ARE FARMERS RICH?

bag of money

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Not surprisingly, it’s one of our highest ranking search terms.  Apparently, tons of people want to know if farmers are rich.

And I think the answer is, no.  They are rich in all the things that matter, but are pretty middle class.  They just deal with a lot of money coming in AND a lot of money going out.  And all that money coming in looks like a lot if you don’t know the whole story.

So here it is … the whole story.  I hope you take the time to read through what sounds confusing and get to the summary at the bottom because it’s worth it!  Promise.

INPUT COSTS

In order to grow a crop, farmers must buy things like seeds, equipment, chemicals and fertilizer (surely one of you has a bag of Miracle Gro around for the garden, right?).  And there are also the costs that you don’t really think of like land, and maybe someone to help you get the crops planted or harvested in the span of a few weeks.

N-Urea fertilizerAccording to the University of Illinois, those costs – input costs – average to about $600 per acre for corn in Illinois.  And, I should clarify: the $600 includes equipment, labor, seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals.  No land.  And land is expensive.

Using last year (2013) as an example, farmers made an average of $900 per acre on their crops.  If we subtract the input cost average, we can assume that a farmer made about $300 per acre last year.  But did you know that most farmers are renting the land that they farm?

Cash rents for land in Illinois are widely variable, depending on the soil type and productivity of the land.  A farmer might pay $60 per acre to farm it or $400 an acre.  But since we’re working in averages here, we’ll say that farmers pay $250 per acre to cash rent their land.  Subtract that from the $300 per acre and this average Illinois farmer is making about $50 an acre on the farm last year.

SO HOW MUCH DID THIS FARMER BANK?

If he’s farming 1,500 acres, he made $75,000.
If he’s farming 1,000 acres, he made $50,000.
If he’s farming 500 acres, he made $25,000.

You get the idea.

But here’s the kicker: 2013 was a GREAT year for farmers.

WHAT’S A BAD YEAR LOOK LIKE?

What does all this price structure look like in a marginal year?  Well, let’s make some predictions for 2014 because although we will set a big record on overall bushels produced, prices have plummeted so farmers really won’t make any money.

Total Input Costs = $575 per acre
Total Land Costs = $250 per acre
Total Expected Income = $800 per acre
Net Expected Income = -$25 per acre

If this farmer farms 1,500 acres, he will lose $37,500.
If this farmer farms 1,000 acres, he will lose $25,000.
If this farmer farms 500 acres, he will lose $12,500.

SO ARE FARMERS RICH?

family farmer
photo credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

Are farmers rich?  I guess it depends on your definition.  Farmers work for themselves.  They avoid florescent lights and opt for sunlight.  They understand the feeling of hard work and a job well done.  Connection with the earth and all of God’s creation is a daily part of their lives.

But farmers are not wealthy.

In good years, farmers can make decent money.  And some short sighted people look at one good year and think that farmers are making a killing and have become big business.

In bad years, farmers lose big money too.  The trick is, good budgeting and saving.  And, of course, a healthy dose of faith.  Because the good years get you through the bad years and at the end of the day, you’ve committed yourself to a life with your family, in touch with the earth, doing the very thing that you love.

And there’s a lot of value in that.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

180 thoughts on “ARE FARMERS RICH?”

    1. Also- NOT trying to put down farmers, I am just curious…I see farmers where I live bust their tails putting crops in and harvesting, but what do they do the rest of the year? Serious question, I am sure they have things to do, but i am not a farmer, so IDK what they are, just curious.(Corn fed beef no thanks, grass fed please.-thank you for putting it on the table.)

      1. A great deal of time is spent conducting maintenance and repairs on machinery and perhaps attending to conservation practices (tiling, waterways, etc.). In addition, at our farm we have livestock so there is fence to repair, fence to build, cattle and sheep to be fed, veterinary work to attend to, building maintenance to attend to, hay to be mowed, raked, and baled through the summer. In addition, my husband works one off-farm job and I work two…..we are never looking for work and no, we are not rich!

      2. The thing to keep in mind is a majority of farmers are actually farmer-ranchers. They may raise cattle, sheep, hogs, or other animals in addition to their farming operations. Also, some farmers plant several different crops, many of which have different planting and harvest times during the year.

        The author of this article does a pretty good job describing the costs and risks involved with farming. One other thing I would point out is farming can be a very very capital intensive business. For farmers that buy their own land and machinery, they could easily have million in assets (often mostly money borrowed from the bank) and only end up making 40-50k / yr if that…

      3. Well some farmers do there own books so if we have time off that is something that is always there. The majority of time is spent on fixing broken equipment if needed. If we have cattle we will spend time with our cows and tend to them. And also we live normal lives so going on a vacation and spending time with family. And that sums up about everything without going into fine detail.

      4. Some farmers work other jobs or they simply take a 3 month vacation – like teachers do. I know a number of grain farmers who do jsut this – take a vacation for a month or two. And sure you have other farmers who either do other farming and have to work for financial reasons or want to work so they do. It’s like any other profession there is a spectrum of of farmers who do really well, some do OK, and some go bankrupt.

    2. Why no mention of net worth? How many farmers do you know who have a net worth of under $2 Million? Farmers are fairly well off, if they would just shift some assets around, many could retire very, very early.

      1. Incorrect. Once you “shift some assets,” you lose money. As there is no more land being made, land itself increases in value. Once you sell it, you lose ANY and ALL of that lands value. If you’re smart, you’ll continue to produce off of the land – for you’ll receive more income by growing things, than by just flipping ownerships. Farmers cannot retire early, for they are the few driven people in society, and will not quit until they are either dead, or own everything. Farmers don’t retire – they die. Most farmers realize that they have worked for what they have, and that their families have worked for what they have, and that it would be a waste to sell everything that they have fought so hard for. Being a farmer is rewarding. But you have to work your ass off for it to be so, and anyone who tells you differentley is not working hard enough. Don’t think you know more than the farmers themselves, because if there were a way to get money from the government or profit TONS of money from flipping land, farmers would have figured it out 40 years ago. Farmers are not stupid. If a farmer gets stupid, he goes broke. Once you go broke in farming, you don’t ever get a second chance. That’s how farmers roll, and we’ll be damned to hell if we let someone take away anything of ours.

  1. Farmers are among the richest people in society. By every measure of wealth and income they are among the richest and this article, sorry to say is just a propaganda piece. If you are a farmer who owns 500 acres debt free – and there are many such farmers all around the Midwest – at $10K per acre your net worth is $5M in land alone. And that 500 acres earns the “rent” that your article referred to of $250 per acre or $125K per year ON TOP OF the operator income you described. Now factor in farm subsidies, subsidized credit, special farmer tax breaks, etc. In my area of the central cornbelt there are many guys that own anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 acres and many of them have industrial hog operations also. These are the same guys who are paying $10K – $13K per acre to buy land. Think about it people, if your farm neighbor drives a brand new $60K truck every year (and writes it off his taxes by the way) and pays $13K an acre cash for 180 acres or $2.3M, yeah he might be awfully rich! No matter how much they “agvocate” they will never tell you the truth behind the economics because the game is to keep the gravy train of subsidies and special farmer breaks going by playing the “poor farmer” card publicly.

    1. I agree with you. If you own 500 acres, you are very well off. There is a huge difference in farming 1000 acres and owning 1000 acres. Many farm 1000 to 3000 acres, very few own that much (less than 10 percent). To say that many do is way off. There are a lot of big farm families and co-ops out there. You have to realize that is split among many people and families. My grandfather owns 600 acres and does very well for himself. It took him 87 years to pay off the debt and own the land out right. Now that he owns it he is too old to farm it. He has the asset, yes, but pays half of the income to the farmers that actually do the work. I don’t think the general public realizes how much the bank is involved in farming. Really no different than the housing market. As for write offs, yes you are able to write off an expense if it used for the farming operation. That is no different than any other business. The subsidies comment is also off base. I would love to know what the special farmer tax break is? My CPA has never heard of it. Farmers are not dishonest people. That comment is actually what has generated this response. If you want to find someone down to earth with a good, honest common sense answer, seek out a local farmer. I’m sorry that your view of farming is so jaded. None the less, God Bless you and enjoy your dinner.

      1. I have been part of a farming family for 26, years and apparently you have no clue how their money and operations work.

      2. Your CPA has never heard of the Schedule J? From IRS website: “This election may give you a lower tax if your 2013 income from farming or fishing is high and your taxable income for one or more of the 3 prior years was low.”

      3. she never even got into the cost of fuel for the tractors, which can cost as much as $1,000 a day for one (JD 9620T holds 320 gallons of Diesel) and what about the cost of propane to dry all of the grain during a wet harvest? My in laws have spent close to $3000 A DAY before just get get everything dry ( they used to farm 4,000 acres of mostly rented land) Enjoy that corn fed beef you get from the supermarkets and have a great day

      4. Ask your CPA how quickly a farmer can write off a $100k shop building compared to any other self employed business. You will find a farmer has been able to accelerate the depreciation in a few if not one year but other businesses have to depreciate over 39 years.

      5. I sure hope you both have a great dinner tonight and the next day and the next day its the people out hear farming that put that on your plate. Its sad that farmers and ranchers are thought of as not important in this country they bust their a@@ to put food on the table and trust me its not a money making deal my family has been ranching since 1882 and we are not rich.

