Farmer on Farm Income: "I Can't Pay Bank Back With Hopes And Prayers"

I80 Harvest Eastern Iowa 111319

It's getting colder and harvest is not slowing down for some Eastern Iowa farmers yet.

A golden glaze can be seen before sunset in Wilton, Iowa. The days are only getting shorter. Its quite a scene for a year far from perfect.

I know that were going to be delayed with harvest, said Dave Walton, a farmer from Wilton, Iowa. Ive tried to just relax a little bit.

Walton is dealing with a late harvest inside and outside of his combine. Hes waiting on propane for a wet crop that was buried earlier with feet of snow.

[My supplier said they can fill it but] just enough to get by, kind of day to day, said Walton.

Soybeans are withstanding the weather.

We didnt plant a single soybean until the sixth of June, said Walton. Everything I know as an agronomist tells me that we shouldnt see those kind of bean yields but we did.

Corn yields differ.

Weve had a farm thats well above APH, which we didnt expect, said Walton. Weve had fields that are 100 bushels below than what we expected.

Its all in the midst of hurdles outside of his combines doors with markets, large grain stocks, wet weather and a lingering trade war between the U.S. and China. Each factor adds to his losses.

We are closer to break even than we were a month ago, said Walton. We can pay for the farm but you cant live on break-even either.

The U.S. and China agreed to a first step Phase 1 trade agreement.

Its a tremendous deal for farmers, said President Donald Trump to the media back in October.

There are plenty of statements rolling out of Washington.

They want to make a deal, said Trump to media in early November. Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do.

Walton is hopeful progress is being made.

It does really start to feel like theyre getting closer, said Walton. I hope in the long term that we will be better off than we were before. In the short term, I cant pay the bank back with hopes and prayers. Its money lost and we are not going to have it in the near-term.

The second installment of trade aid payments are authorized and will be distributed. The American Farm Bureau Federation saying farm income in 2019 is forecast to reach 88 billion dollars, nearly 40 percent of that coming from government aid in the form of trade assistance, disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance.

All of that growth weve seen over the past couple of years is due to increased government support, said Chad Hart, an economist with the University of Iowa. Its not coming from the market place. Its coming from the government.

Industry leaders say some farmers are making money.

If you have the right lease situation, if you have the yields this year and do a good job marketing, there will be some folks making money this year, said Pat Westhoff, professor at the University of Missouri with Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute. There are folks with pretty severe challenges.

Other farmers are not making money.

The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments have helped bring farmers closer to profitability but we still have customers struggling, said Jim McCormick, an analyst with We need this cash price of corn to get to the $4.20 range for a lot of guys to break-even.

As night nears, yellow fields will stay and wait.

Moving more volume out of the field with it being wet like that is just slowing everything down, said Walton.

Theyll wait for a less than ideal year to come to an end and farmers can start fresh again.

AFBF also saying Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies filings are increasing 24 percent compared to a year ago.