News that Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) will be hosting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week in the Red River Valley is welcomed news for family farmers. While the Secretary will see new ag innovations being developed in our university system, it’s important he also sees the state of agriculture in North Dakota.

Sen. Hoeven, please remind the Secretary that:

  • Net farm income is expected to be almost 50% less this year than in 2013, making it our sixth consecutive year of depressed farm income.
  • Total farm debt is at its highest levels since 1981.
  • Direct farm loan delinquencies at the Farm Service Agency are the highest they’ve been in nine years.
  • Farm bankruptcies are up 93% in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that encompasses North Dakota.
  • Perdue’s department, USDA, projects net farm income to remain flat through 2027.

Unless these facts change, we will lose farms in North Dakota this year, especially the bottom 20% that have already restructured their loans for two or three years running and still can’t cash flow. This isn’t rhetoric. This isn’t a partisan issue. Every farmer in the state has been impacted by the administration’s trade policy and by low commodity prices.

Every farmer in our state hopes the trade situation will turn around. Every farmer hopes commodity prices will rise to cover the cost of production. Every farmer hopes the cost of seed and fertilizer will come down. The problem with that thinking though is “hope” is not a strategy. Hope doesn’t pay bills.

Without good yields and the Market Facilitation Program payments that were made last year to offset lost income from the trade war with China, many farmers in our state would not be preparing for spring planting. The farm bill safety net isn’t designed to offset an economic slump of this length and severity.

I’m confident that Sen. Hoeven, a former ag lender, understands the severity of the ag economy in our state. We need his leadership in Congress and Secretary Perdue’s leadership to address this economic disaster that looms large in North Dakota.

Sen. Hoeven and Secretary Perdue: It is time for an economic disaster package that includes all commodities impacted by low prices due to trade and energy waivers. During tough times in the past, other ag leaders have stepped up to deliver necessary support for farmers and ranchers. The time to act is now.

– Mark Watne, NDFU President