A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky farmers forced to navigate options as shrinking cash flows cause financial pressure

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News service

With a downturn in the farm economy, many Kentucky farmers are under increasing financial pressure – and there’s a new resource guide that could help.

Low commodity prices are shrinking cash flow for many farmers, forcing some to take out more or higher interest loans. But Jonathan Shepherd – a farm management specialist in the University of Kentucky Department of Agricultural Economics – says farmers make up only two percent of the population, so it can be easy to overlook their financial burdens.

According to the Kentucky Farm Bureau, family farms produce most of the state’s agriculture. (Adobe Stock, from PNS)

According to the Kentucky Farm Bureau, family farms produce most of the state’s agriculture.

He hopes the university’s new resource guide will connect farm families to lenders and programs that can help them weigh their options.

“Really, it comes down to educating farmers on cost and what their true cost of production is, and trying to make smart, strategic decisions along the way, so that we don’t get fixed costs way out of control, and just try to keep the cost of production as low as possible,” says Shepherd.

Kentucky is home to more than 75,000 farms, spanning 13 million acres. A link to the farmers’ resource guide is on the University of Kentucky’s Department of Agricultural Economics website.

Prices for most farm commodities are forecast to remain relatively low in 2019, so Shepherd says farmers should be thinking about whether scaling down the size of their operation or making other changes is in their best interest. And while there’s stigma associated with the word ‘bankruptcy,’ he says for some farmers, it may be a smart financial move.

“Nobody likes to talk about bankruptcy or debt reorganization,” says Shepherd. “But, that’s a reality for some farmers, unfortunately. And depending on the specifics of an individual’s situation, they may in fact be able to file Chapter 12 bankruptcy and actually continue farming and do some debt reorganization.”

The resource guide also provides information for farmers and their families trying to manage stress and mental health challenges in the face of financial loss and growing debt.

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