      6. Also include how many times we pay the is for taxes on each dollar we make. For every dollar we make farming it is hit say 3 or 4 times for taxes. I’m not math expert and just married into the farming business and don’t quite understand it all but that is one thing that stuck out to me instantly

    2. Ha! What farm subsidies??!! Loonnnggg gone. My guess is that the gentleman you speak so bitterly of probably has his underwear up for collateral if thats how he truly operates. This articles is not just a propaganda piece as you called it, it perfectly describes the operation my husband and I run, his dad’s and all the farmers I know of in southeast VA. Chill out, there’s still some of the good guys left.

    3. Harold, thanks for your wise comments. While there are many farmers who do own land, there are also many more renting land from others and paying these prices. As for the guys buying up land, I guess paying $10-13k per acre doesn’t have to count against your inputs. You also can’t write off land purchases. I’m not going to argue that government subsidies aren’t a bad idea, I also feel they have been unnecessary for the past few years, but are a necessary evil during times when the prices are so low that many can’t make money. This doesn’t effect the large farmer the same as the small guy, but if you take those away then there will be no small farmers left; only the large, factory farms you dislike will remain. I would like to know what the other “special farmer tax breaks, etc” there are out there. I am only aware of zero places to mark on the tax form where I get special breaks for being a farmer. I am only aware of the places where I pay self-employment tax in addition to the standard taxes. I’m also aware of the taxes I do pay that far outweigh the amount I get in return from any subsidy. So if you could also pass along more info on this imaginary Gravy Train that farmers get, I’d bet they wouldn’t have time to ride it when they are out working 10+ hours a day growing and raising the food that you eat and drink every day while complaining about the price at your local Wal-mart (See, I can make broad, incorrect generalizations, too, without knowing all the facts!)

      1. Have you ever been a farmer? If not, then don’t make these assumptions. We have farmed for over 50 years, have worked hard at it, and still are struggling. We only have 160 acres and in this part of the country it is definitely NOT worth $10,000. an acre. At best, we break even most years. Don’t complain about the farmer on a full stomach – stop and THINK about it!!!! Lots of times, the waitress serving your food to you makes more on your tip than the farmer who raised that food for you!

      2. how do you write off land purchases? thought it had to come from profits,, whom is the tax cpa guy, I need to know him/her

      3. As in ANY business, if it does not pay, no one would do it. I see farmers buying up land , and wouldn’t give it up for anything. If they were not making money then they wouldn’t be farming for the fun of it.

    4. Seriously!!? Just because land is worth a lot, doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not sold! We don’t own 500 acres. The article pretty much sums up our life. Everyone thinks farmers are rich cause we had a few good years….now this year we may lose a bunch. No one seems to realize that. I am guessing that you, Harold, are not a farmer! There are a few of these big operations, but most are much smaller. The bigger ones are also supporting several families as they have hired employees. Yes, we deal with big$. We bring it in and we turn around and pay it out. Yes, we live a good life. But living a good life has way more to do with our values and family life and not how many $ we are netting. And let me tell you, we get ahead, but then machinery breaks down, etc and it is pretty darn hard to predict how many thousands we may need to come up with at a moments notice. We love farming and it is in our blood, but “it ain’t easy”! If it was, everyone would be doing it. If you ate today, thank a farmer. A United States farmer. And thank God our country isn’t totally dependent on foreign food sources. So he has a new truck. Mostly so it’s not just paid to the government in taxes. For as hard as we work, maybe we deserve a perk or two. God knows we pay our own healthcare (assuming both husband and wife work the farm), pay both halves of the social security and fica, a huge property tax, (We pay over $10,000 of taxes/ yr that go to our schools) If we are in the LOWEST tax bracket, the gov’t gets over 30% of our income. We get no paid vacations or sick time off…. Dental insurance? What’s that? How much are YOU paying to support your local school, gov’t, etc? Net time you want to bash farmers, just remember, you are biting the hand that literally feeds you! Farmers are millionaires on paper. That doesn’t mean a thing. Why? WE AREN”T SELLING THE LAND!!!! Remember the 80’s? Banks loaned money based on land values and when they plummeted, some farmers lost EVERYTHING!

      1. So well put! I love the value of farming life. It appears there are a lot of well educated people out there and unfortunately educated in other areas. Sorry Harold! Farming is so complex any more you have no idea. Another number to look at, take the $50,000 a year and divide out a 16 hour days at 6 days a week (should be 7 but, giving you the benefit of the doubt), sorry but your hourly wage is nothing to brag about. You have to factor in values, patience, striving and pride. Priceless! If you eat you are involved in farming. EDUCATE YOURSELF!

      2. I agree with Tracey, well put. I remember the 80’s, thank God my father wasn’t one of them, even though my mom said farming was like throwing your $$ down a rat hole, RIP, mom & dad, you’ve both been gone going on 19 yrs now.

      3. Bite the hand that feeds you?? The plain truth is that you are farming because it makes you money, NOT because you care so much weather people eat or not. Lets stay with the pure truth please.

    5. Harold, you’re right in that the “net worth” of farmers is a big number, provided they own the land debt free as you said. However, the problem with your statement is that land is an asset, not money in the bank. Its like saying you’re rich because you own a house. The house could be worth $500K or whatever, but it doesn’t buy the groceries. Sure, you could sell it to have some more money available, but why would you want to do that? You worked hard to get that house and you don’t want to downsize. Why should a farmer be any different? Farmers work hard to get where they are and don’t want to give that up because of a poor year. Kind of defeats the purpose.

    6. Most farmers never wanted government intervention and now the “gravy train” is gone. I hear you loud and clear but it’s easy to feel that way over the fence. You obviously never farmed for a living and that is OK, you are a customer so your input is valued. Your jealousy is not, even if it is well founded. If it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? We lost half our farmers in 83 and more will have to step aside this year. It is a very elite group but only a few farmers produce 80 or 90% of the commodities. They didn’t get there by accident. It takes a large amount of money to farm and you must pay back what you borrowed plus interest. Making enough to make a living is no easy thing but the large operations today do make it look easy. Believe me it is not. They used to say you have to inherit or marry it to farm and even many of those failed. It takes savvy beyond understanding to operate a farm today, it takes a miracle to start one.

    7. Most farmers don’t OWN 1000-3000 acres. Maybe a few hundred if they are lucky. Most farmers RENT their ground. Read the article. It is talking about those who RENT their ground more than OWN their ground. And $250/acre is pretty darn conservative these days! And lets not forget about the debt/loans for equipment that wasn’t really mentioned in the above article. There is WAY more RISK involved in farming than an office job for the typical non farming American. An hourly or salary employee doesn’t have to worry about losing ground to “the big guys” for next year, they don’t have to worry about their income because the wage they make fluctuates day to day, they don’t have to worry about repairs or upkeep or extra insurance costs on the equipment they use to do their jobs. Their companies take on those responsibilities. And those companies are pretty much in the same boat as farmers if you get down to it. They are “rich” too, aren’t they? So lets not hate on the farmer. People who take on those risks generally do make more when things are good. But they also have to be able to take a loss at times too. Can hourly or salaried people take a loss like that? I understand people can lose their jobs due to the economy, etc. But for the most part hourly/salaried people don’t have the income risks, etc with their job that farmers do or that companies do for that matter. Then lets talk about health insurance for their families. Farmers pay 100% of their insurances. They don’t get benefits like most American workers. Lets add that expense to their budget as well. And last but not least……don’t forget who feeds you. The Farmer!

    8. “…your net worth is $5M in land alone.” The difference is, that’s not a liquid asset. It’s not as if they just have $5M laying around. You also have to keep in mind that if they want to pass that along, the estate taxes on that are unaffordable.

      With the new truck every year thing, I don’t personally know anyone who does that, but I do know of plenty of urban dwellers who are the ones that put the miles on the brand new vehicles. They just trade them in year after year. It’s not like that person is dropping $60K a year and gathering a fleet of vehicles.

      Many of the subsidies you speak of are a thing of the past, but when agriculture is subsidized, it’s for good reason. It keeps food cheap and that enables us to have a first world country. It’s what separates us from Africa.

      1. on a full stomach of chemically filled, GMO, high fructose corn syrup products!! you corn/soybean farmers are the worst. you over produce a product that should have no spot in our food chain. If you want to support a real farmer support your local farmers market and buy naturally grass fed beef, organic chickens and eggs, etc.
        you farmers can spin it all you want. you ruin our drinking water, lakes, and rivers with all the chemicals and fertilizers you use.

        1. Brian – thanks for your comments. We love the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation here!!

          Sadly, I don’t feel like your comments were meaningful – but they could be! I’d love to see your sources and to understand why you feel that organic chickens and eggs, grass fed beef, non-GMO are better. The science we’ve read shows no difference. I certainly understand how you might FEEL better about those options based on marketing from some large companies, but marketing doesn’t change science.

          I’d also like to clear up one more thing – our farmers and the farmers at the farmer’s market are no different from each other. In many cases, the farmers participating in large scale production are also growing veggies and produce for their families and neighbors – even the local food pantries and farmer’s markets! Farmers growing food conventionally are local farmers, family farmers, “real” farmers.

          Lindsay

    9. Been in the agricultural business for 40+year’s. Love it. Wouldn’t do anything else. Oh, by the way. I buy a new vehicle ever 5 years. Look better on the books. Thanks, eat happy.

    10. Some are, yes. I recommend buying up productive land and keeping it in the family forever. It’s a good idea. People do get very wealthy when they work hard and make good decisions. That’s how it is supposed to be.

