2024 U.S. FARM INCOME PROJECTED TO DECLINE  

Based on the data in the latest “2024 Farm Income Forecast” that was released by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) in February, U.S. net farm income is expected to decrease by nearly $40 billion or 25 percent below 2023 levels, as well trail the record 2022 U.S, net farm income by nearly 38 percent. The 2024 net farm income is now estimated at $116.1 billion, which would be the lowest net farm income since 2020 and is 1.7 percent below the 20-year (2003-2022) average net farm income of $118.1 billion. In the recent farm income report, USDA estimated total U.S. net cash income for 2024 at $121.7 billion, which is a decrease of $38.7 billion or 24 percent from a year earlier.  

Net cash income includes cash receipts from all farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses for the year. Net farm income is accrual-based, which includes adjustments in the cash income for changes in inventories, depreciation, and rental income. Generally, net farm income is a truer measure of overall profitability in the farm sector.  

Following are some highlights from the latest USDA 2024 Farm Income Report: 

Overall, 2024 cash receipts for all commodities on U.S. farms are estimated at $485.5 billion, which is a decline of $21.7 billion or 4.2 percent compared to 2023.  

Total 2024 crop receipts are estimated at $245.7 billion, representing an expected decrease of $16.7 billion or 6.4 percent below 2023 levels. The decline in crop receipts is primarily due to an anticipated decrease in cash receipts from corn and soybeans in 2024, which are expected to decline by $11.6 billion for corn and by $5.9 billion for soybeans from year earlier. This decline is largely due to the significant drop in commodity prices in the past 6-12 months. Receipts from other crops in 2024 are expected to remain fairly steady, with only minor adjustments from 2023 levels. 

Total cash receipts from livestock production in 2024 are estimated at near $239.8 billion and are expected to decline by $4.6 billion or 1.9 percent from a year earlier. This is due to lower projected total receipts from cattle, milk, turkeys and poultry production as compared to a year earlier. Receipts from cattle sales in 2024 are expected to decline by $1.5 billion, turkey receipts by $1.4 billion, chicken and egg receipts by $1.7 billion, and dairy product receipts by $900 million. Receipts from hog production is expected to remain steady in 2024, while receipts from broilers are expected to increase slightly. 

The significance of government payments on net farm income and net cash income levels is expected to decline for the fourth straight year in 2024 and would be at the lowest total estimated amount in the past 20 years. The estimated direct government payments to be paid to farmers in 2024 was listed at $10.2 billion, which would be a decrease of $1.9 billion or a 16 percent from 2023 levels. Approximately 40 percent of the total payments are ongoing conservation payments to landowners and farm operators.  Projected 2024 government payments are less than one-fourth of the highest level of government support in recent decades, which was $45.6 billion in 2020 resulting from large ad hoc support payments due to COVID and the China trade war. The projected government payments do not include receipts from crop insurance indemnity payments or marketing assistance loans on grain.  

Total farm expenses are estimated at $455.1 billion in 2024, which is an increase $16.7 billion or 4.7 percent from 2023. This follows an increase of $9.8 billion in 2023 as compared to a year earlier. The 2024 total farm expenses for feed, labor, livestock purchases, and interest paid are projected to show the largest increases. Interest expense in 2024 is expected to increase by $10.1 billion or 42 percent above the 2022 interest expenditures. Smaller expense increases for seed, pesticides and property taxes are also expected in 2024. On the positive side, fertilizer expenses decreased by $6.5 billion from 2022 to 2023 and are only expected to increase slightly for 2024 and fuel costs are projected to be lower in 2024.

“Working Capital”, which measures the cash available after all farm expenses have been paid and all annual debt payments have been made is expected to decrease by 16.6 percent by the end of 2024.  Deterioration of working capital was a major concern in many farm businesses during the tight farm profit years on 2014-2020. The “current ratio” and the “debt service coverage” (DSC) ratio are also expected to deteriorate in 2024. The “current ratio” measures the value of current assets that have not been sold to cover unpaid expenses and current-year debt obligations. The DSC ratio measures the ability of net farm receipts after farm expenses to cover required annual principal and interest payments on farm loans. 

