Iowa farmers warn that low crop and land prices will slow spending

CLINTON, Iowa -

As Clinton County fields become ready for a bountiful harvest, Iowa farmers are finding out that their land value dropped nearly 9% over the last year.

"That means we're all in the same boat," said Robb Ewoldt, who farms in adjacent Scott County.  "It means we're not going to be very profitable this year."

One reason for Friday's Ag Roundtable hosted by KCLN Radio.

Clinton-area farmers like Dustin Johnson must brace for a break-even year.

"There are a few challenges out there," he said.  "It will linger for a few years."

One of those challenges is low crop prices.  It's reducing farm income more than 40% since peaking four years ago.

As a result, farmers will be watching their wallets as they harvest.  They'll be spending less on big-ticket items.

That's also tough on agribusiness.  Deere & Company is already contending with indefinite layoffs from plants in Illinois and Iowa.

"My margins are so tight that there's just nothing left over to spend on new equipment," Ewoldt said.

The upside to cheaper Iowa farmland: it becomes easier for younger farmers to expand.

"I'd like to see the prices come down a little bit," Johnson said.  "It bodes well for my future and ability to buy quality farm ground."

Farmers also plan to pack grain bins before selling.  That's because any uptick in prices could add thousands of dollars.

Hope now that a big crop will balance low prices.

"I'm looking forward to a big harvest and probably a long season," Johnson said.

Farmers predict that land prices won't climb until crop prices bounce back.  Nobody can tell when that will happen.

"If we can just break even, we're going to be very happy," Ewoldt concluded.