    11. Wow, Harold,, you’re way off base. I farm and I can tell you,, this article holds water for almost all farmers whether animal or plants. I’ve been through it all for at least 40 years and seen the ups and downs. As far as I’m concerned,, you’re a very ignorant person making these assumptions, you obviously have not lived this life or you would not be making these statements. Disgusting.

    12. As many people have already said, what a small-minded, thankless comment. Simply, put SO WHAT if an individual farmer nets a lot of money one year, or happens to handle their finances well?! Farmers are just as, if not more than, deserving of a healthy income as anyone else is. They work much harder their entire lives than most of us ever will in the standard 40-45 years. What did they ever do to deserve the bashing they get these days? Harold, if you ate today or if you’re wearing clothes, you should really be ashamed of yourself.

    13. If the farmer sells the land, that’s it no more crops. This like selling the factory. The farmer may have bought this 30+years ago. Now they have to pay tax on the gain, which means they have 50% or less after the sale.

    14. There is no such thing as a “debt free” farmer. We only farm 300 acres and I will see my farm debt free in my life time…and I’m 19.

    15. OH Herald, if you only knew, your probably one of those guys where the grass is greener on the other side. May I suggest you quit feeling sorry for yourself and go work for a farmer or rancher for one year than you to could have an educated opinion instead of an ignorant one.

    16. I am a farmer in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas without livestock or other income. I farm 500 acres completely alone. While I see that the farm will be profitable on paper, I rarely ever have all the acreage produce. There will be failed acreage, possibly 15% or 25% of the total land that I have crops on due to weather damage mostly. I must admit that I have no idea how to get to the end of the growing season without running out of money, then obtaining money for the next season has become a dreaded event that I have learned can be eased by the use of doctor prescribed medication. I have been doing this for 21 years now, my father and grandfather did it on the same land beginning in 1922. If it had not have been for the 300 acres that my father managed to buy while he was farming, which I farm rent free and only pay the taxes on, I would never be able to exist as a farmer. The FSA has now removed an important tool in obtaining financing, Counter Cyclical Direct Payments. I know so many people have been against the Governments involvement in agriculture where money is involved, but farming was almost too difficult to bare before, now farming appears to be impossible without a rare perfect productive year across all acreage or else I’m simply at my whits end. If there is a sweet spot in the size of a farm it’s not 500 acres. If you disagree, I’ll gladly give you my mountain of debt which I can only dig the deepest I’ve ever had to dig to find the hope that I may be able to alleviate some day. Have a nice day!

      1. Folks like Harold Smith are sadly misinformed. Farming is a great business because of the way of life. A farmer that is debt free in the midwest with 500 acres does have a lot of net worth on paper but, when was the last time you could take a truck load of dirt to town to buy something. It is much like having a factory sitting idle. Even though it is paid for, if it produces nothing then you reap no profit from it. It matters little how you obtained the factory. It could have come from inheritance, from a few good years that allowed you to pay for it, or from a combination of financing and cash you accumulated during a few good years. There are all sorts of farms that produce all sorts of crops at all kinds of incomes.

        For all the non farming geniuses posting idiotic comments on this page about government handouts and subsidies, you are nothing but a fool so keep your mouth shut…especially when you are eating. The whole government subsidy in food production is to keep food in good supply and at reasonable prices. 11 cents out of every $ you earn goes for food in the US. In Europe it is about 43 cents and the farmers are subsidized there about 5x what they are in the US.

        Most of you that have a knowledge base in agriculture that does not go past eating one of the nearly 1 billion meals consumed in this country every day….yes let that sink in…nearly 1 billion, have no idea the volume of food we consume. A friend of mine is a produce intermediary. One of the crops he facilitates trade on is potatoes. He handles about 18,000 semi truck loads of potatoes a year. A lot you may think. this is about 2% of the potatoes grown and consumed each year in this country. That is just potatoes.

        Yes Ag is big business. Lots of dollars change hands. At the end of the day the farmer hopes he has some left to pay for the cost of his land, the red or green paint it takes to make the crop and the myriad of costs passed along by the government intervention in all facets of business. No other industry comes under the government scrutiny that Ag does when you consider the regs from the seed to the fork on your table.

        There is no stability in any aspect of agriculture. Price, demand, weather, supply, foreign competition and so on. Then one cantaloupe grower in Colorado makes a mistake in packing some produce and an entire industry is saddled with billions of dollars of expenses worth of government regulations that make the consumer no safer than before. The market will not bear the expense so it is passed back to the producer. In a vertical business, the $h!” rolls down hill. Yes there are successful farmers that make lots of money. There are farmers that barely make ends meet. It is much like all slices of the demographic pie. The actual payments that go to production agriculture out of the USDA budget are less than 2% of the USDA budget. 80% or so is food stamps etc.

        Oil has become easier to find. The tillable soil on the planet is staying the same as has always been. If you think of the surface of the world as an orange and you slice the orange into 8 slices, remove the peel from the slices and cut one of the pieces of the peel into thirds, one of those thirds of the peel amounts to the amount of tillable soil on the planet. Take that and figure out how to feed 7 billion people. It really doesn’t matter what the government spends on subsidizing agriculture and who gets rich if people begin to see bare grocery shelves there will be pure anarchy.

    17. You are on the right track here. There was no mention in the article (conveniently) of a farmer’s net worth. and you are taking heat now for hitting the nail too squarely on the head.

  2. If you think corn is expensive– try cotton
    It’s tough to borrow a million dollars and work 6 and 7 days a week and all you ever hope to do is get it paid back.
    Farming is very rewarding and most of the time a financial struggle and like this article , a lot people think farmers are getting rich and live off of government handouts. The truth is farmers are the backbone of this country and when the farmer goes – so goes this country.
    This is gonna be my toughest year in 25 years of farming. I already know that we will be a hundred thousand in the red
    Faith in God keeps me strong- I pray it is enough

    1. Well said. I am a cotton farmer in west Texas. Price is going to be tough looks like for several years. We are limited to milo or cotton. It is a great life but it has it’s ups and downs.

  3. I will say this about farming: it’s one of the few things you can do where you can do everything right and still fail. I’ve seen beautiful crops get taken out by the various whims of nature: freezes, floods, hailstorms, droughts. Then you have the markets. In April, which is planting time corn was $5.17/bu. Now in October, it is $3.18/bu. Can you imagine being hired somewhere at one wage and being paid only 2/3rd of that when you got your paycheck? Keep in mind that all the inputs track the price of corn including land. That being said, if most farmers were to liquidate their operations, many would be considered wealthy. The tractors, silos, trucks, and land have a value.

      1. Um, no. If you contract 40 bus/ac and get hailed out, flooded, dried out, or simply do not have the crop to cover, then you need to pay the contract out.

        So try this:
        Contracted
        1000 ac @ 10 bus/ac = 10,000 bus

        Harvested 1000 ac @ 5 bus/ac = 5,000 bus.

        Now you have to come up with the extra 5,000 bus or you will deliver 5,000 and buy out the remaining 5,000 (at the same price) netting you a sum total of $0 regardless of price. Plus the 5,000 you did harvest is now gone to the elevator (for free)

        ——-

        Seems silly to market your grain when you factor in the massive risks you take off which you have ZERO control over.

        Farmer in Canada.

      2. Randy, Do you have a crystal ball? It used to be that the price highs and lows were predictable. We are not so much a U.S. market anymore. We deal with a world market. China, South America, Brazil, all play a huge roll in the commodity prices today. The only “sure” thing is that NOONE knows what the market is going to do! Hindsight is 20/20….even the experts can’t tell you what the market is going to do 6 months down the road. Nicholas has made a very important point here regarding failure.

        ” I will say this about farming: it’s one of the few things you can do where you can do everything right and still fail. I’ve seen beautiful crops get taken out by the various whims of nature: freezes, floods, hailstorms, droughts. Then you have the markets. “

  4. Very few farmers own their land outright. If they do, they carrry plenty of debt on that land. It’s not the farmer who makes out, it’s the banks and corporations he/she sells/owes to. If you don’t believe me, try it for a few years. It’s insanity.

  5. At this time my crop is worth around $300,000 less than it would have been worth last spring. So tell me again how farming is so easy and we’re all getting rich.

  6. I grew up on a farm and my brother still runs the family farm….farmers are not rich…..they are hard working, strong willed, very independent and will step in to help a neighbor in need. There are good years and bad years. If it was so common to own 500 acres and be weathly someone needs to tell him to quite his day job and just farm. Farmers and farm families give a lot to this country. They built and support local economies throght rural America…..they work hard and the ones I know would not have it any other way.

  7. Do you want to eat? Really? Let the farmers feed the world. I have been part of a farming family my entire life. I clip coupons and shop sales just like everyone else. I’ve had to explain to my kids that we aren’t getting near enough money for our wheat or beans this year so there is no way you are getting extra stuff and there’s probably not going to be much for christmas. A farmers entire livelihood is based on the weather and it could be a great year or a completely shitty year. I remember times growing up where my parents were not able to heat our downstairs much above freezing just so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. I wore hand me downs and so do my kids. I shop at second hand stores. Sure my husband drives a decent pickup and a big one but he needs to to work and haul the equipment around, it is his work vehicle. My husband, my father, and my father inlaw and some of the smartest men I know and I love being part of farming even during the tough times. Have you ever had your entire years income wiped out by a storm and cried over the weather? Not slept much in days because you are putting 20 hours a day just to beat a coming storm? Do you know what it feels like to walk into the bank with you head hanging low knowing you have done everything you possibly could to make things work but the weather and the markets are completely against you? Would you own a business and not insure your inventory? We have to buy insurance on all our crops. Don’t you dare just look at the good times farming! You need to look at the entire picture! Next time you eat your store bought over prices bread think of the tears, sweat and anxiety went into getting the wheat off the field so that you could eat one more day!

