2 billion (12.6 percent) from 2016. This includes an increase in cash receipts of $14.1 billion (4.0 percent), led by a $13.6-billion (8.4 percent) increase in animal product receipts, with crop receipts mainly flat. But dig into the overall numbers and you see significant increases for some sectors, including cotton, up $1.5 billion (26 percent), and dairy, up $3.8 billion (11.1 percent). Washington-based lobbyists for dairy and cotton have spent all year demanding lawmakers increase spending on their programs in the next farm bill or through targeted “riders” on must-pass spending bills. Despite the fact that these lobbyists surely knew the producers of dairy and cotton, whose interests they claim to represent, are expecting double-digit increases in sales this year.
The report also forecasts median farm household income to remain level at $76,831 in 2017. This continues the trend of households with income from farming typically having incomes much higher than households without income from farming. Median U.S. household income was most recently reported as $59,039 (2016).
With the expected increase in farm profits and steady farm household income in 2017, Congress must work to create a more cost-effective, transparent federal safety net for agricultural businesses by reducing taxpayer-funded subsidies in the 2018 Farm Bill. Ignoring agricultural realities in order to send more cash to the most vocal agricultural special interests is simply something we can’t afford.