In 2019, spring weather was very wet, and many farmers in Illinois had prevented plant (PP) acres. Compared to 2018 incomes, 2019 incomes declined more for those farms that had a larger proportion of their acres in PP. While some have suggested that PP payments may overcompensate farmers, the income results presented in a new paper from the University of Illinois do not support the contention. Todd Gleason has this discussion with ag economist Gary Schnitkey.
Farms Included in Study
Table 1 shows 2018 and 2019 incomes on Illinois grain farms enrolled in Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM). To be included in Table 1, a farm had to meet the following criteria:
- Receive the majority of their incomes from grain operations,
- Have over 500 acres, and
- Have records that were certified useable by Illinois FBFM staff in both 2018 and 2019.
For all farms, tillable acres averaged 1,525 per acre, with a range of 500 acres to over 13,000 acres. Net farm income averaged $184,460 in 2018, declining by 51% to $89,866 in 2019 (see Panel A of Table 1)
Income Declines as Percent Prevented Plant Acres Increases
In Panel A, the 1,483 farms are divided into five categories based on the proportion of PP acres. In 2019, 73% of the farms had no PP acres. Even given the wetness of 2019, most Illinois grain farms planted all acres in 2019. Still, of the farms in this sample, a sizable proportion (26%) has some PP. Of those farms that had PP, 15% had less than 10% of their acres in PP. Percentage of farms then declines as the proportion of PP acres increased: 8% had between 11 and 30% of acres in PP, 2% had between 31% to 50%, and 4% had over 50%.
Incomes declines became more negative as the proportion of acres of PP increased, as shown in the last column in Panel A of Table 1. With no PP, the average income change was –45% from 2018 to 2019. The income change was
- –53% when PP when less than 10%,
- 97% when 11% to 30% of acres were PP,
- –103% when 31% to 50% of acres were PP, and
- –112% when over 50% acres were PP.
Incomes in Table 1 include all sources of revenue, including that from additional government payments offered in 2019 to counter incomes lost due to trade difficulties. Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments are included in revenue (farmdocDaily, July 30, 2019). Also included is the 10% increase in PP payments.
Income Declines by Region in Illinois
Northern Illinois had more delayed planting than other areas of Illinois. Only 43% of the farms located in northern Illinois got all their acres planted, compared to 81% for central Illinois and 60% for southern Illinois. Over 10% of northern Illinois farms had over 30% of their acreage in PP (6% in 315 To 50% and 4% in over 50% categories) Income declines were larger in northern Illinois than in other parts of Illinois. The average income change in northern Illinois was –76%, compared to –45% for central Illinois and 53% for southern Illinois.
The above results do not present an analysis of whether taking PP or planting was the correct decision. To conduct that PP/plant comparison, one would have to link up farms with the same growing conditions who made different PP/plant decisions and then see corresponding results. In this article, we compare incomes with different levels of PP. Given the reluctance of Illinois farmers to take PP, we assumed that most farmers who took PP had no alternative but to take PP. There has been some thought that PP payments may provide more than adequate compensation (see Brasher, https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/12390-coverage-changes-could-limit-prevent-plant-payout ). In 2019, for example, the Risk Management Agency lowered the standard PP payment factor on corn from 60% of the guarantee to 55% (see Risk Management Agency, https://www.rma.usda.gov/en/News-Room/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Prevented-Planting-Coverage-Factor-Changes-for–2019 ). As incomes decline with more PP, income results in this article do not support the contention that PP provides overcompensation. Of course, results could vary by across years.