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A Slow Leak Down

This interview is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Various sectors in agriculture may be like a balloon with a slow leak. That leak isn’t catastrophic like the balloon getting popped. But it can be deflating for farmland owners after a few years of increased profits over much of the industry.

That’s one thing that Dr. Scott Brown has learned in recent weeks. Brown is a University of Missouri-Columbia Associate Extension Professor in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.

His interest in agriculture is lifelong. Brown grew up on his family’s farm in northwest Missouri surrounded by row crops, sows, and some cattle. The Farm Crisis in the 1980s chased his dad away from farming.

The experience has likely made Brown even more committed to helping farmers and ranchers understand what’s happening, where things are headed, and what it all means. Brown has also tried to connect policymakers to the realities of agriculture. He has testified before Congress and regularly advised Missouri legislators on policy matters.

RELATED: Dr. Scott Brown is retiring from his full-time work at the University of Missouri-Columbia this September. In May the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City will honor him with the group’s Jay B. Dillingham Award for Agricultural Leadership and Excellence. Learn more in this Farm Journal story here. 

There are a handful of pressures on farmers and producers that hold Brown’s attention right now.

“Watch the downside,” Brown said as he looked ahead.

How far down is that downside? And how fast will it get there?

Brown is also interim director of Rural & Farm Finance Policy Analysis Center at the University of Missouri and helps author the Ag Economists’ Monthly Monitor. The project is a joint effort between the Farm Journal and agricultural policy research centers at the University of Missouri.

RELATED: The Rural & Farm Finance Policy Analysis Center predicted farm incomes for seven states: Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota. Read those projections here. 

That monthly monitor is his connection to about 70 economists from across the country who weigh in, anonymously, on what they expect in agriculture.

“We’re talking about a slow leak down of equity unless something catastrophic happens,” Brow said about the overall agricultural economy. “The question is how long does that leakage happen?”

The most recent Ag Economists’ Monthly Monitor showed that economists are pessimistic about commodity prices but optimistic about some meat prices. The economists reported:  

  • Declining commodity prices

  • Higher cattle and hog prices

  • Higher production costs

  • Concerns about exports


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