Time of Uncertainty for U.S. Agriculture

The Trump administration is exploring a range of policy changes — involving taxes, trade, the environment and immigration — that could have a profound impact on U.S. agriculture, report Decker Walker and Jonathan Van Wyck on Investors.com.

Unfortunately, the possible changes come at a time when the industry already is treading water. With most commodity prices at historic lows, many farmers are continuing to experience net operating losses and mounting debt.

The potential changes vary in both their probability and their potential impact. But with the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting another significant dip in net farm income this year (a drop of nearly 9% from 2016), any changes must be weighed carefully.

Consider trade. Because U.S. agricultural productivity over the years has grown faster than domestic consumption, exports have become an increasingly important source of farm income. In fiscal 2016 alone, U.S. agricultural exports generated $130 billion in sales, according to the USDA, with Canada, China and Mexico topping the list of customers. During the eight-year period 2009 to 2015, farm exports produced $1 trillion in income — “the strongest period for U.S. ag exports in history,” USDA says.

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