  8. Can’t understand why so many are so concerned about what farmers make or are worth. Do they critique CEO’s, bankers, lawyers or other professionals as severely? I am sure there are thousands of farmers that would love for their land, whether 100 or 3000 acres, be worth the $10-13,000 which seems to be considered the going rate. Even half of that amount would make many ecstatic. It takes the majority of farmers generations to reach that level of true ownership. As stated above, it took his grandfather “87” years to pay off his land. What good is that wealth to him at that age? True he could live well the years he has left, but more likely his family or heirs will enjoy his efforts. He will most likely just set back and envelop himself in total pride in what he has built and attained. If farming were that lucrative and profitable more then the less then 1% of the population would be clamoring to join the profession. The hours of physical effort involved only scratches the surface of the time invested. Few true farmers go to sleep, or wake up, without worrying about dozens of issues, most out of his realm of control, that he will have to face head on. (I speak in the masculine tense, but fully aware that there are many female farmers as well.) I feel it is of no right for anyone to condemn any one, farmer or otherwise, about what they make or are worth, as long as that individual WORKED for the assets they have. As for farm subsidies, this is a myth that benefits few more then minimally. Even so, how many non-AG.individuals set back accepting subsidies through welfare, insurance, social security disability, or other avenues, while in truth could be totally capable of earning their own support? So until you spend time following in the footsteps of that RICH farmer, be thankful for the food on your plate and don’t be so fast to condemn him for what he has!!!

  9. So Lilly, you cried over your entire years income being wiped out by a storm yet it was insured???? So you still got that income right? What about if I lose my job? Do I still get my years income? Can I buy insurance on that? Unemployment might pay 25% of what I would have made so don’t tell me that. I actually had a farmer tell me yesterday he can make more money on 180 bu corn than 230 because he is guaranteed 220 bushel per acre through his insurance and his insurance will pay a higher price than the elevator. His plan was to set the combine to let a good majority out that back to bring his yields back down to 180. Does this sound like a responsible honest business owner? What about the new programs from the usda? Where you are guaranteed 86% of the 5 year average for the price of your crops? Seems to me farmers are exempt from the bad years with all of these programs and subsidized insurance!

    1. It doesn’t work that way. Crop insurance usually only covers your inputs, not much more. The farmer you spoke to was full of it. If you are so smart, please explain these new programs from the USDA, because their own employees in the office can’t do it for me yet.

      1. Austin, you are apparently not well versed in the heavily subsidized crop insurance programs. As a farmer I would say you would be crazy not to fully utilize it due to the subsidized, but not only that with the revenue guarentees it can still be a cash cow on years like this. It is interesting that you have already been looking for more and new handouts from the farm bill….before the poorly paid employees have even seen any of the verbage yet!

      2. Austin, Visit with your state’s Extension Service. They may have excel worksheets on ARC or PLC decisions for you to work with and tools on if you should update your base acres.

      1. It can only be written off if you lease it, if you buy you can only write off the depreciation every year. Everyone is allowed to write of loan interest on a vehicle, or any loan for that matter, but most do not realize they can. So they are not getting much more of a break than you in that regard

      2. Most of the write offs have been taken away this year, 25,000 is the max you can write off on equipment for 2014, a new tractor costs what? 200,000+ Most business owners get tax write-offs for buying equipment for their business. Individuals get tax writeoffs for getting married, having a kid, those sorts of things. Everyone has tax write-offs, been that way forever.

        As far as the 86% coverage goes its not as easy as it sounds. The 86% is only there if the ENTIRE county has a loss, this usually only occurs in very disastrous years, the likely hood of collection is low, but in very bad years could also mean a farmer making it to the next year or not. Also the more insurance you buy, in other words the higher your coverage the less the government subsidizes it. Is it subsidized yes, but not as much as people think it is. I think at 80% coverage the subsidy on the payment is less then 20%.

        I don’t believe the story about the farmer because it doesn’t make sense. With revenue protection and yield protection you are guaranteed an income per acre, we pay for that protection that’s why it is called insurance. But him running grain out on the ground that was already there doesn’t work out. Will he collect on his insurance because of the lower, sure he will, but he also would have made that same amount of money if he had just sold the crop. Even if he did, this farmer is an idiot and is definitely not the norm.

        Why do you not have insurance if you don’t have a job, because there is a big difference between not having a job and running a business….also you get unemployment, or can collect welfare, their are just as many programs out there for people who don’t have jobs as their are for those that do.

        Do farmers have wealth, sure they do. Most of their wealth is measured in assets, land, cattle, equipment, buildings, vehicles. That being said how do farmers make a living if they don’t have those assets? You have to have these assets in order to produce crops in order to make a living. You could have millions of dollars of assets, but still make very little at the end of the year due to expenses. Its just like owning a house, you could own a 200,000 dollar house, or a million dollar house, but selling it doesn’t do you any good because you then no longer have a place to live in. If farmers were to sell their assets, yes they would be cash rich, but would no longer have a business, they would no longer have a way to make a living.

        Prices have been good the past few years and farmers have done well, they have treated themselves to new vehicles, upgraded equipment, renovations on houses, just like anyone would do if you got a pay raise, or bonus, got promoted. But look at corn prices today, they have gone from $7+ to less then $3 in less then a year with no promise of them going back. Alot of farmers will be losing money this year because 3 dollar corn does not pay the bills, we have gone through a very short period of good prices and farmers are now the bad guys for paying off debt. And its not just corn, its all grain prices

        Even insurance wont save them next year as the revenue protection price is based on current prices, so next years revenue protection with be sub $3 this doesn’t provide a lot of protection in the coming years.

        Consumers want prices to be low so food is cheap, farmers want prices to be high so they can make money. The government feels at this time the only to meet in the middle is help both sides out. By helping farmers, even when prices are low, we know we will still have farmers that can raise plentiful crops that will not only feed this nation but the rest of the world. Without farmers doing what they do here, where do you imagine our food coming from. What else can you think of that has gone oversees because its cheaper to produce?

    2. “can make more money on 180 bu corn than 230 because he is guaranteed 220”

      Insurance, at least in Canada, works on an average. So he may be guaranteed 220 this year, but if he claims 180, he will not get 220 next year.

      I know of no one that would purposely lose yield to get the insurance. Besides you are not insured 100% I am only 80% (+ hail) and in a total failure (of which I would not be allowed to combine at all) my average is $400/ac payout.

      Now up here prices on *some* things are lower, like rent and land, but it needs to be addressed in perspective. The amount of money I pay in PAYMENTS to the bank would be enough for 2 families to live decently. Plus I have to feed my own, upkeep my equipment and no one has even mentioned transporting the harvested grain (which I do myself). More fuel, more upkeep, more insurance.

      I have some friends in a hutterite colony, their average for fuel in a year was about $1000/DAY
      When I am hauling grain, I can go through $1000 every two days in my semi easy (based on $1/liter which is low and INCLUDES it being farm fuel)

  10. Harrold made some great points. And this coming from a lifelong farmer who has been disgusted by all the greed of his farming neighbors the last several years. But oh yea we work hard…4 weeks in the spring and 4 weeks in the fall… So yea the homes in Florida, hunting trips, snowmobiling trips, skiing trips, fishing trips…well don’t you know all middle class families do all of this every year….what some don’t? Well maybe they should start hanging out with farmers!

    1. Must be nice to have such a lax schedule. I promise you my operation doesn’t work that way. No vacation homes either. I did go to puerto rico last year though, courtesy of Channel seeds.

      1. Ryan, 8 weeks? really? We have livestock. Have to in order to make ends meet. We don’t own enough acres and have to rent land. Year-round job. Last winter was brutal!! Sub-zero temps froze the waterers, the tractors wouldn’t even run one day… but we were out in it! Had to take care of the livestock! Florida in the winter would be nice. Can’t afford it! Maybe when we hit 70, we will be able to.

    2. Ryan you obviously have no clue how a true and honest farming operation works. My husband farms land that he has inherited as well as rented land. We’ve never taken more than a 3 day vacation in the 15 years that we’ve been married because we can’t leave the farm that long. Also, I have to work in the corporate world to provide health insurance for our family because we can’t afford to purchase it out right. As with any business, you will find scumbags who abuse and scam the system so please don’t judge all farmers on the behavior of a few…..By the way, hubby drives a 1980 Chevrolet flatbed single cab truck and only dreams of owning something newer!

    3. Your content is laughable at best, FUD at worst. Seems your example is what I would call a “hobby” farmer. Not including those in this discussion, thanks

  11. These people haven’t even scratched the surface of how many people depend on the farmer and his/her crops and how many people it takes just to get the seeds, fuel, before the farmer can even begin to plant. Think of how many jobs are dependent on them.
    walk a mile in a farmers shoes before you start putting them down.

