Producers’ fading hopes for a turnaround in the ag economy pushed down the Purdue/CME Group October Ag Economy Barometer to its second lowest reading yet, according to a report issued Tuesday by Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

The survey results came as the farm economy struggles with lower commodity prices and record crops. In early trading Tuesday, December corn futures fell 6 ¼ cents at $3.48 1/2, and November soybeans dropped 5 ½ cents to $9.86 ¾.

The result, based on a survey of 400 agricultural producers nationwide, was down from 109 in September to 92 in October. It has fallen 29 points from its July peak of 121.

Respondents who said they expect bad times financially over the next 12 months rose to 79% in October, which is 11% higher than eptember.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they believed that corn prices would fall below $3 per bushel, while 25% said soybean prices could fall below $8 per bushel next year. If prices fell that low, it would be “below breakeven for the vast majority of U.S. farm operations,” according to the report.

However, a third of producers were more optimistic, predicting corn prices would rise above $4 per bushel and soybean prices would surpass $10 per bushel. Prices in that range would allow most farmers to at least break even, according to the report.

Producers said they plan to offset lower commodity prices by cutting back on production costs. Decreasing fertilizer rates led these planned cost cutting measures, with 46% of respondents. Another 35% said they will change trait packages of seed they purchase. Nineteen percent said they planned to decrease seeding rates next year.

When asked what would improve their farm’s financial situation over the next 12 months, only a fourth of the respondents expected rising crop prices to improve their financial situation. Slightly more than a fifth of producers surveyed expected variable expenses to decline enough to have a positive financial Impact.

In contrast, a separate survey of 100 agribusiness leaders showed more optimism for the ag economy, but less hope for higher commodity prices.

The quarterly Ag Thought Leader Survey found that 40% of respondents expected July soybean prices to rise above $10.

However, while thought leaders think expense reductions will be larger and have a greater impact than producers, only 8% of them said that higher grain prices would improve financial conditions.