The nominal value of all U.S. farm assets is expected to increase by 4.7 percent or $45.5 billion in 2024, raising the total value of U.S. farm assets to approximately $4.28 trillion. Eighty-four percent or $3.6 trillion of the total assets come the value of farm real estate, which has increased dramatically in some portions of the U.S. in recent years. Farm real estate values in the U.S. increased by nearly 8 percent in 2023 and are expected to increase another 5.6 percent in 2024. 

Even though total U.S. farm debt is relatively low, it should be noted that total farm debt in 2024 is expected to increase by 5.2 percent or about $16.6 billion, raising the total U.S. farm debt to $547.6 billion. Of that debt total, 69 percent is made up of real estate debt, with the balance from other farm loans.  

The overall farm sector debt-to-asset ratio is projected to remain relatively low at 12.78 percent at the end of 2024; however, this is a small increase from 12.73 percent at the end of 2023. The debt-to-equity ratio at the end of 2023 was 14.59 percent, which was at the lowest level since 2015; however, the ratio is expected increase slightly on 2024. Current debt-to-equity ratios are still well below the record high ratio of 22.2 percent in 1985. 

While the U.S. net farm income projections do show some dramatic declines in 2024 as compared to the previous three years (2021-2023), the estimated 2024 net farm income still exceeds farm income levels from 2014-2020.  The very high net farm income levels from 2021 to 2023 were primarily driven by some of the highest crop prices in the past decade, along with very manageable farm production expenses and low interest rates. Total receipts from crop and livestock sales for 2024 on U.S. farms are projected at $485.5 billion, which is 9.5 percent lower than $536.6 billion in 2022. Total cash expenses on U.S. farms in 2024 are projected $428 billion, which is 6.4 percent higher than the total expenses of $402.2 billion in 2022.  

If no other sources of farm income are accounted for, the margin between total U.S. crop and livestock receipts in 2024 and total farm expenses is estimated at $57.5 billion. This compares to a margin of $134.4 billion in 2022, which was more than double the expected margin in 2024. Back in 2017, the margin between cash receipts and cash expenses was $58.5 billion and the final U.S. net farm income for the year was only $75.1 billion, which was the lowest in the past seven years (2017-2023). Government farm program payments can help make up some of the farm income deficit in the margin between total cash receipts and farm expenses. Government payments are expected to total $10.2 billion in 2024 and account for 8.7 percent of net farm income. This compares to government payments accounting for 8.4 percent of farm income in 2022 and 15.3 percent in 2017. The highest level in recent years was in 2020 with 47.5 percent of the net farm income resulting from government payments.  

There are some certainly some “yellow caution flags” in net farm income and profitability levels revealed in the latest USDA farm income report for the U.S. farm sector; however, it will be interesting how much profit levels decline in 2024. A big key going forward will be if we see some improvement in crop and livestock prices during 2024. This will likely depend on the level of U.S. demand and consumption, as well as the strength of U.S. export markets to China and other countries. Another key to farm profitability in 2024 will be what happens to farm production expenses, land costs, and interest rates during the coming year. Of course, the threat of drought and other weather events are always a big “wild card” in final U.S. net farm income figures from year-to-year. 

*** Please see Table on the next page ***

****** U.S. NET FARM INCOME 2015–2024 ****** 

YEAR Total  

Net Farm Income (NFI) 

(Billion $$$) 

NFI  

from Net Crop & Livestock Receipts (Billion $$$)

NFI 

from Government Farm Payments 

(Billion $$$)

% NFI 

from Federal 

Program  

Payments

2024  $116 B.  $106 B.  $10 B.  9%
2023  $156 B.  $144 B.  $12 B.  8%
2022  $186 B.  $170 B.  $16 B.  9%
2021  $142 B.  $116 B.  $26 B.  19%
2020  $96 B.  $50 B.  $46 B.  48%
2019  $79 B.  $57 B.  $22 B.  28%
2018  $81 B.  $67 B.  $14 B.  18%
2017  $75 B.  $63 B.  $12 B.  16%
2016  $62 B.  $49 B.  $13 B.  21%
2015  $82 B.  $71 B.  $11 B.  14%

 

NOTE — This data is based on USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) annual U.S farm income estimates. 

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* Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst Phone — (507) 381-7960; E-mail — kentthiesse@gmail.com