      1. As a joke, that was not bad.

        If you were trying to be rude, you would have to understand the savings auto steer brings. Of course it does cost about $15,000 buy, and then extra for better signals (per year), but now those two guys can be 1.5 guys and oddly enough driving straight makes you more efficient. Why are we not allowed to enjoy tech? Must we live in the stone age? Go tell your accountant to only do your books on paper, would hate to think that they must be “well off” since they have a program that does the math for them.

  12. First off, i will say that i respect the hell out of small farmers, those of you with less than a thousand acres and or raising livestock. But the mega soybean and corn farmers, who only put in about 4 months of actual work in a year need to give it a rest. I have to bite my tough when i here them say they feed america. As if they do it all by themselves. What about the seed salesmen, fertilizer and chemical applicators, john deere mechanic, fuel delivery drivers, drainage businesses, etc that work very long hours to keep you rolling. The truth is, anyone would kill to have your job so stop whining. You drive around in 50000 pickup have a brand new house, and go on vacations all year. If you are actually at “work” your in a $300000 tractor that steers itself. And if it breaks call john deere service. That way you dont have to get your hands dirty, sit the cab and play on your smartphone, planning this winters snowmobile trip, or browsing facebook. . Pfff. Give me a break.

    1. Obviously this guy hasn’t ever been within a 100 miles of a farm. I have an office job now and worked on the family farm growing up. Farming is a dusk to dawn job and there is ALWAYS work to be done on a farm. Hard work year around. Livestock don’t magically feed themselves in the winter, for example. Please don’t speak on what you obviously don’t have a clue about. I watched my great grandfather and grandfather work hard every day until they were in their mid-80s. I take a huge amount of pride of having learned a honest days pay for a honest days work from those guys.

      1. Brad, the family farm is all but dead in the corn belt. Livestock is no longer around (this is why meat is sooo expensive these days) Row crop all you can, get big or get out. These are the mottos of the farmers of this generation. The only dawn to dusk work is for 4 weeks in the spring and 4 weeks in the fall. I am not saying there are NO family farms with livestock, there are. Livestock is hard work and those farmers earn every penny of what they earn, but this article is about grain farmers who are living high on the hog and are raping the land and taxpayers and it needs to stop!

    2. Where are you people getting your information?! I don’t know any all grain farmers that only work 4 months out of the year! There is so much more to farming than just the fieldwork! You have no idea!
      @Really??? Where do you live?! The family farm is definitely NOT “all but dead”! Many farm corporations ARE family farms! And as far as “raping the land”, -you can’t keep raising good, healthy crops if you are raping the land. We ARE TAXPAYERS!!! Farmers play a huge role in funding our local schools, hospitals, fire depts, roads, etc. We pay a minimum of 30.3% of our net income( in social security taxes and lowest tax bracket of 15%) while some pay a higher rate. That does not include the property taxes we pay ($10,000 plus of our property taxes went to our local school, and we only own 300 acres.) And don’t forget! The land payment principle we pay every year is not a deductible expense. We pay $20,000+ in crop insurance every year! ANd we seldom collect on it! We HAVE to! Without it, if we lose our crop to a weather event, we could lose everything! The mental stress surrounding finances is huge! A fluctuation of 20 bu/acre and a drop in the market of 50 cents = a major difference in our incomes. We don’t know what we are going to get for yields until we get the crop out!

    3. We’re semi retired farmers…still farm about 200 acres plus have beef cattle. My husband milked cows for 50+ years and in the entire time we’ve been married we have never taken a vacation. Milking was a 7 day a week job, 52 weeks a year. But you make some good points. BUT you also pointed out how many other people and businesses depend on the farmer for THEIR income! Farming creates a lot of jobs outside of the actual farm…salesmen, mechanics, truckers, bankers, and the list goes on… Our food industry depends on farmers to produce the products they use and/or sell…someone has to manufacture the equipment the farmer uses… truck drivers haul the farm produce all over the U.S. The farmer has become more efficient and productive over time out of necessity to compete in todays markets.

  13. Well…viewing the comments (most of them at least) I can clearly see that most of the people commenting at “small farms” if you want to look at most of the farms around the area I am in, East ND, the farms are 5-10 times bigger than the ones people are commenting on….I know certain sugar beet farmers who rent or own more than 30,000 acres. And spud farms with 10,000+ acres, a small farmer is 500-2,000 acres around here…seeing some of these farmers children driving around in 56,000 vehicles, and owning a starter home at 320,000 (in most places in America you could value it double of what it is here) at the age of 20-22 means that SOMETHING is going right…

    Farmers reek the benifits even from a bad year with the amount of return on insurance… You would have to be stupid to think they were in it cause it was hard and they liked making a living off of watching the plants grow…these guys spend thousands and thousands of dollars at charities, auctions, bars, sponsorships, and donations, to say that they are breaking even would be pretty senseless.

    A friend of mine who owns a 230,000 starter home and drives a 40,000 vehicle at the age of 22 and who’s parents just built a multi million dollar mansion in a town with a population less than 5,000 so his mother can stay at home and clean it (no job) has 12 potatoe warehouses…each one valued when full at 2.2 million dollars….that’s on a farm of 8,000 acres (not all spuds obviously) the sad thing about today’s farmers is that they arnt in it to start a home or a family and to build roots…the truth is, they know that they get paid very well and they know that no one can start a farm on their own any mkre because costs of land and equipment is just to high…so they will obviously choose a career like that….makes sense to me! I live farmers and 90% of my friends farm but we have a couple sayings around here, “want to know a farmers work schedule? 4 months on, 4 months off, 4 months vaccation.” And “want to know how to double a farmers profit? Add another mailbox”.

    Yes, the expenses are unreal a new combine with a Mac don wheat header is worth more than I will make in 10 years. But they had the option to use a horse an wooden plow and allow farming to be career an ordinary citizen could start but grew it into a multi million dollar industry which costs millions to run.

    1. You are a little off, you only get insured for what you are willing to pay for, most farmers pay for enough to recover inputs, because the premiums are insane. And if you collect one year your rates increase 10 fold the next year. Nice that your friends have that stuff. My question to you would be how much of it do you think is actually paid for?

    2. I would like to know what day yet alone months farmers get off. We seed 5000 acres of land, and run a 400pair cow calf operation. After seeding the crop there are various other things such as spraying rolling etc. Then comes silaging, followed by haying, by now crops are almost ready for harvest, so you get all the equipment maintenance done and get the crop off. And maybe some fall spraying for weed control or fertilizer spreading. Now you have to haul all your bales in and gather up all the cows and ship the calves before the snow flies. All winter you have to market and haul your grain to the terminals in your semi and feed cows. Now comes late winter, and early spring. Few hours of sleep a day because if a calf is born in the middle of the night it could freeze to death, with 400 cows this is a long process. Usually by mid spring it is time to start getting the seeding equipment prepared, and still keep a watchful eye on your calving. Now that it is warm out you get a little more shut eye, but this is when sickness can develop, so you have to keep a watchful eye for any animals that may need to be vaccinated. With everything ready for seeding now you have to sort load and haul all of the cattle to summer pastures, so you do not have to feed them every day, and can be on the tractor from dawn until dusk to repeat all the above for another year!

  14. I don’t understand why this is such a big argument. who cares if theyre rich are not. obviously some farmers are and some aren’t. I know some of both actually. I do think this article should have mentioned subsidy and insurance benefits in this article though because in tough years that makes a huge difference, and im not just saying that from no experience….ive done accounting for multiple operations and the benefit is probably more than most people realize.

  15. Harold, I hope you don’t work in a job that has anything to do with manufacturing trucks, combines or any other equipment that farmers replace in the good years. These workers are being laid off this year as the farmers are no longer updating their equipment. When the farmers make money they spend it in their communities and everyone benefits. They might even purchase a new refrigerator or some other piece of furniture in the house. I am a farmer (and a farmer’s wife), I know how it works! My husband and I have farmed for 42 years and still carry some debt. When we retire, we will not sell the land as the rent is our retirement. We don’t have 401 K plans; we have to run our business responsibly to plan for our future. And Harold, please don’t even mention having big tractors with cabs. You probably have a nice SUV that you spent $30,000 to $50,000 to maybe drive two hours a day. Our tractors price tags can run up to $250,000. It is not unusual to spend 12 hours a day running that tractor in the fields. Farmers are educated business men. We will not go back to the time when we were considered second class citizen as long as you want to eat.

  16. Ugh, I can tell that no one will ever understand what it is like until they have actually had to live a lifetime as a farmer. I married into a century farm. (Meaning it has been in the family for one hundred years.) They milked cows in the ’80s. With the combination of the cows and the hard working family members they were able to stay out of foreclosure. Sure there were many farmers in the same area that did some shady things and maybe still drive around brand new pick ups and came through the ’80s smelling like roses, but that is not the vast majority. (Also note that most of those farmers are not well liked by most.)
    When it comes down to it this article is spot on. Half of the land we farm is rented land. One quarter is used as loan security for other land that we had the fortunate opportunity to purchase because of the loss of a loved one during the time when everything was appraised at high value…making it way too expensive now. And the other quarter is owned by the family, but we rent it from them so that they are able to live on something other than social security. All this and we have cattle to feed, machinery to fix, and I have a full time job just to bring home insurance.
    While our busy season of harvest approaches we have to face some very harsh facts: grandpa is getting old, but we will not tell him he can’t help. I have to take time away from my job to get it done, and pray that it is still there when the crop is in, and the corn stalks are bailed, and the fields are dug. All this while helping my children stay up on their homework, go to Sunday School, and still try to squeeze in a little fun. Oh did I mention that we eat nothing but sandwiches for that entire time too?
    However, I am not complaining. We feel that we have been left a legacy. We feel that we need to leave a legacy. We are getting by, we save in the good years and pray in the bad years. I could go into the details of the books, but let’s be real. If you have never run a business, or even been a team player there is not anything I can say that would convince you that we are not millionaires. Yes there are insurance policies, very expensive ones that you may never use, but you still have to pay for them. Believe me, the one year you don’t will be the year that everything comes tumbling down.
    Yes, you can borrow against land, just like you can with life insurance policies. However you need to remember this: Land is worth a lot. So are your life insurance policies. You are not worth that money unless you are dead. It’s the same with the land, it’s not worth that money until you have cashed in.

