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Net farm income forecast to increase by nearly 14 percent in 2013

POSTED February 12, 2013 10:14 p.m.

After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income, forecast at $128.2 billion, is expected to be the highest since 1973.

"Today's forecast for the strongest net farm income in four decades is another positive testament to the resilience and productivity of U.S. farmers and ranchers. American agriculture continues to endure an historic drought with tremendous resolve, and last year was an important reminder of the need for a strong safety net. The commitment of American producers to embrace innovation and adapt to new challenges has helped fuel growth for American agriculture over the past five years," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

A return to trend yields would lead to record crop production levels and result in substantial year-end crop inventories. This would lead to higher net farm income since this measure goes beyond cash income to include the value of inventory change and other noncash items.

Net cash income--which measures the difference between cash expenses and the combination of commodities sold during the calendar year plus other sources of farm income--is forecast at $123.5 billion, down almost 9 percent from 2012. Even so, 2013’s forecast would be the fourth time net cash income, after adjusting for inflation, has exceeded $100 billion since 1973.

The projected $19.2-billion increase in total expenses in 2013 continues a string of large year-to-year movements since 2002, and expenses are forecast to establish a record-high. Rent, labor, and feed are the expense items expected to increase the most in 2013.

Farm sector assets, debt, and equity are all forecast to increase in 2013. As in the last several years, increases in farm asset value are expected to exceed increases in farm debt, with farm real estate the main driving force. Confirming the strength of the farm sector's solvency, both the debt-to-asset ratio and debt-to-equity ratio are expected to reach historic lows.

Projected median total farm household income is expected to increase by 1.2 percent in 2012, to $57,723, and by an additional 1.9 percent in 2013, to $58,845. Given the broad USDA definition of a farm, many farms are not profitable even in the best farm income years. Despite high prices for many crops, 2012 was no exception, with median farm income projected to be -$2,799. Most farm households earn all of their income from off-farm sources--median off-farm income is projected to increase by 3.4 percent in 2012, to $55,229 and by 3.9 percent in 2013, to $57,378.

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