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Biden's Win Leaves Farmers Less Optimistic About The Future

Abby Wendle
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File: Harvest Public Media

In October, Purdue University’s Ag Economy Barometer recorded its highest-ever index, meaning farmers were at an all-time high level of optimism.

However, that number dropped off significantly in November, due in large part to the presidential election.

“[When] you have a change in the party that’s running the White House, there’s going to be changes in how people view policy issues,” says Michael Langemeier, a professor at Purdue University who helps calculate the monthly index.

The Ag Economy Barometer measures the overall health of the agriculture economy by surveying 400 producers nationwide about everything from farmland value to trade relationships. About half of those surveyed are corn and soybean producers.

The index measured 183 in October -- an all-time high. It fell to 167 in November.

In general, farmers expect the Biden administration to impose more restrictive regulations and higher taxes.
Credit Courtesy of Purdue University
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In general, farmers expect the Biden administration to impose more restrictive regulations and higher taxes.

“I wasn’t really surprised to see the results that we did,” Langemeier says.

Both the October and November surveys attempted to gauge how producers feel about the outcome of the presidential election. They included questions about whether producers expected to see higher taxes, less federal farm assistance and major policy changes, including more restrictive environmental regulations.

Far more producers responded “yes” to those questions in November than in October, causing what Langemeier calls “long-term optimism” to fall.

Short-term optimism, however, rose. Survey results show that farmers feel good about the next year or so, largely due to high crop prices and stable trade relations with China.

The overall post-election dip in producer optimism is the reverse of what happened in the aftermath of the 2016 election, according to Langemeier.

“More people thought that we were going to have less restrictive environmental policy, lower taxes and a stronger farm safety net in 2016,” he says. “The results in 2020 are the reverse.”

In general, the barometer has steadily increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, for example, the index was calculated at a mere 96.

Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaHCronin

Copyright 2020 Harvest Public Media

Dana Cronin is a reporter based in Urbana, Illinois. She covers food and agriculture issues in Illinois for Harvest. Dana started reporting in southern Colorado at member station 91.5 KRCC, where she spent three years writing about everything from agriculture to Colorado’s highest mountain peaks. From there she went to work at her hometown station, KQED, in San Francisco. While there she covered the 2017 North Bay Fires. She spent the last two years at NPR’s headquarters in Washington D.C., producing for shows including Weekend Edition and All Things Considered.