  17. A farmers trade is one of worth,he’s partners with the sun and earth, he’s partners with the sky and rain, and no one loses by his gain. George Lippold, Avoca,Iowa. Many years ago. God bless the farmer

  18. Lindsay, great article! A couple of things missing is some of the typical write offs like getting to drive a fairly new truck and use of all that equipment to work on personal things and maybe even doing some cash jobs like excavation work. Fuel gets wrote off for personal things, etc. Also missing is the appreciation of land owned when retirement hits and selling or renting becomes a nice reality. Not taking away from farmers, but don’t see where the subsides are needed. That’s all I’m saying bout that

    1. Tell it to the people who went out of business farming. Due to the inherent risks of farming. Then factor in the necessity of a stable food supply. I’m not saying subsidies are necessary either, but you also have to make farming worth the risk. I own land and make money on it without hardly lifting a finger. At the end of the day it is just another investment. I don’t know how to build a factory and make products and I don’t have many millions of dollars to play with to try. I could sell the land and invest in stock/bonds, but the land seems somehow safer and I also save money to invest in the stock market.

      I guess my point is, if you don’t make more than 3-5% or so owning farmland, when things are good, what does it look like when it is bad? The people “getting rich” off of farmland are people who already own property and would be “getting rich” anyhow. Save your money, pass it on to your kids. Hope that it helps somehow and doesn’t make them lazy and helplessly dependent upon your help. That happens all the time also.

  19. Farmers receive subsidies for using GMO seeds! Let’s all grow our own and support local, organic farms who do not receive the subsidies that others do. Our government is full of corruption and farming is in bed with them. I love the local farmers that I can buy organic foods from. I do not buy from large corporations and I refuse to buy anything that contains GMOs. Yes, I understand farming….grew up in farming country and my ex-husband was a farmer!

    1. You need to learn more about gmo seeds lol organic or not ther is not a single wheat left in the world that is not modified in some way shape or form from the stuff originally being planted in the first days of farming

    2. If there is a more: organic, natural, chemical-free, green, local, environmentally safe, allergy free, gluten free way to do something… you can bet there is a woman somewhere who thinks it’s the only way to go! = )

  20. I appreciate this article and the comments to follow. All have a point. Some are truths for some people and some are just what they perceive are truths. But the thing that I cannot understand is why we would be arguing over whether or not some farmers are rich. Farming is no different then any other profession. Some farmers make a lot of money and others lose a lot of money. Some are lucky, some unlucky, some make wise decisions and some make foolish decisions. There is no mystery to farming, it cost a fortune to do it and it takes a lot of knowledge about something few know much about. Farming is a wonderful way of life. Not because as someone said, “you plant two weeks in the spring and harvest two weeks in the fall”, but because we are vulnerable to everything and yet we are willing to have faith that if it is meant to be it will be. The farmers that have made a good living for themselves should not feel like they need to apologize for it nor do the farmers that are struggling need to feel that they are wasting their lives. It is a wonderful fulfilling life with or without money and I am proud to say I am a farmer. As far as government payments are concerned I would say that I struggle with this as well. Without them many would fail… mainly being small farms leading to bigger corporate farms which in the end would lead to a better control of the price which would lead ultimately to a higher food price for America. Lower food prices are the best thing for our economy. Any Economist can tell you that the lower we can keep our food price the better for the whole country.

  21. If u want to make a small fortune farming, start with a large fortune. So many people in the world don’t have a clue when it comes to farming.

  22. Mr. Smith, although you don’t hold farmers in high regard, I hope you never feel that sick to your stomach feeling of looking at a completely blown over field of milo that the winds of a hurricane just blew down or a cotton field that is being shredded because there isn’t enough crop to pay for harvesting it!! Farming is the only business that you can be in that doesn’t pay what you want to sell your finished product!! The prices are dictated to the farmer and it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve put into that crop!! Next time you sit down to a nice meal, just remember if it wasn’t for farmers you’d be staring at an empty plate!! Oh and by the way, not all farmers get a new truck every year. We’re just thankful to the good Lord that he’s given us another year!!
    Yours truly, farmer’s wife for 44 years.

    1. Joann,
      you said “farming is the only business that you can be in that doesn’t pay what you want to sell your finished product!!” I have a coffee cup in front of me that I would like to sell you. I would like to be paid $10,000,000.00 for it. Will that be cash or check? My point is that there are no businesses that you can set whatever price you want and get it. The market determines what a product is worth in all businesses.

      1. You have a skewed vision of a market economy. What you claim works on paper but in reality where we live, companies charge as much as they can and still still a product. You want a true market economy? Go to a farm sale. The item will be worth what it goes for. Then instantly drops in value as the highest bidder was usually the only one there willing to pay that.

        We as farmers can choose to go to different elevators, but they all work off the same scale. Only difference is shipping and basis. Ultimately we have no control over final price. And sure we can wait until it goes up or down, but we still have bills to pay and need to sell our grain to pay them.

        We can literally work all year, lose our crop and make nothing (or lose alot). Most people do not understand this as most jobs are simple: Time x Wage = money. There is little risk to that equation. Even in a bad year we have to pay our employees.

        Farming is not just a JOB, it is a LIFESTYLE

  23. I have so many things to say about this but i will only bring up a few points that most of the people that think farmers are making so much money. I am from northwest Kansas and right now with the current prices and projected yields we are looking at loosing over 25 dollars an acre. We can survive that but no one remembers the early 2000’s when we had 8 years of drought where we struggled to put food on the tables and major cuts were made just survive. The struggles that we all when through from selling cows that we could not feed because of lack of rain. If you think farmers are making so much money you need to think again and do your research, and just think where this country would be if the farmers that are “making so much money” decided to all call it quits. Could you survive?

  24. i would like to add something i didnt see anywhere, when a farmers buys anything he has to pay the price quoted. when he sell his production he gets what he is offered. the farmer has no idea what the markets will be from year to year, sure you can use futures markets to lock in some of the crop, but then if there is a loss of the crop he has to find a way to come up the the product. i guess if farming was easy everyone would be doing it. one last comment to the people bitching about the farmers, DONT COMPLAIN ABOUT A FARMER WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL…..

  25. Like they say “if farming was easy everyone would be doing it!” Its rewarding not in the ways of steady garunteed money or low stress’s of knowing you get 20 days of vacation a year. Its not a job.. its not even a career..its more of a lifestyle. You go into it not knowing if you’ll have wild success or complete failure every year and most of that depends on God’s hands in mother nature. Men and women in agricultural do it cause they have a itch they can’t scratch doing anything else. Farmers should not be disgraced or embarrassed oif theyomake a rich living cause we do supply one of the only things people need in this world and that is food (not your cell phone or computer). But we also decide to keep this on a free market basis and not have one union to control prices to garuntee our prices…free market at work. You can’t unionize a farmer and do you want to know why?? Its cause we are too competitive.

  26. Obviously Harold Smith has never attended even a basic class on Micro-Econ because if he had he wouldn’t have made the erroneous statement that “If a farmer owns his/her land the land cost is free”! For example if this farmers land is worth $10,000/acre and he sold it he could make around $500/acre from his investment yield of just 5%/annum! And that’s with little risk that he would have had from crop failure, etc.! Another error Harold made is his implication that this farmer could get his $60k truck written off on his taxes! Yes, the maintenance, fuel, insurance, license and truck (cost) depreciation are tax deductible but they are business expenses required to obtain revenue in annual crop sales! Farming is a business with risks like no other>
    EXCELLENT AND ACCURATE ARTICLE AND CERTAILY NOT AN OUNCE OF PROPAGANDA LIKE MR SMITH CLAIMS!
    Don Bohn (with love of farming in his blood!)

  27. No i do not think farmer are rich, but praise God for them. If we did not have committed people to go into the farming industry, what would the people of this world do for food and clothing. I really enjoyed reading this newsletter. Thank you.

  28. I am a 3rd generation farmer. My grandfather started our farm over 60 years ago and built everything we have with blood sweat and tears. The best thing about farming is doing it your own way. Farmers don’t care what the rest of you think and don’t worry about defending or proving anything. Go ahead and be jealous of the things we have and the life we live. There is nothing better.

  29. The average farmer in MN has a net worth of nearly 2 million according to the finbin database. The average wage earner has a net worth of less than 100000. Yet farmers are guaranteed profits with insurance subsidized by those poorer wage earners. Go to ewg.org to see the sad reality of how these rich farmers are being subsidized by the poor.

