Tag Archives: Farming

Farm Bankruptcies Soar In American Midwest

Eighty-four farms in the US Midwest region covered by the Minneapolis Fed’s Ninth District states (Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy in the 12 months that ended in June – more than twice the level observed in June 2014, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve, surpassing the prior peak hit just after the GFC.


“Current numbers are not unprecedented, even in the recent past, having reached 70 bankruptcies in 2010. However, current price levels and the trajectory of the current trends suggest that this trend has not yet seen a peak,” Ron Wirtz, an analyst at the Minneapolis Fed, wrote.

Bankruptcy numbers inversely correlate with the rise and fall of soft commodity prices. After an abrupt spike in chapter 12 filings during the GFC – which peaked in 2010 – soft commodity prices started to rise across the board and bankruptcies declined. Farm bankruptcies bottomed out in 2014, but that was at the point when prices peaked then began to drop.


As shown in the chart above, some of the problems predate President Trump’s trade war with China. 

One culprit is that demand for corn and soybeans has not kept pace with increasing supply from industrialized farms over the current economic expansion. 

Some chapter 12 filings reflect low price levels for corn, soybeans, milk and even beef, but the situation had dramatically worsened since the trade war started earlier this year, and accelerated when China began slapping retaliatory tariffs on American soybeans. 

Meanwhile, as the Fed notes, not all Ninth District states are feeling the same effects. 

Wisconsin, for example, is seeing about 60% of all bankruptcies. It appears that bankruptcy filings have been unusually high among dairy farms. Mark Miedtke, the president of Citizens State Bank in Hayfield, Minn., said bankruptcy had not reared its head for borrowers in his region of southeast Minnesota, but farmers are certainly feeling the pinch. 

“Dairy farmers are having the most problems right now,” Miedtke said quoted by AP. “Grain farmers have had low prices for the past three years but high yields have helped them through. We’re just waiting for a turnaround. We’re waiting for the tariff problem to go away.”

“The underlying problem, which existed before the trade war, was overproduction. Farmers are almost too efficient for their own financial good,” Miedtke added.

The bankruptcy wave of farms is also spilling into the ag loans market as the Ninth District’s 531 banks have reported an alarming rise in nonperforming ag loans. 

“Asset quality of ag loans at these banks in the bottom quarter of the performance distribution worsened significantly after the recession. They improved markedly by 2012 and saw a couple of years of very healthy rates (Chart 3). But by 2014, asset quality in this cohort of banks was worsening again. By the second quarter of this year, asset quality would fall below levels seen in the aftermath of the recession—a trend not seen in any other standard loan category, like residential and commercial real estate, or construction and industrial, or even consumer loans,” said Minneapolis Fed. 


The farm bust is not isolated to Ninth District states but also is showing up in other parts of the Midwest.

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and portions of Missouri and New Mexico, shows how farms in its district reported much lower income than a year ago.

Kansas City Fed said farm incomes were expected to weaken into early 2019. The worst ag banking conditions were in states with the heaviest concentrations of corn and soybeans.


The report also notes how farmers have started to deleverage, taking a page out of the GE playbook, with fire sales of land or equipment to make loan payments.

In short, it appears that America’s farm bust has arrived; while it has been festering for years starting under the Obama administration, with President Trump’s trade war and China shutting out US farmers to its market the perfect storm has arrived.

Source: ZeroHedge


Agricultural Debt Delinquencies Surge 225%

Commodities Bust Hits Farm Lenders

When it comes to agricultural debt, the numbers aren’t huge enough to take down the global financial system. But this shows how much pain the commodities rout is producing in the farm belt just when the farmland asset bubble that took three decades to create is deflating, and what specialized lenders and the agricultural enterprises they serve – some of them quite large – are currently struggling with in terms of delinquencies.

This is what delinquencies on loans for agricultural production – not including loans for farmland, which we’ll get to in a moment – look like:


From Q4 2014 to Q1 2017, delinquencies have soared by 225% to $1.4 billion, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, which just released its report on delinquencies and charge-offs at all banks. This is the highest amount since Q1 2011, as delinquencies were falling after the Financial Crisis. That amount was first breached in Q4 2009.

The delinquency rate rose to 1.5%, the highest since Q3 2012. On the way up, going into the Financial Crisis, delinquencies breached that rate in Q1 2009.


These were the loans associated with agricultural production. In terms of loans associated with farmland, delinquencies have soared by 80% from Q3 2015 to Q1 2017, reaching $2.15 billion:


Farmland values have surged for three decades but are now in decline in many parts of the US. For example in the district of the Federal Reserve of Chicago (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin), prices soared since 1986, in some years skyrocketing well into the double-digits, including 22% in 2011, and nearly tripling since 2004. It was the Great Farmland Bubble that had become favorite playground for hedge funds. But starting in 2014, prices have headed south.

