January 7, 2009

Ag Forecast cloudy at this year's Ag Alumni Fish Fry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University agricultural economist said stability isn't a word he'll be using very much in this year's Agricultural Forecast before the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Fish Fry.

Chris Hurt said farmers will face volatility again this year when evaluating their decisions on purchasing inputs and locking in commodity prices.

"The past year, 2008, has been a Jekyll and Hyde year with an absolute boom in the first half and a bust in the second half," Hurt said. "This just makes extreme uncertainty about planning. We're kind of in this limbo right now. We need to let market conditions adjust."

Hurt is one of three panelists slated to discuss economic issues relating to agriculture at this year's Ag Forecast, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 7 in the Old National Bank Grand Hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. The annual Ag Fish Fry will follow at 11:30 a.m. in the fairgrounds' Toyota Blue Ribbon Pavilion.

Other panelists are Purdue professors of agricultural economics Philip Abbott, who will discuss macroeconomic concerns related to agriculture, and Allan Gray, who will talk about implications for the agribusiness sector. Otto Doering, a Purdue professor of agricultural economics, will serve as moderator.

Ken Foster, interim head of Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, said the Ag Forecast is an unbiased place for farmers to get information to help them make decisions about their businesses.

"I don't think you're going to often get this kind of information from an academic background with no outside influence," Foster said. "It's an opportunity to get good information that hasn't been filtered through someone's profit lens."

Last year, input costs for things such as fuel and fertilizer soared - as did commodity prices - until around September, Hurt said. Those prices dropped off for the rest of the year, and it's unclear what will happen in the near future.

Livestock and poultry farms are expected to do better than in recent years, Hurt said, because feed prices have come down and demand has been rising. But the tumbling economy worldwide could affect that demand.

The overriding message will likely be that farmers just need to wait and see. Hurt said farmers could see huge margin risks, as high as $450 per acre, depending on when they purchase inputs and lock in their sale prices.

"Give it a little time. Time tends to help markets get through adjustment periods," Hurt said.

The Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry is the annual meeting of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association. This year's meeting will include keynote speaker Andrea Mitchell, the anchor of MSNBC's "The Andrea Mitchell Hour" and chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News.

Tickets to the Ag Fish Fry are $20 and must be purchased in advance. They are available through the Purdue Ag Alumni Office by calling (765) 494-8593 or by e-mailing agalumni@purdue.edu.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, (765) 496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources: Chris Hurt, (765) 494-4273, hurtc@purdue.edu

Kenneth Foster, (765) 494-1116, kfoster@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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