Farmer leaders in Illinois have identified government regulations as the biggest threat to farm profitability in the state in the next decade.
In all, 399 farmers completed a survey gauging their outlook on the agriculture industry during Illinois Farm Bureau's annual meeting Dec. 3-6 in Chicago. The survey was completed by voting delegates and by other leaders at the county farm bureau level.
"As farmers and farming trends continue to change, it's extremely important that we know where our members stand on important issues and their future plans," said Philip Nelson, president, Illinois Farm Bureau. "We're a member-driven organization. In order to best serve our members and their needs, we need to know what they're concerned about when it comes to their operations, the organization and the future of agriculture."
In answer to the open-ended question about profitability in the next ten years, slightly more than four in ten respondents said regulations are the biggest threat. Other concerns, listed in descending order, were input costs, big government/politics, lower commodity prices, land prices/cash rents and commodity price swings.
When asked about their biggest concern regarding farm profitability in 2012, 38 percent said higher input costs, 27 percent said lower commodity prices, 14 percent said high land costs/high cash rent prices, 12 percent said the cost of additional regulations and 9 percent said weather.
Sixty-eight percent of farmers said they plan to plant the same number of corn acres next year, while 21 percent said they plan on planting more corn and 11 percent will likely plant less corn.
Of the 399 survey respondents, 45 percent (178) identified themselves as livestock producers. Among the livestock producers, 65 percent said they do not plan to expand their herd size in the next five years. Retirement and farmers' advancing ages were the most frequently cited reasons. Other frequently-cited reasons included land and/or facilities that are at capacity with no room to expand.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said they plan to expand their corn acreage in the next five years. Among the 36 percent who said they do not have expansion plans, retirement/advancing age and the unavailability of land were the most often-reported reasons.
Farmers also were asked what type of technology will be most important to their farming operation in the next five years. The most common answers were plant genetics, precision farming, variable rate technology, GPS and auto-steer.
Finally, respondents were asked what they considered to be the most challenging issue facing the county and state Farm Bureaus. Overwhelmingly, respondents answered they were concerned with membership issues, including decreased membership, aging membership and the lack of member involvement. Other responses, in declining order of frequency, included government regulations and the public perception of agriculture.
"Many of the concerns we saw in the survey results aren't surprising," Nelson said. "But, it still gives us a good idea of where we need to focus our efforts in the coming years. It's obvious that our members love what they do, but are worried that regulations and public perception - even decreased membership - may make it harder for future generations to carry on the same, important farming traditions. And, as a member-driven organization, we're going to make sure that we're working to address these concerns."
The Illinois Farm Bureau is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization of farmers and ranchers. Founded in 1916, IFB is a non-profit, membership organization controlled by farmers who join through their County Farm Bureau. IFB has a total membership of more than 420,500 and a voting membership of 82,973. IFB represents two out of three Illinois farmers.