Where is your ag barometer?

Optimism is rebounding in agriculture.

Kevin.Schulz, senior content specialist

October 9, 2020

4 Min Read
Illustration: stress meter at maximum level
iStock/Getty Images Plus/donskarpo

A lot of times when a news outlet reports the latest poll, saying the "public" feels this way or that way about an issue or a poll saying this candidate leads over their opponent, I reply "well, they didn't ask me." Of course, I respond that way when I don't agree with the tilt of the survey results.

I have never been asked to participate in one of these public opinion surveys on an issue or for which candidate I would vote for, and most of the time I don't dive much further into the structure of the survey. But occasionally I am intrigued by who conducted the survey, how it was conducted, who was canvassed.

One such survey that I have found interesting is the monthly Ag Economy Barometer, done by Purdue University and the CME Group, to get a feeling for how agriculture producers are feeling. This monthly telephone survey gathers the responses from 400 U.S. agrarians to get a collective pulse on the economic outlook, as well as various questions on potential purchase prospects or cropping practices.

The producers surveyed Sept. 21-25 shared optimism, with the barometer climbing to an index of 156, "the highest reading for the index since the pandemic began last winter and 12 points higher than one month earlier. The index is up 38 points since July and is 60 points higher than its 2020 low established back in April."

Figure 1: Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, October 2015-September 2020.

James Mintert and Michael Langemeier with the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture write in the report, that producers appear to be looking favorably on the current conditions as well as what lies ahead, when compared to the results from August. The Current Conditions Index rose 18 points, while the Future Expectations Index rose nine points, both from the month before.

This optimism may have something to do with timing, as Mintert and Langemeier write that this improved outlook "occurred against the backdrop of USDA’s September 18th announcement of the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments for U.S. agricultural producers. The program provides up to $14 billion in additional assistance to agricultural producers determined to have suffered from market disruptions and costs because of COVID-19. Program details were released on Sept. 21, just as data collection for this month’s survey began. Additionally, fall harvested crop prices strengthened from the time data was collected for the August to the September surveys, in a continuation of a rally that got underway in late-summer."

In addition to strict agriculture-related sentiments, the Barometer also dives into peripheral issues of interest, and this most-recent survey probed into an area that pre-COVID-19 seemed so foreign. We have seen many organizations and companies turn to the web waves to offer educational opportunities that normally would be held on a college campus or civic convention center. Virtual conferences and Zoom meetings have become the norm.

Sadly, at least from a person who has been involved in some of these web offerings, 22% of survey respondents said they attended an online educational program or field day this year. From our perspective we would like a higher percentage than that. "When asked what aspects of these programs they liked, the two most popular responses were flexible timing of attending and viewing the programs (27%) and the ability to choose topics of interest (21%) followed by quality of presentations (16%), opportunity to earn continuing education credits (14%) and opportunities to ask questions (13%). When asked what aspects of these programs they disliked, respondents overwhelmingly pointed to the lack of interaction with other attendees (40%) followed by a poor broadband connection (18%), difficulty in asking questions (17%) and poor quality of presentations (14%)," the report reads.

As we attempt to bring quality content to you through our magazine, website and now through virtual events, your involvement has always been key. We, and others producing such events, can use these numbers just presented as a turning point to see where improvements can be made, how we can make the event even better and how can we improve on the delivery.

We get another chance with our upcoming Global Hog Industry Virtual Conference on Oct. 22. We have a full day of seminars and networking opportunities. No, it's not the same as networking in-person with the speakers or fellow attendees, but then again nothing is the same.

Nothing is the same. Is that how you feel? When you read the sentiments of your fellow producers in this ag barometer, do you respond the same way as I do, "well, they didn't ask me." Let me know where your ag barometer needle lands.

About the Author(s)


senior content specialist, National Hog Farmer

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