Grain Surplus May Push American Farmers Off the Edge

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Across the heartland, a multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain worldwide is pushing American farmers further into debt, raising concern that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the U.S. share of the global grain market is less than half what it was in the 1970s, and the U.S. Agriculture Department estimates American farmers’ incomes will drop 9 percent in 2017, extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression into a fourth year.

Farming has always been a boom-and-bust enterprise. Today, the swings are sharper and less predictable as the farm economy has become more international, with more countries growing food for export as well as for their own populations. 

American farmers’ share of the global grain trade has fallen from 65 percent in the mid-1970s to 30 percent today, giving them less sway over prices. More producers and more buyers around the world also mean more potential disruptions from bad weather, famine or political crisis.

For some, the slump is an opportunity, however. Farmers with low debts and enough scale to profit from last year’s record harvests could be in a position to rent or buy up land from struggling neighbors.

For more from the Wall Street Journal, read the original article here.