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Incomes Down, ND Farmers Look for More Aid in 2019

Net farm income is expected to drop in 2019 for the sixth consecutive year. (Lance Cheung/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
Net farm income is expected to drop in 2019 for the sixth consecutive year. (Lance Cheung/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
May 3, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – Farmers are growing increasingly concerned about mounting losses as the Trump administration's trade wars continue.

Farmers' personal incomes fell the most in three years in the first quarter of 2019, according to a new report, and that's prompting groups like the North Dakota Farmers Union to call for more farm aid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved $12 billion in farm assistance last year, but Secretary Sonny Perdue says more aid isn't yet on the table.

Vice President of the North Dakota Farmers Union Bob Kuylen says the agency's prediction that the market will recover in the next six to eight years could spell doom for some farmers.

"My personal fear is, we're going to lose another generation of young farmers,” says Kuylen. “We had a lot of them get in when the prices got better, and it was great to see the young people getting going out there. A lot of their parents helped them. A lot of people tried doing it on their own, but a lot of those are leaving already."

Kuylen says the Farmers Union believes Congress should step in and approve aid to offset the drop in the market from tariffs and trade conflicts. While net farm income saw modest increases at the end of 2018, it is expected to drop for the sixth year in a row in 2019 – to half of 2013 levels.

Kuylen joined a roundtable last weekend with Perdue and North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, and says he advocated for economic disaster assistance, citing growing farm debt and bankruptcies. He's part of a co-op in southwestern North Dakota.

"Our sales for the first three months of the year are the lowest we've ever had,” says Kuylen. “No one's buying anything; they're just sitting on their grain and waiting, and hoping. And like I told Sonny Perdue, I said, 'You can walk into a bank with a bag of hope and you're not going to get very far.'"

The USDA extended the deadline to May 17 for farmers to apply for the Market Facilitation Program, the trade mitigation program from last year. The agency says nearly 600,000 applicants have received more than $8 billion in aid from the program so far.

Disclosure: North Dakota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND