December 10, 2008

Illinois farmers cautiously optimistic on 2009; more soy seen


Despite plunging prices and concerns about input costs, a majority of Illinois farmers expect to break even or turn a profit in 2009, according to an Illinois Farm Bureau survey.


Of the 162 farmers surveyed, 39.6 percent see an "average" year ahead and 18.1 percent are "somewhat optimistic" for a "pretty profitable year." The survey, from the farm bureau's annual meeting in Chicago, found 34.2 percent were somewhat pessimistic and 6.7 percent were very pessimistic and expected to lose money.


Farm Bureau spokesman John Hawkins said farmers were "cautiously optimistic" but well aware of the uncertainty with the economy, rising input costs and the potential for weakening demand.


"They know it's going to be a challenging year," Hawkins said.


Farmers' biggest concerns are increasing input costs and market volatility. Rising costs for fertilizer, seed, crop protection and rent was of "high concern" to 89.8 percent of farmers, while market volatility was of high concern to 89.1 percent.


Only 2.7 percent of respondents said the credit crunch had impacted their ability to obtain an operating loan, and 30.1 percent said their operation was expanding, compared to only 2.7 percent who said it was contracting.


The survey indicated greater soy planting in 2009, with 29.7 percent planning to plant more soy acres next year and 23 percent planning fewer acres.


Hawkins said producers had switched several thousand acres from soy to corn in recent years due to ethanol demand. But rising input costs for corn have changed farmers' perspectives, he said.


"They're trying to return to their traditional 50-50 crop rotation," he said.


Illinois is the second-largest producer of corn and soy in the US, behind Iowa.

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