Agriculture Struggles Amid Tariffs, But Millennials Could Be An Answer

Dec 10, 2018

After a few years of farmers struggling to make a profit and the addition of tariff uncertainty to the economic mix, some farmers have begun looking for new markets to tap. One expert says some farmers may be able to find success in producing products targeted to a younger generation.

All hands in a crowded room of farmers at the Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention stayed down over the weekend when the group was asked how many attendees expected to be better off this year compared to last year.

Purdue University College of Agriculture Associate Dean Jason Henderson advised the assembly to look to the future, saying millennials are making different purchasing choices than previous generations.

“They purchase agricultural products in different ways. Think about local food, food for health, organics,” Henderson says.

He says what once might have been niche products could allow farmers to capture more money than traditional crops in the future.

“It’s a different business model, a different financial model, a different marketing model and if agriculture can figure out how to sell into that market and tailor individual products that’ll get higher value, there’s some potential opportunities,” Henderson says.

Henderson says this doesn’t mean farmers should stop producing soybeans or corn, but should try to find ways to be more flexible. He expects many farmers to have problems paying back loans this year.

“This winter, farmers are going to have tough conversations with their bankers as they talk about financial conditions. It’s been three years of tough times and low commodity prices,” he says.

He expects similar conditions in 2019, though he says U.S. trade policies and the uncertainty of what success Brazil’s soybean harvest will have make it hard to predict the price of soybeans.

“There’s just so many moving factors and a lot of volatility in so many different areas, that it’s going to be really uncertain to predict prices going forward,” Henderson says.

His advice to farmers is to take advantage of when soybean prices go up and sell what they can. Many have stockpiled their crop due to low prices resulting from the coupling of high yields with lower sales due to President Donald Trump’s trade disputes with China.