This chart from the Chicago Fed’s AgLetter shows farmland prices in its district in two forms, adjusted for inflation (green line) and not adjusted for inflation (blue line):


Adjusted for inflation, farmland prices in the district fell 9.5% over the past three years. The exception is Wisconsin:

    Illinois -11%

    Indiana -7%

    Michigan -12%

    Iowa (since their 2012 peak) -15%

    Wisconsin +4%

The Chicago Fed adds this about the deflating farmland asset bubble, in inflation-adjusted terms:

Even after three annual declines, the index of inflation-adjusted farmland values for the District was nearly 60% higher in 2016 than its previous peak in 1979.

Does it mean to say that there is a lot more air to deflate out of the farmland bubble and a lot more pain to come and that this is just the beginning? Or is it saying that this is no big deal?

These falling farmland prices are making the debt much more precarious. So on a nationwide basis, the delinquency rate of farmland loans, according the Fed’s Board of Governors, jumped from 1.46% in Q3 2015 to 2.0% in Q1 2017.

In terms of magnitude of the dollars involved, agricultural and farmland loans pale compared to consumer or commercial loans. So the problems in the farm belt won’t cause the next Global Financial Crisis, and it progresses on its own terms. But it is putting strain on agricultural lenders, growers, and their communities.

By Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

US Farmland Values Plunge Most In 30 Years

https://s14-eu5.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fcampus.udayton.edu%2Fmary%2Fgallery%2Fimages%2Fangelus.jpg&sp=aa15e86c4ad9903f14f1ae0bec7cc727Not so long ago, US farmland – whose prices were until recently rising exponentially – was considered by many to be the next asset bubble. Then, exactly one year ago, the fairy tale officially ended, and as reported in February, US farmland saw its first price drop since 1986. It was also about a year ago when looking ahead, very few bankers expected price appreciation and more than a quarter of survey respondents expect cropland values to continue declining.

They were right.

According to several regional Fed reports released last Thursday, real farmland values in parts of the Midwest fell at their fastest clip in almost 30 years during the first quarter.

This is how the Chicago Fed described the increasingly dire situation:

Agricultural land values in the Seventh Federal Reserve District fell 4 percent from a year ago in the first quarter of 2016—their largest year-over-year decline since the third quarter of 2009. Cash rental rates for District farmland experienced a significant drop of 10 percent for 2016 compared with 2015—even larger than the decrease of last year relative to 2014. Demand to purchase agricultural land was markedly lower in the three- to six-month period ending with March 2016 compared with the same period ending with March 2015. Moreover, the amount of farmland for sale, the number of farms sold, and the amount of acreage sold were all down during the winter and early spring of 2016 compared with a year ago. Nearly two-thirds of the responding bankers expected farmland values to decrease during the second quarter of 2016, with the rest expecting farmland values to remain stable.

As the WSJ added, falling crop prices have weighed on land values from Kansas to Indiana over the past two years as farm income declined and investors who had piled into the asset at the start of the decade retrenched.

Three regional Federal Reserve banks all reported year-over-year declines in farmland values in their districts and said the drops would continue, though their forecasts were based on surveys taken before the recent rally in corn and soybean prices.

The St. Louis Fed region that includes parts of the U.S. agricultural heartland in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri reported the steepest decline, with the average price of “quality” farmland falling 6.4% in the quarter, the biggest decline since its survey began in 2012. The Chicago Fed said prices for similar land in its district fell 4% from a year ago, the seventh successive quarterly decline. Adjusted for inflation, prices in an area that includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin fell 5%, the biggest quarterly drop since 1987.

Not even a recent short-term bounce in commodity prices – driven by China’s now concluded record loan expansion – is cause for optimism. Though some agricultural markets have rallied in recent weeks, prices for corn and wheat are still more than 50% lower than their 2012 peak, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected that net U.S. farm income will fall this year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

Commodity prices have declined as farmers in the U.S. and elsewhere harvested bumper crops, adding to already generous stockpiles. U.S. farmers have also been hit by the strength of the dollar, which has stymied demand to export their crops.

Another reason for America’s farmland recession: the drop in land values has been accompanied by deteriorating credit conditions, with more loans taken out to cover farm operations even as repayment rates fell on existing debt.

It appears that in its scramble to save banks’ from their underwater energy exposure, the Fed forgot all about bailing out the American farmer.  The Kansas City Fed said the weaker credit environment had left many growers unable to pay off loans extended to them in the previous year, forcing them to carry debt into 2016.

