The 2019 Farm Progress Show had a good crowd. Maybe not a great crowd, and certainly not a record-breaking crowd. And this year the attendance may have suffered a bit more than would have been expected.

There may be several reasons.

The Monday shower put a damper on field demonstrations for the first day of the show. And because field demonstrations are so important, and so well attended, the necessary decision by show management to delay field demonstrations until Wednesday likely curtailed some plans by potential visitors.

There was better attendance on Wednesday and Thursday, but certainly not what was expected for perfect weather, for which Decatur is known.

A second reason for a smaller crowd is the growing trend of fewer farmers. With retirements from farming, decisions to feed one’s family from a weekly paycheck, and various other reasons to call it quits, the potential number of attendees is declining. But one must be quick to say that exhibitors are happy with the quality of the attendees who do attend and are likely customers of the technology on display.

More potential reasons are reflected in a survey taken by Purdue ag economists in the days running up to the Farm Progress Show. Purdue’s monthly Ag Economy Barometer indicated that in August farmer attitudes about the farm economy dropped substantially, compared to where they were in July.

Purdue’s Index of Current Conditions dropped 19 points below the previous month and the Index of Future Expectations fell 34 points below its July reading. Those represent a 10% and nearly 20% drop, respectively, from where they were in the same survey of the same farmers in July. The official interpretation of the phenomena was attributed to “farmers’ weaker expectations for future economic conditions on their farms made them less inclined to believe now is a good time to make large investments in buildings and farm machinery.”

The driver of those farmer attitudes was attributed, in part, to the trade conflict with China. The Purdue ag economists reported a modest sentiment shift as the percentage of producers expecting resolution of the China trade conflict soon rose to 29% from 22% a month earlier and the percentage of producers who felt resolution soon was unlikely declined to 71% from 78% in July. There was a modest sentiment shift in August as the percentage of farmers expecting a positive outcome for agriculture to the dispute slipped to 72%.

Those may have been the underlying scientific reasons for a weaker Farm Progress Show attendance. A likely resolution of the trade conflict may be declining; if it is resolved it will take longer to occur; and if it is resolved there may be a lessor benefit to agriculture.

Even if Chinese trade does not come back very soon, the Farm Progress Show will come back. Only 721 more days, and I can’t wait!

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