Net Farm Income Up, but Uncertainty on Horizon

Net Farm Income Up, but Uncertainty on Horizon
Associate Professor and Extension Policy Specialist
Combine harvesting soybeans.


This article was published by Nebraska Farmer on Nov. 4, 2021 and is excerpted here with permission.

As 2021 winds to an end, farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and across the U.S. are assessing a mix of favorable trends in farm income and finances, but also significant questions about future income prospects and policy directions.

Farm income results

Since the recent low of $62 billion posted nationally in 2016, U.S. net farm income has grown to a projected $113 billion in 2021, according to USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates published in early September.

The 2021 projection would be near record levels for farm income (in nominal terms), surpassed only by a similar 2011 level and a 2013 record of nearly $124 billion. The rebound since 2016 may seem all the more surprising given the negative impacts of trade conflicts in recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 (and continuing). Hidden behind the numbers, however, is the significant role played by government payments to producers.

Net farm income minus government payments actually fell year over year from 2018 to 2020 as trade losses and COVID-19 pandemic effects were felt. However, government payments grew from less than $14 billion in 2018 to more than $45 billion in 2020 as trade assistance and then COVID-19 assistance mushroomed.

Full Article on Nebraska Farmer