Farmers turn to bankruptcy as low prices continue

Farm Forum

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s crop, livestock and dairy farmers are suffering with continuing rock bottom prices for their commodities, driving some into bankruptcy.

John Quaal, 71, operates a dairy farm near Fergus Falls and tells Minnesota Public Radio News that it’s nearly impossible to break even producing milk.

“For almost two years now we’ve been going backwards,” said Quaal. “You’ve got to learn to deal with it I guess. It’s just the way it is.”

Quaal said his farm has lost as much as $40,000 in a single month and figures the family operation lost a total of $300,000 last year.

“It’s pretty hard to go to any bank, or anywhere and borrow money with a negative cash flow,” said Quaal. “So it looked like about the route we should probably go is filing a Chapter 12 bankruptcy.”

His family will continue to milk nearly 300 cows, but have more time to pay off debt.

Quaal turned to Bill Januszewski, a farm business management instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, for financial advice. Januszewski is currently working with a total of 21 conventional dairy farms in the area.

“Out of the 21 I have about 12 of them that are under some sort of stress,” said Januszewski. “And I would say out of those 12 I’ve got five that are under considerable stress.”

The number of troubled agricultural loans is rising statewide and the number of farmers offered mediation by lenders is up 20 percent so far this year.

Farmers that have managed to stay in business are drawing on savings to pay their bills, said Sterling Liddell with Rabo AgriFinance, which provides financial services for agricultural producers and agribusiness in the U.S.

Liddell says that savings likely came from a run of historically high corn and soybeans profits between 2007 and 2014. With another record harvest expected this year, prices will likely stay low, he said.