    1. The poor wage earner that takes on no risk in their job? That’s what you are comparing it to? And what guaranteed profits exactly? You might as well talk about EVERY business while you are at it, because what you are talking about is business. Yes, people who own businesses generally make more money than people who don’t. They work harder and smarter and take on more risk. If you still think it is too easy for them, get into farming and stop whining.

  30. I have read this with interest. I farm and also own an farm, dairy and ranch supply business. In a prior lifetime I was a banker and most of my customers were farmers. I probably know more about the situation than anyone posting on here. I guess since we carry in house accounts in our business I am still a banker to many. Most of the posts saying what a posh lifestyle farmers live are generalizations. The comments Harold Smith made at the top of the list would be kinda like assuming that all GM dealership detail shop guys make and live the same lifestyle as the senior execs in Detroit. Farms come in all shapes and sizes. I have friends that run family farming operations that farm lots of acres. The third and fourth generation are now operating the business. The numbers presented in the article are pretty spot on. Everyone is up in arms about the profits on the farm for the last 3 or 4 years. What most don’t realize is that farming was basically in the toilet from the early 80’s up until 2010 or so. The economic boom enjoyed by the conservative fiscal policies of the congress and white house during the 90’s were not enjoyed by Ag. EVERYONE was operating on VERY thin margins and we saw many small farms disappear. Yes, many larger operations took over this land and operated on an economy of scale that allowed them to survive or they diversified into many crops that the small operator could simply not manage. When the price of the commodities finally came up, primarily due the demand for corn to make ethanol. (Could debate these pros and cons for hours here), the people that had survived the last 25 or 26 years on the razor thin margins were lean and mean and turned it to green…and then did what farmers do best. Spent it. There were waiting lists for new equipment at all the dealerships. Why, because most of what was out there was scrap iron held together with duct tape, bailing wire and a couple of hundred pounds of welding rods. Many of these buying decisions were somewhat short sighted in that they assumed the ride would go on forever. Prices of all the inputs a farmers uses went through the roof. Fertilizer for an acre of corn went from 60 to 260 dollars per acre depending on where you are and fertilizer manufacturers enjoyed record profits, They became the darlings of Wall Street. The article could go on to talk about the livestock side of the equation. While farmers were finally enjoying some profitable years, the cost of corn went through the roof and the price of milk went into the basement. Dairy producers were hanging on by a thread and many large operators that had been in business for decades saw equity vanish from their balance sheets to the point that they went out of business. Most that do not wake of each morning knowing that putting food on the table relies on plows and cows do not have any idea that the entire dairy industry was only months away from collapse. The milk shortage that the press swept under the rug WAS going to happen. Prices rebounded and the dairy industry is slowly recovering. The grain price falling through the floor has speeded this recovery, but other feed inputs are still sky high. Beef is high in the grocery store because of very simple economics, supply and demand. If you have been asleep the last 4 years, drought has plagued much of the grazing area in the US. Cow numbers have declined because we have sent much of the herd off to slaughter. They had nothing to eat. Now the “factories” or cows are not there to produce calves to raise and feed into those great ribeye steaks or Mickie D hamburgers. This will take a while to correct. The entire industry is interwined and so co-dependent that the wild swings are actually taking a toll on both the consumers and producers of commodities.

    As far as the insurance game goes, most that play it for more than a year in the manner that is described by the uninformed nit wits are not in the business long. It is like a hangman’s noose being described as safety net. It stops the fall but the end result is the same. The farm bill is a disaster to farmers because the safety net is gone completely. Everybody thought that was fine when corn was at 6.00 per bushel, but now with the prospect of 3.00 corn at harvest in 2015? Do the math. 600/acre inputs and the average corn yield in the US at 175 bushels per acre? That doesn’t work out even if you use that BS common core math. The reason for the “special tax break” that one commen’tater’ (spelled that way to indicate his brain is somewhat of a russet potato) referred to is in place is to give a farmer filing a 1040 basically the option to carry back losses against taxes paid in the past for 3 years just as corporation can do. Write off vehicles under the bonus depreciation? Yep. They are needed to conduct business just as much as assembly line equipment in the plastic water bottle factory. Oh and that big tax break in the way of bonus depreciation that went away this year? Ask any equipment manufacturer what that has done to orders for machinery? Couple that with depressed commodity prices and the only manufacturing sector in the economy that is booming is gonna be laying off workers. Do some farmers live in big nice homes? Yep. They went through 25 years of hell to stay in the business. So what if they want to spend a little on living?

    It is so easy for sideline commentators like Harold and Sugar Daddy to take isolated examples and make propaganda out of them and intertwine them with all the half truths of a slimy campaign ad. The reality is that the number of farmers in the country has diminished to about 1.7 million. This includes anyone that files schedule F on their tax return.

  31. Reblogged this on Agri-Cultural with Dr. Lindsay and commented:
    I was recently tagged in this blog post, because I have blogged about a similar topic Growing up a rich rancher’s kid. Lindsay Mitchell, the author of this piece does a nice job of explaining and providing examples of where and how the money is spent.

  32. LOVE this article. I just have one question, why shouldn’t farmers be rich? Society thinks every other business owner is successful when they are rich and they admire them but they look down upon a farmer because of it.

    It is my dream to help every farmer become rich, they feed us.

    Nice work! I have written a book called Farming Without the Bank and would love to send it to you Lindsay if you would like to read it. 🙂

    Keep on making money farmers!

  33. Mr. Smith if a person is paying 10 to 13k for land they are not making there money farming. If those guys are renting that land out they are not farmers. I hate it when all farmers and ranchers get tossed into one big pile because we do not all have allot of money.

  34. The liberals that have amassed a fortune have been waging a war. They want the rich to feel guilty for being successful and the poor to hate them for being so. We have unionized, litigated and lawsuited our way out of small and medium manufacturing and sent it all overseas. This has devastated the middle class. Farmers are really the largest manufacturer and exporter left in the country. They take raw materials (seed, fertilizer and other inputs), run it through their facility (land) with their production equipment (tractors, plows, planters and combines) and deliver the finished good to the end user or a wholesaler. Pretty simple. Much is exported to feed the world….for the those of you that are convinced that the rich are stepping on the poor and should be punished by higher taxes etc, you have drank the coolaide. Die your own death. Who is creating the job. The farmer farming 5000 acres and having huge risks with weather, government regulation etc and raising the wheat for the bread and the beef for the hamburgers or the guy working the drive thru at Mickie D’s? Oh yea…they should be rewarded the same.

  35. Let all the farmers quit and the shelves in the grocery become empty,all these complainers will beg us to start farming again. They surely could not feed themselves.

  36. Lets see…350 million people eat at 50% of the level of the next cheapest food country(Germany)…….do the math, who is getting the real subisidy of trillions in cheap food.
    ****
    The thing about commodities, the will always work them selves toward breakeven production levels, Ag has its ups and its vicious down cycles like the early 80’s after Carters Russian grain embaro and its now projected at least 5 tough years coming up in grain production.—-There will be farmers that will drop out of business in this cycle as there is in any business Cycle.
    ****
    Study the history of the Russian Kulaks–small land/property owners……..how they were demonized as “rich” by the radical left –millions were slaughtered or sent to Siberia, just for being property owners. Can one see a similar sentiment starting to grow here?

  37. There have been times here in Illinois where being a farmer “looks” a little easier than other professions. Visually, the newer pickups and nice big machinery also give the average citizen a skewed view on how things are going. Maybe the bank owns it all? Sure, but maybe not. Everybody has a different situation.

    I do know as a crop insurance agent, many folks in business would have loved to have the opportunity to turn in and collect a large claim check when business was bad, as every single one of my clients did in 2012. But that doesn’t mean everyone is just living in a land of sunshine and roses. It isn’t too long ago my folks struggled through a deep depression in the hog business. Thanks to pretty good management, and a turn in markets, they came out of the next decade ok. Many of their fellow pork producers weren’t so lucky.

    These folks are trying to be good managers of their assets…via acceptable purchases for tax purposes, and having the proper equipment to handle their operation. They are dealing in a world of large numbers, and large equipment. Don’t make the visual of a newer 4×4 pickup make you envious incorrectly…maybe take a ride in one for coffee with the farmer and talk about his farm life. I think this approach would benefit everyone!

  38. I have grown up in a farm family for years and I tell you we are nowhere near rich and the article was very truthful sure some farmers may appear very wealthy and maybe they are but it quite literally varies from year to year some years my family has lost upwards of 25k some we do well but most of that money gets burned up improving the operation or preparing for next year and we could not survive on the money we earned and are required to have other forms of employment. So I would advise assuming that a farmer is rich or he drives an expensive truck they bust ass day in and day out for what they earn and it takes almost as much luck as it does knowledge to survive, in this business

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  40. I’d like to see these people cash flow it just based on the things they think it takes..then surprise them when they are missing things most of them don’t think about cause they are dense and show them oh ya there is property taxes and insurance and maitence costs….these people that think farmers are rich are people who think you go to Wal-Mart and buy a few seeds for .99 cents and throw it out there and BOOM we have a 200 acre field of 220 bushel crops..idiots.

