Still Hunting Yields

There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years ago, grower-customers were seemingly awash in cash as commodity prices hit all-time highs. In fact, a few years back, the USDA estimated the nation’s growers collectively earned more than $100 billion in a single calendar year.


These days, however, the numbers aren’t quite so rosy. In fact, most economists that keep an eye on agriculture say that grower income was down in the $50 billion range for the 2016 season and many anticipate this remaining the case for years to come. “In many ways, we see 2017 being a continuation of 2016, with flat commodity pricing probably being the norm for the next five years or so,” said Dr. Michael Swanson, Chief Agricultural Economist for Wells Fargo, speaking at the 2017 Commodity Classic.

Unfortunately, most growers echo this outlook. “Nothing in agriculture is looking very well right now,” said Ray Gaesser, Owner of Gaesser Farms in Iowa, who typically plants soybeans. “That’s a big concern.”

Another grower, Deb Gangwish, Co-Owner of PG Farms, Inc. in Nebraska, had an even more stark view of today’s market. “This ag economy is killing us!” said Gangwish. “This is the toughest economic outlook I’ve ever seen.”

Despite all this however, growers all agree that keeping their crop yields high was going to remain one of their primary motivations (and areas where they plan to spend money) for 2017. Obviously, that’s where crop nutrition products — such as many of the ones being featured in this year’s Ag Retailer’s Guide to Crop Nutrition report (in the April issue of CropLife magazine) — will come into the picture. Increasingly, the nation’s ag retailers are diversifying their crop nutrition offerings in this unending quest to boost crop yields. As Harlan Asmus, Co-Owner of Asmus Farm Supply, observed in last year’s report: “We realized several years ago that the demand for plant nutrition products applied by our customers was increasing, and would continue to do so over the next couple of years.”

One year ago in the first edition of the Ag Retailer’s Guide to Crop Nutrition report, I pointed out that crop nutrition products were the life blood that kept agriculture’s heart beating. It’s nice to know this hasn’t changed as market conditions have turned soft.