Are Farm Level Interest Rates Increasing?

By Brent Gloy

The Federal Reserve has now increased interest rates four times since late 2015.  These increases come on the heels of roughly 7- year period of maintaining their targeted rate at historical lows. The last 10 years can generally be characterized as a period of very low farm level interest rates.  Today, farm level interest rates have begun to increase ever so slightly.

Farm Level Interest Rates – Small Increases So Far

Figure 1 shows the average interest rate on all non-real estate farm loans made by commercial banks in each quarter from 2007 to 2017. As one can see, interest rates remain close the lowest levels of the last decade.  While today’s rates don’t exceed the lowest values of the decade by a great deal, they are actually greater than half of the values in the last 10 years.

farm interest rates. ag trends. agricultural economic insights

Figure 1.  Average Interest Rate on Non-Real Estate Loans, 2007-2017.  Source: Ag Finance Databook.

Farmers that have borrowed funds to finance items other than real estate will likely be impacted by increased interest rates.  The ag finance data book indicates that 77% of the non-real estate loans made in the 2nd quarter of 2017 carried floating interest rates. In other words, most non-real estate loans have exposure to higher interest rates.

We noted last November that bankers have worked to increase collateral requirements in anticipation of loan repayment challenges.  Recently, Nathan Kauffman and Matt Clark of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank reported that the average maturity on non-real estate loans sits at 46 months.  This is much longer than the 5-year average over the period of 2007-2014 which was 23 months.  Such a rapid and large increase in maturities  provides additional evidence of aggressive refinancing to lengthen repayment terms and improve cash flow.

Wrapping it Up

From the lowest value ever recorded in this series, 3.6% in the 4th quarter of 2015, farm level interest rates have increased by 70 basis points to 4.3%.  This is 20% increase.  However, It is important not to make too much of an issue of these small absolute increases because the practical impacts are likely still quite small.  For example, a farmer that borrows $400 per acre of operating credit for 6 months of the year would see their interest expense per acre increase from $7.20 per acre to $8.60 per acre.  This would hardly be considered a large increase in expenses.

As we have said before, at this point the cost of credit is not likely to be the big issue.  It is whether borrowers can maintain creditworthiness that is likely to be the more important issue related to credit.  The evidence of significant increases in the maturities of loans is a sign that borrowers and lenders are trying to work through issues of repayment capacity.  At present, interest rate increases are not likely to be the main driver of cash flow and credit issues.

Interested in learning more? Follow the Agricultural Economic Insights’ Blog as we track and monitors these trends throughout the years.  Also, follow AEI on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo: Flickr/Federalreserve


Plowing into Farm Interest Rate Data


by David A. Widmar

Interest rates have been a popular subject in the past few years. After years of record-low interest rates, the U.S. Federal Reserve has hinted at a policy trend of increasing rates for more than a year. Other than a small, single rate increase late in 2015, rates have mostly remained in a holding pattern. In contrast to the U.S., several other counties have lowered interest rates to negative levels in hopes of spurring their economies.

At the farm-level, interest rates have several implications. Interest rates impact farm expenses and are a key fundamental driver of farmland values. Given declining net farm income and tight margins, credit worthiness is also a consideration in agriculture today. All this led us to digging into the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank’s data on farm loans and interest rates. Specifically, this week’s post look at the distribution of farm loan interest rates. Continue reading

A Farm Debt Repayment Problem? Not Yet.

by David Widmar

Given USDA’s current projections for net farm income, 32% lower than in 2014, its natural to wonder about producers’ financial ability to weather the current conditions. As profitability slips, or even turns negative, some producers may find it difficult to service their debt, creating financial hardships and sometimes even business failures. Difficulty servicing debt, mainly farmland debt, is what comes to mind when reflecting on the farm financial crisis of the 1980s.

This led us to wonder if farmers are currently struggling to repay their debt. For this, we took a look at the farm debt data posted in the Agricultural Finance Databook published by the Kansas City Federal Reserve. The Agricultural Financial Databook is a collection of survey work the Federal Reserve collects and is extremely valuable for monitoring the farm financial system.

Continue reading