Kentucky farm economy holds steady despite pandemic

Published 2:22 pm Friday, December 4, 2020

Kentucky’s agricultural receipts are expected to hold steady to last year’s levels despite turmoil caused by the coronavirus, economists said Friday.

The state’s 2020 farm cash receipts are projected to be $5.5 billion, equaling last year’s amount, University of Kentucky agricultural economists said. Net farm income will likely exceed the $2.2 billion Kentucky producers earned in 2019, they estimated.

“Like most businesses, agriculture has experienced a crazy and challenging year, but unlike a lot of industries, the farm economy not only survived but is ending 2020 on a positive note,” said UK ag economist Will Snell.

Higher grain prices and crop yields near all-time highs helped offset lower equine, poultry, cattle, dairy and tobacco receipts.

The coronavirus had a huge impact on the livestock sector as labor challenges created a “significant processing bottleneck” in the spring and the marketing system had to adjust to a shift away from restaurant consumption and toward at-home consumption, said UK ag economist Kenny Burdine.

Government payments bolstered the farm sector. Kentucky farmers may receive close to $500 million in direct government payments in 2020, the economists said.

Poultry remains Kentucky’s top agricultural commodity, accounting for 19% of overall projected sales, they said. Corn and soybeans tied for second and equine was fourth.