It gets worse: loan-repayment rates fell for the 10th consecutive quarter, which the bank said was the longest run of deteriorating repayment rates since the early 2000s. While farm loan delinquency rates remained low, growers with significant debt may face continuing stress.

“This most recent uptick in loan demand may be more concerning because it has coincided with a period of falling repayment rates, softening farmland values and increasing collateral requirements,” said the Kansas City Fed in its report.

* * *

And then there was the latest JPM report from its 2016 Midwest planting tour. Here are some of the key findings:

We spent the last few days in the Midwest visiting dealers, farmers, and a variety of industry experts. Overall, our sense is that the industry is “healing” but the down-cycle will be long as used inventories remain elevated, used prices are still “in discovery mode”, and farmers are staring at a fourth year of losses and asset write-downs; sentiment improved a little with the USDA’s demand outlook, at least for beans (but that may be short lived). We maintain our negative outlook for US Ag fundamentals.

https://martinhladyniuk.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/30b06-serveimage.jpg?w=625Among JPM’s other troubling findings is that farmers are not making money at current prices, and rents have started to move down, but not quickly enough; in IA, farmers must alert landlords in writing by September 1 if they want to renegotiate for the following year. Farmers have been buying equipment at auction when they perceive that it is good value, even though they may not need extra equipment; however, dealer used equipment prices continue to decline YoY, and the decline is accelerating as more used equipment is going to auction (at about a 20-30% discount).

JPM also makes the following key observations:

  • Deere dealer: The Deere dealer we met in Iowa noted that he (uniquely) sold no new equipment for the past 16-18 months in order to reduce used inventory, which peaked at $20MM and is now at $7.5MM (vs. normal of $10MM). At the peak of the cycle he sold 80 tractors and 30-40 combines and his turns were 3.5- 4.0x, whereas now his combine turns are ~1.5x. He was able to sell some used equipment to Mexico but had to liquidate some through auction at a significant loss (up to $100K on a high HP tractor)
  • Titan dealer: At the peak of the cycle this dealer sold 23 combines per year; he sold three in 2015 and has 13 sitting in used inventory (about  three years excess used inventory). He cannot sell new equipment until he sorts out the used equipment inventory (combines in particular), though he noted that he has sold six tractors YTD, more than he managed for all of 2015. Like other dealers we spoke with, Titan dealers are very hesitant to sell used equipment through auction as prices can be up to 25% lower than book value; he would prefer to sell used equipment at a loss rather than write down the value of his entire book.
  • CAT (AGCO) dealer: This dealer noted that his dealership reported $186MM in sales at the peak in 2013, and this year his budget is to deliver $130MM, but he acknowledged that he may not make the budget as he too is struggling with excess used inventory. Unlike the DE dealer who simply stopped selling new equipment, this dealer has charged his sales force with a ratio of used for every new sale (tractors and competitor combines are 2:1 used vs. new, and for Lexion combines (Claas) the ratio is 3:1). He acknowledged that he may be taking a “death by a 1,000 knives” approach that could result in 2017 sales being down again.

Here is JPM’s summary assessment on US farmer sentiment. It’s not good. 

The farmers we hosted remain pretty downbeat about the prospect for profits in the 2016/17 crop year, though they did sell most of the 2015/16 crop during the recent rally. Once again this year much of the focus was on rent, which remains elevated, and, while it may be inching lower, farmers in IA need to put in a written request for a re-negotiation by September 1 for 2017/18; those conversations are going to need to be uncomfortable this year. One farmer noted that he has 20+ landlords, so the process can be time consuming and emotionally exhausting. On a separate issue, the farmers noted that Farm Credit requested that farmers write down equipment values by 20% in January; the longer the down-cycle lasts the more stress on their balance sheets, especially for farmers renting a significant portion of their farmland. None of the farmers are rolling equipment right now, but they do not like to have  equipment out of warranty as repair costs can run to $20K out of pocket. Beyond equipment, savings are being made on seeds (by moving to fewer traits or non-GMO), but not enough to break even at current prices.

  1. farmers are still forecasting a loss (for the fourth consecutive year) in 2016/17;
  2. balance sheets are coming under more pressure as equipment values are marked down (particularly farmers with a high proportion of rented land);
  3. renegotiating rents is extraordinarily stressful and time-consuming as most farmers have multiple landlords;
  4. lenders are becoming more risk averse as the cycle extends.

Finally, for the best indication of just how dire the future is, we look at what those who know the business best are doing in terms of investments.Here is JPM: “Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, investment in agricultural machinery peaked at $50 billion SAAR in Q4’13 and is now down 58% from peak at $21 billion, about in line with 2002 levels.

While America was so focused on whether or not there is a recession in the US manufacturing and oil & gas sector, it completely ignored the depression in America’s farming heartland.

Source: ZeroHedge