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AGRI-PULSE POLL: FARMERS PLAN TO CUT EXPENSES, STRONGLY OPPOSE RFS REDUCTION
Agri-Pulse reports:

Farmers expect to see weaker financial returns in 2014 and will adjust their expenditures - spending less on fertilizer and equipment but more on crop insurance - according to the Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll launched this week in partnership with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

Nearly 80 percent expect their 2014 farm financial outlook to worsen - 47 percent expect it to worsen "slightly" while 32 percent expect it to worsen "a great deal." Poll respondents said they also expect the value of their farmland to drop this year, with 75 percent expecting values to decrease.

Eighty-seven percent of the farmers' surveyed plan to either purchase more or continue about the same level of crop insurance as last year. The majority view crop insurance as the most important Farm Bill "tool" for maintaining their profitability this year.

The importance of crop insurance came through when farmers were asked what aspect of the Agricultural Act of 2014 will be most important in helping their financial situation this year. More than 62 percent chose crop insurance as more important to their operations than other aspects of the just-passed Farm Bill.

The poll was taken Feb. 23 with more than 130 Iowa farmers responding to the unaided 12-question poll.

ISA President Brian Kemp of Sibley, Iowa said he and other farmers in northwest Iowa are working diligently to understand new crop insurance provisions and enrollment procedures while keeping an eye on rising fertilizer prices.

"These findings reflect the uncertainty caused by softening grain prices and two consecutive years of challenging growing conditions in Iowa and many parts of the country," said Kemp. "As farmers prepare for a new crop year that will likely feature tightening margins, many will scrutinize provisions included in the new Farm Bill as well as farm-related expenses."

As for cutting expenses, 58 percent of the Iowa farmers targeted reductions in farm equipment expenditures. About one-third of the respondents (32 percent) will cut back on fertilizer while 15 percent cited "crop chemicals." The lowest cut is in seed expenses, with only 8 percent of farmers saying that input is where they'll tighten expenditures.

Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant said the perspective provided by Iowa soybean farmers reflects the U.S. Department of Agriculture's forecast of a 30 percent decline in 2014 net farm income.

Other poll findings:

More than one-half (57 percent) think cash rent values will stay about the same. Two-thirds (68 percent) intend to purchase about the same amount of crop insurance this year and almost half (48 percent) expect to spend about the same on farm expenses. A similar amount (45 percent) think they'll spend less than before.

Ninety-two percent of farmers polled oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's recently proposed lowering of the amount of corn-based ethanol and biodiesel that is required to be blended in the nation's fuel as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Almost three out of five farmers responding (58 percent) said that, of several national issues including the Farm Bill, trade, tax codes and immigration, the RFS is most important to the future profitability of their farms.

Farmers were more divided on trade issues. When asked if they support Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to provide President Barack Obama with fast-track negotiating authority on future trade agreements, 46 percent said yes, 28 percent said no and about 25 percent had no opinion or did not answer the question.

More than one-half of respondents (57 percent) aren't very confident that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening up trade with Pacific Rim countries, will be approved in 2014. Only 2.3 percent are very confident. More than one-quarter (27 percent) are somewhat confident.

About the Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll: The ISA and Agri-Pulse launched the Agri-Pulse Farm Opinion Poll in February to help farmers amplify their voice by collecting opinions and circulating the results. The survey is conducted at least six times annually and captures perspective and opinions on such topics as key legislative and regulatory issues, crop conditions, planting and harvesting progress, yield estimates and other timely issues impacting farmer profitability.


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