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As spring fieldwork gets under way and input decisions are finalized, the AgriMarketing/Beck Ag PRODUCER DIALOGUE indicated that increased costs of purchased inputs will be the single most important problem facing their businesses in 2006.

The overall U.S. economy has displayed remarkable resiliency in the face of record high energy prices, rising interest rates, natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina), and the continued war on terrorism. Many economists are anticipating real Gross Domstic Product (GDP) growth in the 3 percent to 4 percent range for 2006, on par with the 2005 rate.

Producers agree. Fifty-seven percent indicate growth in the U.S. economy will continue to increase within the 3 percent to 4 percent range, while 30 percent believe it will weaken and 13 percent believe it will increase more than 3 percent to four percent.

Turning to the agricultural sector, corn and soybean prices are expected to come under pressure due to rising stocks of corn and soybeans at the end of the 2005-2006 marketing year. Yet future grain prices have remained relatively strong due to weather concerns and hedge fund investments in commodities.

Fifty-five percent of the producers believe that grain prices will remain unchanged, 26 percent believe prices will decline, and 19 percent believe prices will improve.

Given the level of uncertainty, producers remain committed to agriculture. Seven out of 10 producers plan to maintain their current capital expenditures, and two out of 10 will increase their expenditures in the upcoming year.

Farm income prospects are less optimistic than commodity prices. Four out of 10 producers believe their gross farm income will either remain the same or decline, while only two out of 10 believe their income will decrease. Those that believe their income will increase are likely the same producers that will increase their investment.

Producers remain positive about the future of the agricultural industry, with two out of three producers being somewhat or very positive about agriculture's long-term outlook.

However, escalating energy prices during late 2005 and into 2006 have had a significant negative impact on the outlook of the agricultural economy. Increased fuel and fertilizer prices will likely result in many changes in production and marketing decisions.

That pessimism is reflected by the dialogue participants. A full seven out of 10 producers listed inflation as their most important business problem.

To request the complete report on the AgriMarketing/Beck Ag PRODUCER DIALOGUE or to suggest special questions for the future, please contact Keith Nicholson at

Editor's note: We at AgriMarketing are pleased to team up with Beck Ag Com Inc. to introduce the new Producer Dialogue - an on-going project which measures the pulse of U.S. agricultural producers.

The goal of PRODUCER DIALOGUE is to provide the agri-marketing community with insight on what leading ag producers are thinking including their economic outlook and anticipated business decisions. It is our intention to provide information that will help companies and other organizations that are active in the ag market to better understand the business climate in which their customers operate.

To gather the information, each quarter Beck Ag Com hosts a series of calls with 50 Midwestern corn and soybean producers and submits a series of questions for them to discuss. The same 50 producers will participate in the upcoming calls so that any attitudinal shifts can be reported.

Future dialogue programs will be expanded to include other agricultural sectors.

We believe the AgriMarketing/Beck Ag PRODUCER DIALOGUE will be a valuable tool for the agricultural industry," explains Keith Nicholson, director of business development with Beck Ag Com. "These will help us, and our clients, as we implement current and future marketing strategies, because they reflect actual producer opinions and likely trends."

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