QUINCY -- Illinois farmers recorded a good year in 2018 with federal market facilitation payments for soybeans boosting the bottom line.
But 2019, and the coming two years, look to be tougher for farmers without additional federal programs for help and "especially if we keep putting higher and higher tariffs on China," said Scott Wilkin, the new CEO of Farm Business Farm Management.
"With the economy the way it is, Illinois the way it is … that's why FBFM is so important. We can help those farmers make those decisions to keep them going," Wilkin said. "With the tariffs, with soybean prices so low, corn prices so low and inputs being so high, farmers need sometimes just to sit with our folks to talk about the trouble they're having or the success they're having, how to keep themselves on a great path or get themselves on a great path."
That path may mean shifting from the traditional corn and soybean crops and, potentially, taking some land out of production.
"We're so good at producing that I think we need to start looking at different avenues of income," Wilkin said. "Organic farming. Aquaculture. Hemp. Call it exotics that are agriculture, but they're not standard row crops."
FBFM personnel are in Quincy for the organization's spring conference, which wraps up Thursday.
The annual conference gives FBFM, an Urbana-based cooperative helping farmers with management decisions, an opportunity to update its employees on issues and introduce them to different parts of the state.
Bob Rhea with FBFM in Camp Point said, "It brings everybody to the western part of the state, to see the community, see the agriculture we have here and hear from our local presenters."
John Wood Community College President Mike Elbe, one of Wednesday's featured speakers, said, "It's always an asset to have a large group of leaders that are serving our agricultural industry to our community to learn more about West-Central Illinois and all the things that are going on in the tri-state area."
Elbe highlighted JWCC's strategic planning model, which starts with the mission and vision statement and engages every employee, and leadership development -- strategies FBFM staff could use personally and professionally.
Jill Arnold Blickhan, president and CEO of the Community Foundation Serving West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri, focused on rooting local assets.
Farm families already are invested in their communities through their farms and through personal giving, but "this gives an opportunity of how they can continue to do that and/or how they can establish a legacy," Blickhan said. "This allows us to focus on the importance of retaining local assets for our communities and how assets can be reinvested to plan for today and especially tomorrow to keep our rural economies thriving."
Camp Point-based FBFM farm business consultant Emily Carls said low commodity prices and high land values are causing stress about profitability in the farming community.
Pontiac-based farm business consultant Brad Carroll said, "What's on most people's minds is planting delays."
Delays affect yield, and with prices little changed, farmers could take a hit to the bottom line as financial positions already are deteriorating.
"We're beginning to notice people that were already a little more leveraged than others are starting to see some problems in cash flow," Carroll said. "It's going to be a challenge going forward."