  41. I have worked a little on a diary farm, and I can say it is hard work, and can be very long hours. That is why I will not do it, and why I own my business in MFG. My business is very involved with farmers. I make hydraulic hose, and I mfg. parts for some farmers very expensive hobbies, such as tractor pulling. Now I do not hold anything against anyone for making money, or a lot of money. I do not want to categorize anyone. I feel bless to have a lot of the farmers we have. I have family that farms, and I know many that would give you what ever they have to help you out. I also know farmers that would take what you have to help themselves, and they are very first one to say how poor they are, when in fact they are not even close. I have had some even ask for a deal because they are a poor farmer, even though they are toting around a couple $200,000.00 toys. I also hear a lot of complaining about how much they make and hard they work and no one else works that hard. That is what I believe leaves such a bad taste in people’s mouths. Well here is my complaint. My wife and I were paid $22,0000.00 last year from my business. This year will be about the same. The first couple years was way less. I work 60-80 hrs a week 52 weeks a year. My wife works 40hrs a week for my business, and takes care of our 3 children. Not one vacation in the last 4 years. We sold some of our assets to keep a float, and we are very conservative in our spending. I have to buy my own insurance, and I do not receive unemployment when there is no work. My two employees get paid more than me. We pay them every 2 weeks, and we cover their bennifits. We have to pay very good wages to get good workers. My equipment is very expensive as well. So why do I do it. Because I like what I’m doing. I do not usually complain about my business because it was my choice. If I fail, I fail, and I get no help. I’m one of the mfg. business stories that show how hard it can be. I believe my story is like a lot of small business owners experiences whether it is manufacturing, farming, mechanics, and so on. I think there are lot of hard working folks in all kinds of areas, and I also think there are many folks that take others for granted, and are the first with their hands out when things are tough, and then condemn others for the same. MFG has these type of companies too. We bailed out some rather large car manufacturers. I also do not want to make this lop sided, and make people think the wealthy are bad people because I know enough non wealthy people that are just as bad and wealthy people that are very respectful and good. That is my point, people assume a lot of thing about others and have no idea about their stories. I think people need to come together, and work together. With out each other this life is very difficult. If you have wealth help others out, if you do not have the wealth, don’t give up, push hard, its okay to fail, and at some point I think you can be successful. Then you can give back to others that need it.

  42. I think it all depends on where a person lives to determine what perspective one views a ‘farmer’ from. Where we are at there is next to no livestock within 60 + mile radius. (some hobby critters but as far as farmers making an income off of livestock) When a person looks at the large grain operators in this part of the country you will find the saying about grain farmers working 4 weeks in the spring 4 weeks in the fall and take 44 weeks off comes from. It is very common and i could list example after example but it all comes down to individual perspective. It looks like from reading this tread that other parts of the country still have what many would call traditional honest hardworking farmers…that is refreshing to hear! It just is far from it in western MN. Recently saw a another farmer blending a tiny bit of corn into beans as he swithed them to a different bin…and some have metioned a little about crop ins…..as far as blowing out grain through the combine…it pencils out in some areas due to the basis…it is all perspective….human nature is greedy and these large grain farmers show that even farmers are not immune to that behavior….

  43. I farm and yes there are good years and bad years. On some of those good years you will bank some money, but you better hold on to it. Because that may be what gets you through the next year until you get your loan. It’s a very honest living. And there is no subsidy money anymore. The article is right on except here in the south the inputs are much higher. And farming rice beans and corn here in Arkansas you don’t have any time for a second job. And yes I am very rich, not financially though. I’ve got way more than I deserve. I have a wife and two kids that are a blessing from God. The wages of sin is death. Therefore we all deserve to die. But God sent Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins. All you have to do is believe. So yes I am a very rich farmer, but through Jesus Christ I will live forever in Gods kingdom.

  44. I have read all comments and articles. my goal is to be a hobby farmer part – time, plan is to enjoy farming and see plantation grow. Will like reassurance that my farm expenditures are met comfortably. I have about 45 acres of land which is tillable. I plan to grow 1 crop a year in Louisville Ohio.

  45. Most farmers are not very rich just due to the fact that lots of them including me have the latest equipment and repair costs are also huge… buying seed to plant and fertilizer and chemicals (round-up) are not very cheep either. and farmers like us have a big gas bill because we have to farm all 12000 acres we have.

  46. farm subsidies are up and running draining hard working tax payers. And, yes, to all you “farmers”, we farm, but we don’t take government handouts. Our neighbor big “farmer” raked in over 1 million in subsidies for the past 12 years and put all his kids through college on Pell grants! My kids didn’t qualify for Pell grants, but his kids wore $300. sports shoes, went to $1,000 sports camps, and drove brand new vehicles. Do I sound bitter, hell yeah, I am. This same rich SOB “farmer” finagled his way into an elderly farmers estate leaving the family with nothing. The old farmer was in a nursing home for crying out loud. This “farmer:” inherited his farm and continued to obtain land through underhanded, scheming, and government handouts. When the took over the old man’s farm his wife had the audacity to invite the community to a house warming because “God had blessed them with a new home.” Needless to say not many in the community showed up. Everyone knows what a greedy piece of #@*! this guy is. If I hear one more sob story for these conniving and greedy frauds I’m going to puke. We have never drawn one penny of government subsidy on our farm and neither did my dad, or grandpa. Grandpa paid for his farm through hard work and workhorses. Dad bought and paid for his farm with the aid of a used tractor. Nothing was handed down to him. We bought and are paying for our farm with the same tenacity as they did. We are not the rich farmers, but we don’t own thousands of acres, and we don’t cheat on our taxes or steal from tax payers through government subsidies. My spouse and I both have to work full time jobs plus try to run the farm, so don’t tell me that you don’t have spare time on your hands. We manage to keep our machines maintained, keep our livestock fat, and get our harvest in work 40 hours a week too. You big farmers are the biggest drain on America, and lets get something straight, the food you put on Americas tables are full of antibiotics, chemicals, and other carcinogens. Are you proud of the children you’ve killed??? I wish I could just go to the store and buy produce and meat, but instead we have to grow our own because we know what you’re doing to the land. Shame on you!

    1. With all due respect, I feel like this is a personal issue between you and a neighbor and probably doesn’t belong here.

  47. Don’t forget the tax breaks and farm programs. Don’t kid yourself they can’t spend thousands of dollars to take out A tree line for 25$ a acre profit it’s about taxes not crops. Government
    Handout is what it’s about

  48. Can anyone comment on various crops? I see all the tobacco land in NC converted to Lavender – heard up to $60k per acre. I see corn listed as lowest income per acre (couple hundred) and some other crops around $6k. Seems like this article is about automated farming. Machine farming. Not picking crops and not herb, organic, or other specialty crops. Sure seems logical if you are going to work the same fields year after year with similar crops then you’ll need to spend a fortune on fertilizer. Maybe the article should be entitled, “Are Factory Farmers Rich”. Not sure what to say about cattle. Maybe that’s another story. Can’t compete with imports I’m guessing but could grow fish etc.

    1. This article is about farming large acres with the help of a tractor pulled planter to plant and a combine to harvest. It is not about specialty crops or veggies that must be hand picked.

      However, we are not “factory farmers.” In fact, we’d argue that you’d find very few factory farmers in America as most farmers still are family farmers. More than 90% of all corn farmers are family farmers. So I’m not sure your proposed title works.

      I don’t know much about growing lavender or other specialty crops so I’d ask other farmers on this thread to comment if they can offer perspective. Thanks!

  49. With due respect i think your statistics are misleading in a negative way.Am a farmer and i make at least a million dollas net profit every year so saying that farmers are not rich is nonsense.Farmers are humble not poor.

  50. My brother (34) and I (26) are 3rd gen crop only farmers and we are very well off. Guess a lot of that has to do with the length of time my family has been farming and the fact we own almost 3000 acres of the 7000 acres we farm here in northwest illinois. The best thing is that we have 2 to 6 guys work for us depending on season, which leaves a lot of free time for our family to do other things. Farming is a business and a way of life… if it did not pay so well, I’d probably still be doing it but glad times are good and thankfull for my parens and grandparents for starting this legacy which I hope to pass down to our kids.

  51. Really interesting article, like you said a lot of people look this up as its quite a different lifestyle put together. Good stuff!

    Alex.

  52. It really depends on what you are farming and the extent of your operation. I am an almond farmer in California with 2000 acres of trees and I make millions of dollars a year. The price of almonds is about $5000 per acre

  53. You forgot farmers get gov ewg checks for conservation,crop loss,etc so yes they are rich.if its a bad year they get a check,low crop prices they get a check,cows get sick another check.guess who pays the tax payer.

  54. I’m original from Honduras and also Honduras farmer don’t make a lot of money but it can be a way to cut off this people that used farmer to make their self rich which I think that is not fair. How ever will never happen till we all farmer stick together.. IT HAVE TO STOP. Arnol Joel Ortiz…….

  55. we dont need any farmers. we can plant our own permaculture gardens. An hour of labor a week is all the time I need to grow all of my own food. It costs me about 50 dollars per year.

  56. I find the farm income interesting. I am from a farming family, every single cousin I have is a farmer, we were the sole members of the family who didn’t farm. My cousins had mostly new cars as kids. The new cars at my school were almost totally farm kids. I am a surgeon yet I cannot afford the lifestyle that about 1/2 of my cousins live (Nebraska corn country). They have cabins at the lake, boat(s), go on guided hunting trips, have many vehicles, etc…. I have seen some lean years , especially the early 80’s, but farming has been better than about anything else for quite sometime. I have had cousins who went to college and had jobs like banking but they always go back to the farm for the money.

  57. So you refuse to sell your land yet you work 24 hours a day 7 days a week and don’t make enough money to live comfortably , 100 acres would bring at a quick million what a fool.

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