Kentucky’s Agricultural Economy
Kentucky agricultural cash receipts set a record $6.5 billion in 2014 before retreating to $5.8 billion in 2015. UK’s Department of Agricultural Economics is projecting that Kentucky ag sales will fall to $5.4 billion in 2016, off 7% from 2015 and 17% from our 2014 record. Kentucky’s top two major ag enterprises had decent years as poultry rebounded from the effects of avian influenza, while the equine sector had another stable year. Most of the decline in Kentucky ag sales for 2016 can be attributed to rapidly falling cattle receipts which fell by more than 30% in response to mounting beef, poultry, and pork supplies. Grain receipts were mixed as soybean sales increased while corn and wheat sales declined. Tobacco receipts slumped to their lowest post-buyout level due primarily to unfavorable weather and curing conditions. Poultry remained Kentucky’s number one ag enterprise, accounting for 23% of projected 2016 sales, followed by equine (17%), soybeans (15%), corn (13%) and cattle (12%). For 2017, assuming a normal growing season, Kentucky ag cash receipts are expected to stabilize with modest gains in poultry, hogs, horses, and tobacco offsetting expected losses in grains, dairy, and cattle.
Kentucky’s net farm income peaked at $2.97 billion in 2013 before slipping to $1.7 billion in 2014 and 2015. Kentucky net farm income is expected to dip to less than $1.5 billion in 2016, potentially its lowest level since 2010. A significant decline in cash receipts the past couple of years plus the ending of the tobacco buyout payments in 2014 have been the major reasons behind the rapid fall in Kentucky’s net farm income since it peaked at nearly $3 billion in 2013. Looking into 2017, profitability in the grain sector will once again be tested given projected prices and slowly adjusting land rents. Increasing livestock/meat inventories will continue to challenge beef returns. The equine and poultry industries are expected to have solid years. Tobacco returns should improve assuming better yields and quality. Look for a continued growing demand for local produce and value-added agriculture.
Assuming no major supply/demand shocks, net farm income for Kentucky farmers may show signs of stabilizing in 2017 as the global markets work off excess supplies and global economies begin to show modest growth which should help to stem the downward spiral in commodity prices. Production expenses are projected to be fairly stable, but government payments may be lower given the structure of the current farm bill. Issues to monitor in 2017 will be the value of the U.S. dollar, energy prices, interest rate changes, 2018 farm bill discussions, additional buyer/seller concentration in ag markets, and potential changes in labor and trade policy. The big winners in the current depressed ag economy are consumers as prices for many food items were stable to lower in 2016 and food price inflation is expected to remain below historical levels in 2017.
Source: 2016-2017 Kentucky Agricultural Economic Situation and Outlook, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment