Farmers Breakfast sheds light on agricultural economy

BROWNSTOWN — The 21st annual Farmers Breakfast was held Thursday morning at Pewter Hall in Brownstown.

Hosted by the Community Foundation of Jackson County in partnership with Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service and Premier Companies, the breakfast provides a special briefing of the farm economy for the Jackson County agricultural community.

The breakfast commenced with an opening prayer by Pastor Stephen Wood from St. Paul Lutheran Church Borchers. Afterwards, attendees lined up for a buffet consisting of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, strawberries, grapes and biscuits and gravy.

Donald Schnitker, a farmer and a former longtime chief of the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department, spoke about Gift of Grain, a Community Foundation of Jackson County program in which farmers can allocate a particular load of corn or soybeans to donate. Donors benefit by avoiding the sale of the donated grain in their farm income, providing savings in their federal and state income tax bills.

Schnitker said he and his sisters started a fund in their parents’ honor, donating a portion of grain from the farm where their mother was raised every year.

“I truly believe we are blessed to be involved in agriculture and we are called to be a blessing to others,” he said. “We can be this blessing to others by the giving of our time, talents and treasures.”

Schnitker also spoke about the Head to Head: Green vs. Red contest, a fundraising competition. Cash donations or gifts of corn or soybeans count as a vote in the contest. This year, the green team won with 56% of the vote.

“The Green vs. Red contest is a program we have a lot of fun with at the office,” said Dan Davis, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. “It’s all in good fun.”

Davis spoke about how programs such as Gift of Grain and the Green vs. Red contest help fund grant cycles.

Richard Beckort, an agriculture and natural resources educator with Purdue Extension Jackson County, then introduced the special guest speaker, Michael Langemeier, associate director for the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue University. He has been the keynote speaker at the breakfast for the past four years.

Langemeier presented a slide detailing U.S. farm income. The average from 1973 to 2006 (adjusted for inflation) was around $80 billion, while the average income from 2007 to 2024 was around $120 billion. There was a steady increase in U.S. farm income each year from 2019 to 2022, reaching around $200 billion in 2022.

The number dropped to around $150 billion in 2023 and is forecast to dip an additional 25% in 2024. Langemeier said the decrease this year should not be worrisome because incomes the few years beforehand, especially in 2022, were much larger than usual.

Langemeier then presented a slide detailing U.S. agricultural output, inputs and total factor productivity from 1948 to 2021.

“In the last 70 years, we’ve been able to triple output in agriculture with no additional inputs, which is truly remarkable,” Langemeier said. “That’s why we’re currently in this situation with corn where we have very large supplies. Sometimes, our ability to produce outstrips demand.”

Next, Langemeier presented slides detailing changes in supply and demand of corn and soybeans in the U.S. For corn, there was a 7.3% increase in acreage, a 2.2% increase in yield, a 12.4% increase in production, a 3.4% increase in feed, a 3.8% increase in ethanol and a 26.4% increase in exports.

For soybeans, there was a 4.5% decrease in acreage, a 2% increase in yield, a 2.5% decrease in production, a 4% increase in the value of crush and a 13.7% decrease in exports.

Additionally, there was a 26.6% decrease in the price of corn, from $6.54 to $4.80. The price of soybeans decreased by 10.9%, from $14.20 to $12.65.

“Why did we increase acreage (for corn) so much?” Langemeier asked the breakfast attendees. “Well, I’m part of this international benchmarking group at Purdue that tracks the cost of production and profitability around the world. Every single country (they track) in the last five years has had profitable corn.

“We responded to the profitability and increased corn production not just in the U.S. but also Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine and all these other places,” he said. “So because of that, we have a temporary situation where supply is stronger than demand.”