Survey Highlights Input Costs as Biggest Worry for Farmers

by Garrett Hawkins, President of Missouri Farm Bureau

 

Without fail, every time I put my brand new Farm Bureau calendar up on the wall, I get a few butterflies in my stomach. With every page turn comes a set of experiences, covering everything incredibly familiar and routine to moments that come completely out of left field. While starting a new year might bring about some jitters, I try to see every page as a challenge to make both my life and the lives of those around me better at every opportunity.

Our state annual meeting in early December is great for a number of reasons, but one aspect that I feel is sometimes overlooked might be one of the most established routines we have at Farm Bureau – the Farmometer survey. While by no means scientific, this annual marker features the same questions every year and provides a handle on how Missouri’s farmers and ranchers feel about the agriculture industry at the closing of a calendar year. It looks back at the last 12 months and ahead at the next 12 months to paint a picture of what challenges our members are facing.

So, what’s the big takeaway from this year’s survey? Well, that’s complicated.

Our nearly 150 respondents were united on a couple of fronts. A resounding 84% continued to be proud of our industry by saying they would recommend that their children follow in their footsteps. That’s a huge number.

More than half also said input costs are the number one challenge facing the future of farming operations in Missouri. Expanding that further, the number grows to nearly two-thirds of respondents having rising input costs in their top three (of 10 listed) challenges, along with land costs and commodity prices. No surprises there.

But one result that stands out are the responses to the following question: “Looking to the new year, how do you generally feel about your farming operation?”

40.7% indicated no change from a year ago.
32.1% indicated they are more pessimistic from a year ago.
27.1% indicated they are more optimistic from a year ago.

With our sample size, those percentages can almost be quantified as “falling within the margin of error”. I look at the full slate of results and I can find myself aligning with each possible answer in some way. I’m never more proud than when my children hop into the truck to head out to check cows first thing in the morning. I think about my grandfather scratching out his own input costs on the back of a cereal box, and I can relate, except that oftentimes I use the back of an envelope. There are times I’m optimistic about the year ahead, and there are times I certainly feel the blues.

But the one constant that I always remind myself of is that my fellow farmers and ranchers throughout Missouri and our nation are an incredibly resilient crop of individuals. The survey might say “no change,” but there’s change being made each and every day. Change for those around us, change for those we will never meet, and change within ourselves. I look forward to the opportunities that are ahead in 2023, and I wish only the best for you this year as well.

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